Ikarus Among the Stars

Debra Kaye composer

Release Date: May 26, 2023
Catalog #: NV6521
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
String Quartet

There are many composers who intertwine eclectic influences into one coherent picture, but few people do it as ambitiously and convincingly as New York City based composer Debra Kaye. On IKARUS AMONG THE STARS, she vibrantly explores themes both real and surreal, perpetual and fleeting, nonchalant, and profound.

Kaye's sources of inspiration are unnumbered; it seems there is nothing which she cannot turn into a composition. The works presented (two of them multiple award winners) draw their inspiration from Spanish poetry, real-life tragedy, and from the pieces of fellow contemporary composers. All of these sources are woven together by Kaye's measured choice of tonality, and the resulting tapestry is remarkable.


Hear the full album on YouTube

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 The Exchange Debra Kaye Charles Neidich, clarinet; Hikaru Tamaki, cello 4:38
02 String Quartet No. 1: Encountering Lorca: I. Encountering Lorca Debra Kaye Daedalus Quartet | Min-Young Kim, Matilda Kaul - violin; Jessica Thompson, viola; Thomas Kraines, cello 3:02
03 String Quartet No. 1: Encountering Lorca: II. Wrestling with the Moon Debra Kaye Daedalus Quartet | Min-Young Kim, Matilda Kaul - violin; Jessica Thompson, viola; Thomas Kraines, cello 7:30
04 String Quartet No. 1: Encountering Lorca: III. Mouth of the Sky Debra Kaye Daedalus Quartet | Min-Young Kim, Matilda Kaul - violin; Jessica Thompson, viola; Thomas Kraines, cello 3:49
05 String Quartet No. 1: Encountering Lorca: IV. The Dance the Turtle Dreamed Debra Kaye Daedalus Quartet | Min-Young Kim, Matilda Kaul - violin; Jessica Thompson, viola; Thomas Kraines, cello 5:10
06 Ikarus — Duo for Binya Debra Kaye Kinga Augustyn, violin; Jessica Thompson, viola 7:52
07 Call of the Dance: I. Fantasy Debra Kaye Carl Gutowski, flute; Marcia Eckert, piano 5:25
08 Call of the Dance: II. a deafening silence Debra Kaye Carl Gutowski, flute; Marcia Eckert, piano 6:06
09 Call of the Dance: III. Call of the Dance Debra Kaye Carl Gutowski, flute; Marcia Eckert, piano 4:55
10 Sky is Falling Debra Kaye Marta Aznavoorian, piano 8:18
11 Ikarus Among the Stars Debra Kaye Portland Youth Philharmonic | David Hattner, conductor 16:49

Recorded April 3-4 and 8-10, 2022 at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon NY
Producer Judith Sherman
Engineering Charles Mueller, Ryan Streber
Engineering & Editing Assistant Jeanne Velonis
Piano Technician Daniel Jessie

Ikarus Among the Stars
Recorded live May 7, 2017 at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland OR
Recording Rod Evenson
Mastering Jeanne Velonis, Judith Sherman

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Danielle Sullivan

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Patrick Niland

Artist Information

Debra Kaye


“A new voice on our horizon is felt and heard with [composer] Debra Kaye” (Classical Modern Music Review). Her visceral music has been described as “an eclectic unfolding of creativity” (Gramophone), it ranges from lyrical to grooving, experimental to coloristic but above all, expressive and deeply felt. Kaye is a hybrid and her music reflects it. Born in Motown, currently living in New York City, she moved to Atlanta at an early age. Her life and music reflect a desire to feel, understand, and to integrate opposites.

Portland Youth Philharmonic


Founded in 1924 by visionary violin teacher Mary V. Dodge, Portland Youth Philharmonic provides young musicians in Portland OR with a challenging opportunity to explore their creativity while receiving the highest quality musical education. The nation’s first youth orchestra, PYP has produced consistently inspiring performances and upheld a tradition of excellence since its first public concert in February 1925. Alumni of this organization can be found around the world in professional orchestras, teaching music at every level, and promoting music education as an important life skill that benefits individuals in any career path.


Commissioned by Access Contemporary Music

The Exchange was written for Doors Open Milwaukee 2019, a two-day public celebration of Milwaukee's art, architecture, culture, and history when Milwaukee’s historic buildings open their doors and bring artists and audiences together. Chicago’s Access Contemporary Music commissioned me to write something for the Milwaukee Grain Exchange. I first saw a picture of “the Exchange” in a 360-degree view online. I could imagine walking in and looking up in wonder at its soaring ceilings and hand painted frescoes, a feeling more reminiscent of a cathedral than a place of commerce. I was impressed by its beauty, the grand proportions and sense of open space. The light streaming through its dome skylight and towering windows seemed to convey a sense of optimism and American “can-do.”

I imagined the bustling comings and goings of the people then and now. The space started to feel like a kind of piazza, echoing its Italianate architecture. I imagined it in its hey-day, the center of a flourishing grain trade; the haggling and deal making, arguments and agreements of the marketplace, and the social exchanges. I wanted my new composition to reflect the spirit of exchange in this “piazza.” a marketplace but also a place to congregate, then as now.

I found the three huge wall murals fascinating; homey scenes of farming families, merchants in their boats, and Native Americans with their families outside of their teepees. The murals honor each group as a participant in this exchange, and embody the values of the “heartland” itself.

I found it interesting that The Grain Exchange houses the first ever octagonal trading floor. These eight directions made me think of the Native American tradition of welcoming the four directions. I merged these ideas musically in a section, about two thirds of the way through, that has a sudden regularity, and could seem to be a meditative welcome that happens eight times with minimal variation. I think of this as symbolically welcoming everyone in the space, and honoring all people.

— Debra Kaye

Encountering Lorca grew out of my fascination with the interplay of darkness and light found in the works of Federico Garcia Lorca. The beauty of his imagery and rhythmic flow of language inspired me. The titles of each of the four modular movements (the work can be excerpted ad libitum) are taken from Lorca’s own texts. Together, they seem to describe an entire world of life and emotion, something which I aspire to do. As in the body of Lorca’s work, motifs recur, reinterpreted in echoing variation throughout the four movements.

The first movement, “Encountering Lorca” sets the mood with playful pizzicato and snippets of melody. I wrote it while remembering a recent trip to Barcelona – my first views of the Mediterranean Sea and the relaxation and excitement of a European lifestyle. Swooping portamenti and a soaring melody played in octaves by the cello and violin complete this portrait of Spain’s greatest poet.

Wrestling with the Moon is at the heart of the four sections and was the first inspiration for this work. I sketched the opening phrases as a teenager and brought the full work to fruition in 2015. The music carries a sense of loss, and also an urge to move on, to travel new paths, proceeding in its Andante Quietly Impassioned walking pace. The opening phrase rises by a half step, then falls by a whole step. Thus begins its “will it rise or will it fall” drama.

The third movement, Mouth of the Sky once again features close imitations, guitar-like pizzicati and wisps of melody to serve as an extended prelude to The Dance the Turtle Dreamed, the fourth movement. These two movements have a dance-like quality. Here, all the elements and textures of the previous movements are drawn together, gradually, each resolving their internal tension before concluding in a passage of ethereal harmonics.

— Debra Kaye

Commissioned by The Community Music Center, Katja Garloff & Asher Klatchko

Ikarus - Duo for Binya was written to honor the memory of Benjamin Yaphet Klatchko, a young musician of brilliance who died tragically shortly before his 17th birthday. I learned of him through family stories, YouTube videos of his performances on classical viola and violin and from the beats and hip hop songs that he wrote, sang, and recorded in his home studio and felt the weight of my responsibility of memorializing this beloved son.

The myth of Ikarus is the embodiment of youthful energy with its impetuous emotions, yearning, and fearlessness. As with many myths, it is both tragic and heroic. I looked to Binya’s music as an homage to his spirit, especially his song, “Among the Stars,” which seemed to fit well with the myth of Ikarus. I developed some of his themes in this duo as well.

The piece begins with an elegiac introduction played on the viola, augmenting and skewing the opening intervals of Binya’s song to explore the darker side of the Ikarus myth. The violin joins and they continue in close duet. Binya’s exuberant tune, here distilled to a plaintive rising, then falling motif, goes through successive transformations, culminating with the viola’s driving beat — inspired by Binya’s song — before giving way to a gentle, dolce pizzicato duet. A brief reminiscence of the elegiac opening leads to a luminous apotheosis on a vibrant unison.

— Debra Kaye

Commissioned by Carl Gutowski

Call of the Dance has its origins in the Fantasy for Flute and Piano (2017), commissioned by flutist Carl Gutowski as a wedding gift for his niece. Gutowski later commissioned two additional movements, giving the suite its current form. Together the three movements explore the cyclical themes of growth, death and regeneration. The opening “Fantasy” is in a loose Rondo-Variation form, the flute and piano alternately taking the lead and following each other in canonic imitation.

The second movement, ”a deafening silence,” is an elegy in remembrance of Gutowski's beloved older brother Paul who died of AIDS in 1985. Opening with a “hammer blow of fate,” the flute responds with a chilling cri du coeur. The piece ends in a song of remembrance, embracing the beautiful sadness of a life cut short.

The concluding movement, “Call of the Dance” re-examines earlier themes through the lens of time. An inner striving toward life stirs in a series of overlapping trills that emerge and recede, accelerating to become a celebratory dance, the dance of life.

— Debra Kaye

Sky is Falling is unique on this program in that it allows the pianist to improvise, adding a phrase, improvising on a rhythmic cell as in jazz, or responding to descriptive prompts such as “create a low rumbling’ or “tumble down.” The piece takes its inspiration from a text by Roger Aplon, itself a response to Elliot Carter’s Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano and was conceived to be performed with recitation or as a piano solo. With its fractured statements, multitude of textures, and patchwork of emotional arenas, the imagery of the text, like music itself, is not totally linear. In this semi-improvised work, I return to my roots as a performing pianist.

— Debra Kaye

Improvisation: After Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto for Harpsichord & Piano
The Sky is Falling

The sky is falling. God save the sky. & all its inhabitants. In the distance. The people herd their kids – Pump gas for a quick escape.

Waterfalls & Monday mornings.

A calliope sails over the town – All the horses . . . Jane & Alice jump rope double-dutch. Arnold with his hair-lip & body odor wrestles his dog Icarus.

& here’s where the waiter brings coffee & a sweet to brighten the day.

Lollipops all round.

Who but a clumsy butcher would have stood for this mess? Shush. It’s a false start for sure. Here, give me your hand – one brother to another.

Hurricanes & poison ivy,

Wait. There’s trickle of water through the crack in the dike. Make way for modern warfare. Chomp / Chomp

& so it goes. A running start. For a startled eye. Another reason. To wear rubber shoes. Another reason. To wear rubbers. Another. Mistake. Shush.

Hear it? The volume’s turned up. The band’s chasing false gods again. Here. Pass the muffins & cold turkey.

Yes. Go. Cold turkey. It’s been done by less than you. Someone whispers. Off stage. It’s a secret. There’s only one way.

To find out. Bury the body here. In the same spot. Where. The horses fell. Where. The guns went off. Where. There’s no reason.

But go on you do. Hear the argument on the second floor? They’re at it again. Those two. Never could be trusted – lust for sure.

It’s best here in the ambulance. The apparatus. The bandages. The drugs &
handcuffs. What a spoiled sport you’ve become.

Come. Help me harness the wagon. There’s much to do before the sun sets & the rumblings begin again.

Do you think they’ll make it? I mean, make it out alive? Too much talk. Here, take a cigar it’ll calm your nerves.

Passively tasteless. All of you. Random acts of kindness. Random acts of torture. Random acts of memory.

On the next street over there’s a house with a man & women painted on the front door. They’re kissing. Blam. Blam. Blam.

It’s starting to rain kittens & clowns. I’m serious. For the first time I think I understand oblivion.

Mixmaster of fate, mistress of distress. It’s here the bells ring for the last time. Bing. Bing. Bing.

Be careful what you wish for. It comes in waves. Turtles & Labradors. In a minute the answer will flash across the screen. Are you ready?

Ready or not, here I come. & She. Balancing a ball on the lip of her nose or nose of her tongue or however it goes.

In the distance a horn & hound & running water & a lake appears with a woman rowing her dead husband across.

A mystery is unfolding. Open your hand. Take it in. Do not separate yourself. I thought you’d never ask. Of course it was.

Smothering donkeys.

Shush. They’re at it again. The rustling in the weeds has stopped. All you can see are the heads. What about . . .?

Don’t you ever tire? It was like this last time. It’s no joke. Listen! The violin’s behind the weeping willow. A Rolls covered in quarters

or are they diamonds? There’s never enough time. Trim the sails. We’re headed into weather. Keep out a sharp eye.

Wear it on your lapel. Like a flag. Yes. That’s it. Like a furled, fluffy, funny, forsaken & forbidding . . . flag.

& here the romance ends – just in time. The next round is scheduled for the time before. Trust me. I’m always prepared.

The chimes now. No more time for foreplay. Get to it. Yes. The dance-master holds all the cards &

it’s getting late. Time for your nap. I’m certain they’ll understand. You’ve been so good. That’s right. Like that. . . Just. Like. That.

Don’t be ashamed. Never concede. I’ll carry the bags. You run ahead. November is always a mystery.

When the champion enters the room everyone applauds. Everyone except Roman with his bag of chips & dirty underwear.

Who invited him? But there’s the Champagne & what a racket it makes & bundles of pillows & scads of skittles &

beer all around. & around & around they go – Bing. Bing. Bing. – the bells again & the whip & gun.

If I had my way. Sunrise at six fifteen. Fourteen hours of sunlight. Getting close. Getting together. Getting it on.

& here they come again. Up the stairs & down the hall to grandmother’s chocolate cake & gin rummy & pop goes the weasel & . . .

Climbing back & the rat-a-tat-tat of rockets in the hands of the plumber with yellow eyes & a bald baton. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Make it stop, make it stop now. There is no winner only the excitement of battle & the bird on the wing & the winged scorpion & . . .

Chug-a-chug-a chug. Around each bend is another bend. Tick-Tock Tick-Tock & a gaggle of geese.

& so it goes, one behind the other, into the murmuring mist & crocodile tears. & so

to one & all & all for one - Goodnight.

— Roger Aplon, rogeraplon.com

Commissioned by the Portland Youth Philharmonic, Asher Klatchko & Katja Garloff

Ikarus Among the Stars is a 17-minute electro-acoustic composition in one movement for full orchestra, the second of two works composed in memory of Benjamin Yaphet Klatchko. The resources of a full orchestra offer a more expansive canvas to develop and explore the interplay between Binya’s original compositions and my responses to them, amplifying and transforming a personal loss into a communal expression of grief for all lives taken from us too soon.

As with the earlier Duo for Binya, the use of duos figure prominently, starting with a passage for viola and clarinet. One of the central themes, a three-note motif (E-F-B), appears in the opening viola solo. I use this motif as a key to the work’s shifting emotions, resolving upwards to symbolize heroic elation or downwards implying grief.

Binya played in the Portland Youth Philharmonic and I got to know him through recordings of his classical string playing, songs, beats and stories from his family. As with the earlier duo, this work is also framed by the story of Ikarus and Daedalus. Although Daedalus cautioned his son, Ikarus flew too close to the sun and plunged into the sea. Binya’s original music is quoted, this time featuring his actual recordings, the first excerpt appearing at 5:33, the second at 13:27. The work ends on a hopeful note: Ikarus has soared beyond the sun to ascend to the stars.

— Debra Kaye


The Exchange

Debra Kaye

String Quartet No. 1: Encountering Lorca

Debra Kaye

Ikarus — Duo for Binya

Debra Kaye

Call of the Dance: I. Fantasy

Debra Kaye

Call of the Dance: II. a deafening silence

Debra Kaye

Call of the Dance: III. Call of the Dance

Debra Kaye

Sky is Falling

Debra Kaye

Ikarus Among the Stars

Debra Kaye


The Exchange performed live by Charles Neidich, clarinet and Hikaru Tamaki, cello at the National Opera Center, Marc A. Scorca Hall in New York NY

Ikarus — Duo for Binya performed live by Kinga Augustyn, violin and Jessica Thompson, viola at the National Opera Center, Marc A. Scorca Hall in New York NY

Ikarus Among the Stars performed live by Portland Youth Philharmonic | David Hattner, conductor at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland OR