Talking Gong: Alex Peh, Claire Chase, Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Susie Ibarra

Tuesday, March 19, 2019. 8:00 pm


Talking Gong: Alex Peh, Claire Chase, Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Susie Ibarra at Roulette March 3rd, 2019

Talking Gong: Alex Peh, Claire Chase, Kyaw Kyaw Naing, Susie Ibarra

Tuesday, March 19, 2019. 8:00 pm

In an event organized by pianist Alex Pehhe is joined by a series of virtuosic collaborators to present an evening of music drawing from the musical traditions of Southeast Asia. In the titular piece—Talking Gong—Peh teams up with percussionists Susie Ibarra, Kyaw Kyaw Naing, and flutist Claire Chase to perform a new trio inspired by Southeast Asian gong chime music. Talking Gong, written by Ibarra for Peh and Chase, explores traditional Philippine Kulintang cipher scores, reimagined for piano, flute, and mixed percussion. The pianist will also perform three new works by Susie Ibarra and renowned composer and sandaya player Kit Young for solo piano, inspired by their lifetime of work and study in Southeast Asia.

Peh and Naing, a Burmese percussionist and master of the saing waing or pat waing—a unique drum-circle instrument that is a legacy of Burmese court culture and Buddhist folk traditions—perform new compositions for piano and pat waing: a traditional combination that developed when the Italian ambassador gifted King Mindon of Burma a piano in the mid-19th century. The Burmese incorporated the piano into their traditional ensembles, utilizing it in ways totally different from the typical Western-style of piano playing. Peh and Naing will perform the world premiere of new works written for piano and percussion ensemble.  This concert will inaugurate the first Burmese Hsaing ensemble in the United States, featuring Naing, Peh, and SUNY New Paltz community members and students.

Peh and Chase will perform two works by composer Phyllis Chen, Roots of Interior (2019) for flute, tape, and live heart beat, and Hush (2015) for piano, music box, toy piano, and bowls. Roots of Interior was written for Claire Chase’s Density project. The work is dedicated to Ione and Pauline Oliveros.

Alex Peh, piano
Kyaw Kyaw Naing, percussionist/composer
Susie Ibarra, percussionist/composer
Claire Chase, flutist
Hsaing Ensemble:
Nolan Lotter
Alyson Hummer
Elana Kellerhouse
Thin Thin Hla


Alex Peh, Susie Ibarra, and Claire Chase have performed as a trio together in March 2018 when they premiered Talking Gong on the campus of SUNY New Paltz as part of the Davenport Residency for New American Music. They performed the NYC premiere at BRIC at the 2018 Look and Listen Festival in April.  Peh and Kyaw Kyaw Naing formed as a duo in 2018. Kyaw Kyaw is also Alex’s teacher, instructing him in the traditional Sandaya piano style and technique.

Claire Chase is a soloist, collaborative artist, curator, and advocate for new and experimental music. Over the past decade, she has given the world premieres of hundreds of new works for the flute in performances throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia, and she has championed new music throughout the world by building organizations, forming alliances, pioneering commissioning initiatives and supporting educational programs that reach new audiences. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012, and in 2017 was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize.

Pianist Alex Peh is a collaborative teaching artist, assistant professor of music and coordinator of the piano program at SUNY New Paltz in the bucolic Hudson Valley. He engages with a wide range of music, using his classical training to support his work in traditional and contemporary music, experimental works, and improvisation. He commissions composers to write new pieces, explores world music idioms, and experimental processes. From working with LEGO Mindstorm robotic musical instruments to Burmese piano style, Peh has performed in venues such as the DiMenna Center NYC; Carnegie Weill Recital Hall NYC; Kennedy Center, DC; Austrian Embassy, DC, Abrons Art Center, NYC; and Benaroya Hall, Seattle. Recent concerts include performances at BRIC house, Byzantine Museum in Thessaloniki, Greece; Stone Residency at the Glass Box Theater, NYC; Howland Cultural Center, Beacon; and Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center. Alexpeh.com.

Kyaw Kyaw Naing is a modern Burmese traditional musician who is trying to bring this music to the world stage. He is a master of the pat waing or saing waing, a traditional Burmese drum-circle instrument; the player sits in the middle of a horseshoe-shaped shell made of elaborately carved wood and decorated with gold leaf. Naing performed with Western musicians for the first time with the Bang on a Can All-Stars. In 2001, he performed on “The Bang on a Can Marathon Music” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City. In February 2002, he appeared at the Lincoln Center with the Bang on a Can All-Stars. On December 13, 2003, at the Asia Society in Manhattan, Naing, together with 12 other musicians and 7 dancers, performed a full ensemble of Burmese traditional music and dance (Burmese orchestra) for the first time in almost 30 years. This performance was organized by Rachel Cooper of the Asia Society. His CD, Bang on a Can Meets Kyaw Kyaw Naing, with special guest Todd Reynolds (formerly of ETHEL), is steeped in the Burmese tradition. The New York Times called his music “an exhilarating tease, defying expectations of symmetry or steady tempo.”

Susie Ibarra is a composer and percussionist. She creates live and immersive music that explores rhythm, indigenous practices and interaction with cities and the natural world. Ibarra is a Yamaha, Paiste and Vic Firth Drum Artist. She is a 2014 TEDSenior Fellow. Ibarra has performed with luminaries such as Pauline Oliveros, NEA heritage artist Danongan Kalanduyan, John Zorn, Wadada Leo Smith, Dave Douglas, Tania Léon, Ikue Mori, Yusef Komunyakaa, Yuka Honda, Sylvie Courvoisier, Trisha Brown, Derek Bailey, Marc Ribot, Jennifer Choi, Craig Taborn, Mali singer-songwriter Mamadou Kelley and Hamdcha Sufi Group of Fez, Morocco.

Composer and sandaya (Burmese piano) player Kit Young‘s absorption in particularly Thai and Burmese music originates from her childhood living in Thailand studying Thai instruments and a lifelong quest to answer the question of how to hear and perform music from another culture, informing one’s own musical trajectory. Since 1987, Ms. Young studied the Burmese Sandaya tradition: Burmese traditional music styles performed on the piano. She worked with Myanmar/Burma’s greatest composer and sandaya player, Gita Lulin U Ko Ko, among others and has performed extensively with Burmese musicians and dancers. Young has lectured on topics in Burmese music and performed sandaya at many conferences, institutes, and universities in Asia and the United States; and in 2004, she founded along with Burmese colleagues the Gitameit Music Center (www.gitameit.com) with campuses in Yangon and Mandalay. In 2012, Kit Young returned from a twenty-year sojourn in Asia to Washington, DC where she teaches on the music faculty of the Washington International School. She pursued a career as solo and collaborative pianist and improviser/composer organizing concerts, festivals, and exchanges with Asian colleagues in both contemporary and traditional musical forms from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and China.

Phyllis Chen is a composer, keyboardist, and creative force whose music draws from her tactile exploration of objects and sound. Described by The Washington Post as “a virtuoso of the toy piano, she delights in the delicate sonorities of music boxes and everyday objects, weaving them into strikingly original works of engaging lightness and transparency. (…) Chen is a master of the art of play — serious, serious play.” She has received commissions by ensembles and organizations such as the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), A Far Cry, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Claire Chase, Opera Cabal Opera SHOP, Singapore International Festival of the Arts,the Roulette-Jerome and others. She has received grants from New Music USA, Foundation for the Contemporary Arts, NYSCA (via Concert Artists Guild and Look & Listen Festival), Fromm Foundation and the Pew Heritage Trust via Christ Church of Philadelphia.

This performance is made possible through a SUNY New Paltz CRAL grant.

Photo Credit: Ross Karre