Hearing Double: Twincussion’s Dynamic, Classically Infused Percussion Spans East and West
Charismatic rising stars Jen-Ting and Jen-Yu Chien, the twin brothers that make up this percussion dynamic duo, are engaged advocates for Taiwanese folk songs, perceptive arrangers of Western classical showpieces, and champions of contemporary composers. Their technically superb and accessible programs connect music from East Asia to the West and instruments from marimbas, toms, and windchimes to Chinese opera gongs and electronics. Their concerts, appearances and master classes are in growing demand on the international contemporary new music scene. Twincussion is supported by Yamaha Europe and Innovative Percussion in the U.S.
Performing together for 20 years – since age six – the duo made their international debut at the 2014 Southern California International Marimba Competition where they received the Grand Honorable Mention (second place). In 2016, they travelled to Europe and won first prize in the ensemble category at the International Percussion Competition in Italy.
In 2018, Twincussion won first prize in the New York Golden Classical Music Awards, Chamber Music Category, and made their NYC debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall; they presented a Showcase Concert at the Percussive Art Society International Convention in Indianapolis. In 2019 - 20, they performed in festivals and gave masterclass in the U.K., Japan, Taiwan, Spain, China, Denmark and Switzerland.
Jen-Ting and Jen-Yu both hold the Advanced Postgraduate (Soloist) Diploma in the Royal Danish Academy of Music. They are former members of the well-known Ju Percussion Group and the co-founders of Punch Percussion Group.
ON TOUR WITH CENTER STAGE
5 on tour
Jen-Ting Chien, musician
Jen-Yu Chien, musician
Bo-Hao Huang, sound engineer
Valeska Lu, manager/production assistant
U.S. company manager
Concert and Recital Halls, site specific venues; backline required; amplification may be required depending on the natural acoustics of the hall.
Double Charisma: Twincussion’s Dynamic, Classically Infused Percussion Spans East and West
A Taiwanese duo of identical twin brothers, Twincussion pulses with charisma, dancing through complex, engaging percussion pieces with mallets and sticks flying in perfect synch. Whether playing a marimba arrangement of Orff or Handel, commissioning contemporary classical pieces for drums and electronics, or revealing facets of Taiwan’s sometimes haunting, sometimes humorous, folk songs, Twincussion’s Jen-yu and Jen-ting Chien welcome audiences in with musical eloquence and showmanship.
“We have a special sense of one another and it’s magical, when we play on stage,” explains Jen-ting. Yet their similar looks and “twinstincts” belie two distinct and highly skilled artists, each with their own perspective and strengths. “We see from the audience’s faces that they are curious about the two identical people, but we’re more than that. We’re not just twins in the end; we’re both artists with different stories to tell.”
U.S. Tour in 2022-2023 with Center Stage Season 6
Winners of notable international percussion competitions and awards, Twincussion are coming to tell their stories in the U.S. in 2022-2023 as part of Center Stage, the cultural exchange program that has connected performing artists from abroad with American communities since 2012. Five other music and dance ensembles from Argentina, Armenia, and Taiwan will also make independent tours with the program, promoting global ties and engaging with audiences on stage, off stage, and online. Center Stage is produced through a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the New England Foundation for the Arts.
From Cacophony to Composition
The Chien brothers grew up in a small city in northern Taiwan, Yilan. Their father owned a metal factory, and their lives were filled with the patter of rain on roofs — it rains 200 days a year in Yilan — and the constant, intriguing clanging, banging, and clatter of metal being worked next door. (They commissioned a piece based on these early sonic experiences, “The Pulse of Yi-Lan.”) Jen-yu and Jen-ting were double trouble as children, and their mischievous obsession led to their future careers.
“When we were little, we liked to make sounds by pounding on the sofa or breaking Mom’s favorite vase. Our parents found a place where we could make all the sounds we wanted and sent us to a percussion ensemble class. This saved their furniture,” Jen-yu laughs. “We started to play percussion just for fun and discovered there were a lot of different sounds out there! All kinds of sounds attracted us.”
The attraction only grew with time. The brothers completed music degrees in Taiwan and then decided to go abroad at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, in pursuit of their dream of becoming the one of the world’s finest percussion duos. There, they met legendary percussionist Morten Friis from Safri Duo who encouraged them to explore their own work.
They embraced the duo format, using their twin connection as a superpower. These back-and-forth conversations began to reveal novel sides of Western classical repertoire, be it a Chopin Fantasie or a selection from The Well-Tempered Clavier, and illuminate wide-ranging melodic and rhythmic structures of challenging new pieces.
Friis also encouraged them to find their own style and sound, one linked to their homeland. “When we first toured outside of Taiwan for the first time as a duo,” – the brothers have performed around Europe and at several percussion events in the U.S. – “we transcribed a Taiwanese folk song. It got great feedback,” recounts Jen-yu.
Celebrating Taiwanese Identity and Idioms
The brothers kept playing and perfecting Western classical percussion repertoire but incorporated more and more works that reflected their origins, the traditions of Taiwan and its unique soundscapes. They arranged or had composer friends arrange Taiwanese folk songs for marimbas and drums. “Every time after the concert, the audience remembered the Taiwanese melody,” Jen-ting notes. “We were confident we needed to keep this and let the audience feel that Taiwanese vibe.”
The songs they chose highlight folk images and stories passed down in Taiwan’s songs, while foregrounding the duo’s deep, nuanced sense for performance and arrangement. “Cloudy Sky” chronicles a knockdown, drag-out argument between an older couple about what to cook via a remarkably jaunty melody and a dynamic, fugue-like arrangement for two marimbas by composer Yi-Chih Lu. Played on a single, shared marimba “Grasshopper Playing Tricks on a Rooster” is an animal fable suggesting how to avoid the attentions of an unwanted suitor. Musically, it moves from a tight filigree of notes to a looser, freewheeling cascade of melody.
“Most of these Taiwanese folk songs tell a story and reflect rural life, how hard it was, but they always have some humor,” explains Jen-yu “We play a folk song and people relate to it, no matter where we are. We are all humans, after all; we fight and we have happiness together. This music can help people realize how similar we are. We tell them the story and express this idea through the music.”
The relatable human stories in the music serve Twincussion’s vision of putting Taiwanese music on more audience’s maps. “On stage and in the master classes we give, we want to inspire people with our twin identity and our music. If we can have people leave and remember that we’re from Taiwan, if they learned something about Taiwan, then we have succeeded as artists,” Jen-yu reflects. “We are the ambassadors of our culture. We don't represent everything, but we can help open their awareness to all the cultural richness of our island.”
Jen-Ting Chien & Jen-Yu Chien
The duo’s 75-90 minute program is performed without intermission.
Repertory is subject to change
Traditional Taiwanese folk song arranged by Yi-Chih Lu and Twincussion
In the drizzly mountain village of Jinguashi, sounds and noises grow louder. As it turns out, grandpa and grandma are (again) arguing about how to cook an eel for dinner: should the recipe be salty and spicy, or the opposite -- a comfortably combative argument regularly played out during their many years together. Cloudy Sky musically depicts the relationship of this old couple as they banter and jab and recall the many hardships they have faced together as farmers in a rugged, rainy, and rural landscape.
Arranged by Twincussion after Johan Halversen’s “The Impossible Duet,” based on work by Handel
A passacaglia is a musical form that originated in early seventeenth-century Spain that is still used today by composers. It is usually of a serious character and is often, but not always, based on a bass-ostinato and written in triple meter. This passacaglia, arranged by Twincussion, is inspired by George Frideric Handel's Harpsichord Suite in G minor and its subsequent treatment by Johan Halvorsen for violin and cello familiarly known as the “The Impossible Duet.”
Commissioned work for Twincussion by Garrettt Mendelow (2019)
Mendelow’s program note: “The title refers to a gradual shift in textures and musical episodes, and is also a personal departure from my past compositional ideas. The work is set around a prepared vibraphone with small percussion set on top of non-utilized bars, and drums for each of the member of the duo. The pitch material is limited to say the least, and the work was meant to be perceived as “post-minimal” to the performers, yet also sporadic and almost non-repetitive from an audience perspective. At least up until the middle section where the duo plays in unison on the drums, while still playing a split ostinato on the prepared small cymbals. After the drums unison, the performers elaborate further on the prepared small cymbals, showcasing a high level of technique and musical unity within a finite amount of time before returning to the “B section” of the piece, and then entering the coda of the work which is a virtuosic drums display culminating in the works ultimate ending.”
42nd Street Rondo / XimenDing
Wayne Siegel /Twincussion
The title originally refers to the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway in Manhattan, where street musicians often perform. The continuous changing rhythms portray the movements of people and vehicles as the streetlights change. When we play it, we often felt like it could be any location with the most hustle bustle place. So today, let the music bring you to one of the busiest intersections in Taiwan - XimenDing.
Original composition by Camille Saint-Saëns, arranged by Twincussion
Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre, Op. 40, was composed in 1874 as an orchestral tone poem based on a French legend about Death appearing every Halloween at midnight. As he plays his fiddle, the skeletons rise from their graves and dance until dawn, returning to their graves when the rooster crows. Death’s appearance is heard as a solo violin playing tritones. Twincussion adapted a well-known piano duet version for two marimbas. They have upped the ante of this well-known transcription for 20 fingers, using only 8 percussion mallets.
Commissioned work for Twincussion by Tomasz Golinski
Tomasz Golinski is a Polish composer, marimbaist, and percussionist. He is one of the leading composers and performers of his generation on the international marimba/ percussion scene. Twincussion commissioned this work and premiered it for their 2018 Showcase Concert at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis. In addition to two marimbas, instrumentation includes drum sets, and an electronics track.
Marimba Spiritual II
Minoru Miki’s composition in an arrangement by Twincussion
Composed in 1983-84 by Minoru Miki, Marimba Spiritual is one of the most well-known, widely performed, and important pieces for marimba ever written. It was originally written for one solo marimba and 3 percussionists. This piece of music gained even wider fame when it was highlighted on Broadway with the show Blast! (2001)
In 1984, many people died in Africa from starvation. As a person who had experienced similar suffering in Japan before and after the end of World War II, Miki could not be silent. Rather he felt that he must express his condolences and anger about the crisis. He composed the first slow section as a static requiem, and the second fast section as lively resurrection.
Twincussion’s arrangement for two musicians, adds Taiwanese instruments to the mix, deepening the fellowship of this seminal work that is played by percussionists around the world.
Based in Taiwan’s capitol city, Taipei, charismatic rising stars Jen-Ting and Jen-Yu Chien, the twin brothers that make up this percussion dynamic duo, are engaged advocates for Taiwanese folk songs, perceptive arrangers of Western classical showpieces, and champions of contemporary composers. Their technically superb and accessible programs connect music from East Asia to the West and instruments from marimbas, toms, and wind-chimes to Chinese opera gongs and electronics. Their concerts, appearances and masterclasses are in growing demand on the international contemporary new music scene.
Performing together for 20 years – since age six – the duo made their international debut at the 2014 Southern California International Marimba Competition where they received the Grand Honorable Mention (second place). In 2016, they traveled to Europe and won first prize in the ensemble category at the International Percussion Competition in Italy.
In 2018, Twincussion won first prize in the New York Golden Classical Music Awards, Chamber Music Category, and made their NYC debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall; they presented a Showcase Concert at the Percussive Art Society International Convention in Indianapolis. In 2019 - 20, they performed in festivals and gave masterclasses in the U.K., Japan, Taiwan, Spain, Poland, China, Denmark and Switzerland. In 2021-22, they made a Taiwan concert tour to six major halls including the National Taichung Theater. “Twincussion Duo,” their debut album, was released in 2022, followed by a European tour. Returning to Taiwan, the duo traveled throughout the country, presenting performances, workshops, pop-up, and other activities before heading to the U.S. for their February 2023 tour.
Jen-Ting and Jen-Yu each hold Advanced Postgraduate (Soloist) Diplomas from the Royal Danish Academy of Music. They are former members of the well-known Ju Percussion Group and the co-founders of Punch Percussion Group.
Jen-Ting Chien & Jen-Yu Chien
Manager: Valeska Lu
Sound Engineer: Bo-Hao Huang
Twincussion is supported by Yamaha Europe and Innovative Percussion in the U.S.
Musical arrangements by Twincussion are published in cooperation with Edition Svitzer, Denmark.
Special thanks to the Department of Music at Central Washington University for providing equipment for Twincussion’s performances in Yakima and Wenatchee, WA.
Twincussion is on tour in the U.S. as part of Center Stage, a cultural diplomacy program that has hosted performing artists from abroad in the United States since 2012. To date, 35 groups from around the world have made month-long national tours. In calendar year 2023, 11 ensembles from Armenia, Argentina, Ethiopia, the Philippines, South Africa, and Taiwan will tour and share their work from coast to coast. As hosted by colleges and universities, festivals, music clubs, and cultural centers, Center Stage ensembles reach large cities and small towns. They engage with communities onstage, offstage, and online through performances, workshops, and discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, master classes, and community gatherings, and return home to share these experiences with peers and fans.
Center Stage www.CenterStageUS.org
Producer: New England Foundation for the Arts
Adrienne Petrillo, Meghan Kuschner
General Manager: Lisa Booth Management, Inc.
Deirdre Valente, Lisa Booth
Production Manager: Robert W. Henderson, Jr.
Tour Advance: Aketzali Vazquez
On Tour Company Manager: Diego Bucio
Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with funding provided by the U.S. Government, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. www.CenterStageUS.org
- Adam Tan Percussion Channel video review: Passacaglia by Handel/Halvorsen (Two Marimbas) Arr. Twincussion Duo
View and download production information as of August 2021 at the link below. A Technical Rider with these general conditions will be created for all Center Stage engagements.
Downloadable photos, billing & credits
On tour as part of Center Stage
The following credit is required on the title page in all printed performance programs. We appreciate its use wherever else it's practical: brochures, posters, ensemble-only promotional materials, press releases, advertisements, etc:
Twincussion is part of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs with funding provided by the U.S. Government, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.
Center Stage logo placement is encouraged. On web-based materials, please link from the Center Stage logo and/or written name to www.centerstageUS.org.
High-resolution promotional photos (photographer credit is in the file name), and several versions of the Center Stage logo are available at this link.