Tag Archives: American Contemporary Music Ensemble

Bryce Dessner invents new instrument for Sō Percussion


It’s one thing to compose music for performance, and it’s another thing to compose music that requires an entirely new instrument. For his sophomore solo release Music for Wood and Strings Bryce Dessner, a composer who is also a guitarist in the band the National, chose the latter, enlisting Sō Percussion to be his guinea pigs performing 10 movements featuring what he calls the “chordstick.”

Record label Brassland commissioned the above film by Derrick Belcham, Zara Popovici, and Sean Dwyer to present what is essentially “a hybrid dulcimer.” A cross between a hammered dulcimer and an electric guitar, the construction of the chordstick allows for a more percussive playing technique, building atmospheric ambiance.  Members of Sō Percussion thought they would be more like dulcimers, but they actually “sound and look more like two guitars laid out.”

Brassland released the record on May 19, and you can find it at all the usual places for streaming and downloading. If you’re interested in Dessner’s views on contemporary classical music, check out his 2013 piece in Boing Boing.

Jóhann Jóhannsson Brings ‘Chaconne’ and ‘Drone Mass’ to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Johan Johannsson

Following the acclaim of his Golden-Globe-winning score for The Theory of Everything, Jóhann Jóhannsson is set to premiere two pieces at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art  on Tuesday, March 17. Uniting with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble and the 2014 Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth; Jóhannsson will perform pieces titled Chaconne, featuring violinist Yuki Numata Resnick; and Drone Mass, which “uses texts based on the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians.”

Jóhannsson’s art, impressive as it is on record and on screen, is even impressive in a live setting; often, the composer includes an electronic visual media component that shows him to be an experimentalist at heart—a composer who knows how to bridge classical music and a contemporary milieu.

The specific venue for this performance, however, will be anything but contemporary: the Met’s Temple of Dendur. If you’re going, don’t forget the kids! Though adult tickets are $40, kids can come for just $1.