Percussion-viola duo Alex Petcu and Nathan Sherman have released their debut album, Totemic. We asked them the BIG questions . . .

An Irish musician of Romanian origin, Petcu performs with a wide variety of ensembles in Ireland, including Crash Ensemble, Hard Rain Ensemble, Bangers and Crash Percussion, the various orchestras in Ireland, and much more.

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He has a passion for solo and chamber music that features percussion and has performed at various festivals. He also teaches percussion at the MTU Cork School of Music. alexpetcu.com

Nathan Sherman was drawn to the sound of the viola from an early age. He attended the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Royal Academy of Music in London, and ESMUC in Barcelona, and now enjoys a lively performance career as a chamber, orchestral and solo musician.

Nathan has premiered many works and enjoys collaborating with composers and other like-minded musicians in the creation of new music. He is the artistic director and violist of Ficino Ensemble, and performs regularly with the National Symphony Orchestra, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Kilkenny, and Resurgam. nathanshermanmusic.com

Tell us three things about yourself?

Nathan: I love sound, being in water, especially surfing, and get particularly excited when I share a perfect meal, outside, with my family.

Alex: I hit things for a living. I play in a wide variety of settings that range from solo projects to performances with over 100 people on stage. Much of my time these days is spent with my daughter who is one year and nine months old.

How would you describe your music?

Nathan: As a performer I particularly like playing early music on gut strings. There is a freshness and freedom in the sound, which I think really influences how I approach playing contemporary music. The writing on this album is incredibly varied, from rich and earthy, frenzied, to the most divinely ethereal.

Alex: In general, I enjoy seeking out new sounds and finding cool combinations of sounds that are unexpected, both to me and the audience. I suppose, I come from a classical music background so everything in a way stems from that.

Who are your musical inspirations?

Nathan: Oddly enough as a viola player I was never really inspired by viola players, though there are so many great ones. I am inspired by music which has challenged audiences and performers, with the intention of raising the listener spiritually. In particular Beethoven's late quartets, the later recordings of Scott Walker, Luciano Berio, John Coltrane, Gyorgy Ligeti, Thomas Ades . . . too many to name really!

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Alex: A lot of orchestral music and composers. My own family (most of whom are musicians). Solo percussionists Evelyn Glennie and Martin Grubinger. Percussion ensembles such as Amadinda, So Percussion, Sandbox Percussion, etc

What was the first gig you ever went to and the first record you ever bought/downloaded?

Nathan: I was definitely an eclectic child. My first gigs were Meatloaf, then hearing the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra play the Planets by Gustav Holst (both in the same month). I think on my first trip to a record shop I bought Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream and Leonard Bernstein conducting the Rite of Spring with the New York Philharmonic.

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Alex: My parents are violinists and music teachers, so I definitely went to classical concerts as a kid. I remember going to string quartet concerts in particular and watching my family members and other play. As regards percussion, one particular inspirational gig was seeing a production of West Side Story at the Cork Opera House featuring students from the Cork School of Music and watching the percussion section from above. My first professional gig was when I was 16, deputising for my teacher in a production of the Sound of Music, also at the Cork Opera House, which was scary enough as I had no rehearsal beforehand. I was only able to listen in on a few gigs in advance.

What’s your favourite song right now?

Nathan: I went to see The War on Drugs recently, which was terrific, so I guess those tunes are still ringing in my ears.

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Alex: Usually whatever I'm involved in now. Right now, I got these misshapen metal plates cut which have some really interesting and unique sounds. So, in terms of sonic space in my head, they are taking up a good bit of it right now, as I think up of cool ways to get the most out of them.

Favourite lyric of all time?

Nathan: ''You don't need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind blows'' by Bob Dylan. I love how it just reminds you to cop on.

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Alex: Probably not good to include this, but I find it hard to listen to lyrics in general.

My thoughts in my head are usually not present in fully formed verbal sentences. Therefore, I'm actually constantly trying to translate my own thoughts into words, and also trying to translate what I sense around me into words. Words and story wouldn't be an immediate thing like it would be for many other people. Hearing the rhythm, pitch, harmony, and sound quality of music is much more immediate for me. If I am to remember lyrics of any songs, I have to actually sit down and study them like a school essay. I can't remember lyrics without a lot of effort (even to the simplest songs, like I'm finding out with my one-year-old daughter).

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Nathan: I hate this question because it's like choosing a child. I think I would go with George Enescu's String Octet but try to sneak in In a Sentimental Mood by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane.

Where can people find your music/more information?

Our new album Totemic is available from Ergodos Records. Pre-order/purchase album here.