'a disruption' by John Patrick Stewart

On September 22, Penn Museum will be presenting John Patrick Stewart’s latest composition “a disruption” in their Chinese Rotunda...

a disruption


September 22 , 8:00 PM

Penn Museum
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

As part of Philadelphia’s 2017 Fringe Arts Festival, Penn Museum will be presenting John Patrick Stewart’s latest composition “a disruption

a disruption is a 50-minute musical performance of swirling, sputtering percussive dissonance. It was encouraged at a macro level by disruptions that weave through our physical, cultural, and psychological landscape; conveying the conflict and resolve we experience when energy is wedged violently into the inescapable arrow of time.

The piece was specifically written to be performed in a circular space. The spatial direction of the music, the placement of the musicians, and the centrally located audience are all radial in nature. The selection of a performance venue was important. The Penn Museum Chinese Rotunda stands out as an ideal location. Not only does it match the geometric requirement, it also thematically matches the composition’s inspiration of cultural disruption.


Rehearsal (August 2017)
‘a disruption’ is an engaging exploration of space and time. Musicians are placed across a huge indoor space and, playing to their own independent metronomes, coalesce in an ensemble experience that is both fascinating and unsettling. The effect of amplified cellos, keyboards, and percussion (four of each) is a massive, visceral sound that engages the audience in a physical way, challenging their perception of tempo and the passage of time itself.
— Dan Espie, pianist, Philadelphia
As a percussionist, I’m thrilled to be a part of such a unique opportunity to perform this piece with these talented musicians. John has created such a wildly complex, interesting, and inspiring piece that I’m hoping will be enjoyed as much by those in the audience as by those of us performing it. This won’t be your typical trip to the symphony...
— Jeff Willet, percussionist
Shifting between frenetic, whirling gestures and serene resonance, a disruption places the audience at the center of an ever-changing sonic atmosphere
— Andy Thierauf, adjunct professor, Kutztown University
‘a disruption’ is a unique piece of music to perform because there is not a singular tempo shared by the ensemble but rather several tempi that are parts of the whole piece. The click track that I follow is my only lifeline and guide through the music. At times, there is a strong pull to pick up the beat that belongs to a performer beside me. This occurs especially when the music feels like it is spinning into a vortex of sound. It takes an incredible amount of concentration to block out the external chaos and zero in on my internal beat.
— Carolina Diazgranados, cellist of Arcana New Music Ensemble
‘a disruption’ truly pushes the boundary of what is possible in new music, It is a crazy combination of sounds.... 4 DRUMSETS, 4 PIANOS, AND 3 CELLOS all performing to a multitracked click! It is truly a disruption to my musical journey.
— Shawn Hennessey
The non-standard instrumentation of four electric pianos, four drum sets, and three amplified cellos creates an innovative and intriguing sound that is explored over the course of the three-movement work. Each instrument is treated percussively for the majority of the piece, and Stewart plays with instrument interaction and precise timing effects via individual click-tracks that are not necessarily synced to the other performers. As a cellist, it has been fun to use my instrument in new ways, and to play with such a unique ensemble.
— Erin Busch, Cellist
An inventive and imaginative piece, this composition brings out so much emotion and feeling. I can’t wait to hear the audience perspective as they experience the piece for the first time. The music is fun to play and wonderful to see in action!
— Jeff Torchon, Band Leader for Conjunto Philadelphia, Educator at Germantown Friends School, Graduate of Temple University (2011 & 2015)
Very interesting piece and I’m looking forward to performing it in such a resonant space which will allow the audience to be immersed in the sounds produced.
— Anthony M. Di Bartolo, Freelance percussionist and composer

composition & performance

During the writing process, it was understood that each of the instruments would occupy a specific spatial coordinate. From there, five core building blocks were conceived; melodic gestures, rhythmic gestures, spatial gestures, pulse gestures, and directional gestures.


melodic | rhythmic gestures

Melodic and Rhythmic gestures are easily understood as traditional compositional devices of note selection and sequence repetition.


spatial gestures

To take advantage of spatial aspects of the venue, the primary instrument slots have been separated in to eleven units; 4 pianists, 3 cellists, and 4 percussionists. The musicians are dragged radially from a center point and surround the audience; placing them in a symbolic cage within the performance space.

Using this additional spatial aspect of the arrangement, discussion and argument between musicians can be experienced from within. Beyond the conventional one-sided separation of audience and musician.


pulse gestures

Pulse-like variance is used throughout the composition to communicate matters of confusion, weakness, and strength. Within each piece the change in distance between notes is functionally adjusted to expand and contract the pulse.  This happens either in unison between the instrument groups, within instrument groups, or by each individual performer.


directional gestures

Performer coordination and placement is used to create an illusion of movement. Chaotic swirling gestures and radially smeared dissonance are positioned alongside sparse high pitched mosaics. Notes are thrown back and forth and around the room

John Patrick Stewart is composer, drummer, and multi-media artist based in Philadelphia. His current works focus on expanding audience’s auditory experience within live performance. He also composes, records, and plays drums in Sabzabi, a local performance project which recently released their second album “On Having Become Obsolete.”