By Alexander Hough in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 6, 2009 7:45PM
The quartet has been a welcome addition to the Chicago new music scene, as well as to the medium of percussion ensemble, in general. Western composers have been writing for percussion-based groups for only about 100 years now, and most of the repertoire is from recent decades. This rush to fill the vacuum has led to a preponderance of truly awful music. Third Coast Percussion, however, has been dutifully filtering out the dross and putting together great programs.
Tuesday night's concert includes two pieces by American composer Frederic Rzewski that set text to music; To the Earth uses a 7th century BCE ode to Gaia, and Coming Together is based on a letter prisoner Sam Melville wrote from Attica prior to organizing an inmate uprising that resulted in his death.
Two pieces, David Little's Speak Softly and Louis Andriessen's Workers Union, are written with strict rhythms but intentional vagueness regarding pitch. Speak Softly calls for playing on large sticks of varying size, and Workers Union goes further, specifying only the pitch value relative to a single line. Third Coast Percussion will also premiere Thaw, a work written for them by the young composer Ted Hearne.
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Tuesday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m., $15, $5 with student ID, tickets available online