Bonnie Whiting (she/her) performs, commissions, and composes new experimental music for percussion. She seeks out projects involving the speaking percussionist, non-traditional notation, improvisation, and interdisciplinary performance. She lives and works in Seattle, WA, where she is Chair of Percussion Studies and the Ruth Sutton Waters Associate Professor at the University of Washington School of Music.
Her debut album, featuring an original solo-simultaneous realization of John Cage's 45' for a speaker and 27'10.554” for a percussionist, was released by Mode Records in April of 2017. Her sophomore album Perishable Structures, launched by New Focus Recordings in 2020, places the speaking percussionist in the context of storytelling and features her own music as well as works by Vinko Globokar, Frederic Rzewski, Richard Logan-Greene, and Susan Parenti.
Recent work includes performances as a percussionist and vocalist with the Harry Partch Ensemble on the composer's original instrumentarium, and a commission from the Indiana State Museum's Sonic Expeditions series for her piece Control/Resist: a site-specific work for percussion, field recordings, and electronics. She recently performed in the small chamber group premiering the multimedia opera The Ritual of Breath Is the Rite to Resist (co-commissioned by The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, and Stanford Live at Stanford University.) Whiting has an ongoing relationship as a soloist with the National Orchestra of Turkmenistan via the U.S. Embassy Cultural Affairs Office, playing concerti in Ashgabat in 2017 and 2018. She performs frequently with percussionist Jennifer Torrence, giving concerts of new experimental work for speaking percussionists throughout Norway and the US. Her collaboration with multimedia artist Afroditi Psarra generated the album < null_abc>, released on the Zero Moon label in 2018, and their current project with designer Audrey Desjardins on transcoding data from IoT devices as performance received a 2019/20 Mellon Creative Fellowship. This project was explored in a workshop at the 2020 Transmediale Festival in Berlin, and currently lives as an interactive net art installation. In 2022 she premiered Through the Eyes(s): an extractable cycle of nine pieces for speaking/singing percussionist collaboratively developed with composer Eliza Brown and ten incarcerated women, and gave the first performance of a new percussion concerto by Huck Hodge with the Seattle Modern Orchestra. 2023-24 brings the world premiere of a new solo speaking percussionist work by composer Wang Lu, recording and performance projects of original improvised music with clarinetist James Falzone and pianist Lisa Cay Miller, concerto appearances with Northwest Sinfonietta, and continued work on the Ritual of Breath project.
Whiting has presented solo and small ensemble shows at The Stone in New York, the Brackish Series in Brooklyn, The Lilypad in Boston, The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, at Hallwalls in Buffalo, the Tiny Park Gallery in Austin, The Wulf in LA, the Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati, The Grove Haus in Indianapolis, on the Wayward Music Series in Seattle, on tour throughout New Zealand, and at colleges and universities around the country. Whiting is a core member of the Seattle Modern Orchestra and the Torch Quartet, and she has collaborated with many of today's leading new music groups, including red fish blue fish percussion group, (George Crumb's Winds of Destiny directed by Peter Sellars and featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw for the Ojai Festival), eighth blackbird (the “Tune-in” festival at the Park Avenue Armory), the International Contemporary Ensemble (on-stage featured percussionist/mover in Andriessen's epic Die Materie at the Park Avenue Armory, and the American premiere of James Dillon's Nine Rivers at Miller Theatre), Talea Ensemble (Time of Music Festival in Finland), Bang on a Can (Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians for the LA Philharmonic's Green Umbrella Series) and Ensemble Dal Niente (the Fromm Concerts at Harvard.) She attended Oberlin Conservatory (BM), the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (MM), and the University of California San Diego (DMA.).
“American Bonnie Whiting. . .has distinguished herself in this field for her constant didactic and performative commitment. . . [Susan Parenti's work] undoubtedly presents the most radical and demanding mixture of vocal registers and approaches: unfolding like a whirling scherzo among hints of solfeggio, whistles, coughs, but also operatic singing and sudden falsettos, concomitant with acrobatics nonetheless insidious in terms of physical coordination. It's the crowning pinnacle of a “recital” as unusual as it is intriguing, perhaps the first of its kind.”
— Michele Palozzo (Esoteros), on Perishable Structures
“Virtuoso hardly covers it; Whiting convinces us there is nobody better to interpret this music... a recording of the utmost power and clarity.”
— Colin Clarke (Fanfare), on Perishable Structures
“An effort that's appreciated for both its percussive and spoken elements and that bridges the gap between the two mediums with an abstract and always exciting execution, Whiting pulls off an ambitious endeavor.”
-Tom Haugen, on Perishable Structures
“As Whiting suggests, effective avant-garde music need not be “highbrow” and all that term represents — even when attacks on science, academia, thoughtfulness, and subtlety are on the rise, and the negative connotation of a word like “elite” is taken as a given, “difficult music,” as Laurie Anderson might say, is still simply the work of ordinary human beings, albeit with a taste for the esoteric. . .As Whiting's work makes clear, we who hit things to make sound for a living can be ideal communicators, particularly when we open our mouths at the same time.”
-Adam Budofsky (On The Drums; formerly of Modern Drummer), on Perishable Structures
“Whiting's light and agile speaking voice offers a refreshing contrast to the male voices that have traditionally dominated recordings of this kind of piece, and the feat of covering both vocal and instrumental roles at the same time is an impressive tour de force. Listening to it is like imagining Gertrude Stein deliver a lecture on modern music in a room occupied by a crazy robotic drum corps.”
-Michael Schell, on John Cage: Works for Percussion Vol. 4
The Whole Note:
“Whiting performs. . .with ease and grace. In [her] relaxed, naturalistic yet precise performances the songs feel almost lullaby-like, equally timeless and emblematic of the 20th-century avant-garde.”
-Andrew Timar, on John Cage: Works for Percussion Vol. 4
“Whiting has a sweet and pointed voice, with a certain naivete that gives both songs a fabulated touch, something that is reinforced by the very delicate percussion of the piano lid subtly attacked with the fingers of the singer- percussionist.”
-Paco Yáñez, on John Cage: Works for Percussion Vol. 4
Musik an sich:
“Revolutionary sensitivity. . . I have no doubt that [Cage] would have been delighted with Whiting's unflagging virtuosity and all-natural acting. . .[S]he accepts the challenge and conjures up the most wondrous percussion sounds on a really colorful ensemble of various utensils, some of which are borrowed from the kitchen, and at the same time recites a whole collection of Cage text fragments in 51'15.657 ." [It is] as if she just came up with them on the spot - that's really impressive. Music for Two also requires other vocal sound utterances - and here too Whiting convinces, because these elements always seem musically felt.”
-Georg Henkel, on John Cage: Works for Percussion Vol. 4