Duo Noire Releases Night Triptych

Featuring World Premiere Recordings of Works for Guitar Duo by Women Composers: Clarice Assad, Courtney Bryan, Golfam Khayam, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Gity Razaz, and Gabriella Smith Available June 22, 2018 on New Focus Recordings "Spectacular precision...engaging and profoundly enjoyable." – St. Louis Post-Dispatch Watch Duo Noire Perform Works from Night Triptych: http://bit.ly/2GiZYwf www.duonoire.com

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New York, New York (May 15, 2018) — On Friday, June 22, 2018American classical guitar duo, Duo Noire (Thomas Flippin and Christopher Mallett), releases Night Triptych, an album of world premiere recordings of newly commissioned works by six highly accomplished and diverse women composers from around the world, on New Focus Recordings. Produced with GRAMMY-winning guitarist William Coulter, the album features Clarice Assad’s Hocus PocusCourtney Bryan’s Soli Deo Gloria, Golfam Khayam’s Night Triptych, Mary Kouyoumdjian’s ByblosGity Razaz’s Four Haikus, and Gabriella Smith’s Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain, all composed for Duo Noire. The album is the culmination of a project Duo Noire, the first two African-American guitar graduates of the Yale School of Music, launched in 2015 to make classical music more gender inclusive and was supported with a grant from the Diller-Quaile School of Music.

Of the project, Duo Noire says, “Our eyes were opened to the ways in which, year after year, many major concert series and albums feature less than 5% of music by women. We felt like classical music was impoverishing itself by not including the artistry of incredibly gifted women composers like the ones we collaborated with on this album, who we feel have made extraordinary contributions to our instrument.” 

“Duo Noire play with stunning technique and deep musicianship,” says GRAMMY-winning guitarist and producer of the album, William Coulter. “The new repertoire on this recording expands the horizons for the classical guitar duo. The pieces traverse various musical landscapes and bend genres into new shapes. The idea of commissioning female composers is wonderful, as they are sadly underrepresented in the classical guitar world. Bravo to Duo Noire for this amazing sonic adventure, working with them is an honor and a joy.”

Latin GRAMMY-nominated composer Clarice Assad’s (b.1978) Hocus Pocus depicts cartoonish and magical conjurings of sound. The first movement, “Abracadabra,” showcases the myriad effects two guitars can produce, before morphing into beautiful arpeggios and percussion improvisation. “Shamans” has a haunting melody that gives way to mysterious and brooding spoon improvisations on guitar strings. “Klutzy Witches” combines virtuosic melodic imitation and dark textures until a show-stopping conclusion. Born in Rio de Janeiro to a family of distinguished musicians during an oppressive military dictatorship, Assad turned to composition as an emotional outlet. She is also an accomplished singer and pianist. Her music has been performed by luminaries such as Yo-Yo Ma, GRAMMY-winning guitarist David Russell, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. She has been commissioned by institutions such as Carnegie Hall and Chamber Music at Lincoln Center. (M.M. University of Michigan) www.clariceassad.com

As a first generation Armenian-American from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, composer Mary Kouyoumdjian(b.1983) wrote her evocative piece Byblos after a recent visit to the ancient Lebanese city of the same name. The work contains atmospheric soft guitar tremolos over an eerie backing track, a Middle Eastern dance that is increasingly deconstructed and modernized, and a chaotic section of virtuosically traded quintuplet scales and a furiously unleashed backing track. The players are instructed to simulate playing like they were on an oud, and they battle the backing track until they are overwhelmed by it. Kouyoumdjian uses a sonic palette that draws on her heritage, interest in music as documentary, and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new. Her work has been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and Carnegie Hall, among others. (D.M.A. Columbia University) www.marykouyoumdjian.com

A native of New Orleans and an accomplished classical and jazz pianist, American composer Courtney Bryan’s (b.1982) Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone) is a gospel and jazz infused duet filled with incredible virtuosity. Through extended use of harmonics and dense harmonies paired with flowing melodic ideas, the piece conveys a musical richness and depth that, at times takes on the feeling of a jazz improvisation. Soli Deo Gloria takes the listener through the stages of a prayer: contemplative; unsettled and searching; questioning and hoping; a prayer; pursuing; realization; acceptance. Focused on bridging the sacred and the secular, Bryan’s compositions explore human emotions through sound, confronting the challenge of notating the feeling of improvisation. Bryan’s work has been presented at venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, and The Stone. Her work has been performed by the Imani Winds and featured at the Ojai Music Festival under Vijay Iyer’s direction. (D.M.A. Columbia University) www.courtneybryan.com  

Iranian-born composer and E.C.M. Records Artist Golfam Khayam’s (b. 1983) Night Triptych combines her enthusiasm for contemporary classical music and sound art, with her love of Persian ethnic music. This introspective and meditative work flows seamlessly from the first movement’s spacious cross-string trills and atmospheric fingernail taps to the second movement’s violent percussive hits and scrapes with chopsticks and pencils to the third movement’s contemplative use of synchronized harmonics and lush harmonies. An accomplished classical guitarist, Khayam was born in Tehran and began her childhood studies of Persian music on the Setar. This led to extensive research on Persian strummed instruments, and allowed her to develop a wide range of extended techniques for the classical guitar. Commissions include GRAMMY-winning guitarist William Kanengeiser. (M.M. University of Cincinnati, M.A. Haute École de Musique de Genève) www.golfamkhayam.com

Iranian-born composer Gity Razaz’s (b.1986) The Four Haikus are sketches that, at times, feel operatic and lyrical, but also feature extensive rhythmic and melodic interplay between the two guitars. Performers are instructed to feel certain sections as either recitative or aria, and to phrase the music as a singer might. Raised in a family of physicians in Tehran, Gity Razaz immigrated to the United States in her teens. Mesmerized by the piano as a child, she began composing Western classical music for it intuitively. According to Razaz, “The influence of my culture and traditional Persian music is more subconscious than literal in my compositions.” Razaz was the recipient of one of the first Composer-in-Residence positions at Brooklyn contemporary music venue, National Sawdust. She has been commissioned by Jeffrey Zeigler of the Kronos Quartet, Ballet Moscow, and the Seattle Symphony, among others. (M.M. Juilliard) www.gityrazaz.com  

Born in the San Francisco Bay area, composer Gabriella Smith (b. 1991) named her work Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain after a poem she wrote in her youth. Her piece follows the minimalist tradition of looped melodic and textural content, resulting in an Americana-infused piece with bluegrass grooves and riffs that are enhanced by funky and soulful slide guitar playing and harmonic syncopations. In the composition, Smith imagines “interlocking loops and patterns and textures and rain” and incorporates structured improvisatory elements, cascading glissandi, and a moment of “wild, crazy, vibrato.” Smith began composing at the age of 8 and can often be found backpacking with her ukulele and drawing musical inspiration from nature. Her music has been performed throughout the United States and internationally by Eighth Blackbird, Bang on a Can All-Stars, and many more. (D.M.A. Princeton University) www.gabriellasmith.com

About Duo Noire 
Duo Noire is a “virtuosic pair” (I Care if You Listen) of pioneering African-American classical guitarists, Thomas Flippin and Christopher Mallett. Offering “profoundly enjoyable” premieres of genre-bending contemporary music with “spectacular precision,” (St. Louis Post- Dispatch) Duo Noire is breaking new ground in the world of guitar chamber music.

Duo Noire has been featured in Chamber Music Magazine, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Classical Guitar Magazine, and on the cover of the Guitar Foundation of America’s journal, Soundboard. Their debut album was the premiere recording of Raymond Lustig’s FIGMENTS. It is repeatedly broadcast on WQXR and Q2 radio and was praised as “a unique and entrancing album that exists at the unusual intersection of minimalism and impressive classical guitar technique” (I Care if You Listen).

Collectively, Duo Noire has performed with MacArthur genius Jason Moran, GRAMMY-winning guitarist William Coulter, and Porgy and Bess Broadway star Alicia Hall Moran. Past performances include China’s Peking University, the 92 Street Y, Georgetown University, the New York City Classical Guitar Society, the Omaha Under the Radar and April in Santa Cruz new music festivals, the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, and at the Times Center playing for the MacDowell Colony. Duo Noire has also received fellowships for new music at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute in New Hampshire and the Norfolk Music Festival in Connecticut. Thomas and Christopher are the first two African-American guitar graduates of the Yale School of Music. www.duonoire.com  

Night Triptych Track List
1-3. Hocus Pocus | Clarice Assad (b.1978)
   1. Abracadabra! 2:54
2. Shamans 4:14
3. Klutzy Witches 4:39

4. Byblos | Mary Kouyoumdjian (b.1983) 9:21

5. Soli Deo Gloria | Courtney Bryan (b.1982) 5:34

6-8. Night Triptych | Golfam Khayam (b.1983)
    6. Improvisatory 3:54
       7. Quasi Furioso 2:47 
       8. Rubato, Amoroso, Molto Cantabile 4:14

9-12. Four Haikus | Gity Razaz (b.1986)
9. Moderato 3:42
10. Andante 2:52
11. Largo 2:53
12. Energetic 1:39

13. Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain | Gabriella Smith (b.1991)

Total Run Time: 57:31

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