So Percussion and Trollstilt

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

Among the novelties dreamed up by 20th-century composers, the percussion ensemble has proved one of the more durable. One reason is the variety of timbres the percussion family provides; another, more primal, is that anyone can appreciate the sensation of hitting something repeatedly. The members of So Percussion—Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting and Lawson White—have been collectively hitting things for nearly a decade, more often than not according to instructions provided by the likes of Cage, Crumb or Reich.

Five (and-a-half) Gardens, So Percussion’s fourth release and the first on its own Shhh Productions label, documents its collaboration with Trollstilt, the duo of guitarist Monica Mugan and fiddler-composer Dan Trueman. It’s actually not such a stretch: Trueman, codirector of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, is well-traveled in new-music circles, and Trollstilt plays with Treuting in the tangled-roots outfit QQQ.

The music on Gardens, composed by Trueman, includes rustic folk melodies, gangly dances and pulse-oriented workouts on woodblocks and marimbas—as well as flowerpots, rocks and a wheelbarrow—interspersed with quirky narratives written by Jennifer Trueman (the composer’s sister), and read by her and Rinde Eckert. A DVD matches the music to images by painter Judy Trueman (the composer’s mother), computer-animated like a gallery full of Kandinsky canvases dancing to their own gaudy rhythms.

—Steve Smith

So Percussion and Trollstilt play Joe’s Pub Mar 21, 2008.

Five (and-a-half) Gardens (Shhh Productions)