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Yellow Barn is welcoming alumnus and Sō Percussion founder Jason Treuting and his wife Beth Meyers (viola and voice) for a second residency in Putney to create a new work, “Go Placidly with Haste.”

The Arts

Making ‘Haste’ in Putney

Percussionist Jason Treuting returns to Yellow Barn to create a new work

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PUTNEY—This week, percussionist Jason Treuting has returned to Putney to create a new work, Go Placidly with Haste.

Yellow Barn welcomed its alumnus and So Percussion founder Treuting and his wife Beth Meyers (viola and voice) for a second residency to develop this original composition.

Together with a mixed ensemble of New York-based musicians, Treuting and Meyers will bring Go Placidly with Haste to Next Stage on Dec. 20, ahead of its New York City premiere.

“Last January, Beth Meyers and I began a project at Yellow Barn we now call Go Placidly with Haste,” writes Treuting at the Next Stage website. “This residency will expand on that work, both in scope and scale, bringing Go Placidly with Haste from conception to the stage in preparation for its New York City premiere.”

The Go Placidly with Haste ensemble includes Treuting and Meyers as well as musicians Alex Sopp, Grey Mcmurray, Francesca McNeely, and Cenk Ergün. The concert at Next Stage begins at 7:30 p.m., lasts approximately 70 minutes, and concludes with an open discussion between musicians and audience members.

Brooklyn-based, with Vermont roots

Treuting is a founding and current member of So Percussion, a Brooklyn-based ensemble, whose Yellow Barn roots extend back to their summer festival residency in 2009.

Since then, they have returned as alumni to Putney and Brattleboro to perform on multiple occasions, including a Yellow Barn residency at Brattleboro Union High School. The ensemble also records frequently at Guilford Sound.

Treuting has contributed several compositions to So Percussion’s repertoire, including Amid the Noise and works for the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. Treuting also collaborated with Steven Mackey on Orpheus Unsung, an “unsung opera” for solo electric guitar and drum set.

Excerpts from Orpheus Unsung were programmed this past summer at Yellow Barn, where Mackey was Composer in Residence, and for Yellow Barn Music Haul’s 2018 tour of New York City.

“Jason has had a very long partnership with Yellow Barn,” says Catherine Stephan, executive director of Yellow Barn. “He has been involved with Yellow Barn for over 10 years, beginning with that residency at BUHS where he worked with Steve Rice, the music director at the school.

“Jason may have his roots in classical music, but he combines this with rock, blues, and other popular music. He is something of a trailblazer. When he founded So Percussion, it was one of the first percussion ensembles, which was quite a novel idea at the time. You could easily say he has a wide range of influences, which is reflected in a work like the one he is working on in his residency here.”

Go Placidly with Haste is actually a series of small parts that I have conjoined to make a composition,” Treuting told The Commons. “I have been working on the piece over a year. Last year, when I was at Yellow Barn, I began toying around with the work, and later played some of it at an informal session at J.D. McCliments Pub in Putney.”

Companion composition

Treuting considers Go Placidly with Haste to be a companion piece to an earlier work of his, Amid the Noise. Both works’ titles come from the opening line of the same text, a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: “Go Placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

“When I first moved to New York I was struck with all the noise around me,” Treuting says. “I wanted to write a piece addressing this noise and madness in the city.”

Treuting recently has been extensively touring Amid the Noise. Though originally scored mostly for percussion, Treuting re-orchestrated the piece for this event to include many additional forms.

“It is actually the first music I composed, and over the past few years, I have had a resurgence with the work and been energized to remount the pieces as I originally intended them, as pieces that can change instrumentation from concert to concert,” he says.

Treuting found the process invigorating as he watched Amid the Noise become reinvented many times over.

Amid the Noise has been performed by groups big and small,” Treuting says. “The work has found new life with so many different groups of musicians and instruments playing the work, from a multitude of percussionists to string quartets.”

In making his latest work, Go Placidly with Haste, that kind of eclectic approach to music-making was on Treuting’s mind.

Go Placidly with Haste will feature a series of solos, changeable on any given night, and mixed with large ensemble music for flexible instrumentation,” he says. “Initially I began working on Go Placidly with my partner Beth, who plays the viola and sings. We were then considering how the piece would play with the smallest number of players.

“Now as we are reworking Go Placidly with Haste here at Yellow Barn, we want to try out the piece using bigger groups. I have invited to join me at Yellow Barn some of my oldest and best musician friends, as well as some new players.”

Accomplished ensemble

Treuting’s sextet is an illustrious group. Besides Treuting, it includes his wife, Meyers, who is a member of bands Damsel and QQQ and of the trio janus; Alex Sopp, a Brooklyn-based visual artist and the flutist of yMusic, The Knights, and NOW Ensemble; guitarist Greg Mcmurray, a member of the trio Tongues in Trees and the duo itsnotyouitsme; cellist Francesca McNeely, a New Fromm Player at the Tanglewood Music Center, where she premiered string quartets by John Harbison, Mark Neikrug, and Kui Dong, and gave the American premiere of Joseph Phibbs’s first quartet; and Cenk Ergün, a composer and improviser whose music has been performed by So Percussion, The JACK Quartet, and Alarm Will Sound, among others.

“We have formed a sextet to work on Go Placidly with Haste this week at Yellow Barn, which we will then perform at Next Stage,” Treuting says. “And after that, on the 21st, we plan to record the work at Guilford Sound with Dave Snyder. We have used that recording studio in the past, and it is a terrific place. We are good friends of Dave and his wife Sara Coffey, who have always taken good care of us.”

Created in 2008 by Artistic Director Seth Knopp, Yellow Barn’s Artist Residencies program is the first retreat in the U.S. created specifically for professional, performing musicians of any kind.

“This residency is great for a project like this because Yellow Barn has few restrictions,” Treuting says. “It is built around what you want it to be. So we’ll be working, doing some cooking and even finding time for a few pints at the local pub. Coming to Putney will be a great Vermont retreat for the band, most of whom live in New York.”

Go Placidly with Haste may have its official premiere at Miller Theater at Columbia University in New York City in May, but Treuting considers that designation something of a misnomer.

“With a piece that is so flexible and modular as this is, to consider one event a premiere is misleading,” he explains. “I am treating our performance at Next Stage as a premiere too. In fact, in a lot of ways, since the work changes so much with each performance, almost all performances are premieres of a sort.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #490 (Wednesday, December 19, 2018). This story appeared on page C1.

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