The mission of Deviant Septet is to fulfill the vision Igor Stravinsky had for his L’histoire du Soldat ensemble. Stravinsky, so enamored by the unusual combination of instruments— violin and bass, clarinet and bassoon, trumpet and trombone, and percussion— thought that others would follow his lead. This unique blend of musicians, the soprano and bass voice of every instrument family, would travel the world playing the music of many composers. The quirkiness of the ensemble poses unique challenges to a composer. While Stravinsky’s contemporaries were seemingly not up to the task, it is the goal of Deviant Septet to bring this idea to life by creating a repertoire for this distinctive ensemble. 21st Century composers jump at the chance to solve Stravinsky’s riddles, and Deviant Septet is unique among the world’s new music collectives, as it is the only ensemble consisting solely of this instrumentation. Since its inception in 2011, Deviant Septet has commissioned over 36 new works from such prominent composers as Pulitzer-Prize Winning Composer Caroline Shaw, Elizabeth Ogoneck, and upcoming commissions from Michael Gordon, and Augusta Read Thomas. Deviant Septet’s commission of David Liptak’s “Focusing” received a 2013 Serge Koussevitzky Foundation commissioning grant.
Deviant Septet has been hailed as an “exciting” (New York Times), “stylish new ensemble” (New York Magazine). “Superb” (Washington Post), “exceedingly fun” and “led by new music veterans” (Time Out New York), “lively and accomplished” (Classical TV: The Drift) and “boisterously entertaining” (Lucid Culture). WNYC called it “a brand new ensemble with a high concept... made up of top classical and avant-garde musicians”, and ran a feature on its premiere concert in May 2011. Deviant Septet’s members are Bill Kalinkos (clarinet, co-founder), Mike Gurfield (trumpet, co-founder), Courtney Orlando (violin), Brad Balliett (bassoon), Doug Balliett (double bass), David Nelson (trombone), and Jared Soldiviero (percussion). In addition to the Septet, players perform with various contemporary groups like Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Signal, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble ACJW, Wordless Music Orchestra, and Talea Ensemble, and they collaborate with artists such as The National, David Byrne, Sufjan Stevens, The Dirty Projectors, Tyondai Braxton, St. Vincent, and John Zorn in addition to many others.