Andy Akiho Combines Table Tennis With Percussion in Concerto

By Philip Trapp | Mar 24, 2016 12:03 AM EDT

Innovative composer Andy Akiho has upped the ante with his recent symphony, Ricochet, an orchestra performance incorporating percussionists "playing" a ping pong table.

The experimental musician was commissioned to devise a work for the Beijing Music Festival and Shanghai's MISA Festival in 2015. He's achieved his most ingenious arrangement yet; the fascinating performance features instrumentalists playing rhythmic table tennis with paddles, tambourines and other objects as part of the orchestration.

Described as a concerto for ping pong, violin, percussion and orchestra, the piece premiered July 18, 2015, at Shanghai Symphony Hall. Led by conductor Huang Yi, the showing was hailed by Tokyo's RocketNews24 as a perception-shifting display of music and miscellanea:

"Though the description above might lead you to believe the composition would sound like a cacophony of unrelated musical elements, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra & China Philharmonic Orchestra's incredible performance of it just goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover, or, in this case, a concerto by its amount of table tennis."

Akiho, an acclaimed musician and expert steel drum player (or "pannist"), was born in Columbia, South Carolina. He eventually relocated to New York, and has written numerous celebrated works of contemporary classical music. As he told the Huffington Post, the catalyst for his inspiring orchestral compositions was an initial love for jazz improvisation:

"I moved to New York to try to become a jazz musician," he said. "I would work on improvisations over tunes, and then I would start to write my own tunes, and then those improvisations became more substantial."

The composer holds a performance degree from the University of South Carolina, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in composition at Princeton University. He was awarded the 2014 Underwood Commission prize by American Composers Orchestra. Since that feat, he's continued to write classical compositions that combine experimentalist elements with ensemble orchestration.

Check out a complete performance of Ricochet below -- it is sure to delight and entertain any classical music fan. Be sure to let us know what you think of the piece in the comments field below, we'd love to hear from you.

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