Search This Blog

Friday, August 9, 2013

Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Rupa-khandha

A really good percussion group must have dedication, a pliable sense of precision-in-artistry, a fully developed sense of the musicality of the proceedings and perhaps above-all flexibility. The sheer number of pitched and unpitched instruments one may be called upon to master in a composition can be virtually endless, as is the need to switch from one to another when called upon, sometimes in rapid succession.

The Los Angeles Percussion Quartet shows all these qualities in abundance on their CD Rupa-khandha (Sono Luminus 92150). These are world premiere recordings of what the back cover describes as "the newest music for percussion ensemble, in the tradition of the great West Coast mavericks," and that rings true. The intro to the liner notes, if we have any doubts, spells-out who those composers would be: John Cage, Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Harry Partch, Terry Riley, James Tenney, Frank Zappa, William Kraft, Emil Richards and Steven Schick. A formidable list of pioneers, not all of whose careers of course were entirely synonymous with that region, but all of whom had important West Coast presences for at least part of the time. One could sum up a commonality by saying all had a fascination with aggregates which at least included percussion instruments, some unconventional, some invented, and pioneered the rule-breaking, all-the-world influenced music approaches we have come to embrace today.

And you get that influence evolved and continued further in the four pieces on the program--"Ritual Dances" by Eric Guinivan, "Rupa-khandha" by Sean Heim, Joseph Pereira's "Repousse," and Jeffrey Holmes' "Occasus."

I will not go into a blow-by-blow description of each work recorded here, partly because they flow together in such a way that they tend to work together for one very lasting impression, and secondly, it is music that is better served by hearing it.

The composers may be new names to you (as many were to me) but they each have a mastery over the percussion arsenal and write music that fits a West Coast ethos.

As many Sono Luminus releases, this one comes with a conventional two-channel CD and a multiple-option, surround sound 24-bit Blue Ray disk. I was unable to hear the multi channel version alas because I do not have Blue Ray capability, so I cannot comment on those mixes. It's the sort of multi-timbred music that will stand out in such a playback environment. The CD itself has excellent sound.

The Los Angeles Percussion Quartet has the concentrated dedication, skill, and beyond-ness feel to pull this program off with flair. The composers have given them much to work with and they sound great! Recommended.


  1. Thanks for the recommendation! I'm a music lover (I work with the LA Phil) and will definitely check this out. You might also be interested in some shows we have coming up at The Hollywood Bowl this week like Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks on Fri. 8/16 & Sat 8/17. You can get all the show info here

    Hope to see some LA music lovers out there!

  2. Hi TBurton,
    My pleasure. I am afraid being over here next to NYC I won't be able to catch the Tchaikovsky and Fireworks--unless they play really loud and shoot the fireworks really high! But no doubt there are some folks out your way that would enjoy something summer-y and musically solid like that.

    Thanks for checking in,

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Grego!

  4. My pleasure SL. There is much to explore and appreciate there. Percussion music has come such a long ways in the public mind/ear since "Ionization" and I am heartened that good new music continues to thrive on CDs like this!