Has So Percussion always been based in Brooklyn?
We moved here in 2004, I think. We were based in New Haven while we were doing grad school at Yale at the school of music and had our studio there for a while. I moved to Brooklyn in 2003 and we all scattered a bit for a minute until we could move our studio to Greenpoint. We are in our second studio there but have been a Greenpoint group since then.
What neighborhoods do you all live in? How do you like them?
When I moved to Brooklyn in 2003, I was living off the Bedford L stop down on South 2nd. I loved it, and more and more great food moved south. I moved to Prospect Heights a couple years ago, after our apartment was one of the only ones that got hit super hard by Hurricane Irene. I remember being up all night catching water in buckets from light fixtures and holes in the ceiling. The day we went outside thinking everyone in the neighborhood must've been hit too, but everyone else was partying and it was like we were the one building that got slammed. But I love Prospect Heights too. It is great to be close to the park, and there is a nice food thing happening here as well.
Where (we) Live is described as "inspired by the physical and symbolic places we live." Speaking of the physical, what does Brooklyn sound like?
Brooklyn sounds pretty nice. It's loud and noisy, but when I bike around Prospect Park and on the weekends, it sounds like everything. Drum circles, Eastern European Brass bands, steel drummers, Korean wedding bands, indie rock blaring at BBQs. It sounds good, and it sounds like whatever collection of sounds you want it to sound like. Though, more and more, the project evolved from the ideas of neighborhoods and communities to what we all call home. The mundane sounds of coffee percolators and loud-ass radiators and kids playing out back are important, but so is the collection of musicians and artists that we feel like make up our collective home. For me, there is an energy that inspires me to push to find something I hadn't found before. I feel like there are places I was able to do that in writing music for this show with others and I know that we feel like, as a whole, we were able to do that as well. What the hell do we call this thing we made?
Why did you want to pull collaborators into this project? What do they add that the music alone can't accomplish?
The original idea was to figure out how to make a more inclusive work, and how to push ourselves out of wherever it is that we had become comfortable. Comfort is great, but not for too long. Pulling in these collaborators, collaborators that we respected immensely but came from different disciplines and different ways of thinking about art, did challenge us to make something new. We got to something that we can't put our finger on and that all of us, So and our collaborators, feel ownership over. We are proud of both of those things.
Is it ever difficult finding audiences for percussion music?
I don't think that it's percussion music that it's hard to find audiences for. Art music or contemporary classical music or experimental music, whatever you want to call it, can be tricky to find audiences for if it is presented in the wrong way. There is a history to fight against here, where things were presented in a way that was like taking your medicine or eating your spinach as a kid. You should do it because it is good for you, not because you like it. We do what we do because we love it, and it is much easier to find audiences to check out new things that people believe in strongly than to find folks to take medicine. Percussion music is the easy part. It's fun to watch people hit things!
How does the music scene in Brooklyn measure up against Manhattan's these days?
I don't have huge feelings on this. There are definitely interesting things happening in NYC all over. But I am glad I moved to Brooklyn in 2004 and not Washington Heights. It seems like musicians were moving to both spots in big numbers, and my girlfriend/now wife moved to Brooklyn the year before I did, and the feeling of being a part of this scene is great. It is vibrant. It is eclectic and at its best moments it is folks striving to do new things at a high level. I like being a part of that. And I am constantly struck by what it means to people outside of NYC to tell them you are making music in Brooklyn, whether that is someone in LA or Chicago in the US or in London or Paris. The Brooklyn scene resonates and it is great to be pushed by that energy and be a part of a very vibrant scene.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart