Doug Perkins Performs Michael Gordon’s “XY”

February 28, 2011 12:09 pm in Concert by Web Team

Michael Gordon’s XY (1997) is a piece about rhythmic interaction. As a rhythm played by one hand gets louder, a corollary rhythm in the other hand gets softer and vice versa, so that one hand constantly replaces the other in a sequence of overlapping hairpin shapes of advancing and receding material. Exact mirroring of the hands at the beginning gives way to the rubbing of one kind of rhythmic material against another as the piece continues. For example, while one hand remains in eighth notes the other shifts to triplets – or put another way, one hand moves at a speed 3/2 faster than the other. Other ratios are explored including 5:4 and eventually 6:5. (A retraction and belated apology to my high school math teacher to whom I passionately maintained that algebra would never have any relevance in my life.)


The beating of rhythms and textures against one another, like slightly out of tune notes, is very much in the Gordon design. He does it in Industry where sliding major/minor tonal shifts in a solo cello line are floated on a Hendrix halo of electronic distortion. In the piece he wrote for the Bang on a Can All-Stars, I Buried Paul, there are long passages where material in various meters is passed back and forth between sections in the group. Watching performers tap their feet in a Michael Gordon piece is likely to be pretty confusing experience!

In XY, the frictions are rhythmic and dynamic. And, as usual, Michael finds the nap of whatever fabric he is working with and starts to rub it the wrong way. It always gets hot.

– Steven Schick

In this performance, Doug uses:

Very hard. A special effects mallet.
Head = 1 1/4" | L = 14 1/2"  [enlarge photo]


Also: Doug discusses XY in this Red Poppy Music audio podcast:

Have questions, comments or want to add your own observations on Michael Gordon’s XY?Please leave a comment below!


Haven’t registered for the Vic Firth Exchange?
Don’t miss out on the fun! Create your own profile, write a blog, make friends! Register now to get started!

Keep up with Doug online!

Doug Perkins specializes in new works for percussion as a chamber musician and soloist. His performances have been described as, “terrific, wide-awake and strikingly entertaining” by the Boston Globe and “brilliant” by the New York Times. He has appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Spoleto USA Festival, the Ojai Festival and the World Expo in Lisbon, Portugal. He was a founder of So Percussion and is presently hard at work with the Meehan/ Perkins Duo. 

Doug currently teaches at Dartmouth College where he teaches percussion and directs the Contemporary Music Lab and the concert series The Way to Go Out. He is the additionally the Director of the Chosen Vale International Percussion Seminar at the Center for Advanced Musical Studies.

Doug received his Bachelor’s degree from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Masters and Artist Diploma degrees from Yale University, and his Doctorate from Stony Brook University. His principle percussion teachers were Jack DiIanni, Jim Culley, and Robert Van Sice.


Michael Gordon’s music merges subtle rhythmic invention with incredible power embodying, in the words of The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, “the fury of punk rock, the nervous brilliance of free jazz and the intransigence of classical modernism.” Over the past 25 years, Gordon has produced a strikingly diverse body of work, ranging from large-scale pieces for high-energy ensembles to major orchestral commissions to works conceived specifically for the recording studio. Transcending categorization, this music represents the collision of mysterious introspection and brutal directness.

For more information and catalog of works, visit Michael online: