Concert Programs

USC Thornton Percussion Group concert program

April 2, 2024
7:30 p.m.

Joseph Pereira leads the USC Percussion Group in an evening of contemporary percussion works in Newman Recital Hall.


“Métaux” from Pléïades

Iannis Xenakis

Talking Metals, Talking Drums
(U.S. premiere)

Mioko Yokoyama
(b. 1989)

“Peaux” from Pléïades

Iannis Xenakis

Composer Notes

Iannis Xenakis
Iannis Xenakis (May 29, 1922 – February 4, 2001) was an ethnic Greek, naturalized French composer, and music theorist, and architect-engineer. He is commonly recognized as one of the most important post-war avant-garde composers. Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models such as applications of set theory, varied use of stochastic processes, game theory, etc., in music, and was also an important influence on the development of electronic music.
Among his most important works are Metastaseis (1953–4) for orchestra, which introduced independent parts for every musician of the orchestra; percussion works such as Psappha (1975) and Pléïades (1979); compositions that introduced spatialization by dispersing musicians among the audience, such as Terretektorh (1966); electronic works created using Xenakis’s UPIC system; and the massive multimedia performances Xenakis called polytopes. Among the numerous theoretical writings he authored, the book Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (1971) is regarded as one of his most important. As an architect, Xenakis is primarily known for his early work under Le Corbusier: the Sainte Marie de La Tourette, on which the two architects collaborated, and the Phillips Pavillion at Expo 58, which Xenakis designed alone.
Mioko Yokoyama
Mioko Yokoyama (b. 1989) is a Japanese composer based in Helsinki.
After studying at Tokyo University of the Arts, she obtained her second Master’s degree in composition at Sibelius Academy with top grades, under the guidance of Veli-Matti Puumala.
She is interested in deriving new timbres from instruments to surprise the listeners and provide enjoyable experiences through music.
Her music has been commissioned by ensembles, musicians, and festivals such as IMPULS Festival für neue Musik Sachen-Anhalt (DE), Avanti!:n Suvisoitto (FI), Time of Music (FI), Gaudeamus (NL), and Warsaw Autumn (PL).
Currently, she teaches at Sibelius Academy and composes with the support of the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

Program Notes

Iannis Xenakis
Xenakis’ notes from the score:
“Pluralities”, “several”, since there are six percussionists and four sequences. The primordial element is rhythm, in other words the ordering in time of events, the combination of durations, intensities, timbres. It is constructed in several parallel fields but with transverse circulations, Le. figures are simultaneously deformed or not, as the case may be. Some of the fields are made manifest by accents which superimpose rhythms onto the normal beat. The timbres of the membranes are also functional, being subject to specific rhythmic fields.
The sole source of this polyrhythm is the idea of periodicity, repetition, duplication, recurrence, copy, faithfulness, pseudo-faithfulness, un- faithfulness. For example: a beat incessantly repeated with the same pattern represents a faithful copy of a rhythmic atom (of course a meter in ancient music is already a repeating rhythmic molecule). In this way, small variations in the pattern produce internal rhythmic activity without damaging the fundamental period. Greater and more complex variations of the initial period create a disfiguration which may lead to immediate non recognition. More diverse variations, of still greater complexity or (which often comes to the same thing) resulting from the chance distribution of a particular stochastic procedure, leads to total arhythm, to a knowledge through mass of events, to notions of clouds, nebulae, dust galaxies of rhythmically organized beats. Moreover, the speeds of these transformations create new disfigurations superposed upon the preceding, ranging from little continuous accelerations to rapid, not to say exponential transformations (still continuous) which sweep the listener along like a whirlwind, dragging him as though to inevitable catastrophe or to a con-torted universe. Again infinitely great speeds, corresponding to brutal breakings-up of the transformations, move instantaneously from one kind of evolution to another of an essentially different type.
An axiomatisation together with a formalisation, as represented by the theory of pitch-series envelopes a certain number of such problems of transformation in all domains, spaces or ordered ensembles.
In Pléïades this basic idea of the duplication (recurrence) in time of an event or of a state of being in which our physical but also human universe is submerged is also taken up in another musical dimension, that of pitch. In this dimension European (western) music has remained immobile since Greek antiquity. The system of the diatonic scale still holds sway, even, indeed especially, in those kinds of music (such as serial music) in which total chromaticism is the basis for the choice of notes. Moreover its extension to a scale in which the unit would be the comma would not change the “climate”, the force-field of the melodic lines or the pitch-clouds.
This is why I have undertaken this double endeavour. The first, as was already the case in “Jonchaies” for orchestra, being to construct a frankly non-western scale of sufficient firmness and character, but capable of being played on diatonic keyboard instruments such as the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone. The second essay was to have a new metallic instrument built, called the SIXXEN, comprising nineteen irregularly distributed pitches with steps of quarter-tones or thirds of tones or their multiples. In addition the six copies of the instruments taken as a whole should never produce unisons. As far as the first question is concerned, after long trial I constructed a series (scale) which, surprise(!), was similar to the scales of ancient Greece, of the Near East or of Indonesia. However my scale, unlike these traditional scales, is not based on the octave; it possesses internal symmetries and manages to cover the total chromatic space in three consecutive copies (periods), thus enabling it to create by itself, without any transpositions, supplementary harmonic fields when polyphonic superpositions are made.
This performance of Pléïades will be the movements Métaux and Peaux. The SIXXEN for Métaux, were built for the USC Percussion Group by Damion Frigillana.
-Joseph Pereira
Talking Metals, Talking Drums
Mioko Yokoyama
The theme of Talking Metals, Talking Drums is communication. The idea is to let musicians communicate through music.
This piece was composed for a six-member Ulysses Percussion Ensemble, selected through an audition process. The musicians met each other for the first time in this project, practiced, and traveled together. They communicated and understood each other by creating music. I was grateful to be involved in their communication process by being a composer in the same project. Therefore, I wanted to focus on human communication in this piece.
As if like real communication, I made a variety of forms of conversation; for example, one leads the topic and others are listening or giving responses, some of the members mainly talk, or everybody actively joins the conversation.
For more details about music, I chose and combined instruments to produce subtle but various shades of timbre, and also tried to make subtle echoes of percussion instruments from different directions of the stage.
-Mioko Yokoyama


Kana Funayama
David Lee
Brandon Lim
Marcos Salgado
Preston Spisak
Leigh Wilson