Contemporary Improvisation Department: Lost Voices

This project is dedicated to pursuing, excavating, amplifying, illuminating art and artists missing from the conversation, with works performed and arranged by CI students.
     For this concert, students went deep into their personal pantheons in order to explore questions of what becomes canonical, what become central. What stories remain untold and unheard, and why? Subgenres, marginalized groups, half-forgotten artists -  whatever and whoever could be understood under the umbrella or rubric of Lost Voices was considered, discussed, and analyzed. A couple of examples: Rihards Kolmanis developed a solo performance based on the work of a marginalized composer - Bjørn Fongaard, a Norwegian pioneer of prepared electric guitar – whose work anticipated innovations from decades later, while Afarin Nazarijou dedicated Sortgar-e Naghash (The Portrait Painter) to Iranian women, “who have always been a huge part of artistic matters in Iranian culture”, but who are not allowed to sing solo publicly. In the end, nine pieces which represent the breadth of thought and the range of work done within the NEC CI Department were chosen to be presented tonight.                                                                                    

– Anthony & Lautaro

The presenting artists include: Miguel Landestoy, Sarah Matsushima, Rihards Kolmanis, Caleb Duval, Kaia Berman Peters, Emily Mitchell, Gabriel Soileau, Afarin Nazarijou, and Delfina Cheb Terrab.


  1. Rafael "Bullumba" Landestoy (arr. Miguel Landestoy) | Preludio en Fa menor

    Preludio en Fa menorwas composed by Rafael "Bullumba" Landestoy and arranged by me, Miguel Landestoy.  Rafael Landestoy was a Dominican composer who wrote numerous songs in the pop genre in the 1950s and 60s. His songs have been performed by renowned Latin American artists such as Celia Cruz, Alberto Beltran, and Fernando Fernandez. Although he is known more for his popular writing, he was also a classically trained pianist—playing for the Lecuona Cuban Boys and writing many pieces for piano and guitar. Outside of the Dominican Republic and greater Latin America, few people know of his contributions to pop and classical music.
            Rafael and I share a last name but not blood; my father was adopted after the passing of his parents. While I was unable to meet Rafael before his passing, I have started to learn his music and bring my own influences as an Afro-Latino person who grew up in the US. This piece was the first I learned, not the most virtuosic but emblematic of his romantic writing and classical influences. In arranging this piece in a modern Jazz quartet context, I aim to bring light to his lesser-known classical music and my heritage while bringing the piece closer to myself and my experience.
    – Miguel Landestoy


    For more information:

    Miguel Landestoy, piano
    Jun Hyuk Seo, percussion
    Caleb Duval, double bass
    Kelly Bray, trumpet

  2. Germaine Tailleferre | La Rue Chagrin

    Germaine Tailleferre composed this setting of La Rue Chagrin, by Denise Centore, in 1955-56.  Germaine Tailleferre was a French musician and the only female member of the notable group of composers, Les Six, of which Poulenc was also a member. A contemporary and friend of Ravel, she enjoyed a fair amount of success during her time yet is rarely performed nowadays, as her music was not published as widely as that of her male contemporaries. Through this performance we seek to bring her music the attention it deserves and hope to highlight the past and present unequal treatment of women in music.                                           

    Sarah Matsushima

    For more information:

    La Rue Chagrin

    Quand ton regard devient couleur d’étain

    Y a quel que chose qui se cass’ là d’dans
    C’est comm’ si mon pauvr’ cœur foutait l’camp
    Comm’ si j’me cavalais sans fin

    Dans une rue qui s’appell’ Chagrin
    Tu t’souviens pas des fois on s’aimait bien
    C’était dans une grand’ crêch’ tout’ noire

    Qu’au rait des f’nêtr’s en éteignoirs

    Il n’y fleurissait jamais que des mégots
    C’est pourtant la qu’tes yeux étaient si beaux
    Je voyais des larm’s pareill’s à des goutt’s d’eau
    Ca m’donnait tell’ment soif de t’embrasser

    T’etais si loin que j’pouvais pas t’toucher
    Fais pas semblant, va maint’nant c’est classé
    Y a plus que mon cœur qui rod’ sans fin
    Dans une rue qui s’appelle Chagrin 

    Denise Centore

    Sorrow Street

    When your look becomes the color of tin,

    There is something that breaks inside of me
    It’s as if my poor heart were thrown
    As if I ran away without end.

    On a street called sorrow
    You don’t remember the time we liked each other

    It was in a house, all dark
    with muffled windows.

    The only thing that bloomed there was cigarette butts
    Yet it was there that your eyes were the prettiest

    I saw your tears like drops of water
    That make me thirst for your kiss

    You were so far away that I could not touch you
    Don’t kid yourself, it’s over
    There is nothing, my heart is prowling without end
    On a street called sorrow

    Sarah Matsushima, voice
    Avi Randall, piano
  3. Rihards Kolmanis | Range

    Bjorn Fongaard (1919-1980) was an pioneer in contemporary composition in Norway and a creator of many prepared and microtonal guitar techniques. His world of sound has been an inspiration to me for years, but I realize that most people are not familiar with him. As a guitarist who is trying to explore a wide array of sonic possibilities on my instrument myself, Fongaard's work is awe - inspiring; even more inspiring is the way he utilizes all of his innovative techniques in such an organized and musical way. His work has provided a major incentive for me to pursue solo performance from the perspective of prepared guitar. The piece I am playing is my original composition, heavily influenced by the techniques and the sound world of Bjorn Fongaard.                                                                         – Rihards Kolmanis

    For more information:

    Rihards Kolmanis, electric guitar

  4. Norman Carl Odam | Paralyzed

    Paralyzed is by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy (Norman Carl Odam). Odam said that he wrote the song with the intention of “writing a wild song that will captivate everyone”. The piece was recorded in 1968, during producer (and, on this track, drummer) T-Bone Burnett’s spare time. The energy of the piece is the thing that grabbed me the most. It was written at a time when country music was almost going a bit soft, and this piece really put the “outlaw” back in country. The energy of the piece is almost punk in its sensibilities, but comes from a place of improvisation—whether the Cowboy was aware of it or not.     

    -Caleb Duval    

    For more information:

    I got a gal
    way cross town

    ahhh pull the shades down
    She puts her arms around me, the way she holds me

    When I go to the show
    Boy, she does make a fellow bestow [sic]
    Paralyzed, paralyzed
    When I look into her eyes, she makes me paralyzed

    I threw my baby in a sack
    Threw it over my back
    And took off in a big black Cadillac
    Paralyzed, paralyzed
    She puts her arms around me
    She keeps me warm from the storm
    She makes me paralyzed

    I ran to the 'frigerator
    Hungry as an alligator
    I opened the door, and what did I see?
    I saw my baby starin' right back at me
    Paralyzed, paralyzed

    She jumped into my arms
    She gave me all of her charms
    She makes me paralyzed!

    G North-Rockwell, banjo
    Kaia Berman Peters, accordion, voice
    Caleb Duval, double bass
    Joey van Leeuwen, drums

  5. Yiddish Folk Song | Oy, unter dem himl ligt di shtot Bunos-Ayres

    In this Yiddish folk song, a woman tells the story of her abduction by the Zwi Migdal Society, an organization of Jewish gangsters who ran a sex trafficking ring, kidnap-ping women from their homes and bringing them to Buenos Aires. The Yiddish singer-songwriter and storyteller Harry (Solomon) Ary brought this song with him when he migrated from Bialystock, Poland to Montreal, where he recorded dozens and dozens of Yiddish songs on reel-to-reel tapes. We owe its preservation to the great collector of Yiddish folk songs, Ruth Rubin, who recorded it in 1955 after hearing Ary sing it. The song is a “lost voice” piece in so many ways. First of all, it is rarely sung and relatively unknown, even to Yiddish folklorists. Second, virtually no information exists about it, its origin, or its author. Third, it tells the unheard story of the many women who were abducted. In this sense, it also tells the story of the many voices that have disappeared, been stolen, or lost from the world forever and that we need to strive to recover: voices that are very much a part of our story.
    – Kaia Berman Peters

    אוי, אונטערדעםהימלליגטדישטאָטבוענאָס־אײַרעס,


    אוי, אונטערדעםהימלליגטדישטאָטבוענאָס־אײַרעס




    ‎אוי, וועןאיךביןנאָראיןערשטןצימעראַרײַנגעקומען,


    ‎אויזײַןדאָ, דושיינעמיידעלע



    Oh, Under the Sky, Lies the City of Buenos Aires

    Under the sky lies the city of Buenos Aires

    Where there is no God.

    And they take beautiful young girls
    And bring them to Buenos Aires
    And they charge millions of dollars for them. 

    Oh, when I first entered the room
    This is what he said to me:
    Stay here you beautiful girl
    And make it a little cozy (homelike) for me

    Because the door is shut from the other side.

    Litha Ashforth, soprano
    Kaia Berman Peters, mezzo-soprano
    Lucy Little, violin
  6. Harold Arlen (arr. Eve Cassidy) | Over the Rainbow

    There is much beauty to be found through reimagining. Eva Cassidy, a creative musician, clearly understood this and used her artistry to transform existing songs into new masterpieces. Starting from the first note, Eva crafted an original interpretation of the well-known song, Over the Rainbow.
            She honored the original melody and deviated from it in subtle, meaningful ways over an elegant guitar part. Her musical style was beautiful and undeniable—it made huge waves across the globe after she passed away.  During her years as an active musician, she was a hidden treasure.  The recordings of her music continue to inspire.  
            I chose to represent Eva Cassidy because she and her music have been such an inspiration to me as a singer and guitarist.                           

    – Emily Mitchell

    For more information:

    Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
    In a land that I've heard of once, once in a lullaby

    Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
    And the dreams that you dare to dream
    Really do come true

    Someday I'll wish upon a star
    And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
    Where troubles melt like lemon drops
    Away above the chimney tops, that's where you'll find me

    Somewhere over the rainbow
    Skies are blue
    And the dreams that you dare to dream
    Really do come true
    If happy little bluebirds fly above the rainbow
    Why oh why can't I?

    E. Y. “Yip” Harburg

    Emily Mitchell, voice and guitar

  7. Macedonian Folk Song | Po Drum Odam Majce

    Po Drum Odam Majce is a traditional Macedonian folk song from the Chalgija tradition.
            Chalgija is a form of urban folk music that originated in Macedonia during the period of Ottoman occupation and reached its peak popularity in the 1890s -1920s. The music is a hybrid of Macedonian and Turkish styles often featuring Macedonian folk songs played on Turkish instruments such as kanun and oud rather than the gajda (bagpipe) and kaval (end blown flute) typical of Macedonian folk ensembles. The music was historically associated with urban Roma (gypsy) communities—communities who are still marginalized to this day. 
            In the period following the breakup of the Ottoman empire, Chalgija became a relic of Turkish colonization and was gradually replaced by folk ensembles with a more “Westernized” instrumentation featuring accordion and violin.

            The blurring of national boundaries within Chalgija music shows a history of cultural cross-fertilization that today is often overshadowed by the ultra-nationalist politics in the region.                                                                               
    Gabriel Soileau

    По друм одам мајче

    По друм одам мајче, по друм шетам,
    аман, аман, друм - перница, мајче,
    друм - постела.

    Сношти вечер, мајче, кога легнав,

    аман, аман, кога легнав, мајче,
    сон си видов.

    На рацете, мајче ми спиеше,
    аман, аман, ми спиеше, мајче
    едно лудо младо.

    Пуштив рака, мајче, да си го фатам,
    аман, аман, лудо младо, мајче,
    не си најдов.

    Кога ќе ме мажиш, мајче, да ми кажеш

    аман, аман, беќарштилак, мајче, не се трпи,
    само легни, мајче, само стани.

    I Go Along the Road

    I go along the road, mama, I lie on the road,
    alas, the road is my pillow, mama
    the road is my place to rest.

    Last night, mama, when I laid down [to sleep],
    alas, when I laid down [to sleep], mama,
    I had a dream.

    My love was sleeping, mama, on my arms,
    alas, she was sleeping [on me], mama
    a crazy young [girl].

    I reached, mama, to grab her,
    alas, a crazy young [girl] mommy
    I found no more.

    When will you get me into marriage, mama, tell me.
    Alas, this bachelor life, mama, is unbearable,

    Going to sleep alone, mama, waking up alone.

    Kaia Berman Peters, voice
    Noah Kelly, violin
    G North-Rockwell, mandolin
    Farzin Dehghan, oud
    Gabriel Soileau, percussion, voice

  8. Iranian | Sortgar-e Naghash

    Sortgar-e Naghash(The Portrait Painter) is an old piece where the composer and poet are both unknown. Some say that the work was written by Ali Akbar Sheida, but there is no exact evidence of that.
         The poem of the piece is about a lover who is talking to a painter and describing the face of his or her love.  Because of the political issues that Iran is facing in these past forty years, women, who have always been a huge part of artistic matters in Iranian culture, are not allowed to sing solo publicly. I want to dedicate this piece to all the Iranian female singers who are not allowed to perform and show others their art.

    – Afarin Nazarijou

    For more information:

    Sooratgar-e naghashe chin
    Rou soorat-e yaram bebin

    Ya soorati barkash chonin
    Ya tark o kon sooratgari
    Ya tark o kon sooratgari

    Afagh o ra gar did-e am
    Mehr-e botan sanjide am

    Besyaroo khooban did-e am
    Ama too chiz-e digari
    Ama too chiz-e digari


    Isabel Crespo, voice
    Afarin Nazarijou, qanun

  9. Astor Piazzolla | Balada para un loco

    “There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.”                                    
    Walter Benjamin 

    Balada para un loco was written by Astor Piazzolla in 1968. Although the lyrics for it are attributed to the Uruguayan poet Horacio Ferrer, a huge part of the text was edited and "styled" by Astor Piazzolla's wife, Amelita Baltar. This song was extremely controversial, due to its language and references. Followers and players of the time believed that Tango belonged in La Boca and other poor boroughs of the capital and thought that this piece was too bourgeois and didn’t represent the working-class values of the Tango community.
           The text was inspired by Philippe de Broca's film Le Roi de Cœur (King of Hearts), which portrays the story of a Scottish soldier who is sent to a small town in France to deactivate the bombs remaining from the First World War. During his odyssey he leaves the door to the mental health asylum open, allowing all of the patients to roam freely through town, eventually controlling it. The movie concludes with the question of whether the soldiers or the mental health patients are the “craziest ones". In this piece we see an individual who walks around the city during nighttime describing the mysteriously charming yet disturbing city of Buenos Aires. Although Amelita Baltar's input on this song and its performance is emblematic, she does not enjoy even half of the acknowledgement and appreciation that Astor Piazzolla and Horacio Ferrer have attained globally, and to this day many people are unaware of her contribution to Piazzolla's works.

            Amelita Baltar is a symbol of Argentinian music and of tango, and with this rendition of her song we hope we can shed light on all of her brave and essential work towards building a vital part of our history as a country.     

    – Delfina Cheb Terrab

    For more information:

    Delfina Cheb Terrab, voice
    Lucy Little, violin
    Giulia Haible, cello
    Miguel Landestoy, piano