Concert 2: Iktus Percussion

Friday, March 6 | 7:30 pm
Charter Oak Cultural Center
21 Charter Oak Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

This concert features the Iktus percussion enemble performing works by guest composer Lisa Renee Coons and winning compositions from the Women Composers Festival of Hartford international score competition by Elizabeth Comninellis and Yiran Zhao. Based in New York City, Iktus Percussion is an ambitious, dynamic young ensemble committed to expanding the boundaries of the percussion genre. They are a perfect match for Lisa Renee Coons, a composer and sound artist with a special affinity to noise composition, collaboration, and experimentation, who is dedicated to progressive art and focuses on partnerships with other artists and musicians as a means of developing innovative new works. Join us for this exciting night of new creations and sounds!


Program Notes

Bringing in the Boat by Elizabeth Comninellis

Bringing in the Boat is inspired by Sybil Andrews’ print from 1933. This piece is especially appealing for its rough texture and sharp edges- both of which I attempt to explore musically in this piece. Non-pitched and relative pitched percussion evoke the mood of Andrews’ print by creating a similar sound world. Her work also exhibits the shared effort of many people to bring in an object far too vast for a single person. This spirit of collective effort is another element that inspires this work. Bringing in the Boat employs only three colors, and thus the piece is written for a trio and structured around three basic musical ideas.

Ritual 1: Confession by Lisa Coons

This piece is born of a fascination with the social practices that govern our lives. Of all of the rituals and rite of passage we share, confession may be one of the most powerful: it serves religious, social, legal, (and if Foucault is to believed, even sexual!) purposes. In creating this work, I was most interested in thinking about the sculpture as a confessional ‘machine,’ into which each performer must give a part of their self. The movements of the performers around the space and the implications of what they are confessing are as important at times as the abstract aural results of those gestures – this work is part choreographed stage work and part musical composition.

This sculpture was built for Iktus Percussion in 2010, but the composition is a massive revision of the original. I had been disappointed in the original composition, as it had never felt as visceral, honest, or evocative as I had hoped. But Chris Graham and Iktus convinced me to revisit this work and imagine new possibilities. I am grateful to them – for seeing potential in the original sketch, for convincing me to try again, and for being willing to take performance chances with me. This work belongs as much to them as it does to me.

Many thanks to my father, Ernie Coons, for helping me with this project, for donating the materials here from his farm in Missouri, and for patiently teaching me the metalworking skills to realize these percussion sculpture works.

Percussion Sculpture No 1 by Lisa Coons

In 2007 I went home to my family’s farm and asked my dad to teach me welding. We drug scrap metal from the junk piles and I built instruments. Because there was no performance practice or standard notation, my freshly acquired PhD composition ‘chops’ didn’t get in the way and I remembered how to play with sound. Now these amplified sculptures are part of how I listen closely, create, and collaborate.

Percussion Sculpture No. 1 is welded from found and salvaged objects from that childhood farm, and amplified using homemade contact microphones.  It was built in the hopes of allowing the audience to hear the intimate sounds of metal gently touched as well as driving rhythms built upon pitched themes.  It requires collaboration with the performer—and each piece is unique to the individual realizing it in real time. Many thanks to Chris Graham for his work on this!

Count to Five by Angelica Negron

“Count to Five” is a piece for percussion quartet in which the performers play a variety of small objects and found sounds including newspapers, playing cards, water glasses, hand fans, chair, harmonicas & bubble wrap.  The piece seeks to question logical reasoning by exposing the imperfect nature of every system and action while at the same time embracing confusion as a place of particular beauty and profound meaning. The piece was written in 2010 for Iktus Percussion.

Ohne Stille (Without Silence), First Version by Yiran Zhao

Ohne Stille (Without Silence) is a work for large bass drum (the first version without lighting, the second including composed interior lighting), in which multiple turbulent influences develop throughout the performance. In this sense, the musical sound is not the sole measure of judging “silence,” but rather the interrelationship between all factors of the staging create an organic and restive “multiple experience” for both performers and audience.

About Iktus Percussion

Based in New York City, Iktus Percussion is an ambitious, dynamic young ensemble committed to expanding the boundaries of the percussion genre. Iktus is a collective-based operation, featuring an array of industrious and multi-talented percussionists with Chris Graham, Justin Wolf, Josh Perry, and Piero Guimaraes at the core. As a group with strong ties to the local artistic community, Iktus is dedicated to collaboration with emerging artists, having commissioned over fifty new works for percussion from such composers as Angélica Negrón, Aaron Siegel, Lisa R. Coons, Jenny Olivia Johnson, Stefan Weisman, and Billy Martin (of Medeski, Martin and Wood), among others.

Composer Bios

Elizabeth Anne Comninellis is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in music composition at the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Colorado- Boulder, and a bachelor’s degree in music composition, with emphasis in vocal and piano performance, from the University of Missouri- Kansas City. She has studied with many acclaimed composers including Chen Yi, Paul Rudy, Daniel Kellogg, and Carter Pann. She also is active as a pianist and singer of new music.

2015 Composer-in-Residence Lisa Renee Coons is a composer and sound artist with a special affinity to noise composition, collaboration, and experimentation.  She is dedicated to progressive art and focuses on partnerships with other artists and musicians as a means of developing innovative new works.  Presently an assistant professor of music composition at Western Michigan University, Lisa Renée received her PhD in Composition from Princeton University, her Master’s from SUNY Stony Brook and studied at the University of Missouri-Kansas City during her undergraduate degree.  Before joining WMU she was a Jackie McLean Fellow and visiting professor at the Hartt School in the University of Hartford.  Her portfolio includes music for acoustic and electronic instruments, turntables, traditional ensembles, and her own welded percussion sculptures.  She has received awards and support from the Other Minds Festival (a 2011 Composer Fellowship), ASCAP (Morton Gould Young Composer Award 2005/Honorable Mention 2009), and Meet the Composer, among others.  Recent commissions include an evening-length work for The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and pieces for The California E.A.R. Unit, The Machine Project for the Hammer Museum of Los Angeles, the Violin Futura Project, and Dither Electric Guitar Quartet.  Lisa Renée is a founding member of the bicoastal composers collective called, simply, The Collected (

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Angelica Negron was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1981 and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Interested in creating intricate yet simple narratives that evoke intangible moments in time, she writes music for accordions, toys and electronics as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise” and her “quirky approach to scoring”.  She was recently selected by Q2 and NPR listeners as part of “The Mix: 100 Composers Under 40” and by Flavorpill as one of the “10 Young Female Composers You Should Know”.

Yiran Zhao (b. 1988 in QingDao, PRC) lives and studies in Basel. She studied composition with Professors Zhang Lida and Jia Guoping in Beijing, as well as with Professors Caspar Johannes Walter, Michael Reudenbach, and Erik Oña; she also studied computer music with Oliver Frick and organ with Jörg-Hannes Hahn. She was awarded a composition prize from Ensemble Recherche in 2008, 1st Prize from the “Con Tempo” composition competition in 2009, the National Fellowship of the People’s Republic of China in 2010, and the Deutschlandstipendium in 2013/14. She has worked with the “211 Kammermusik Program”, Garage Ensemble, the “AXES” Triduum in Krakow, with Ensemble Echtzeit, the Philharmonia Choir in Stuttgart, the Donaueschingen Musiktage “Next Generation” Off-Program, with Sinogerman Sounds, the pourChœur Vocal Ensemble, the Duo AnnA, Ensemble Klang Büro, Ensemble Hörwerk, ZEIT RÄUME – Basel Biennale für neue Musik und Architektur, and many others. She was assistant at the Studio for New Musik at the State Conservatory for Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart.