Born and raised in South Dakota, percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky has been an innovator and collaborator throughout her life. Already during her studies in Iowa and Germany and later on her international solo tours, Robyn Schulkowsky has dedicated herself to revealing the wonders of percussion to people all over the world. Her continuous exploration of new sound dimensions has led to the development of many new and unusual instruments.
An active musician on five continents, Robyn Schulkowsky moved to Germany during a heyday of experimental and adventurous classical composition. She has premiered and recorded some of the most important percussion works of the 20th and 21st centuries, working with composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Kevin Volans, John Cage, Morton Feldman and Iannis Xenakis, presenting their works during tours that included the former Soviet Union, India, Africa, South America, Korea, Japan as well as at major European music festivals.
Robyn Schulkowsky’s adventurous nature connects her with exceptional project partners and alternative performance spaces. She has collaborated on multi-media projects with legendary African drummer Kofi Ghanaba, avant-garde visual artist Guenther Uecker, the actress Edith Clever and groundbreaking choreographer Sasha Waltz, and has founded - together with Stephan Andreae - the annual festival Drums Summit Bonn.
Robyn Schulkowsky is particularly passionate about education. Since 1998, as founder of Rhythm Lab, she has taken drumming workshops to countless cities, incorporating indigenous drumming styles and patterns from around the globe, and involving students, professionals and aficionados alike in workshops and concerts. Primarily directed at children and teenagers, the project focuses on the idea of “music as the experience and not the product”, aiming to make rhythm tangible by experimenting with music, sound and movement. To this end, Robyn Schulkowsky works closely with the sound artist Lukas Kuehne, with whom she developed new percussion instruments. In spring 2009 she worked with 100 young budding musicians on her new music-theater project based on the story of Antigone which was presented in July in a former cattle-market hall in Ingolstadt (Germany) with resounding success.
Schulkowsky’s virtuosity has been captured on over 20 recordings, including CDs with violist Kim Kashkashian and trumpet players Reinhold Friedrich and Nils Petter Molvaer, and seminal recordings of compositions by Christian Wolff and Morton Feldman. She is a composer herself, and in 2005, she performed improvisations and her own compositions twice daily for two weeks on a “sound sculpture” in New York’s Grand Central Station. In 2008 her opera The Child of the Sea Otter was premiered in Oldenburg (Germany) and repeated in Mannheim and Berlin.
Last season in Sweden, together with the Gothenburg Symphony and fellow renowned solo percussionists Anders Loguin, Mika Takehara, Eirik Raude and Anders Haag, Robyn Schulkowsky performed the critically-acclaimed premiere of “Glorious Percussion” by Sofia Gubaidulina under the baton of celebrated young conductor Gustavo Dudamel. This new ensemble has since named itself after the piece and has been appearing with several important orchestras, most recently with the Berlin Philharmonic.
This season, Robyn Schulkowsky’s frenetic global pace continues with a month-long tour of South America with trumpet player Reinhold Friedrich featuring concerts and workshops, as well as a US tour of an Armenian project with violist Kim Kashkashian.
Hastening Westward Robyn Schulkowsky & Nils Petter Molvaer
Originally conceived as a solo recording, ECM producer Manfred Eicher brought in Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær as a foil for her percussive musings. The pairing was an inspired choice, as Molvær adds a haunting melodicism to the proceedings. Schulkowsky is a master percussionist and composer. Using a minimal set up of a few drums, bells, and a large gong, she travels a percussion odyssey from dark, dirge-like pulses to haunting metallic reverberations.
'Pier And Ocean III' shows off Schulkowsky's rhythmic variety, as she balances both low drum, and high bell sounds, creating a hypnotic whirl of percussion.
'Hastening Westward I' reveals a gentle side, as she bows small, tuned cymbals (crotales), as Molvær plays a series of slow, mournful notes that hang in the air. 'Hastening Westward II' finds Schulkowsky exploring muffled drum sounds with a simple ostinato pattern and counter rhythms. The effect is very hypnotic and trancelike. 'Hastening Westward II' has Molvær playing an almost anthemic trumpet line, punctuated by Schulkowsky's drumming underneath, while 'IV' makes use of the reverberations of a large gong, played with sticks by Schulkowsky, and played 'into,' as sort of a reverb chamber by Molvær's trumpet.
This is intensely beautiful music, full of surprises that take the listener to unexpected places. Highly recommended for the adventurous, and lovers of contemporary classical/improv percussion. Robyn Schulkowsky is a master musician who deserves wider recognition.
Glorious Percussion Anders Loguin, Robyn Schulkowsky, Mika Takehara, Eirik Raude, Anders Haag
Nils Petter Molvaer
.....and many more
Joey Baron - Robyn Schulkowsky
Drums laboratory - Workshop with
Robyn Schulkowsky 2007
Robyn Schulkowsky - Joey Baron
Robyn Schulkowsky & Nils Petter Molvær Hastening Westward