In 2009, So Percussion collaborated at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as both composers and performers on Imaginary City, an evening-long performance based on Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. The result was a work of startling grace and poetic cohesion, capturing the wonder of cities while soothing urban angst that comes part and parcel with living in metropolises like New York.
With their newest disc, a recording of Steve Mackey’s equally full-length It is Time, So does for temporal lengths here what it did for municipalities two years ago. Yes, unlike Imaginary City, this is a work written by a non-So member, but the ownership that the quartet holds over the work (custom tailored to their talents by Mackey) is just as complete and engrossing. Inspired by the composer’s young son, Mackey’s work warps and transmutes time and meter over the course of some 38 minutes. Each of the first four movements serves as what the composer dubs a “mini-concerto for one of the players,” speeding up, slowing down, remaining constant and dallying with unpredictability.
Premiered at Carnegie Hall last March, this recording captures So’s dexterity with more ambitious percussion works such as this. Eric Beach takes the helm of the first movement, “Metronome,” playing against a familiar constant with a cavalcade of accessories ranging from hi-hat to bells, moving into a mellower and warpier “Steel Drums” section piloted by Josh Quillen.
A highlight is Adam Sliwinski’s “Marimba,” the longest part of the work and the most emotionally-charged (a sonic representation of the sensation most of us feel realizing we’re now in October when July felt like last week). Jason Treuting goes for chaos and control in “Drums,” an apt and jazzed metaphor for the attempt to keep up with time. Its themes continue into a brief Epilogue, that ties together all other themes, demonstrating just how truly bizarrely—and wonderfully—fluid our weekly allotment of 168 hours truly is.