So Percussion On — And Out Of — Time

Watch So Percussion Perform Steve Mackey's 'It Is Time'

Premiered last year at Zankel Hall by So Percussion, Steve Mackey's It Is Time is at once deeply meditative and abundantly playful, rooted in the feelings Mackey has as the 55-year-old father of a toddler-aged son. "As an older father (now 664 months old)," he writes, "I felt, for the first time in my life, saddened by the immutability of time and the finite limits to how much of It" – emphasis his – "I will be able to spend with my young family." Divided into four parts, there are solo turns for each of So Percussion's amazing musicians: Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting. It's not all bittersweet and gloom, though, as you can see in the complete, 37-minute piece, here on NPR Music in its video premiere.

It Is Time could hardly be dark-spirited with this quartet in action, surrounded by a pump organ, bells, cymbals, steel drums, marimba, drum kit, and a variety of other mudane and whimsical items, from cooking timers to wind-up toys. The video's director, Mark DeChiazza, is also a choreographer – and he understands the inherent kineticism of musical performance. Moreover, there are elements to the piece that you don't understand until you see the four members of So in action. At the beginning of the piece, for example, they're not hitting a wood block – in a clever and utterly deadpan joke, they're hitting the ultimate arbiter of musical time, the metronome.

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