ABOUT THE PROJECT
"As pure as music gets" -The New York Times
"an incredibly disciplined collective musical intelligence" -Seattle Times
“a lush, brooding celebration of noise” -The New York Times
Seven Pillars is an 11-movement concert piece for percussion quartet with music composed by Andy Akiho, performed by Sandbox Percussion, and with lighting and stage design created by Michael McQuilken. Since the release of the album in September 2021, Seven Pillars has received widespread acclaim, most notably receiving two nominations in the 2022 GRAMMY® Awards and selected as a finalist in the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
The work consists of seven ensemble movements and one solo for each member of Sandbox, developed through multiple extended residencies at Avaloch Farm Music Institute in New Hampshire. It is the largest-scale chamber music work that Akiho has written and that Sandbox has commissioned.
The piece is designed such that each movement flows continuously into the next without pause. Director and filmmaker Michael McQuilken has created an original lighting scheme seamlessly integrated with the music, as well as designing the layout of the instruments on stage and the choreography of transitions between movements.
In Seven Pillars, Akiho has created new timbres on well-known instruments (a glockenspiel is played with timbale sticks, giving it a hyper-articulate attack with bell-like resonance), as well as writing music for found sounds and unorthodox instruments (a chromatic octave of tuned ceramic rice bowls played with chopsticks). Akiho wrote Pillar IV, one of the ensemble movements, as well as the glockenspiel solo, in 2014.
Akiho and Sandbox Percussion commissioned 11 video artists to create original films for Seven Pillars – one film for each movement of the work. These collaborative videos encompass the worlds of dance, animation, experimental narrative film, time-lapse, and more. They were released as a film anthology in October.
Andy Akiho, Michael McQuilken, and Ian Rosenbaum of Sandbox have developed several multimedia projects together since 2011, and Seven Pillars is the culmination of those previous collaborations.
The album Seven Pillars was released in September and has received 2022 GRAMMY nominations in both Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance and Best Contemporary Classical Composition categories.
Described as "mold-breaking," "alert and alive," "dramatic," and "vital" by The New York Times, Andy Akiho is an eclectic composer and performer of contemporary classical music. Recent engagements include commissioned premieres by the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and Carnegie Hall's Ensemble Connect; a performance with the LA Phil’s Green Umbrella series; and four concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Akiho has been recognized with awards including the 2014-15 Luciano Berio Rome Prize, the 2015 Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, a 2014 Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University, the 2014 American Composers Orchestra Underwood Emerging Composers Commission, a 2014 Chamber Music America (CMA) Grant with the Friction Quartet and Jenny Q Chai, a 2012 CMA Grant with Sybarite5, the 2012 Carlsbad Composer Competition Commission for the Calder Quartet, and the 2011 Finale & ensemble eighth blackbird National Composition Competition Grand Prize. Additionally, his compositions have been featured on PBS's "News Hour with Jim Lehrer" and by organizations such as Bang on a Can, American Composers Forum, and The Society for New Music.
McQuilken originally hails from Portland, Oregon, where he was raised in a working-class home by public servant parents who were terrified that his artistic tendencies would leave him perpetually broke. These fears were not allayed when 20-something Michael became a professional street performer for three years, making music with garbage. Fortunately, he finagled a scholarship-fueled higher education, and now he is a not-quite-broke director, writer, filmmaker, and composer in Brooklyn. He holds degrees in directing and sound engineering, and has an amazing wife, Adina, who tolerates his restless creative tendencies that have taken over the majority of the space in their home.
Lauded by The Washington Post as “revitalizing the world of contemporary music” with “jaw- dropping virtuosity,” Sandbox Percussion has established themselves as a leading proponent in this generation of contemporary percussion chamber music. Brought together by their love of chamber music and the simple joy of playing together, Sandbox Percussion captivates audiences with performances that are both visually and aurally stunning. Through compelling collaborations with composers and performers, Jonathan Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney seek to engage a wider audience for classical music. Sandbox Percussion endorses Pearl/Adams musical instruments, Vic Firth drumsticks and Remo drumheads.