Penn Sound Collective

Penn Sound Collective is a group of doctoral fellows in music composition at the University of Pennsylvania presenting and promoting each other's work.


New Works for Sō Percussion 

The Penn Sound Collective (PSC) is pleased to present six new works for percussion, written for and recorded  by Sō Percussion. This collaboration began in fall 2019 with a series of workshops at Sō’s Brooklyn studio, with the concert scheduled to take place at Penn Live Arts (formerly the Annenberg Center) in April 2020. After the concert was canceled due to the pandemic, Sō and Penn composers decided to bring in the folks at to create videos of these new works. 

This project was sponsored by the Music Department at the University of Pennsylvania.


About Sō

For twenty years and counting, Sō Percussion has redefined chamber music for the 21st century through an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam” (The New Yorker). They are celebrated by audiences and presenters for a dazzling range of work: for live performances in which “telepathic powers of communication” (The New York Times) bring to life the vibrant percussion repertoire; for an extravagant array of collaborations in classical music, pop, indie rock, contemporary dance, and theater; and for their work in education and community, creating opportunities and platforms for music and artists that explore the immense possibility of art in our time.


Nathan Courtright // @natecourtright
Light sent back, bent

Light sent back, bent is both the title of this piece and the poetic image I kept in my mind while writing it. From the cutting and tuning of copper pipes a microtone apart to selecting identical pairings of instruments for the players, I was interested in how nearly identical timbres and rhythms could interact with and bounce off of each other. The piece was started and abandoned a few times during the compositional process which mirrors the uncertainty of the pandemic in which it was written. Ultimately I scrapped everything but the instrumentation and started over with two goals in mind: 1) A patient accumulation of energy revealing an insistent rhythm; and 2) a quiet reflection and decompression exploring subtleties in timbre and the melodic possibilities that a pentatonic pitch collection offers. A few imprecise phrases from a hymn I will leave unnamed find their way into the piece.


Erin Busch // @erin.cello 
Ensure Proper Drainage

I got really interested in indoor plants during the pandemic. My collection grew from 3 or 4 plants – to 20 – to 50, in the span of a few months. There was something comforting (arguably, addicting) about watching something grow while the world outside had come to a halt. One element of plant care that I had to learn early on was how often to water my plants. It’s a common mistake to overwater, especially for first-time plant parents. We think that we’re helping our plants to grow by providing them with plenty of water, but more often than not, we’re actually drowning them and leeching them of essential nutrients. Plants need water and light to survive, and they also need to be potted in a way that allows them to drain excess water when we get overzealous. This allows the plant to self-regulate, and reduces the impact of our inevitable care mistakes.

I am so grateful to Jason, Adam, Eric, and Josh for inspiring me to try something new with this piece.


Ania Vu // @ania_vu

hushed, muted

hushed, muted is a set of two miniatures that centers on the idea of brevity, pause, and repetition. Written during a hectic time period, the piece’s first movement, hushed, conveys the need for a state of quieting down and reflection, while the second movement, muted, is more playful through its mechanical and repetitive sounds, occasionally exhibiting short bursts of forcefulness.

Flannery Cunningham // @flannerycunningham
These and no others

These and no others plays with a range of electronic processing controlled via contact microphones on a set of everyday objects. This processing often amplifies the sonic effects of small movements, such as delicate tapping on wooden boards and metal trays. I’m interested in the intimacy of such restrained gestures and the perceptual effect of making them sound larger - especially so now, when it feels like nearly all intimacy is colored by distance or technological mediation.

Many thanks to Adam, Eric, Josh, and Jason for their gameness and beautiful work on the piece.


Brendan McMullen

After watching many videos of Sō Percussion performances I knew I wanted to incorporate tin cans and desk bells into my piece. The tin cans are a bit of an homage to John Cage’s “Third Construction”. Another instrument that I had not written for before but became very important in this piece is the triangle. The piece is all about a buildup of energy, then reaching a more relaxed section of just triangles before the energy returns.


James Diaz // @jamesdiazcomposer
Enero, not snow

The piece is dedicated to my father-in-law, Jose Buitrago, who passed away in January (Enero), 2020. That month it did not snow in Philadelphia.

The piece aims to coexist between the worlds of acoustic and digital sound. The work explores my interest in the inharmonic spectrum of the cymbals, tam-tams, and almoglocken along with  the similarly inharmonic sonorities of bowed piano. 

The work has two sections. The first one focuses on the transformation of the bowed CD sound. The second one focuses on the frequency modulation of the bowed piano.