Vic Firth just released a video of Andy Akiho‘s LIgNEouS V with the Dover Quartet.
This is the fifth and final movement of the LIgNEouS Suite, a work that I’ve been developing and working on since 2010. Andy Akiho is one of my closest friends – both personally and artistically. We met in grad school in 2009 – I remember him coming up to me after a class that we had together, introducing himself, and then inviting me to a concert he was performing that weekend at a sushi restaurant.
Many people can point back to one or two mentors who had a profound impact on their life. For me, that person is Robert van Sice. I met Bob briefly in 2005 while I was still in high school, but I didn’t really get to know him until I attended a masterclass of his at the Juilliard Pre-College in 2006. I watched him teach a group of high school students that he had never met before with an incredible amount of generosity and honesty, and I was blown away by the passion with which he spoke about music.
I reached out to him, and ended up going to Yale to take a lesson with him. He spent something like 3 hours with a young musician he barely knew, and only cut it short because it was Mother’s Day, and his family was in town. Shortly after, I transferred to Peabody, and I studied with Bob both there and at Yale for the next 5 years.
I met Christopher Cerrone in 2005 at the Manhattan School of Music, but I first played his music in 2009. We did the overture to his opera Invisible Cities, a spellbinding piece that would go on to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Fast-forward to 2012 – I heard that Owen Weaver was putting together a consortium of percussionists to commission Chris to write a solo piece, and I jumped at the opportunity to join them. The result was Memory Palace - a 20-minute autobiographical piece about the people, places, and things that came together to turn Chris into the person and artist that he is today.
I first played the piece in 2013, and since then have given more than 35 performances of it. I keep coming back to it, because I have never connected this personally and this emotionally to any other solo percussion piece. In going through the different periods of Chris’ past, his music inspires me to reflect on my own life in the same way.
This week, Sandbox Percussion is in San Pedro, California working on GALILEO – a new show produced by The Industry with music by Andy Akiho and libretto/direction by Yuval Sharon.
GALILEO is somewhere in between an opera and a play. Yuval has translated and adapted Bertolt Brecht’s play Life of Galileo, and Andy has written an entirely new score to accompany it. There’s dialogue, instrumental music, as well as arias and songs throughout. The four of us join an incredible trio of drummers from the LA Taiko Institute, plus a small chamber orchestra and a chorus. All of the performers surround a huge fire sculpture designed by Liz Glynn.