May 23, 2017
by Rebecca Lentjes

Similarly virtuosic, but about 10,000 times as loud, were the two performances of the piano duo HOCKET. Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff brought an unparalleled exuberance to their rendition of Joseph Michaels‘ Together in Perfect Harmony (2014), which mostly consisted of tone clusters bouncing up and down the keyboard. At one point both pianists, practically laughing out loud, laid their full forearms across the keyboard (shouldn’t this piece be called Fourarms?), generating such extreme hops and leaps of dissonance that it went all the way around the bend into consonance. They also performed Michael Laurello‘s Touch (2016), in which an opening section of chaotic staccato notes morphed into smoother phrases and then staggered dissonant chords built out of the opening material.

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April 29, 2017
by Steven Pisano

The highlight of the night, and indeed of the festival (so far!) was Michaels’ “Together in Perfect Harmony” played by the splendid and resourceful L.A. piano duo HOCKET (Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff). Long after leaving the black cavern of The Kitchen, this piece still warms me with joy. Playing together furiously side-by-side at the keyboard, sometimes plinking keys, and most excitingly banging on the keyboard with both elbows like a pair of crazy monkeys, the piece was a rapturous expression of the pure joy that music can bring inside a person. In a word, it was FUN (and I mean those caps deliberately).

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Aug 29, 2016
by Christian Hertzog

Four-hand piano music and toy piano duets require telepathic coordination; HOCKET proved masters of such performance. Highlights included member Thomas Kotcheff’s “death, hocket, and roll,” where the keyboardists tossed brutal chords back and forth between two toy pianos and locked together on giddy whirlwind runs up their instruments. Mayke Nas’ “DiGiT #2” playfully explored a careful choreography of forearm tone clusters on the piano, which gradually abandoned the keyboard entirely for a new music version of “Pat-A-Cake.”

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Talent takes root at USC Thornton

April 7, 2016
by Julie Riggott

In a Koreatown gallery last fall, two USC-born ensembles alternated performances of new music, flaunting technical mastery and free-flowing artistry.

After piano duo HOCKET banged out a percussive piece on toy pianos, the cellists of Sakura took the stage to show off the range of their instrument.

The concert, part of the Tuesdays@MonkSpace series curated by pianist Aron Kallay DMA ’09 garnered rave reviews from Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed, who called the ensembles “brilliant” and “superb.”

HOCKET and Sakura are two of what Swed called the “hip, imaginative and technically dazzling local ensembles” that have sprung up “as wonderfully as wild flowers” in Los Angeles — and they sprouted at the USC Thornton School of Music

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Music ensembles HOCKET and Sakura bathe Monk Space in an acoustical glow

October 15, 2015
by Mark Swed

HOCKET is a piano duo; Sakura is an ensemble of five cellos. Both groups, which alternated throughout the program, are products of USC and are brilliant. Hocket's Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff confined themselves to high-gloss white toy pianos. Their program was mainly Angeleno.

The members of Sakura were students of the cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, whose name translates from the German as cherry tree, which is "sakura" in Japanese.

Pieces by Andy Akiho ("Karakurenai"), Aaron Holloway-Nahum (the fourth part of his 40-minute "Remember Me?"), Ryan Harper ("A 19") and HOCKET's Kotcheff ("death, hocket, and roll") did everything you possibly could do to every inch of the toy pianos. These are not exactly tonally nuanced instruments, so the emphasis was on percussion. Minimalist beats predominated, as did arresting sound effects achieved by violently hitting the keys or racing hands across the keys in massive glissandi.

Most surprising was just how much sound and variety can be produced by a couple of toys. When John Cage wrote his Suite for Toy Piano in 1948, he was the first to show that the instrument needn't be a joke, but even he couldn't have foreseen what he would unleash more than half a century later. He did, though, use toy pianos for provocation in his 1960 "Music for Amplified Toy Pianos," which HOCKET played Tuesday. The players create their own activities by manipulating a non-specific graphic score. HOCKET, playing from iPads, employed toys and objects galore as noisemakers to create a crazy, ever-changing soundscape.

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HOCKET new music ensemble makes waves at Carlsbad Music Festival

August 31, 2015

The new music duo, HOCKET, which includes current USC Thornton D.M.A. Composition student, Thomas Kotcheff (M.M. ’12, composition) and Composition faculty member Sarah Gibson (M.M. ’10, composition; D.M.A. ’15, composition), recently performed in a series of concerts at the Carlsbad Music Festival.

The duo performed compositions by David Lang, Alex Weiser, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, and Tristan Perich – and premiered new works by Thornton alumni Emily Cooley (M.M. ’14, composition) and Ryan Harper (M.M. ’12, composition). The Carlsbad Music Festival was founded by alumnus Matt McBane (BM ’12, film scoring).

In a review for the San Diego Union Tribune, James Chute noted that “In the west coast premiere of Aaron Holloway-Nahum’s ‘Remember Me? (Part IV)’ for two toy pianos, [Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotchef’s] teamwork was exemplary, their playing was a delight.”

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Carlsbad Music Festival offers speed listening

August 29, 2015
by James Chute

The piano duo HOCKET: Just their 20 minutes was worth the trip to Carlsbad. In the west coast premiere of Aaron Holloway-Nahum’s “Remember Me? (Part IV)” for two toy pianos, their teamwork was exemplary, their playing was a delight. Their reading of Tristan Perich’s “Duet” on the church’s well-worn Mason & Hamlin grand that followed was also convincing. They not only showed a commitment to the music, but to communicating with each other.

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