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SOU Percussion Ensemble members

SOU percussion groups to perform at prominent NYC music festival

Two percussion groups affiliated with Southern Oregon University will be featured this spring at the inaugural “Long Play” music festival – a three-day event at various New York City venues, produced by the renowned contemporary music organization Bang on a Can.

Left Edge Percussion, a contemporary percussion group in residence at SOU’s Oregon Center for the Arts, and the SOU Percussion Ensemble, a student group at OCA, both have accepted invitations to perform at the May 1-3 festival in Brooklyn.

They are among nearly 50 groups that have been announced so far for the Long Play festival, with additional acts expected to be added next month. Performances are planned for at least 10 locations ranging from the opulent BAM Howard Gilman Opera House to The Plaza at 300 Ashland, an outdoor venue in downtown Brooklyn.

Left Edge Percussion, an ensemble of graduate students in SOU’s master of music performance program, is led by SOU music professor Terry Longshore. The group and its members regularly collaborate with artists of various media and are featured at festivals and events worldwide.

The SOU Percussion Ensemble, directed by Longshore and made up of students in the university’s music program, perform often on campus and elsewhere.

“Our students will perform along a star-studded cast of performers and composers at the festival, and worthy of note, we are the only university ensemble being featured at this festival,” Longshore said. “All of the other performers and composers are world-renowned professionals.”

The two SOU groups will perform “Strange and Sacred Noise” by composer and Pulitzer Prize for Music awardee John Luther Adams, who uses his music to describe the natural world and his concerns for its health. They will also perform “Ricefall” by Michael Pisaro, director of the Composition and Experimental Sound program at the California Institute of the Arts.

Bang on a Can was founded in 1987 by lauded contemporary composers Julia Wolfe, David Lang and Michael Gordon. Lang and Wolfe have each been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Gordon is the composer of “Natural History,” which premiered with a 2016 performance at Crater Lake by the Britt Festival Orchestra with Steiger Butte Drum, members of the SOU Percussion Ensemble and various SOU music faculty and students.

SOU-Left Edge Percussion-Tower Music

SOU’s Left Edge Percussion presents world premiere of Tower Music

Terry Longshore will lead SOU’s Left Edge Percussion in the premiere of New York composer Joseph Bertolozzi’s percussion arrangement of “Tower Music.” The work features 82 percussion instruments played by five performers, and will premiere Nov. 8 at the university’s Music Recital Hall.

Left Edge Percussion is a contemporary percussion group in residence at SOU’s Oregon Center for the Arts.

The idea behind “Tower Music” grew out of Bertolozzi’s “Bronze Collection” project for solo percussion. He reasoned that everything vibrates and drummers like to bang on things, so why not play the Eiffel Tower?

Never thinking he would get permission to drum on the iconic French tower but liking the concept, Bertolozzi first sought approval from the New York State Bridge Authority to create another piece, “Bridge Music,” on the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

“I didn’t think I’d get permission for that either, but at least I didn’t have to learn French just to ask,” he said.

“Bridge Music” is now in its 9th year as a public sound art installation.

Using “Bridge Music” as a proof of concept, Bertolozzi approached the French government (six times) and eventually received permission to “sample” (record) the Eiffel Tower’s surfaces. He and his team of audio and video engineers sampled over 10,000 sounds of the Eiffel Tower, then narrowed those down to about 2,800 “usable” sounds. He next constructed scales and “instrument sets” out of those raw recordings.

Seven years of planning, fundraising and sweat later, “Tower Music” became a reality. It reached  No. 11 and No. 16, respectively, on the iTunes Classical and Billboard Classical Crossover charts.

The score for “Tower Music” on the Eiffel Tower itself is written out in standard notation so it can be performed live by 100 percussionists. A possible live performance directly on the Eiffel Tower is currently in development for the 2024 Paris Olympics, but is far from certain.

Meanwhile, Bertolozzi’s new arrangement makes it possible for a percussion 5tet to reproduce the music – for instance, with cymbals standing in for fence crashes, bass drums for booms on the Tower legs with a log and glockenspiel for pings on a pipe.

“This arrangement is important to me, as it will bring live performances of the work into the concert hall, since live performance on the Eiffel Tower itself will be an extremely rare (if ever) event,” Bertolozzi said. “It gives longevity and presence to the music by allowing live audiences to enjoy live performances in an authentic, composer-created arrangement.”

Bertolozzi, joined by SOU’s Longshore and Left Edge Percussion, will also give a free talk about “Tower Music” from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, , in the Music Recital Hall.

Longshore and Left Edge Percussion tours and performs throughout the Northwest and actively collaborates on innovative projects with composers and artists of various media. Members of the group have been featured around the globe at prestigious festivals, competitions, conferences and workshops.