Wilco's Glenn Kotche Performs 'Ilimaq,' John Luther Adams' Drum Kit Opera

By Philip Trapp on Apr 17, 2016 10:07 AM EDT

Glenn Kotche, Wilco drummer and contemporary classical renaissance man, will perform his collaboration with composer John Luther Adams in St. Louis this week.

The pair's ambient sound installation, Ilimaq, originally premiered at the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, followed by last year's album release of the experimental work.

Kotche has been a percussion paragon since his introduction to Wilco, and the world, in Sam Jones' 2002 documentary on the alt-rock mainstays, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco. The drummer has since composed for chamber ensembles like Kronos Quartet and eighth blackbird while collaborating with cacophonous combo Sō Percussion and scuzzy post-rock trio, Loose Fur.

Never one to squander an idle moment, the percussionist told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of his advantageous work schedule on the road, seizing free moments with his acclaimed rock band for artistic inspiration and classical composition:

"[I]t works out for me that, when Wilco is touring a lot and is busy, there's a lot of downtime during the day. ... I have time to go to an art museum or a cafe and just sit down and compose, come up with ideas. I try to utilize that as best I can."

John Luther Adams is perhaps best known for his 2013 orchestral piece, Become Ocean, a Pulitzer Prize-winning work that has inspired many classical composers. The musician has written numerous orchestrations since the 1970s, focusing ambient soundscapes on themes of abstract nature and environmental beauty.

Kotche, in company of other rockers-turned-composers such as Frank Zappa or The National's Bryce Dessner, still considers his main instrument the nexus of his oeuvre. Speaking to WNUR, the artist explained his compositional preference:

"I always come back to drum set for composing. So the actual seeds of the ideas, a lot of times, they're rhythm-based. I feel like the cynical, jaded side of me thinks melody and harmony have been explored for, you know, centuries, let's move on to something else. So it's all about rhythm for me."

Ilimaq shows this Wednesday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Contact the the St. Louis Symphony box office for ticket availability.

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TagsGlenn Kotche, John Luther Adams, Wilco

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