Photo by Saverio Truglia



Third Coast Percussion

Rituals and Meditations


Wednesday, January 25, 2023
7:30 PM
Bing Concert Hall


Third Coast Percussion

Sean Connors
Robert Dillon
Peter Martin
David Skidmore


Millennium Canticles (2022)
           I. Famous Disaster Psalm 
           II. The Doubter's Litany
           III. Bloodied Bells
           IV. Choir of the Holy Locusts 
           V. Survival Psalm


In Practice (2022)




Gauntlet (2022)


JLIN (b. 1987)
Perspective (2020)



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PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Please be considerate of others and turn off all phones and watch alarms. Photography and recording of any kind are not permitted. Thank you.

Program Notes

b. 1980
Millennium Canticles (2022)

Recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (New York Times), “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out NY), and praised for her “apocalyptic imagination” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed by the Kronos Quartet, LA Opera, eighth blackbird, the BBC Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, Scottish Opera and many others. In 2018 she became, along with Jeanine Tesori, one of the first women to receive a main stage commission from the Metropolitan Opera, and was nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.”

From 2018-2021 she served as the Mead Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and from 2012-2015 was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia. Her 2018 opera Proving Up, created with longtime collaborator librettist Royce Vavrek and based on a short story by Karen Russell, is a surreal commentary on the American dream. It was commissioned and premiered by Washington National Opera, Opera Omaha and Miller Theatre, and was deemed “harrowing… a true opera for its time” by the Washington Post. Her 2016 opera Breaking the Waves, commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and Beth Morrison Projects, was called “one of the best 21st-century American operas yet” by Opera News. Breaking the Waves received its European premiere at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival; future performances are planned at LA Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and the Adelaide Festival. Her most recent opera, The Listeners, commissioned by the Norwegian National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. Her next opera will be an adaptation of George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo.

Mazzoli is currently on faculty at Bard College Conservatory of Music. In 2016, Missy and composer Ellen Reid founded Luna Lab, a mentorship program for young female composers created in partnership with the Kaufman Music Center. Her works are published by G. Schirmer.


Millennium Canticles
Millennium Canticles imagines a group of four people trying to re-create the rituals and stories of human life after a massive rapture or apocalypse. Despite the dark premise, the piece focuses on the hope and optimism of these survivors, exploring the human need to tell stories and create meaning through repeated actions, such as chanting, praying, or playing drums. Participation or rejection of these rituals define the social fabric of the community, and the objects used in these rituals become a platform for experimentation and further discovery.

One of a series of works by Mazzoli with apocalyptic themes, Millennium Canticles took inspiration from a dark comedic play called Mr. Burns, in which a group of survivors try to remember the plot of an episode of “The Simpsons,” recreating it in an increasingly ritualized and exaggerated way.


The work charts a journey through the dramatic, surreal, and haunting over its five movements:

I. Famous Disaster Psalm: The first attempt at a ritual. the group comes together to form a rhythm that is only complete when all four people participate. The group’s exploration is tinged with suspicion.

II. The Doubter’s Litany: A greater coming together of the group but also skepticism, fear, and dissent. A nervous anticipation takes hold amongst all present.

III. Bloodied Bells: The creation of a new hymn, again that can only be played with the participation of the whole group. The hymn ends with a ritual showing devotion to a new deity, an expression of gratitude for survival.

IV. Choir of the Holy Locusts: The locusts have become the new gods and the survivors imitate them in a touching and tender song. One dissenter tries to break the others out of their trance-like state, but the others continue with their ritual.

V. Survival Psalm: A reversal of movement 1. The group fragments, individuals break out of the composite and go out on their own, only to come back together at the very end.


Missy Mazzoli’s Millennium Canticles was commissioned by Third Coast Percussion with lead support from Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, and additional support from Bruce Oltman, the Third Coast Percussion New Works Fund, and the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation.

Duration: 20 minutes

In Practice (2022)

Compositions by members of Third Coast Percussion have always been an important part of the ensemble’s repertoire, and many works by TCP members have entered the repertoire for percussion groups around the world. TCP began co-composing works together as a quartet beginning in 2016 with Reaction Yield, followed immediately by their Paddle to the Sea concert program and album. In 2019, the four ensemble members (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore) each contributed a movement to the Archetypes project with Sérgio and Clarice Assad, for which all 6 composer-performers were nominated for a GRAMMY® for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.”


In Practice
Most people practice some sort of rituals that help form their identities and shape their days. They can be as structured as a ceremony carried out at prescribed times of the year, or as informal as the moment of calm found in a morning routine; a repeated mantra to center oneself in difficult situations or a weekly walk with friends. Our composition was inspired and created by the four of us bringing together our own contrasting and very much individual understandings of the practice of rituals.

For one of us, a ritual could mean a warm-up routine, used to stay anchored in fundamentals, develop technique, and get the hands and mind going before diving into a practice session. The highly ornamented rhythmic vocabulary of drummers’ rudimental exercises appears here on a marimba instead of in its traditional place on marching drums or practice pads, taking on new dimensions of texture and harmony.

For another one of us, the practice of creating music via a synthesizer is an escape from the constant stimulus of the touring musician’s life, a comforting chance to meditate on sound itself outside of physical limitations. Electronic sounds created in real time by a Prophet Synth Module became central to the sound world from very early in the compositional process, as well as providing a harmonic mantra with a sense of meaning and calm that belies its simplicity.

We also included simple objects from the steady routines of our live—coffee mugs, cereal bowls, electric toothbrushes—which have a very literal but often unnoticed presence in our daily existence. These specific objects take on new roles, creating white noise drones, pure bell tones, or bubbly interlocking repeated patterns.

Once the foundation solidified from these elements, the piece developed its own sense of direction and purpose. As with previous co-composed works, different members of the ensemble took over subsequent revisions of sections, shaping the piece into a coherent creation and blending the voices of four individuals into one musical journey.

In Practice was composed with support from the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation and the Julian Family Foundation.

Duration: 15 minutes

b. 1967
Gauntlet (2022)

Composer Mark Applebaum is the Leland & Edith Smith Professor of Composition at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at San Diego where he studied principally with Brian Ferneyhough. His solo, chamber, choral, orchestral, operatic, and electroacoustic work has been performed throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia with notable performances at the Darmstadt Sessions.

Many of his pieces are characterized by challenges to the conventional boundaries of musical ontology: works for three conductors and no players, a concerto for florist and orchestra, pieces for instruments made of junk, notational specifications that appear on the faces of custom wristwatches, works for an invented sign language choreographed to sound, amplified Dadaist rituals, and a 72-foot long graphic score displayed in a museum and accompanied by no instructions for its interpretation. His TED Talk—about boredom—has been seen by more than three million viewers.

He has received commissions from Betty Freeman, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the Fromm Foundation, the Kronos Quartet, the Vienna Modern Festival, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the Meridian Arts Ensemble, Chamber Music America, the Spoleto Festival, and others. The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players premiered his composition Rabbit Hole, an elaborate chamber ensemble work based on page turns. He has also engaged in many intermedia collaborations, including neural artists, film-makers, florists, animators, architects, choreographers, and laptop DJs.

Applebaum is also an accomplished jazz pianist who has performed from Sumatra to Ouagadougou and who concertizes internationally with his father, Bob Applebaum, in the Applebaum Jazz Piano Duo. His music appears on the Innova, Tzadik, Capstone, Blue Leaf, SEAMUS, New Focus, Champ D’Action, and Evergreen labels. He serves on the board of Other Minds and as a trustee of Carleton College.

Applebaum has held professorial positions at Carleton College and Mississippi State University. He has taught classes in Antwerp, Santiago, Singapore, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oxford, and Finland, and served as master artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. In 2000 he joined the faculty at Stanford where he directs [sic]—the Stanford Improvisation Collective, received the 2003 Walter J. Gores Award for excellence in teaching, and was named the Hazy Family University Fellow in Undergraduate Education.


When Third Coast Percussion first contacted me about composing a new work, they gave me carte blanche to explore any musical direction I fancied. Like some of my favorite ensembles, Third Coast is particularly enthusiastic about doing things they haven’t done before. They did, however, express a concern that the piece be logistically feasible, that it could tour easily. To that end, they asked for a piece that “doesn’t have a lot of instruments.”

Perversely, I wondered if one could satisfy the ensemble’s very sensible logistical needs while nevertheless employing an absurdly lavish coterie of instruments. After some consideration, I realized that, by employing small (often tiny) instruments, I could fail spectacularly in terms of instrumental count while still succeeding logistically.

After some exhaustive testing, I settled on 200 instruments representing an enormous array of timbral possibility. By design they fit into about two suitcases. That’s actually smaller than a typical drum set. It’s probably about 25% of a marimba. So it is surprisingly practical.

The players are asked to rapidly activate these instruments as they proceed one by one down a 24-foot line—a gauntlet—of these objects. Along the journey they play traditional percussion instruments like gongs and tambourines and cowbells and woodblocks; wind instruments like harmonicas, samba whistles, duck calls, and sirens; found objects like staplers, plastic bags, salad bowls, and duct tape; and stuff designed principally for children: squeak toys, party horns, baby rattles, and game spinners. Gadgets are played with mallets, wire brushes, triangle beaters, and chopsticks, as well as combs, emery boards, wind-up toys, electric toothbrushes, and tiny vibrating robots. The players also operate various gloves and mittens, yet another kind of gauntlet.

Gauntlet’s sound world is as vast as its material composition. That vastness is paralleled by the extraordinarily generous talents, devotion, and open-mindedness of Third Coast Percussion, the players for whom it was written and dedicated. As a composer, one is euphoric (if joyfully flabbergasted) to find such keen, indulgent partners, curious and courageous souls whose very idea of a good time is to confront every unfamiliar musical gauntlet.

—Mark Applebaum


Mark Applebaum’s Gauntlet was commissioned by Third Coast Percussion with support from the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation, the Julian Family Foundation, and the Third Coast Percussion New Works Fund.

Duration: 17 minutes

b. 1987
Perspective (2020)

Jlin (Jerrilynn Patton) is a producer based in Gary, Indiana. Her unique and evolving electronic sound is rooted in Chicago’s iconic footwork style, with additional influences ranging from Nina Simone to Igor Stravinsky. Jlin’s work assembles evocative and vivid sounds into a musical style that she describes as “clean, precise, and unpredictable.” Her debut album Dark Energy was released to critical acclaim in 2015, and her second album Black Origami in 2017 to rave reviews from NPR Music and Pitchfork. She has written music for Kronos Quartet and choreographer Wayne McGregor, and has recently performed at the Big Ears Festival, Whitney Museum of Art, and Toledo Museum of Art, among others.


Jlin’s seven-movement work was written for Third Coast Percussion through a highly collaborative process. After exploring and sampling instruments from TCP’s vast collection of percussion sounds at their studio in Chicago, she created an electronic version of each of the work’s seven movements using these samples and other sounds from her own library.

The members of Third Coast Percussion then set about determining how to realize these pieces in live performance. Diving into each of the audio tracks, the percussionists found dozens of sonic layers, patterns that never seem to repeat when one would expect them to, and outrageous sounds that are hard to imagine recreating acoustically. Even typical percussion sounds like snare drum, hi-hat, or kick drum exist in multiple variations, subtle timbral shades in counterpoint or composite sounds.

In pursuit of the broad expressive range of Jlin’s original tracks, TCP’s live version of this piece incorporates mixing bowls filled with water, bird calls, and a variety of gongs and tambourines, as well as many variations of drum set-like sounds: instruments that are like a hi-hat but not a hi-hat, or serve the function of a snare drum but are not a snare drum.

Jlin named her piece Perspective as a reference to this unique collaborative process, that this work would exist in two forms, the same music as interpreted through different artists and their modes of expression.

Perspective by Jlin was commissioned for Third Coast Percussion by the Boulanger Initiative, the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation, Carnegie Hall, the Lester & Hope Abelson Fund for the Performing Arts at the Chicago Community Foundation, the DEW Foundation, and Third Coast Percussion’s New Works Fund.

Perspective is featured on Third Coast Percussion’s album “Perspectives” on Cedille Records, which was released in May 2022, and nominated for GRAMMY® Awards for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” and “Best Engineered Album, Classical.”

Duration (of the 5 movements featured in tonight's show): 23 minutes

About Third Coast Percussion

Third Coast Percussion is a GRAMMY® Award-winning Chicago-based percussion quartet and GRAMMY®-nominated composer collective. For over fifteen years, the ensemble has created exciting and unexpected performances that constantly redefine the classical music experience. The ensemble has been praised for “commandingly elegant” (New York Times) performances, the “rare power” (Washington Post) of their recordings, and “an inspirational sense of fun and curiosity” (Minnesota Star-Tribune). Third Coast Percussion maintains a busy tour schedule, with past performances in 39 of the 50 states and Washington, DC, plus international tour dates across 4 continents.

A direct connection with the audience is at the core of all of Third Coast Percussion’s work, whether the musicians are speaking from the stage about a new piece of music, inviting the audience to play along in a concert or educational performance, or inviting their fans around the world to create new music using one of their free mobile apps. The four members of Third Coast are also accomplished teachers, and make active participation by all students the cornerstone of all their educational offerings.

The quartet’s curiosity and eclectic taste have led to a series of unlikely collaborations that have produced exciting new art. The ensemble has worked with engineers at the University of Notre Dame, architects at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, dancers at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and musicians from traditions ranging from the mbira music of Zimbabwe’s Shona people, to indie rockers and footwork producers, to some of the world’s leading concert musicians. Third Coast Percussion served as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center from 2013—2018, and currently serves as ensemble-in-residence at Denison University.

A commission for a new work from composer Augusta Read Thomas in 2012 led to the realization that commissioning new musical works can be—and should be—as collaborative as any other artistic partnership. Through extensive workshopping and close contact with composers, Third Coast Percussion has commissioned and premiered new works by Philip Glass, Missy Mazzoli, Danny Elfman, Gemma Peacocke, Flutronix, Jlin, Tyondai Braxton, Augusta Read Thomas, Devonté Hynes, Georg Friedrich Haas, Donnacha Dennehy, Glenn Kotche, Christopher Cerrone, David T. Little and today’s leading up-and-coming composers through their Currents Creative Partnership program. TCP’s commissioned works have become part of the ensemble’s core repertoire and seen hundreds of performances across four continents.

Third Coast Percussion’s recordings include fourteen feature albums, and appearances on fourteen additional releases. The quartet has put its stamp on iconic percussion works by John Cage and Steve Reich, and Third Coast has also created first recordings of commissioned works by Philip Glass, Augusta Read Thomas, Devonté Hynes, Gavin Bryars, Donnacha Dennehy, David T. Little, Ted Hearne, and more, in addition to recordings of the ensemble’s own compositions. In 2017 the ensemble won the GRAMMY® Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for their recording of Steve Reich’s works for percussion. Third Coast has since received four additional GRAMMY® nominations as performers, and in 2021 they received their first GRAMMY® nomination as composers.

Third Coast Percussion has always maintained strong ties to the vibrant artistic community in their hometown of Chicago. They have collaborated with Chicago institutions such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Chicago Children’s Choir, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Chicago Humanities Festival, and the Adler Planetarium. TCP performed at the grand opening of Maggie Daley Children’s Park, conducted residencies at the University of Chicago and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, created multi-year collaborative projects with Chicago-based composers Augusta Read Thomas, Glenn Kotche, and chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird, and taught tens of thousands of students through partnerships with The People’s Music School, the Chicago Park District, Rush Hour Concerts, Urban Gateways, and others.

The four members of Third Coast Percussion (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore) met while studying percussion music at Northwestern University with Michael Burritt and James Ross. Members of Third Coast also hold degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Rutgers University, the New England Conservatory, and the Yale School of Music. Stay up-to-date and go behind-the-scenes by following Third Coast on Twitter (@ThirdCoastPerc), Facebook (@Third Coast Percussion), Instagram (@ThirdCoastPercussion), and YouTube (@thirdcoastpercussion).

*Third Coast Percussion is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.


Third Coast Percussion

Sean Connors, Ensemble Member and Technical Director
Robert Dillon, Ensemble Member and Development Director
Peter Martin, Ensemble Member and Finance Director
David Skidmore, Ensemble Member and Executive Director


Reba Cafarelli, Managing Director
Colin Campbell, Production Manager
Rebecca McDaniel, Marketing and Development Manager
Mayshell Morris, Administrative Assistant


Board of Directors
Sara Coffou, President
Beth I. Davis, Vice-President
Mary K. Woolever, Secretary
Daniel Knaus, Treasurer
Jim Barasa
Teddy Boys
Friedrich Burian
Julio Desir, Jr.
Robert Dillon
Nimish Dixit
André Dowell
Jamie Jung
Leslie Larson Maheras
Sidney Robinson
Louise K. Smith
Catharine Fox Walby
Ethelbert Williams



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