Glenn Kotche

Heralded by The Chicago Tribune for his “unfailing taste, technique and discipline,”Glenn Kotche has received international attention as one of the most exciting, creative and promising composers and performers in contemporary music. His eclectic compositions and performances have focused on the creative use of rhythm, structure and space. Born in 1970 in Roselle, Illinois, Glenn graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Music in music performance from the prestigious University of Kentucky Percussion Program. In 2007 he was honored as a distinguished alumnus from UK’s College of Fine Arts for his international contributions to percussion composition and performance. Following graduation, his various stints with groups and ensembles have resulted in participation on over 90 albums to date, including four recorded solo works starting with 2002’s studio collage-like Introducing. On Next (2002), he explored improvised rhythms on 18 prepared drum kit installations. Glenn’s third solo effort of original compositions, Mobile (Nonesuch/Warner MusicInternational, 2006) was released to critical acclaim from such publications as the Guardian, the New York Times, Wire, the Chicago Tribune and Signal to Noise. Kotche performed material from this album on numerous award-winning radio programs including NPR/PRI’s The World, Chicago Public Radio programs 848 and Sound Opinions, NPR’s American Weekend, and the BBC 3’s Mixing It. Of his most recent recording, Adventureland (Cantaloupe Music, 2014), Pitchfork wrote, “He roughens minimalism around the edges and speeds up its action, forcing the listener to adapt quickly to constant metrical changes.” PopMatters said of the record,“Adventureland is a dynamic record front to back, carefully orchestrated but then deconstructed and re-ordered in compelling ways,” and Consequence of Sound wrote, “Kotche continues to establish himself as a fresh, progressive voice in contemporary classical music.”

Performances of Kotche’s compositions have been performed at a variety of spaces as wide-ranging as the Beacon Theatre, the Whitney Museum, and Carnegie’s Zankel Hall in New York, to Ravinia and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, to The Fillmore in San Francisco and The Pit Inn in Tokyo. In 2006, Kotche was invited as a featured performer atthe Modern Drummer Festival and appears on the festival DVD. He was the headlining performer at the inaugural concert for New York’s Wordless Music in September 2006 and was an artist-in-residence at Sound Res in Lecce, Italy in June 2006. In recent years he has also led residencies and workshops at universities, museums and institutions such as Stanford University, Duke University, the Old Town School Of Folk Music, University of Texas, Dartmouth University, MASS MoCA, Eastman School of Music, Chosen Vale Percussion Seminar, Indiana University, Syracuse University and BYI Projetos Culturais Salvador among others. 

Kotche wrote a 25-minute, 7-movement composition entitled Anomaly, which was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and premiered at the 2007 San Francisco Jazz Festival to rave reviews. Of the Zankel Hall performance of Anomaly, the New York Times said it “jumps from one bright idea to another”. He also premiered Snap, a work commissioned for the Bangon a Can All-Stars, in April of 2008 at the University of North Carolina. The work wasfeatured during the reopening celebration of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in March 2009. Bang on a Can All-Stars also debuted a new arrangement of Kotche’s piece Mobile at Northwestern University in April of 2008 and his piece for field recordings and chamberensemble, Time Spirals at Merkin Concert Hall in New York in 2015. The Grammy Awardwinning Eighth Blackbird premiered Kotche’s composition Double Fantasy at Chicago’s Harris Theater in November of 2008 with the Chicago Sun Times saying it “was a high point… full of quietly lush moments” and Time Out calling it “beautiful music”. That same night saw the livepremier with video score of Kotche’s Individual Trains. Kotche wrote a suite of Drumkit Quartets for So Percussion as part of a New Music USA commissioning project. The pieces premiered at the Morgan Library in 2011 and the recording of the same name is being releasedin February 2016 (Cantaloupe). So Percussion will also be premiering his marimba quintet, Migrations at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall in February 2016. Another piece for percussion, this time a gamelan ensemble, was commissioned by Gamelan Galak Tika at MIT and resulted in the lively Traveling Turtle (2009). As part of the Ecstatic Music Festival, Missy Mazzoli’s Victoire premiered Kotche’s piece, Bells and Honey, at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall in 2014 on a bill with her Vespers For A New Dark Age on which Kotche is featured on percussion. That recording (NewAmsterdam 2015) was one of WNYC’s New Sounds top 10 records of 2015. Kotche’s commissioned string quartet Ping, Pong, Fumble, Thaw appears on Brooklyn Rider’s recording The Brooklyn Rider Almanac (Universal Music Group 2014) and his composition for cellist Jeffrey Zeigler which includes Kotche’s field recordings and percussion is the title track of Zeigler’s recording Something Of Life (Innova 2014), appearing alongside new commissions by John Zorn and Phillip Glass. Of the piece, WQXR wrote, “It’s a cinematic track that triggers mental imagery and narrative. It’s clever writing, with the music put together in a way that feels effortless, familiar and fun.” He has also been commissioned by the cellists Maya Beiser, (Three Parts Wisdom, 2015) and Teddy Rankin Parker, (Rumble Strip, 2016). Chicago’s Third CoastPercussion premiered Kotche’s expansive multi-media piece Wild Sound to rave reviews in2014 and is touring the piece in the United States and Europe in 2016. TCP also premiered Kotche’s quartet for lithopone, Stones Flow, at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York in 2015. The Menil Collection commissioned Kotche for The Beautiful Season as part of its exhibition Frottages and Rubbings in December 2015 – the collection’s first musical commission since Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel. Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble will premiere Kotche’s adventurous composition, Mille Etoiles in February 2016 at UC Santa Barbara. 

Two other recent projects feature Kotche’s dual roles as performer and composer. The Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Luther Adams wrote the 48-minute solo percussion tour de force, Ilimaq, for Kotche saying, “In his hands the drumset is one man orchestra.” The recording was released to critical acclaim last October (Cantaloupe). Kotche composed three pieces for, and performs on the entirety - along with the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth and cellist Jeff Zeigler, for the documentary film project by Murat Eyuboglu, The Colorado, which will premier in Houston and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 2016. Kotche will also premier his as yet to be named concerto for percussion and string orchestra with Norway’s 1b1 Orchestra in May of 2016 at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust where he is an artist in residence through 2017. A second concerto for percussion and chamber orchestra is the final commissioned work for the Tromp International Percussion Competition and will premier in Eindhoven, The Netherlands in November 2016. Kotche is the subject of numerous features in a variety of media, including cover stories in the August 2007 and July 2010 issues of Modern Drummer and the January 2013 issue of Percussive Notes for his work as both a composer and solo percussionist, as well as with the Grammy-award winning rock band, Wilco, with whom Kotche has played since 2001. The first album recorded after Kotche joined the group, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch Records, 2002), is a recipient of the ARAS Certified Gold Record with current sales over 650,000 copies. A documentary film about the recording of the album, I am Trying to Break Your Heart is also certified gold for DVD sales. The follow-up album, A Ghost is Born (Nonesuch Records, 2004) received two Grammy awards from the Recording Academy, including the award for Best Alternative Album (2005). Subsequent Wilco releases include Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch Records,2007), Wilco (the album) (Nonesuch Records, 2009), The Whole Love (Anti / DBPM 2010) and the band’s latest release, Star Wars (Anti / DBPM 2015) – all of which were nominated for Grammy Awards. The band has also released the live recording Kicking Television (Nonesuch 2005), the award-winning tour film, Ashes of American Flags (Nonesuch Records 2009), the career spanning box set Alpha Mike Foxtrot (Nonesuch 2014) and the best-of collection What’sYour 20? (Nonesuch 2014). 

Thanks in part to Kotche’s contributions, Wilco has performed at virtually every major jazz, rock, and folk festival in North America, Europe, Brazil, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and have headlined shows everywhere from Madison Square Garden to Tanglewood to Millennium Park to Massey Hall. In addition, Kotche is one third of the trio, along with Jim O’Rourke and Jeff Tweedy, that records and performs under the name Loose Fur. He also records and performs regularly with the jazz experimental duo On Fillmore. Their latest recording, Extended Vacation (Dead Oceans, 2009) was released to critical acclaim with the New York Times calling it, “a peculiar update of early-1960s exotica, with a heart of darkness ina place of setting sun.” Their previous release, Sleeps with Fishes (Drag City, 2003 and Columbia Music Entertainment, 2007), landed them at the prestigious 2005 Percussion Pan Festival in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, Brazil. The duo will release Happiness of Living – recorded inBrazil with an international cast of co-conspirators - on Northern Spy records in 2016. The duo supplied live music and sound design on stage with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich for WNYC’s Radiolab - Apocalyptical tour in 2013. On Fillmore is a featured act on the 2016 edition of Cross-linx, a four-city music festival in The Netherlands that Kotche co-curated.

 Glenn has also written for Percussive Notes Magazine, the official publication of the Percussive Arts Society where he is also on the Board of Advisors, and has had a series of articles entitled DIY Percussion published in Modern Drummer magazine. In addition, he has contributed to the books Wilco Book (Picturebox Inc.), the Drum and Percussion Cookbook (Meredith Music Publications) and The Farthest Place: The Music Of John Luther Adams (Northeastern University Press). In 2014 Kotche released his book A Beat A Week – A Total Percussion Approach to Playing The Drumset (Alfred Publications), a unique volume aimed at redirecting drumset pedagogy to better address the demands of contemporary drumset and percussion performance. 

Kotche stays active as a recoding artist as well, lending his talents to recording projects from diverse artists such as Andrew Bird, Beck, Neil Finn, Radiohead’s Phil Selway, Iron and Wine, K.D. Lang, Low, Neko Case, William Tyler, Cibo Matto, Maya Beiser, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Edith Frost, The Nels Cline Singers and Jim O’Rourke. In addition, he has also performed with artists such as Nick Lowe, Bob Weir, Nancy Sinatra, Sean Lennon, MavisStaples, Richard Thompson, Garth Hudson, Johnny Marr, Chris Thile, Sonic Youth, BernieWorrell, Tanya Tagaq, Jackson Browne, The National and My Morning Jacket – as well assitting on percussion with Neil Young and REM. He has also remixed tracks for Grand Valley State University’s In C Remixed and Congolese Lakimbe group Konono’s Tradi-Mods vs. Rockers project. Kotche is also highly interested in expanding his creative output beyond musical performance and composition. His sound installation, Spy On The Wall, has been installed on the Merce Cunningham/John Cage Bridge at MASS MoCA since 2011. Other installations at MASS MoCA include the video installation Individual Trains (2011), Earth Drums (2013) which featured a sonic interpretation of Morse Code on large drums submerged in the grounds surrounding the museum, Sound Sculptures (2013), the highly popular Interactive Prepared Drumheads (2010) housed in the Sol Lewitt Gallery, Cluster Music (2013) and the interactive Tintinabulators (2015), which were housed in the museum’s rest rooms. In 2015 the D’Addario Corporation commissioned Kotche to compose The Immortal Flux for the Solid Sound Festival. The premier was the culmination of a prepared drumhead-building workshopand featured 50 festival goers performing alongside Kotche to an overflow, standing room only crowd. The piece is scheduled to be performed as part of the 2016 edition of Make Music.