Video Performance Feature:

"Pleiades" (1979) by Iannis Xenakis
Performed by So Percussion and the Meehan/Perkins Duo

Metaux Claviers
Peaux Malanges

Mallet Selection for this Piece:

Signature Vibraphone - Terry Gibbs
Hard vibe or marimba. Rattan handles.
L = 15 1/4"
  [enlarge photo]
Signature Vibraphone - Terry Gibbs
Medium vibe or marimba. Rattan handles.
L = 15 1/4"
  [enlarge photo]
Very hard. A special effects mallet.
Head = 1 1/4" | L = 14 1/2"
  [enlarge photo]
For all-around playing. Produces rich sound yet is capable of rhythmic clarity.
Head = 1 1/2" | L = 14 1/2"
  [enlarge photo]
Tom Gauger -- Legato
Special felt core produces subtle‚ dark sounds with good articulation.
Head = 3" | L = 16 3/16"
  [enlarge photo]
Tom Gauger -- Ultra Staccato
With a wood core and chamois cover for maximum clarity.
Head = 2 11/32" | L = 16 1/8"
  [enlarge photo]


About the Piece:
 – Source:

World Premier: Mulhouse, 3 May 1979 with the Ballet du Rhin
Duration: 43’40
Composed: 1979
Commissioned by: City of Strasbourg
Dedicated to: Percussions de Strasbourg

The term the Pleiades normally refers to the cluster of sparkling stars in the right shoulder of the Taurus constellation. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Pleiades are visible only in winter. With a telescope dozens of stars can be seen, of which only six can be picked out by the naked eye as well as a slight milky mist in the same area. According to Greek mythology, this cluster of stars represents the seven sisters or Pleiades, servants of Artemis, Goddess of the Moon. One of the sisters, Electra, was said to have disappeared in the form of a comet, tormented with sorrow after the siege and destruction of the city of Troy built by her son Dardanus, victim of the famous ruse of the Wooden Horse of Troy. The whiteness and the mist in which the Pleiades appear is said to be the result of the tears wept by the six sisters abandoned by Electra.

Iannis Xenakis (born in 1922) composed "Pléïades" over the years 1978 -79 on a commission from the City of Strasbourg. This piece was played for the first time by the Percussions de Strasbourg at a concert with the Ballet du Rhin on 3 May 1979. The title Pléïades refers to the six members of the Percussions de Strasbourg. But for Xenakis, the reference to the multiplicity of existence seems to be more important. The very essence of this piece rests on the fact that it cannot be limited to one simple definition.

"Pléïades" is already full of very rich sounds. The instruments used range from keyboards to various percussion instruments including the "sixxen" - a percussion instrument specially created for this composition. The piece is divided into four parts whose titles refer to the materials from which the instruments are made and to the sounds that the latter produce. Listening to the sixxen immediately makes us think of the Indonesian gamelan, in particular those from Bali, and of the instruments used in festive music in Japan, of Mediterranean church bells and Alpine cowbells. The richness of the sixxen’s timbre is in a way the expression of the different types of life led by Man and of which the metals are an integral part. Whilst giving absolute freedom to the concept of a multiplicity of existence, Xenakis has succeeded in imposing a rule of diversity and unity in the temporal structure of his quest for the creation of a single, unique composition.

The only source of these polyrythmics is the idea of periodicity, repetition, duplication, recurrence, faithful, pseudo-faithful and unfaithful copying.

About the composer:

Iannis Xenakis (May 29, 1922 – February 4, 2001) was an ethnic Greek, naturalized French composer, music theorist, and architect-engineer. He is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers.Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models such as applications of set theory, varied use of stochastic processes, game theory, etc., in music, and was also an important influence on the development of electronic music.

Among his most important works are Metastaseis (1953–4) for orchestra, which introduced independent parts for every musician of the orchestra; percussion works such as Psappha (1975) and Pléïades (1979); compositions that introduced spatialization by dispersing musicians among the audience, such as Terretektorh (1966); electronic works created using Xenakis's UPIC system; and the massive multimedia performances Xenakis called polytopes. Among the numerous theoretical writings he authored, the book Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (1971) is regarded as one of his most important. As an architect, Xenakis is primarily known for his early work under Le Corbusier: the Sainte Marie de La Tourette, on which the two architects collaborated, and the Philips Pavilion at Expo 58, which Xenakis designed alone.

For further study:      |

About the Performers:

So Percussion

So is: Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting

Since 1999, So Percussion has been creating music that explores all the extremes of emotion and musical possibility. Called an “experimental powerhouse” by the Village Voice, “astonishing and entrancing” by Billboard Magazine, and “brilliant” by the New York Times, the Brooklyn-based quartet’s innovative work with today’s most exciting composers and their own original music has quickly helped them forge a unique and diverse career.

Excitement about composers like John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis - as well as the sheer fun of playing together - inspired the members of So to begin performing together while students at the Yale School of Music. A blind call to David Lang, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and co-founder of New York’s Bang on a Can, yielded their first commissioned piece, the so-called laws of nature. So’s recording of the so-called laws of nature became the cornerstone of their self-titled debut album on Cantaloupe Music (the record label from the founders of Bang on a Can). In subsequent years, this relationship would blossom into a growing catalogue of exciting releases: Steve Reich’s masterpiece Drumming; So member Jason Treuting’s amid the noise; Treasure State, a collaboration with the electronic duo Matmos; and Paul Lansky’s Threads.

So's ongoing body of original work has resulted in exciting new projects such as the site-specific Music For Trains in Southern Vermont and Imaginary City, a fully-staged sonic meditation on urban soundscapes commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music for the Next Wave Festival 2009 in consortium with 5 other venues. So’s next theatrical project where (we) live is slated to premiere in Fall of 2012.

So Percussion is increasingly involved in mentoring young artists. Starting in the fall of 2011, its members will be Co-Directors of a new percussion department at the Bard College-Conservatory of Music. This top-flight undergraduate program enrolls each student in a double-degree (Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts) course in the Conservatory and Bard College, and exposes them to both traditional western conservatory training and a variety of world traditions. The summer of 2009 saw the creation of the annual So Percussion Summer Institute on the campus of Princeton University. The Institute is an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for college-age percussionists featuring the four members of So as faculty in rehearsal, performance, and discussion of contemporary music for students from around the world.

So Percussion has performed their unusual and exciting music all over the United States, with concerts at the Lincoln Center Festival, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Stanford Lively Arts, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and many others. In addition, recent tours to the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Ukraine have brought them international acclaim.

With an audience comprised of "both kinds of blue hair... elderly matron here, arty punk there" (as the Boston Globe described it), So Percussion makes a rare and wonderful breed of music that both compels instantly and offers rewards for engaged listening.

Visit So Percussion online:

Meehan / Perkins Duo

Since its founding in 2006, the Meehan/ Perkins Duo (Todd Meehan and Doug Perkins) has redefined the American percussion duo through its diverse commissions and engaging performances. The Duo has been called “superb young players” by the New Yorker and “gifted percussionists” by the Wall Street Journal. Dedicated to creating a new body of work for the percussion duo genre, to date the Duo has collaborated with composers David Lang, Paul Lansky, Nathan Davis, John Supko, and Matt McBane to expand the repertoire and produce eclectic new acoustic and electro-acoustic works for percussion. The Duo has shared this music with audiences throughout the country and abroad, including performances at Weill Recital Hall, the Ojai Music Festival, Monadnock Music, the Yellow Barn Festival, the International Festival-Institute at Round Top, the Stone, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, and at dozens of universities and conservatories. In December 2010 the Duo performed and taught in St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk, Russia.

The Duo is currently undertaking its largest commissioning project to date, engaging composer Jonathan Leshnoff for a Concerto for Percussion Duo and Orchestra. The work will be premiered in the 2011-2012 season with orchestras throughout the country. Leshnoff, whose music has been lauded by the Kansas City Star as “a diaphanous orchestral fabric of beautiful transparency,” is considered one of America’s most gifted young composers.

February 2011 marks the release a groundbreaking recording of largely unknown percussion music from the 1930s on New World Records. The project is a collaboration between the MPDuo and the Baylor Percussion Group and features the complete percussion works of Johanna Beyer along with works by John J. Becker, Henry Cowell, Harold Davidson, Gerald Strang, Ray Green, and Doris Humphrey. The Duo’s second recording will be released in the fall of 2011 on Bridge Records and will feature works written for the Duo by David Lang and Paul Lansky, as well as electro-acoustic works by Nathan Davis and Tristan Perich.

Visit Meehan/Perkins online: