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.