Maya Beiser

PROVENANCE

Innova 778

 

1. I Was There 15:36 Kayhan Kalhor

2. Memories 7:01 Djivan Gasparian

3. Mar De Leche 14:42 Tamar Muskal

4. Only Breath 10:07 Douglas J Cuomo

5. Kashmir 7:17 Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, arr. Evan Ziporyn

 

Maya Beiser - cello

 

Bassam Saba - oud

Jerry Marotta - drums

Shane Shanahan - percussion

Jamey Haddad - percussion

Etty Ben Zaken - vocalist

 

From the 9th to the 15th centuries, the area which is now modern Spain was home to the greatest peaceful agglomeration of cultures ever known in the post-literate world.  The cultural richness of this time was so remarkable that historians speak of it as the “Golden Age.” Even more remarkable than the flowering of art itself was the confluence of cultures that produced it: under the rule of Islam, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived and worked together in relative harmony. Over the ensuing centuries, the threads of cultural collaboration have often frayed.  But the music still resonates with the common source.

 

In creating “Provenance” – the word itself means origin – I wanted to illuminate the Golden Age of Spain and transpose its spirit to the present.  I was seeking to reproduce a musical environment in which different traditions can once again occupy the same shared space.  “Provenance” outlines a musical landscape in which cultural differences are brought together for the artistic energy they release with each encounter. “Provenance” embraces co-existence not as an abstract ideal but as a creative necessity: indeed, the shared legacy to outlive the Golden Age, long after those cultures separated in war and acrimony, is the music. 

— Maya Beiser

1. I WAS THERE                 15:36  

KAYHAN KALHOR

Maya Beiser - cello

Bassam  Saba - oud

Shane Shanahan - percussion

Jamey Haddad - percussion

Recorded and mixed at Kilgore Studios, NYC

Producer: Judith Sherman

Engineer: John Kilgore

 

2. MEMORIES                      7:01    

DJIVAN GASPARIAN

Maya Beiser - cello

Recorded at Islandia Music Studios, NYC

Mixed at Brooklyn Bridge Music Inc.

Producer: Maya Beiser

Engineer: Dave Cook

                                               

3. MAR DE LECHE             14:42  

TAMAR MUSKAL

Maya Beiser - cello

Bassam Saba - oud

Shane Shanahan - percussion

Jamey Haddad - percussion

Etty Ben-Zaken, vocalist

Recorded and mixed at Kilgore Studios, NYC

Producer: Judith Sherman

Engineer: John Kilgore

4. ONLY BREATH               10:07  

DOUGLAS J CUOMO

Maya Beiser - cello

Recorded and mixed at Kilgore Studios, NYC           

Producer: Maya Beiser

Engineer: John Kilgore

 

5. KASHMIR             7:17           

JIMMY PAGE & ROBERT PLANT, . EVAN ZIPORYN

Maya  Beiser - cello 

Jerry Marotta - drums

Recorded at Islandia Music Studios, NYC

Mixed at Brooklyn Bridge Music Inc.

Producer: Maya Beiser

Engineer: Dave Cook

 

I WAS THERE                     KAYHAN KALHOR

Maya Beiser, cello

Bassam Saba, oud

Jamey Haddad, percussion

Shane Shanahan, percussion

 

Kayhan Kalhor is one of Iran's most renowned and respected musicians. He is the world's leading master of the kamancheh, an upright spike fiddle. I think of the kamanchech as the Middle Eastern ancestor of the western cello.

 

I met Kayhan at a teahouse in Brooklyn. He was visiting from Tehran. We spoke about Ziryab, the mysterious, legendary Persian Kurdish musician, poet, singer, and trendsetter. Ziryab arrived at the Umayyad court in Cordoba during the early part of the 9th century and was accepted as a court musician in the court of Abd Al-Rahman II. A former slave, he became the most influential musician of his time and is considered to be the founder of the Andalusian music traditions of North Africa and the Middle East.  I asked Kayhan to invoke Ziryab in the music he would compose for me. Kayhan, a Kurd himself from Northern Iran, remembered a melody from his region that was attributed to Ziryab. This melody became the basis for I Was There.

 

MEMORIES              DJIVAN GASPARIAN

Maya Beiser, cello

Text by Djivan Gasparian                                           

 

Armenia, nestled between Europe and the Middle East, has a unique musical tradition perhaps best represented by the haunting music of Djivan Gasparian.  Djivan is the peerless maestro of the duduk (the Armenian wind instrument).  As I play the beautiful melody he composed for me I can always hear the melancholic, singing sound of his duduk.

 

Djivan wrote:

            Her memories have become dreams

            She sees the vision everywhere

            She has to believe in miracles, too

 

MAR DE LECHE                 TAMAR MUSKAL

Maya Beiser, cello

Bassam Saba, oud

Jamey Haddad, percussion

Shane Shanahan, percussion

Etty Ben-Zaken, vocalist

 

Tamar Muskal is an Israeli composer known for her articulate and powerful musical language. She and I spent many afternoons together listening to traditional Ladino music. I wanted to give voice to her contemporary Israeli take on the music created by the Sephardic Jews exiled from Spain.  Mar De Leche is the perfect expression of her ability to juxtapose modern musical sensibilities with an ancient love song.

 

Tamar writes: "As part of her vision for “Provenance,” Maya asked me to write a piece that is based on a Ladino song. Ladino, an ancient language that was spoken by the Sephardic Jews who arrived in Spain in 711, is a synthesis between Hebrew and Spanish.

 

"Prior to composing for Maya and her ensemble, I listened to dozens of recordings of Ladino song collections; finally I found one song that really spoke to my heart: Mar De Leche (Sea of Milk). There was something about the contour of the melody that was very appealing to me.  Growing up in Israel surrounded by Jewish and Arabic music, the task of composing this piece was fairly natural for me. At the beginning of the piece I introduce the original song, Mar De Leche, followed by a few sections; some are variations on the song, others have different materials - all are borrowed from the original song. “

 

Mar De Leche

Text in Ladino (traditional)                 

                   

If the sea were made of milk,

I would become a fisherman.

                     

I would fish my sorrows,

With little words of love.

 

 

If the sea were made of milk                      

I would become a peddler,

              

Walking and asking,

Where does love begin?

 

In the sea there is a tower,

In the tower a window,

                     

In the window a young lady        

Who calls out to the sailors.

 

Give me your hand dove,

To climb up to your nest.

            

It is a curse that you sleep alone

I am coming to sleep with you!

 

ONLY BREATH                   DOUGLAS J CUOMO

Maya Beiser, cello

Developed in collaboration with Shahrokh Yadegari, Sound Design

 

Last summer I traveled with Doug to the Andalusian towns of Cordoba and Granada.  We sought to immerse ourselves in the region’s musical traditions, in particular those ranging back to the “Golden Age.” We came across several rare recordings of Muslim-Andalusian Sufi chanting.  Of all the music that we had encountered during our journey in Andalusia, those were the most captivating and entrancing for me. Those chants became the inspiration for Only Breath.  In the process of working on the piece, we spent many hours at the state-of-the-art facilities at CALIT2 of the University of California at San Diego.  We worked in collaboration with sound designer Shahrokh Yadegari to create a sense of music that floats in space, curving around itself, repeating but never ceasing to change. Shahrokh has performed Only Breath with me in the live concerts, creating a magical environment for my cello to sing.

 

Doug writes: “Only Breath was inspired by the stillness and sounds of the countryside of Andalusia, and the experience of being awakened before dawn in a small village in Turkey by the sound of the Sufi call to prayer emanating simultaneously (and entirely independently) from a number of different minarets. I think of this piece as a free rumination on the sound of the wind, breath, and melodies swirling around in space.  Electronics capture the sound of the cello in real time and spin it around the listener, creating an aural landscape that is reminiscent of these two experiences, and yet also one that is "not composed of elements at all," as Rumi says in his poem Only Breath.”

                                                                                                           

Only Breath

Text in Farsi by Jelalludin Rumi

 

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu,

Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

 

or cultural system. I am not from the East

or the West, not out of the ocean or up

 

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not

composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

 

am not an entity in this world or the next,

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

 

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace

of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

 

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two

worlds as one and that one call to and know,

 

first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being.

 

– Translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

Essential Rumi, HarperCollins, 1995

 

KASHMIR                 ROBERT PLANT & JIMMY PAGE

                                    Arr. BY EVAN ZIPORYN

Maya Beiser, cello

Jerry Marotta, drums

 

Evan and I have worked closely together since our Bang on a Can days in the 90s, where we shared many musical experiences as we traveled the world.  With Bang on a Can we constantly sought ways to bring all the music we love together, not just classical music and rock-and-roll, but also music from all over the world - Bali, Brazil, Burma, wherever. Early on, Evan arranged a Nirvana tune as an encore for the band. Evan writes: “I was struck by how deeply Maya was able to evoke the spirit of Kurt Cobain on her cello.  Her playing always comes out of the human voice, and she'll dig deep to find the sounds she needs - her classical technique is just a starting point. We share a love of Led Zeppelin, and Kashmir exemplifies why: its rhythms are complex but compelling, its melodies straddle the line between east and west, and - last but not least - it rocks out.  Robert Plant's vocal range is basically identical to a cello, and Maya also understands the Middle Eastern string lines that he sings to in the original. Her playing brings these two extremes together, the blues merging with the Middle Eastern Maqam.”                                                                           – Maya Beiser

 

Special thanks to Kathy Ableson for her support of this album.

Kashmir Remix: Cello With Drums appears on innova 323

 

Tracks 1 and 3 recorded at Islandia Music Studios, Mixed at Brooklyn Bridge Music

Tracks 2, 4, and 5 recorded and mixed at John Kilgore Studios

Tracks 1 and 3 produced by Maya Beiser, engineered by Dave Cook

Tracks 2 and 4 produced by Judy Sherman, engineered by John Kilgore

Track 5 produced by Maya Beiser, engineered by John Kilgore

Executive Producer: Maya Beiser

Mastering by Scott Hull, Masterdisk

Photos: Merri Cyr

Art Director: Lili Almog

 

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn: Director, design

Chris Campbell: Operations manager                          www.innova.mu