watch Gustavo Dudamel, So Percussion and the LA Philharmonic rehearse 'man made'!
I have worked with So Percussion for a very long time now and I know them really well. When I got the opportunity to write a concerto for them I wanted to make it specifically for them, for the things that they have been concentrating on for the past few years. The are frequently theatrical, they invite found objects into their performances, they build their own instruments, etc. I wondered if I could make the unusualness of their musicality the centerpiece of this concerto, but how could an orchestra of 'normal' instruments doing mostly 'normal' things find common ground with them? My solution was to set up a kind of ecology between the soloists and the orchestra, using the orchestral percussionists as 'translators.' An idea begins with the soloists on an invented instrument, the percussionists in the orchestra hear the solo music and translate it into something that can be approximated by more traditional orchestral percussion, the rest of the orchestra hears and understands the orchestral percussion, and they join in. The opening, for example begins with the soloists snapping twigs, which the orchestral percussionists translate into woodblocks, marimba and xylophone, which the orchestra takes up and embellishes, eventually overwhelming the soloists. This process of finding something intricate and unique, decoding it, regularizing it, and mass producing it reminded me of how a lot of ideas in our world get invented, built and overwhelmed, so I decided to call it 'man made.'