Miolina – à la BAMA

Album back cover
Album front cover

Violin duo Miolina (Mioi Takeda & Lynn Bechtold, violins) has been called “talented and dedicated” by Arts Birmingham, and described as displaying “aggressive and virtuosic prowess” with “brilliance of sound, technical mastery, and stunning expressivity” by I CARE IF YOU LISTEN. A member of New Music USA’s Impact Cohort, Miolina has been attracting audiences since their inception in 2012. Mioi and Lynn are creating and shaping the violin duo repertoire of the 21st century. To date, Miolina has premiered dozens of violin duos. They have had successful shows in NYC at venues such as the National Opera Center, Tenri Cultural Institute, (le) Poisson Rouge, Spectrum, KGB Espionage Museum, Rockwood Music Hall, Gallery MC, Parsons School of Design, and The Morbid Anatomy Museum. They’ve also performed concerts around the U.S. and abroad in Birmingham, Chicago, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, Malmö, Pensacola, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC, Paris, and Tokyo. Miolina has participated in festivals/residencies/series including Avaloch Farm, Birmingham New Music Festival, Composers Concordance, Concrete Timbre, C-Y Series, Electronic Music Midwest, Infuse Présente, NWEAMO, North/South Consonance, and Sonic Circuits. They are recipients of numerous grants including Adami, American-Scandinavian Foundation, Japan Foundation NY, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New Music USA, and New York Women Composers. As part of their outreach and educational programs, Miolina has performed at senior centers and soup kitchens, as well as working with students at The Alabama School for the Blind, The Juilliard School, Queens College, and Rutgers University. Their debut album was released in 2018 on Composers Concordance Records/Naxos, and they can be heard on 2020’s ‘Le Passager,’ performing Jean-Baptiste Favory’s work UNISONO V, available on French label ACEL records. Upcoming albums include one with works by Alabama composers, as well as one featuring works by NYC composers.

Composer Bios and Track Program Notes

1. Geni Skendo – Orange Prism (2019)

The Boston Globe calls Geni Skendo a “virtuoso,” creating a unique blend of jazz, free jazz and world music. After a successful performing career in his native Albania, Geni moved to the US in 2003 to raise his jazz playing to a higher level. Studies at the Berklee College of Music and The New England Conservatory (MM) led to a deep, ongoing involvement with the Boston music scene. Geni performs with Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica (Best World Music Act, Boston Phoenix Readers’ Poll, 2012), in both its quartet and big-band incarnations. The quartet utilizes Geni’s full palette, while the big band relies heavily on Geni’s powerful bass flute in its recreation of long-lost arrangements by the legendary Mexican arranger Juan Garcia Esquivel. Geni leads the Albanian/Jazz/Ambience group “Astronauts of Albania” and the free improvised chamber music group, Samurai Jazz Trio, consisting of shakuhachi, bass/shamisen and piano. Geni has released three CDs, most recently Acoustic Cowboy, featuring original compositions and new arrangements of songs from Olivier Messiaen, African pygmies and the Balkans.

2. Holland Hopson – Still Yet Already Again (2017)

Holland Hopson is a composer, improviser, and electronic artist. A multiinstrumentalist, he usually performs on clawhammer banjo and electronics. Holland often augments his instruments with custom-designed sensor interfaces and performs with his own highly responsive, interactive computer programs. Holland has performed in Australia, Europe and North America along with notable experimental and outsider musicians such Macarthur Genius Award winners Anthony Braxton and George Lewis, live electronics pioneer David Behrman, sonic meditator Pauline Oliveros, mutant-trumpeter Ben Neill, network music trailblazer Tim Perkis, free-improv innovators LaDonna Williams and Davey Smith, noise-monger John Wiese, and others. Holland has held residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Florida; at LEMURPlex, Brooklyn; and Harvestworks Digital Media Arts, New York.

Still Yet Already Again embraces the fascinatingly complex, noisy sounds that violins are capable of producing. The live electronics part divides each instrument’s sound into separate streams that are all processed independently. The sounds produced by each partner violinist also influence the electronic processing of the other instrument. In this way, the electronics remain just beyond the control of either performer alone.

3. Monroe Golden – Winona’s Lesson (2016)

Monroe Golden is a composer from rural Alabama whose overtone-informed music has been called delightfully disorienting, lovely, sumptuous, yet arcane, and irresistible…, full of wit and beauty. He has received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the AMTA/MTNA Commissioning Award, and commissions from solo performers and groups. Beyond his own artistry, Golden has actively promoted the innovative arts in his resident community. A founding member and three-term President of the Birmingham Art Music Alliance, he has also led the Birmingham Art Association, Birmingham Improv, Artburst, and New Arts Stage — and implemented the inaugural Birmingham New Music Festival in 2014. There are three complete audio releases of his music: A Still Subtler Spirit (Living Artist Recordings, 2003),
Alabama Places (Innova Recordings, 2007), and Incongruity (self-published, 2011).

Winona’s Lesson was written for Miolina Duo. The title refers to my mother (Winona) and her favorite shaped-note hymn Murillo’s Lesson, which was especially popular in the Sand Mountain community where she grew up. Fragments from the melody are mapped to sections of the violin duo, serving as points of departure. Underlying this structure are quasi-waveforms comprising harmonics and open strings in a ratio of 2:3 between the instruments. The work is written in 7-limit just intonation, often making use of symmetrical otonal/utonal scales.

4. Kyle McGucken – Recitative and Aria for Jean Baudrillard (2017)

Kyle McGucken is an aspiring composer and musicologist, whose works touch on themes of Post-Structuralism, Lacanian Psychoanalysis, and Deconstruction. Utilizing ultraminimal material, extended techniques, and long durations, Kyle McGucken’s compositions attempt to embody a compositional spirit similar to Morton Feldman, and the Mass composers of the Renaissance. Kyle McGucken studied under Dr. Mark Lackey, and has had pieces performed by Sybarite5 and self-formed Iris Ensemble.

Jean Baudrillard’s concept of hyperreality continues to be of relevance in regard to the current political climate of the United States and the European Union. In Recitative and Aria for Jean Baudrillard, a familiar musical form, that of the Baroque recitative and aria, is copied and reproduced to create a simulacrum of itself. The violinists simulate the actions and timbres of a Viol da Gamba and a lute. The overall effect of simulating the aria form will be to realize musically, Baudrillard’s words from The Perfect Crime, that “It is the simulacrum which ensures the continuity of the real today, the simulacrum which now conceals not the truth, but the fact that there isn’t any.”

5. Brian C. Moon – What Could Have Been, Was, or Will Be: An Infinite Yet Temporary Journey of Finite Possibilities (2017)

Brian C. Moon received his Master of Music in Composition from Birmingham-Southern College and his Bachelor of Arts in Music Technology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His composition instructors include Ron Clemmons, Jan Vicar, Traci Mendel, Charles Mason and Dorothy Hindman. For over two decades, Brian has been an active composer and member of the Birmingham Art Music Alliance, as well as an adjunct music instructor at Birmingham-Southern and UAB, where he has taught Ear Training, Music Technology, Computer Music, Multimedia Productions, and the Computer Music Ensemble. Brian currently works full time at UAB as the Associate Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning. As for the local Birmingham band scene, Brian is singer/songwriter for the Maisleys and often plays in several local rock bands.

What Could Have Been, Was, or Will Be: An Infinite Yet Temporary Journey of Finite Possibilities was written for the Miolina violin duo to be premiered at the 2017 Birmingham New Music Festival. The composition consists of fifteen precomposed segments of music, each five measures in length, which will be randomly presented to the duo at the time of the performance. Each performer will be presented with a new segment, along with randomly selected dynamic markings every 25 beats, and segments will only be presented once for each performer. Improvisatory embellishment is encouraged as they interpret the music being presented to them. The addition of various audio effects such as delay and reverb almost guarantees that the performance you hear has never been heard before, and will likely never be heard again.

6. Mark Lackey – Dyad (2017)

Mark Lackey composes new music that is “buoyant, at times playful” with “a classical, yet unrestrained lyricism” (ArtsBham). As a composer of vocal, electronic, chamber, orchestral, and wind ensemble music, Mark Lackey has garnered premieres from many gifted artists including Orquestra Sinfônica do Teatro Nacional Claudio Santoro (national orchestra of Brazil), Rhymes With Opera, Fireworks, Eastman Wind Orchestra, Definiens Ensemble, Druid City Ensemble, cellist Craig Hultgren, Miolina NYC, violist Victor de Almeida, and violinist Courtney Orlando. A leader in the local new music scene, he is immediate past president and current treasurer of the Birmingham Art Music Alliance. His print music is available through Dorn Publications, Julian Date Music, and sheetmusicplus.com, and recordings are available on the Potenza Music, Centaur Records, Composers Concordance, and MSR Classics labels. Honors include a public reading by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and selection as finalist in the American Composer Competition of the Columbia (MD) Orchestra. Mark Lackey is also an energetic educator. As Associate Professor at Samford University’s School of the Arts, he teaches music composition and theory. He earned the degrees Doctor of Musical Arts in composition, Master of Music in theory pedagogy, and Master of Music in composition from The Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University where his teachers included Christopher Theofanidis, Bruno Amato, and Nicholas Maw.

Dyad: The opportunity to compose new music for Miolina inspired a piece in two parts – a dyad – that explores the peculiar possibilities of a dyad of violins. Rather than behaving as “first” and “second” violins, both instruments assert their presence, sometimes functioning together as a single entity, sometimes in close counterpoint with nearly identical material. The piece explores extended tonal materials that include a hexatonic scale and various ancient modes. A technique of “throwing” the bow across the strings, known by the French name jeté, produces groups of quick notes (the controlled bouncing of the bow) followed by two longer notes. This two-part rhythmic idea in turn appears in many guises throughout the work and helps to give it rhythmic coherence. I am deeply grateful to Miolina for their commitment to new music and for choosing to prepare and perform mine.

Label Information

Composers Concordance Records
Directors: Gene Pritsker, Peter Jarvis, Dan Cooper

Composers Concordance Records (CCR) presents thematically related recordings of modern music produced with the latest developments in studio precision. CCR is developing new concepts of what an album can be, bringing new music and new mediums together to a new level of cross genre transcendence. Our goal is simple:…good music recorded well pushing the boundaries of sound and composition.