Duo Sila’s inaugural album explores the infusion of international music traditions within 20th century music while showcasing the diverse stylistic and tonal capabilities created by the combination of flute and percussion. Farr’s Kembang Suling draws from the tonality and temporal cycles of Balinese, Japanese, and South Indian traditions to create a unique sense of timelessness; Harrison’s Ariadne takes listeners through the journey of Greek mythological characters Ariadne and Dionysus; Piazzolla’s ever-popular Tango Etudes for Flute are enlivened with improvised cajon. As Debussy was perhaps the most prominent pioneer to merge Western music styles with Eastern Asian musical traditions, the album is brought to a close with Duo Sila’s arrangement of Clair de Lune for flute and vibraphone. Buy Album.
Track List & Preview Clips
More About the Pieces
Kembang Suling, by Gareth Farr (b. 1968): Each of the three movements in this opening piece represent a snapshot of a different country in Asia. See a few brief notes from the composer.
Ariadne, by Lou Harrison (1917-2003): This piece was inspired by the Greek mythological story of Ariadne and Dionysos. In Movement I, Ariadne is abandoned by her lover, Theseus, on the island of Naxos. Movement II celebrates her rescue by Dionysos, with whom she falls in love and eventually marries. One fun fact about Movement II - Harrison composed a series of lines for each instrument, but the players are tasked with choosing the order in which they play the lines. We did a bit of planning for the beginning and the end, but aside from this we improvised the order of material during the recording session.
Tango Etudes for Flute, by Astor Piazzolla (1933-1990): Originally written for solo flute, we added improvised cajon to accentuate the energy, motion, and dance-like feel of the etudes. It was a fun challenge to give each etude a slightly different flavor. We made a conscious choice to skip Etude No. 2 for the album, although we do program this on concerts as a solo flute feature.
Clair de Lune, by Claude Debussy (1862-1918): This is perhaps our favorite piece on the album, as we find it incredibly rewarding to find fresh ways to perform classic repertoire with our instrumentation. Our arrangement utilizes the light, colorful and soothing combination of flute and vibraphone to highlight Debussy's innovative harmonies and textures.
Reflections on the Process
Our journey as a duo started in summer of 2019 with Piazzolla Tango Etude No. 1. We thought it would be fun to improvise cajon along with the flute melody, so we gave it a try one day on a whim. As it turned out, we loved playing together, and recorded our first video less than a month later. From there, we started to explore additional music and seek out live performance opportunities.
We quickly discovered that the repertoire options for flute and percussion were somewhat limited, but that just meant it was time to get creative. As performers, we both feel a strong desire to bridge the gap between what is familiar and what is new in music, in order to welcome and engage different audiences. This led us to a range of 20th century music that became our playground to experiment, adapt, and arrange as our own. We loved the color, the variety, the diversity, and message of this music, highlighting the ways unique musical traditions can be intertwined. Speaking to our personalities as restless entrepreneurs, we soon agreed that the Piazzolla video wasn’t enough - it was time to record an album!
In the meantime, having booked several concerts for fall 2019 and into 2020, we decided we needed a name for our duo. Drawing from Christina’s Lebanese heritage, we learned that “sila” is an Arabic word that means connection. It was a perfect fit with our duo’s goal to make connections - between people, cultures, genres, and perspectives.
Fast forward to March 2020. After several months of rehearsals, concerts, and intense recording preparation, we recorded Traditions Reimagined at Heartwood Sound Studio in Baltimore. We wrapped up on March 10, just before shutdowns were initiated across the country due to the pandemic. We were just in time - all of our live concerts were cancelled or postponed, but we now had a meaningful project we could work on from a distance.
This project sustained us artistically and provided much needed motivation for both of us throughout the pandemic, and it has also been an incredible learning experience. Here are few things we discovered along the way:
- Pieces that involve improvisation present a unique set of challenges in the recording studio.
- We were glad we both genuinely liked the repertoire we chose, as we spent a lot of time listening to ourselves play the pieces.
- We got lucky with our timing! The pandemic gave us the space we needed to really focus on the detailed editing, mixing, and mastering process.
- Creating an album means more than just recording some music. It is an opportunity to tell a story and share music that can inspire and connect us - something we all probably need a little more of in 2021.
We are so excited to share the product of our hard work and growth as a duo. We are also grateful for the support of our friends, family and colleagues who helped us along the way. Happy listening!
Special thanks to Jim and Kristy Dame, Connor Drew, Zane Forshee, Tom and Sharon Manceor, and Matthew Stiens for their feedback, positivity, and moral support throughout this project.