TED Fellows » TED Fellows Network » Susie Ibarra

Susie Ibarra

Composer / Improviser / Percussionist / Educator

Fellows Class:
Susie Ibarra

Professional Role

Current Titles:

Composer,Performer,Percussionist, Educator

Current Organizations:

Song of the Bird King LLC Bennington College


Uploaded Photos

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An Environmental Experience: Electric Kulintang at The Atrium, Lincoln Center

On Earth Day the Atrium at Lincoln Center presented Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez's Electric Kulintang. Both of these well-known Downtown musicians have been involved in researching the indigenous culture of the Philippines, and have been working on a film about their efforts called "Song of the Bird King." I had tried to find examples of Filipino "roots music" a number of years ago with very little success, and in this film (a fragment of which was presented that night) I heard some spine-tingling stuff, so I am really looking forward to the film's completion and getting the full immersion! The film focuses not only on the challenges of keeping a culture alive in the face of globalization, but on the physical degradation of the ecosystem that has supported life on the island, affecting man, fauna and flora.

Electric Kulintang call their music "Eco-Electronica." Rodriguez is the partner percussionist, programmer and beatmeister, while Ibarra plays drums and various xylophones as well as the Kulintang, a traditional Philippine instrument comprised of a series of gongs, and reminiscent of those found in an Indonesian gamelan. The concert debuted material from their forthcoming CD "Drum Codes" which Ibarra describes as "musical stories and dedications to ancestors and the environment." This video is of "Drum Code #3," which they presented toward the end of their set. Ibarra says "I play on the Philippine Kulintang gongs, Taggungo style. This traditional Southern Filipino Maguindanaon style is performed in respect to spirits and used in healing."

Electronica, as Rodriguez composes it, contains an invitation to trance that is an appropriate matrix for the shamanistic meditations inspired by the Kulintang. One could focus on the musician's performance, but the experience was also interactive with the Atrium itself. Rodriguez' digitally generated sounds resonated into and off the various surfaces of the hall, creating a cocoon for Ibarra's percussive, minimalist motifs, and I could easily imagine the music as an installation piece. I have brought many architectural images from the Atrium itself into the video, as this seemed the best way to convey the experience as a whole , including one of the Green Walls (living tapestries of plants) that adorn the Atrium. I recommend listening to this video with headphones, to get the full effect, as there are some subtle electronic sounds that are fairly low in the mix.

Rodriguez and Ibarra are engaged citizens of our planet whose music attempts to express how our inner and outer worlds relate. Electric Kulintang's merging of ambient/shamanistic/experimental music was a singularly appropriate programming choice for Earth Day.

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Digital Sanctuaries, NYC

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Digital Sanctuaries, Lower Manhattan
06/23/2013 – 12/31/2013
Digital Sanctuaries is a soundwalk in twelve historic sites in Lower Manhattan that launches in a mobile web app in October 2013. It features the music of Electric Kulintang with Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez, visual art by Makoto Fujimura and app design by interaction designer Shankari Murali. Digital Sanctuares allows you to experience the music in the soundwalk , make and record your own mix and post your experiences. It is a walk of Sanctuaries melding cultures from the past and present and bringing nature into the cities.
Project Website »

Circadian Rhythms
07/01/2012 – 04/21/2013
Circadian Rhythms was a commission from Renssalear Polytechnic Institute for 8 percussion ensembles 10 soloists and field recordings from the Macaulay Library at Cornell composed by Susie Ibarra and set in 8.1 surround sound for EMPAC. In celebration and collaboration with Earth Week at RPI, Circadian Rhythms was composed in 7 movements for 80 performers live from varying abilities and genres.
Project Website »

The Cotabato Sessions
01/26/2013 – present
The Cotabato Sessions is a short music film featuring Philippine traditional artist Danongan Kalanduyan and his family of master musicians from the South of the Philippines, Mindanao. It is Maguindanaon gong music which I recorded in January 2013 with filmmaker Joel Quizon.
Project Website »


I am a Composer/Performer , Percussionist and Educator whose musical influences stem from World, Jazz and New Music. I enjoy very much interdisciplinary collaborative work in the Performing Arts and in Research. I lived in NYC for many years and toured frequently as a performing artist. I now live with my family in Kerhonkson , a small country town 2 hours above in the mountains and in the Philippines during parts of the winters. I still do enjoy working with many different communities globally. Thankfully I have found a wonderful school for our son in Woodstock which supports artists lives and travel. In the Philippines I continue to work with and archive traditional folkloric and Indigenous music and culture. I am preparing to set up a Music and Ecology Residency in the Philippines. Just recently I'm delighted to say I received an appointment as a Faculty Member in Bennington College to teach in their Music Department and in the new Center for Advancement of Public Action. Two classes I'll begin with are a World Percussion Ensemble and a class I'll co-teach with the President Elizabeth Coleman, Human Rights; Women and Girls Issues. I enjoy teaching and outreach to young children, highschools and young adults. I am interested in the intersection of tradition and avant-garde,Indigenous and urban, improvisation and composition, acoustic and electronic, oral and written tradtiions, and how these pairings inform and shape music. Through music I have been drawn to the social dialogue and advocacy for cultural and environmental preservation and children's education in the arts. My work can be seen and heard at susieibarra.com songofthebirdking.com www.facebook.com/SusieIbarraMusic @susieibarra Current Work Include: 2012 March Premiere for Re-Visiting Tarab, a new work for mixed ensemble based off Tarab music, commissioned by Tarek Atoui and the Sharjah Art Foundation , Sharjah, Emirates 2012 Hidden Truths, A surround sound composition and performance co-commissioned by Harvestworks and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council 2012 Commission for the BT River of Music Festival with Arun Ghosh, for the opening celebrations of the London Olympics 2013 World Drum Project, A Site Specific Partiicipatory Performance piece to involve 12 percussion ensembles live, a parade and a new composition for the multi-ensemble in EMPAC

Fun facts

Favorite meal:
I love so many kinds of dishes, this is a hard question. One is a Filipino dish, champorado , chocolate rice with coconut milk served with salted fish. I also like Lebanese lamb kebabs. But mostly I do my best to cook and eat healthy food.

Vital Stats

Fellows Class
Filipino (Pilipino)
Living in
Kerhonkson, United States
Working in
New York, United States
Born in
Anaheim, United States



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