Viewpoints is our fifth album as a duo and marks just over a decade of playing and composing together.
The music for Andrew’s Border Trilogy came from several musical and literary inspirations. Themes of desolation and cultural displacement, similar to those found in American novelist Cormac McCarthy’s trilogy of the same name, are threaded throughout the three movements. Mariscal Mines developed out of a flamenco guitar improvisation that Andrew played at an abandoned uranium mine we visited on the Texas-Mexico border. Gunslinger is the namesake of Roland Deschain of Gilead, the fictional character and protagonist in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series. Black Warrior is also inspired by an abandoned mine of the same name—this one in the North Cascades National Park where we did a two week composing residency in 2012.
Our co-composed piece Scotch Bonnet, was a compositional challenge I undertook in 2011. Initially inspired by Latin rhythms, the piece went in a different direction when I got stuck halfway through. Andrew helped untangle it by integrating formal structures and counterpoint from J.S. Bach’s dance suites. To these I added embellishments for the alto flute. The result is a baroque/salsa hybrid, a “what would happen if Bach ate a habanero pepper?” piece.
Violinist Christopher Martin provided the impetus to compose the trio pieces on this album. We met a couple years ago and found out we were neighbors as well as mutual music and food lovers. Chris’s playing has been a beautiful part of our development as composers.
The music of Susana Baca inspired Cabrales; the creamy, piquant blue cheese Queso de Cabrales provided the name. In the summer of 2013, we rode the train from France to visit northern Spain. Baca’s recordings were the soundtrack to our trip. I listened to them so often I nearly memorized the arrangements. After we arrived, I spent a week drafting this piece and learning how to eat that mysterious, spicy cheese.
Sotres is named after a tiny mountain village within the Picos de Europa National Park in Asturias, Spain where we spent a week writing music. The structure of Sotres is based on three melodies, each presented separately, then shared and morphed into one another. While writing Buenos Aires Cab Ride, I had been studying the “Razumovsky” string quartets of Beethoven. The finished piece here is brimming with Beethoven’s rhythmic and harmonic string writing conventions. In the winter of 2012 we also visited Buenos Aires for the first time. Our cab rides all felt as if we went around the same spot too many times, a mirror for the motives in this piece which circle back around in different keys.
Spring Snow and Mamba Guinée were independent efforts, each composed during some rare time away from each other. In March of 2013, Andrew skied 9 kilometers with his guitar on his back into a rustic cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Porcupine Mountain Wilderness. He sat at a little wooden table for a week with a pencil and staff paper. While Andy took inspiration from the quiet solitude of the U.P., I visited the country of Guinea in West Africa with a group of students from Aquinas College. There I studied with Mamady Mansare, the principal flutist of Les Ballets Africains who is a descendent of 13th century West African tambin players. When I returned home, I spent a couple of months studying the recordings of Bembeya Jazz National, a legendary Guinean group from the 1960s and 70s that inspired me to write for the tambin and guitar.
We end the CD with music from Argentina, a place where so many of our musical ideas are rooted. Canción de lejos is a zamba, an afro-indigenous song and dance form in 3/4 that comes from northern Argentina. Cumparsita Vals was originally arranged by NYC bassist and composer Pablo Aslan, who came up with this playful version of La Cumparsita while riding the subway. He conceived the arrangement in his head and then wrote it all down when he got home. We end with it here like so many milongas (tango dances) do; it is a common tradition for it to be played as the last dance of the evening.
CARMEN MARET, 2014