Bonnie Whiting

The Speaking Percussionist Project

a photo of Bonnie Whiting in performance, in a low squat holding two large mallets

photo by Titilayo Ayangade

Whiting's work centers on the relationship between percussive sound and the voice, performing, commissioning, composing, and championing music for the speaking and singing percussionist. Exploring intersections of storytelling and experimental music, her work is often cross-disciplinary, integrating text, music, movement, and technology. Commission highlights include new music by Wang Lu, Eliza Brown, Yiheng Yvonne Wu, Danny Clay, Jeffrey Treviño, Carolyn Chen, and Nicholas Deyoe. Her repertoire includes classic works by Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, and Vinko Globokar, trail-blazing historical work like the music of Susan Parenti, and her own compositions and creative realizations. In 2021, Whiting co-curated the New Music/Research day at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC), including six concerts of music, a panel discussion, and a virtual showcase.

Click here for Whiting's representative list of music for speaking percussionist:


Watch a video feature of Whiting on music for Speaking Percussionist via NPR's Slingshot

Through The Eye(s): collaborations with incarcerated artists

a photo of Bonnie Whiting in performance, scraping a metal mail organizer with a wooden stick, in the middle of a large percussion setup

photo by Gary Louie

Between 2019-2021, Whiting and composer Eliza Brown worked with a group of incarcerated artists and writers at the Indiana Women's Prison on a 30-minute extractable cycle of songs for solo percussionist and voice. The collaboration centers the perspectives and artistic contributions of these individuals, allowing education to function as “epistemic reparations” for the injustices incarcerated people experience. While this can manifest in many ways, in the realm of this project, it means using the arts as a space for incarcerated students to develop hermeneutic frames for their experience - that is, to shape their own narratives - and providing platforms for the creative work of incarcerated people to enter the public sphere with full authorial attribution.

Co-authors on the project include Whittney (CoCo) Bales-Malone, Ashley Strong, Marjorie Woods, Ingrid Swinford, Char'Dae Avery, LaDawn Johnson, Dawnetta Taylor (Shelton), Lara Campbell, Amaris Rose Bunyard, and Joyce (Potter) Hawkins

More info on Eliza Brown's website.

Historical realizations

a scan of a John Cage score, with Bonnie Whiting's collage, colored highlighters, and other notes

John Cage allowed for some of his works to be combined and performed simultaneously. Whiting has created uniquely virtuosic solo-simultaneous realizations of some of these works for a single speaking or singing percussionist. Recorded as the 4th volume of Mode Records' complete John Cage Works for Percussion series, the centerpiece of this work is 51'15.657” for a speaking percussionist: Whiting's realization of 27'10.554” for a percussionist and Cage's iconic 45' for a speaker. At 54 volumes, Mode's John Cage Edition is the largest collection of the composer's music on one label. See the trailer here.

Whiting also joined The Harry Partch Ensemble in 2016 while the group was in residence at the University of Washington, and she continues to play with the ensemble now that it is officially incorporated under the Harry Partch Foundation. This group performs exclusively on the original instruments built by Partch himself, following his performative philosophies and unique treatment of the human voice. Experiencing Partch's music performed on these one-of-a-kind musical sculptures offers a dramatic, intimate window into Partch's all-consuming artistic vision.

Whiting seeks out opportunities to reimagine historical music in unique realizations for percussion and voice.

Karlheinz Stockhausen's Komet:

Susan Parenti's Exercise for Hands Right, Left, and Deserted Mouth:

TORCH Quartet

a black and white photo of the four members of TORCH Quartet

The TORCH Quartet (Whiting plus Brian Chin: trumpets, Eric Likkel: clarinets, and Steve Schermer: double bass) is a collective of artists dedicated to the creation and performance of new socially conscious work. Rooted in contemporary classical, jazz, and improvised music, TORCH bridges the gaps between genres, re-imagines works from master composers, and demonstrates an indie-band model of self-composition. TORCH is in residence and affiliated with Common Tone Arts.

Voices + Voids: interactive net art a screen capture from the homepage of Voices and Voids . net, displaying code over a small herd of Amazon Alexa's, next to a still life of Bonnie's office

Voices and Voids was developed collaboratively by Bonnie Whiting, Afroditi Psarra, and Audrey Desjardins through a Mellon Foundation Fellowship from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington. Using data collected from IoT devices, the artists transcoded voice assistant data as a series of interdisciplinary performance pieces.

This project involved a series of in-person and remote guest artist residencies, including collaborative work with several artists in residence:

as well as the involvement of DXARTS, Design, Music and Human-Centered Design and Engineering students.

The project has been featured though a website launch and a moderated discussion organized by the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at the University of Washington. The event was also featured on the Seattle Channel, through the 2021 Art Machines 2: International Symposium on Machine Learning and Art, (Hong Kong), at the International Symposium of Electronic Arts (ISEA 2020), in Montreal, Canada, on the shortlist for Open Call No.8 by Solitude and ZKM - Engineering Care, and at the Adversarial Hacking In the Age of AI workshop, KIM research group at HfG Karlsruhe and Transmediale festival, Berlin, Germany in 2020.

Whiting / Torrence Duo

Bonnie Whiting and Jennifer Torrence in performance, reading a graphic score, playing a tall instrument built of large wooden sticks

Bonnie Whiting and Jennifer Torrence (NORWAY) began collaborating on new work for vocalizing percussionists/percussion theatre in the fall of 2017, commissioning works by Paula Matthusen, Bethany Younge, Lene Grenager, and Lars Skoglund.

Bethany Younge: Yappy Pace

Paula Matthusen: The old language is the old language, with its lance and greaves, broken shields and hammered vowels