Solo Reviews

From guest percussionist Aiyun Huang came shimmering malleted themes from the vibraphone and more assertive but articulate melodies from two steel drums.

Ken Herman

San Diego Story, January 2018

 

…created a stream of sonic images that bypassed intellectual, analytic process that went straight inside one’s head.

Marcus Overton

San Diego Union Tribune, January 2018


… led by Aiyun Huang,…we were in for something big. And it was – a long work of musical tones played as steadily as steady rain, and like steady rain, full of shades, gradations and miniscule shifts of patter and pulse. The ensemble received an even bigger shout out for this virtuoso performance of concentration and steadiness, which they exerted with no let-up of intensity from beginning to end.

Stephen Pedersen, The Chronicle Herald
June 2, 2011


The outstanding piece of the evening was Aiyun Huang’s solo percussion performance of Chong Kee Yong’s Bell Stone (2010). The composition was inspired by Mr. Yong’s visit to a thousand year old ‘bell stone’ in Denmark which he says “makes amazing sounds when you hit it, like hearing voices from the past….” Aiyun Huang danced in her sonic apparatus jungle, chanting, wailing, humming, as she tapped, stroked, shook, rattled, scraped and beat on metal and wood with her bare hands, with sticks and mallets and bowstrings. The sheer variety and combination of timbres, rhythms, meters, tempi and cultural signals enchanted and mesmerized. It is also interesting that this ‘new’ music integrates ‘Nanyin’, one of the oldest music genres of China. Like many of the works in this concert, Bell Stone combines old and new genres to express the common drama of our life—how the past follows us as we journey forward in time.

Stanley Fefferman, OpusOneReview
May 9, 2011


…bends and stretches your musical mind.

Li Robbins, CBC Radio 2 Blog
October 21, 2010


...Huang plays music that often tells stories through sound and rhythms in fractured and unexpected ways.

Katherine Gombay, McGill Reporter
October 17, 2012


Aiyun Huang’s brilliantly executed solo percussion performance Tuesday (March 10) at SUSHI’s downtown urban arts center, the contemporary “solo” percussionist is totally dependent upon a significant battery of high-tech electronic assistance…. Certainly in terms of imaginative application of her skills as a versatile percussionist, Huang is as brave and cheeky as any indie film-maker.

Kenneth Herman, http://www.sandiego.com
March 11, 2009


The performance, the last in this fall’s X Avant Festival, was engrossing to hear and to watch. Pianist Stephen Drury and percussionist Aiyun Huang at first appeared mainly as bonded servants of the technology, obliged to dash here and there to bring the next required sound into line with whatever was happening on the tape. But soon one's ideas of cause and effect were also challenged, as a surge in the electronic track seemed at times to be triggered by Huang’s mallets or Drury’s fleet attacks on the keyboard. The physicality of the piece impressed itself on you gradually, and irresistibly. Kontakte was a pioneering electronic work, but it’s partly a return flight into tactility, in which the non-corporeal element forces the body into new perception.

Robert Everett Green, The Globe and Mail
October 29, 2008


Huang is not only including the environment in her music-making, but also transforming herself from percussion virtuoso into simply another component of that environment.

John Terauds, The Toronto Star
July 24, 2008

Aiyun Huang….has set herself the challenge of designing a program for which all the instrument shave to fit in her suitcase.

Tamara Bernstein, The WholeNote Magazine
July 01 – Sept. 07, 2008


One would be hard pressed to find anyone who better embodies the spirit of drumming than Aiyun Huang…her approach pushes percussion playing to the point that it becomes a kind of theatre…. Huang’s passion to explore her vision of the theatrical potential of percussion has led to multiple collaborations…. Clearly she thrives on challenges, and her artistically ambitious “inner objective’ won’t allow her to rest on previous achievements.

Donald Paulker, The WholeNote Magazine
May 01-June 07, 2007


Ensemble reviews       


...the standout piece was local drum troupe Fringe Percussion’s reading of Xenakis’s Persephassa, from 1969, for which the musicians—joined by Montreal virtuoso Aiyun Huang—were placed around the perimeter of the room, surrounding the audience. Perhaps because of his training as an architect, Xenakis was very interested in the spatialization of music, and in this work the sound sometimes circles the room, with motifs passed from player to player in a way that prefigured the multispeaker audio installations that would follow. It’s an intentionally immersive piece, so explosive that at times it sounded like we were crouching on a battlefield, and the musicians delivered it with split-second precision.

Alexander Varty, The Georgia Straight
October 25, 2011


The Montreal Percussion Ensemble created something of a sensation in the Dunn Theatre Thursday night at the Second Highlight Concert of the 2011 Scotia Festival of Music. After stunning audiences with the concentrated rhythmic macrame of Steve Reich’s Sextet during Tuesday’s opening concert, they produced a lighthearted set of polyrhythmic knots and splices with tin juice cans, a potpourri of shakers and woodblocks, a conch shell, several drums including a bass drum and a lion’s roar, a suspended tenor drum with a cord dangling below it that is pulled slowly downward with a resin glove to live up to its name. The ensemble’s delightful play of timbres and tones, anchored by three sets of bongos and congas, made us all feel like five-year-olds discovering the thrill of furiously beating on a can or running about whacking anything that pops or tingles. But it was serious fun, to quote Dartmouth composer Paul Cram, which was contrived by John Cage, America’s most famous enfant terrible, as his Third Construction for Percussion Quartet.

We appreciated its whimsy while listening with awe to the ensemble’s marvelous energy and concentration. The musical texture was produced by notated polyrhythmic phrases performed in different orders chosen by each player. It and other such works influenced minimalists like Reich and Philip Glass to develop their own musical vocabularies of repeated phrases offset from one another to phase in and out, overlapping and lining up with the pulse, now on it, now off it.

Stephen Pedersen, The Chronicle Herald
June 4, 2011


Whether playing gloom-pop or performance-art rant, Toca Loca’s Gregory Oh, Simon Docking, and Aiyun Huang are known for their edge-of-seat intensity.

Alexander Varty, Straight.com
October 8, 2009


Recent recipients of a glowing shout-out from The New Yorker, Toca Loca’s performance Friday (July 25) stands to be an explosive, brain-busting highlight of the fest.

Sarah Liss, Eye Weekly
July 23, 2008


Toca Loca’s masterful presentation of their P*P Project at the Glenn Gould Studio.…The musicianship of the trio is really unprecedented. Percussionist Aiyun Huang and pianists Simon Docking and Gregory Oh are the country’ best kept weapons of mass destruction…Seriously "Stevie", forget about the funding of new tanks and choppers...feed these three mouths until they stop breathing, PLEASE!!! TOCA LOCA do justice to the idea of genre inclusiveness in modern art music.

Richard Marsella, The WholeNote Magazine
July 01 – Sept. 07, 2008


Toca Loca’s style is no easier to describe, although it’s fair to say that most of what they play is highly kinetic and abstract.

John Terauds, The Toronto Star
March 20, 2008


Toca Loca has its own delightful, quirky style. It would also be tough to find a new-music group with more integrity than this Toronto-based trio…mixture of electrifying performances, free-spirited curiosity, discerning musical taste and a whimsical sense of humour has made it an irresistible presence on the new-music scene since its birth in 2001.

Tamara Bernstein, The Globe and Mail
March 25, 2008


Toca Loca is made up of some serious musical muscle…Toca Loca has a sense of fun…. Not limited to two pianos and percussion, the group draws many elements into their sound-from backing electronics and bizarre effect-pedals to spoken word performances and rap. At any given show, Huang’s percussion could involve traditional drums or veer into vibes, anvils or smashing glass.

Sam Worthington, The Coast
March 20 -27, 2008

 


Two pianos and two percussionists delivered the highly rhythmic score flawlessly.

Adam Kinner, The Gazette
March 07, 2008



Toca Loca are a trio (pianists Gregory Oh and Simon Docking, and percussionist Aiyun Huang) who clearly believe that contemporary music should grab the listener as much as any other kind. With a pose of liked-minded friends, they put on a passionate, disciplined performance that at times rocked harder than many shows I’ve heard in clubs.

Robert Everett-Green, The Globe and Mail
May 29, 2007



The ensemble Toca Loca offered a vibrant short set of works by Georges Aperghis, Dai Fujikura, Louis Andiessen, and Andrew Staniland.

Alex Ross, The New Yorker
April 16, 2007


Discography Reviews

 

"…fresh, unique and seductively focused sound worlds…

Pianist MeiYi Foo bookends the programme with confident, embracing performances of Harman’s two moving soliloquies, After Schumann I and After Schumann II. "

Laurence Vittes

Gramophone, April 2015

 

"This disk offers up some refreshing yet rather profound sound-forms that gives us a tonality at times highly extended and always as an alternative to classical form. Most times this is music that should be accessible to many in its poetic qualities and generally sonorous result. Yet the confirmed modernist will get much pleasure following the colors and permutations. The performances are excellent, too."

Grego Applegate Edwards

Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, January 2015

 

"The soundSCAPE festival, held annually in Maccagno, Italy, brings together scholars, performers, and composers for two weeks of lectures, masterclasses, workshops, and concerts. This program of seven works is titled “Inflorescence” and refers both to the arresting opening composition, Josh Levine’s Breathing Ritual (Inflorescence V), as well as the burgeoning of color and variety characteristic of today’s new music scene. Levine describes the aforementioned work (for voice, percussion, and piano) as the last in a series that develops freely but coherently and draws on a variety of found musical sources."

Read more: Haskins - May 2014


"soundSCAPE is an Italian festival of contemporary music that celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2014. For two weeks every summer, performers and composers participate in master classes, lectures and concerts. This disc, which spotlights the festival musicians who form the ensemble of variable instrumentation, Musicians from soundSCAPE, explores new sonic terrain for the trio of voice, piano, and percussion. The musicians of the 2013 [sic] edition of the festival are soprano Tony Arnold, pianist Thomas Rosenkranz, and percussionist Aiyun Huang, who is the director of both the percussion department and the percussion ensemble at McGill University in Montreal."

Read more: newfocusrecordings.com

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Toca Loca - Shed (2010)

 

Henceforth Records 109

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Heinz Holliger Ma’Mounia

Andrew Staniland Adventuremusic: Love Her Madly

Frederic Rzewski Bring Them Home

See in iTunes

 

 

Heinz Holliger’s “Ma’Mounia” introduces a balanced coalescence of ritualistic echoes and percussive incidents underlining Huang’s mastery of her trade. Generally speaking, we’re in front of top rank musicianship revealing the threesome’s unprejudiced will of opening the doors to unusual-yet-familiar indications and proposals from still unsung creditable entities.

Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes
October 28, 2011


…e dall’eccellente prodezza di Aiyun Huang alle prese con un vastissimo campionario di percussioni…“Shed” mostra di possedere carattere, linearità e la capacità di appagare l’ascoltatore con della buona musica…

Translation: …Aiyun Huang excellent feat of dealing with a vast collection of percussion… “Shed” exhibition own character, linearity and the ability to satisfy the listener with great music.

   Sergio Eletto, translated by Emanuela Izzo, April 3, 2011


Il y a dans ces enregistrements une sorte de respect de commande… “Bring them Home !” (22'00). Bâtie plus simplement que les autres, d'une suite de variations sur un thème, incluant une dimension mélodique marquée qui donne plus de latitude à l’interprétation, elle rencontre sans doute mieux la sensibilité des interprètes et parvient à des effets dramatiques tout à fait intéressants. 

Translation: There is in these recordings a clear respect for excellence…. “Bring them Home”. Simpler in construction than the others, it consists of a series of variations on a theme and possesses a distinctive melodic quality giving performers more freedom in interpretation, demonstrating sensitivity in performance and producing extremely interesting dramatic effects.

   Noel Tachet, translated by James Docking, Improjazz 174, April 2011
 

…At times comic in live performance, I am pleased to report that this disc proves you don’t have to see it played to be enthralled. All the works are strong and individual. Heinz Holliger’s Ma’Mounia for percussion solo and quintet of flute, clarinet, horn, cello and piano is kind of a signature tune for Huang who won the Geneva International Music Competition in 2002 where it was the required work.

   David Olds, The WholeNote Magazine, March 2011


Adventurous Canadian trio Toca Loca’s cryptically titled new album Shed is a strangely captivating, grippingly energetic, strikingly rhythmic collection of new and older avant-garde music. Pianist/conductor Gregory Oh, pianist Simon Docking, and percussionist Aiyun Huang muscle up on a demanding quartet of numbers made for headphones: you can get lost in this stuff. It’s a wonder they don’t too.

   Lucid Culture: Great Music That’s not Trendy, February 6, 2011


La scelta della composizioni e le tecniche strumentali adottati rendono il disco accattivante. Spesso sono chiamati in giro per il mondo ad eseguirle, con la terza, insieme al quartetto da camera, ad essere la più richiesta.

Translation: The choice of compositions and instrumental techniques make the compilation (unit an) attractive (disc). Often they are called around the world to carry out with the third, along with the chamber quartet, to be the most in demand.

   Cosimo Parisi, translated by Emanuela Izzo (http://www.musicboom.it), December 19, 2010


…highly physical, exhilirating, and brilliantly performed…

   Francois Couture, http://blog.monsieurdelire.com, December 15, 2010

 

Toca Loca - P*P (2009)

 


Centredisc CMCCD 15009


Myra Davies No Times
Aaron Gervais Shoot like a Film Star
Andrew Staniland Made in China
Geof Holbrook Pep Formula
Juliet Palmer Five
Robert Stevenson Lift
Veronika Drausa Blue
Quinsin Nachoff Toca Loca
Erik Ross Fibodoiccannez Splice
Nicole Lizée Promises, Promises
Laura Barrett Robot Ponies
Andrew Staniland Made in China

See in iTunes


But you know what, this is just a really great fun, genuinely kooky album from the young Canadian trio Toca Loca (Simon Docking, Aiyun Huang and Gregory Oh). It’s not weird in an ‘oh look, we’ve put bassoon and drums on the same track, we must be composers’ kind of way, it’s actually weird on a deeper I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-a-lot-of-the-time kind of way…. Time and again you’ll catch yourself listening to something ear-grabbing… but with no idea how you got there. Possibly one of the cleverest, most unpredictable albums of its kind I’ve heard in a long while.

   Tim Rutherford-Johnson, The Rambler, August 4, 2010


If ever there were a musical force to dispel the widely held belief that Canadian music is all plaid and beards and Feist and Céline, it’s Toronto’s avant-classical trio Toca Loca. Exceptional musicians in their own right… percussionist Aiyun Huang have more accolades and accomplishments than we have room to print — their latest opus, P*P, is a veritable survey course in this country’s finest 20th-century (and beyond) classical composers…. P*P is entertaining and confounding and superbly sophisticated all at the same time. No wonder Toca Loca were written up in The New Yorker.

   Chris Bilton, The Eye Weekly, February 24, 2010


In the oft-hermetically sealed world of new music, popular music is ridiculed and reviled. On P*P, it's robustly relished and celebrated. Here, a dozen pieces from the realms of indie rock, avant jazz and elsewhere are performed with gleeful abandon by trio Toca Loca….It's great to hear new music experts let their hair down.

   Glen Hall, Experimental and Avant-Garde Reviews, December 2009


There’s no shortage of amusing gambits on this album by Toronto trio Toca Loca, of composed responses to all things pop.

   DJ Champion, Globe and Mail, September 22, 2009


Veronika Krausas's rescored rearrangement of a W.C. Handy rearrangement of an Earl Hines boogie-woogie shimmers in several shades of reflected light, configuring its interleaved sources into a cubist sound collage for two pianos and percussion.

   Robert Everett-Green, Globe and Mail, September 15, 2009


…since its inception in 2001 Toca Loca has established itself as a vibrant and dynamic force to be reckoned with. High performance standards and the ensemble’s international reach has resulted in some of the most memorable and entertaining performances of serious, and seriously witty, contemporary music in Toronto in recent years.

   David Olds, DISCoveries Editor’s Corner, The WholeNote Magazine, September 2009

 
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Stuart Saunders Smith:

The Links Series of Vibraphone Essays (2009)
 


New World Records 80690


Links No. 5  Vibraphone solo

See in iTunes 


…The harmonic language is atonal and its complexly juxtaposed rhythms must be outrageously difficult to play… each performance is a marvel of technical brilliance and interpretive subtlety. The sound is clean, bright, and present.

   Stephen Eddins, http://allmusic.com

…the crystal-like development that emerges in Links No. 5

   http://www.arkivmusic.com


 

 

 
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Xenakis Percussion Works

 


Mode Records 171/173 (2006)

 

 


Persephassa (disc 1)
Komboi (disc 2)

 

 

 

 

See in iTunes

 


Howard Goldstein is amazed by a revelatory Xenakis set Persephassa… Here six players encircle the audience; even in two-channel, mode’s engineers give us enough spatial cues to appreciate the final section’s accelerating vortex of rhythmic layers and sliding whistles.

  Howard Goldstein, BBC Music Magazine, February 2007

 

Iannis Xenakis’s music is elemental, antiRomantic, architectural, ritualistic, dispassionate. It is also deeply poetic, its emotional power vast, as the nine works recorded here testify.

   Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times, February 11, 2007


This set is much needed…Red Fish Blue Fish play with a devotion and detail and inner fire…Komboi and Oophaa are fastidiously worked through so that their rhythmic and pitch qualities fuse to create a ‘third’ hybrid instrument.

   Philip Clark, The Wire, January 2007


Monumental collection.

   Bill Shoemaker, Moment’s Notice, http://www.pointofdeparture.org, 2007


Archived Articles

The Cambridge Companion to Percussion

Percussion music is both the oldest and most recent of musical genres and exists in diverse forms throughout the world. This Companion explores percussion and rhythm from the perspectives of performers, composers, conductors, instrument builders, scholars, and cognitive scientists. Topics covered include percussion in symphony orchestras from the nineteenth century to today and the development of percussion instruments in chapters on the marimba revolution, the percussion industry, drum machines, and the effect of acoustics. Chapters also investigate drum set playing and the influences of world music on Western percussion, and outline the roles of percussionists as composers, conductors, soloists, chamber musicians, and theatrical performers. Developments in scientific research are explored in chapters on the perception of sound and the evolution of musical rhythm. This book will be a valuable resource for students, percussionists, and all those who want a deeper understanding of percussion music and rhythm.  Read more...


Review: Chamber music is Spoleto's quirkiest delight

If you were at Dock Street Theatre early this week, you saw something that may never happen again.

Four musicians soared through Mozart’s First Piano Quartet, finding all the emotion and sprightliness in the G minor masterpiece. Just before that, a woman came onstage to tap frenetically on a zarb (a Persian lap drum) while gibbering nonsense syllables and chattering in French with the speed of an auctioneer, gazing at a half-filled glass of red wine on a velvet cloth. The instant she finished, she gulped it.

Concertgoers vigorously applauded Aiyun Huang’s virtuosity and, perhaps, the composition by Greek composer Georges Aperghis. But many might have echoed the guy in the men’s room afterward: “Was that even music?” Read more...


Review: Thrilling Mendelssohn trio highlight of chamber music concert

Geoff Nuttall loves Joseph Haydn.

"I need Haydn-aholics Anonymous," he quipped as he introduced Program III of the chamber music series on Monday.

Surely, anyone in the audience who wasn't a Haydn fan became one after Pedja Muzijevic's performance of the Sonata in G Major, a relatively short piece in two movements. Muzijevic paced the first movement Allegretto nicely, though he seemed to anticipate what was to come, hurrying into the spirit of the Presto a bit early. The second movement highlighted the pianist's skills, with remarkably even runs and spot-on articulation.

Second on Monday's program was Michael Colgrass's "Hammer and Bow," composed for violin and marimba. Nuttall invited musical (and non-musical) couple Mark Fewer and Aiyun Huang to perform it, and together they demonstrated the conversational cadences of an emotional exchange. Neither the violin nor the marimba create a particularly big sound, a fact that solidified the intimacy of the conversation that Fewer and Huang brought to life. Read more...


Spoleto Festival USA Kicks Off 2014 Bank of America Chamber Music Series Programs Today

Geoff Nuttall, now in his fifth year as Spoleto Festival USA's Charles E. and Andrea L. Volpe Director for Chamber Music, today announced details of the Bank of America Chamber Music series comprising 11 programs, each performed three times at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina from today, May 23 through Sunday, June 8.

This year's series includes the world premiere of Color Preludes for String Quintet by pianist/composer/conductor Stephen Prutsman, who has been a regular performer at the chamber series for the past 19 years. This work will be performed by Mr. Prutsman and the St. Lawrence String Quartet on Wednesday, June 4 at 1:00pm and Thursday, June 5 at 11:00am and 1:00pm.

Swedish mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant will appear in four programs this season, with performances of baroque opera arias as well as romantic and 20th-century songs. An instrument not always included in Spoleto's chamber series, the voice allows for great expression, a skill Hellekant has perfected; she is often praised for her strong stage presence and acting ability. Read more...


Geneva award winning percussionist Aiyun Huang took the stage at ASU’s Katzin Concert Hall on Tuesday. The event surrounds the art of percussion theater, where musicians showcase different styles of vocalizations, body movements and drums to portray rhythms and beats.
 

“Save Percussion Theater” featured five performances — four of which were performed by Huang. The first performance, “Table Music,” had three percussionists: Stephen Gamboa, Edward Beyens and Fouad Melki. They used square pieces of wood and their hands to perform a synchronized number. Different motions such as flicking, sliding, clapping, slapping and finger drumming accounted for different sounds.

 

The sheer amount of sound cues allowed the audience to glimpse how much coordination, practice and awareness went into the piece. Read more...

Aiyun Huang performs to revive the art of percussion theater


Le cru 2013 du concours de Genève se distingue de ses anciennes éditions en incluant un prix de composition. Celui-ci a été remporté par le Sud-Coréen Kwang Ho Cho alors que la Japonaise Chikako Yamanaka recevait elle le prix du public et également par le fait de célébrer son passé et de réinviter des précédents lauréats...Continue Reading

Concourd de Genève 2013