Press Room

Steven Mackey’s It Is Time premieres at Carnegie Hall, March 25

The world premiere of Steven Mackey’s It Is Time is the centerpiece of So Percussion’s upcoming chamber recital at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on March 25.  Co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall and Chamber Music America, Mackey’s epic new work was written expressly for the pioneering quartet, and features staging elements and video by Mark DeChiazza.

Mackey’s music “equally includes subtle metric shifts and rhythmic intricacies found in sophisticated contemporary classical music” (Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times).  The genre-defying composer is also a rock guitarist and Professor of Composition at Princeton, where So Percussion workshopped It Is Time with him last summer.  By virtue of the Brooklyn-based group’s innovative attitude and technical chops, So Percussion – described as “astonishing and entrancing” by Billboard magazine and “brilliant” by the New York Times – is a natural fit for the new work, which, at nearly 40 minutes in length, presents considerable challenges.

As Mackey explains,

It Is Time marshals the virtuosity of the individual members of So, to speed, slow, warp, celebrate, and mourn our perceptions of time.  Each of the four sections of the piece is a mini concerto for one of the players.  First Eric Beach leads the music in a multi-percussion set-up composed of metronome with delay, pump organ, bells, china cymbal on hi-hat stand, and a few other assorted toys.  Josh Quillen follows on steel drums, Adam Sliwinski on marimba, and Jason Treuting on drum set.”

Besides alluding to It Is Time’s rhythmic complexity, the work’s title evokes our subjective experience of the passage of time and of aging.  According to the composer,

“The piece draws its inspirations from various sources including my admiration for So Percussion, the inscrutable grooves of the Latin drummer Horatio ‘el Negro’ Hernandez, the life of a bouncing ball, and ultimately the fact that the last ten years went by much faster than the previous ten and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to slow that down!  Sure, there are timeless moments here and there, but either the decades are speeding by or I’m much more patient than I used to be.”

With the support of staging elements and video by Mark DeChiazza, So Percussion will animate Mackey’s vision at Carnegie Hall as the culmination of a program that also comprises the New York premiere of Dan Trueman’s neither Anvil nor Pulley and Part I of Steve Reich’s minimalist classic Drumming.

This forthcoming premiere of It Is Time follows Mackey’s recent successes with Slide, his concert-length music-theater piece, and Beautiful Passing, his violin concerto.  Slide debuted as the centerpiece of California’s Ojai Music Festival in July 2009, featuring Mackey himself, who “wailed on guitar and served as an effective narrator” (Los Angeles Times), alongside librettist Rinde Eckert as actor and singer and Grammy-winning new music sextet eighth blackbird.  American Record Guide pronounced Slide the “most talked-about event of the four-day festival,” and praised Mackey’s ability “to merge rock music with rigorous contemporary chamber music in a totally unself-conscious way.”  The Santa Barbara News-Press considered the performance “an extra-notable achievement” thanks to “Steven Mackey’s flexible writing,” while the Los Angeles Times judged the work’s “stylistic sliding … powerful and impressive.”

Likewise, the world premiere of Beautiful Passing, given by violinist Leila Josefowicz and the BBC Philharmonic in England in October 2008, was rapturously received.  Reviewing the performance in London’s Daily Telegraph, David Fanning described the concerto:

“It contends, asserts, floats, and flickers, but entirely on Mackey’s own stylistic terms.  The piece is all the stronger for the negativity it grapples with, and maybe that will prove to be so of his work as a whole.  Some starry composers have produced violin concertos in recent years – Adams and Adès to name but two.  Given the choice, Mackey’s is the one whose acquaintance I would most like to renew.”

Thursday, March 25 at 9:30pm, New York
World premiere of It Is Time
Carnegie Hall (Zankel Hall)
Steve Reich Drumming Part I
Dan Trueman neither Anvil nor Pulley (NY premiere)
Steven Mackey It Is Time (world premiere)
So Percussion (Eric Beach; Josh Quillen; Adam Sliwinski; Jason Treuting)

# # #

© 21C Media Group, March 2010

Return to Press Room