A NOTE FROM THE ARTIST

This project was born in early 2017. The political climate surrounding the issue of immigration was beginning to change, and many of my colleagues, friends, and students in the music world found themselves or their communities to be directly affected. One of them was the wonderfully gifted young composer Badie Khaleghian, at the time my piano student, whose Iranian parents were barred from traveling to attend his graduation recital at the University of Georgia. In response to this situation, I decided to commission Badie for a new work that became the centerpiece of a recital program and this recording. The program features American composers with immigrant backgrounds and offers a small glimpse of the immense contributions they make to American musical life.

 

Immigration is also an integral part of my own personal story. Born in Belarus, I lived in Germany for a decade and am now a US citizen. When I play the opening piece of this album by Lera Auerbach, it reminds me of home, as I spent a lot of my childhood in Russia, in my maternal grandmother’s house, filled with pictures of our family’s past. I got to know Venezuelan-American composer Reinaldo Moya in graduate school, and his personal connection to the difficult issues surrounding immigration is evident in his powerful piano cycle The Way North (2017), of which two movements are included on this program. Other featured composers were born or have deep roots in Turkey (Kamran Ince), Israel (Chaya Czernowin), England (Anna Clyne), Korea (Eun Young Lee), Argentina (Pablo Ortiz), and Andean South America (Gabriela Lena Frank). They bring a rich diversity of artistic, cultural, and personal expression to the vibrant landscape of American music and are an embodiment of the motto E Pluribus Unum. This project has been very meaningful to me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share it with you.

 

I would like to thank PARMA Recordings for guiding the process of making this album every step of the way, the Willson Center for Humanities and Art at the University of Georgia for making it possible through a research grant, Paul Griffith, William Marlow, and Itamar Zorman for the hours spent with me in the recording booth, Kevork Mourad for the beautiful painting on the cover titled Between Two Worlds, and my parents (for everything). – Liza Stepanova

 

An Old Photograph from the Grandparents’ Childhood

Auerbach’s cycle Scenes from Childhood follows in a tradition of collections for and about children, such as Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album. Set almost entirely in soft dynamics with generous use of both pedals, this short movement “An Old Photograph from the Grandparent’s Childhood” beautifully evokes hazy memories of family history and has particularly resonated with me. – Liza Stepanova

 

Symphony in Blue

Symphony in Blue was commissioned by the Istanbul Modern Museum in honor of the rare showing of Burhan Dogancay’s painting of the same name. A never-ending momentum, motion. Every shape is pregnant to the next one. American. Turkish. New York. Istanbul. Stylistic multiplicity, obsessive sameness. The feeling of being in one dimension as we are simultaneously in another. Traditionally music is agreed to exist in time from left to right. Paintings are not, other arts are not. They can go to the left, right, up and down. They can come closer, become distant. Actually, with our memory at play, music can exist this way as well. Of course, all will be experienced still in an abstract fashion. Where you pull or push to is up to you. But ultimately the voyage undertaken is a whole one before your virtual eyes. – Kamran Ince

 

fardanceCLOSE

What dance is this? Is it the dance coming from afar, its remnants too entangled to decipher, one which was brought by a gust of wind, as you stand alone and listen to a far-away party in the night? Or is it the one so close that the heavy beating keeps the ears grounded on a distorted repeated detail? Neither is danceable to the legs – but both would like to dance with the imagination, leading notions of distance and closeness astray. – Chaya Czernowin

 

The Way North

The Way North depicts the journey of a Central American migrant through Mexico and his eventual arrival in the United States. The work consists of a series of short vignettes that capture the emotional, physical, and psychological struggles of the unnamed narrator as he makes his way north in search of a better life. The journey is flanked by two crossings: the first one is crossing the Southern border of Mexico. The second is into the United States, near Laredo TX. The first crossing is easier, as though the migrant is unaware of the perils to come. The second crossing is treacherous, as he makes his way across the dangerously strong waters of the Rio Grande.  Shortly after crossing into Mexico, he boards La Bestia (The Beast), one of a network of trains that migrants take to make the journey. Many people fall, are pushed off, or are dismembered trying to climb on or off the train. Rain Outside the Church refers to a quiet stop at a sanctuary church. – Reinaldo Moya

 

On Track

On Track was commissioned by ASCAP and SEAMUS, and composed for pianist Kathleen Supové. The premiere performance was given at the 2008 SEAMUS National Conference. The virtuosic piano part is supported by a tape part, which comprises a range of recordings from instrumental harp to voice. In a similar process to painting, these recordings were then spliced, manipulated, and layered to create the tape part. The opening voice is that of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II from one of her Commonwealth Speeches: “I have lived long enough to know that things never remain quite the same for very long.— Anna Clyne

 

Mool

The image behind the music represents several scenes of Lake Michigan. It is interpreted as a circulation of a part of nature-water. As in nature, water never stays in one color or shape. Instead, it rapturously grips people by its various appearances and characters. Furthermore, water also ingenuously circulates from one formation to another: clouds to rain: rain goes into plants in the land, river, and sea: evaporates and returns. I attempt to capture these phenomena in music with changing new sound colors. Mool means “water” in Korean, which also reminds me of poems of Emily Dickinson, “Eternity.” – Eun Young Lee

 

Táhirih The Pure

Tahirih The Pure narrates the heroic journey of Tahirih, a prominent figure in 19th-century Middle Eastern history and Baha’i faith, who inspired women of Persia to reject their oppressed status. The first movement, The Day of Alast, is inspired by Tahirih’s revolutionary interpretation and adaptation of Islamic ideology in her mystical poetry. The second movement, Unchained, is the manifestation of Tahirih’s free spirit, and how it led her to start the biggest movement of women’s rights in the 19th Century. The third movement, Badasht, portrays the conference of Badasht where she challenged notions of equality for women and unveiled her hijab. In mid-1852 she was executed in secret on account of her faith and her unveiling. The Coda is my visualization of Tahirih in the last minutes before her assassination where she peacefully chants and prays. – Badie Khaleghian

 

Piglia

I wrote Piglia, for piano, in 2002 as an homage to Ricardo Piglia (1941-2017), one of the best Argentinian writers of his generation and a beloved friend. It was part of a collection of tango-inspired tribute pieces named after admired writers, such as Bianco, Manzi, and Monjeau, or filmmakers, such as El Jefe (Renan). I always loved to read, and these authors’ works had an enormous influence on my thinking. Piglia begins with a dreamy, somewhat impressionistic section that eventually turns into a relentless milonga pattern showing the kind of intense passion normally associated with the tango. – Pablo Ortiz

 

Karnavalito No. 1

Karnavalito No. 1 is inspired by the distinctly Andean concept of mestizaje as championed by Peruvian folklorist José Maria Arguedas (1911-1969) whereby cultures can co-exist without one subjugating another. Allusions to the rhythms and harmonies of the mountain music of my mother’s homeland of Perú abound in this boisterous work, albeit freely transformed in the blender of my personal imagination. About five minutes in length, Karnavalito No. 1 is dense in its virtuosity with stylistic nods to the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, a music hero of mine. – Gabriela Lena Frank

 

 

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