Modern Mandolin Quartet | Interplay

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by Modern Mandolin Quartet

New music performed by the the Modern Mandolin Quartet. Two mandolins, mandola, and mandocello, with a featured performance by David Balakrishnan (violin).
Genre: Classical: New Music Ensemble
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Interplay: 1. Shoka
6:10 $0.99
2. Interplay: 2. Inner Voices
5:34 $0.99
3. Interplay: 3. Rishi's Dance
5:18 $0.99
4. Interplay: 4. Thyaga
7:06 $0.99
5. Elements: 1. Fire
6:30 $0.99
6. Elements: 2. Earth
4:28 $0.99
7. Elements: 3. Air
9:12 $0.99
8. Elements: 4. Water
4:59 $0.99
9. G Song
11:23 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

David Peters and Dana Rath, mandolins
Paul Binkley, mandola
John Imholz, mandocello
Guest Artist: David Balakrishnan, Violin

Produced by John Imholz.
Production assistance by Dana Rath.
Recorded during June and July 1998 by Howard Johnston at Different Fur Studios, San Francisco.
Additional engineering by Justin Lieberman.
Edited by John Imholz.
Mixed by John Imholz and Howard Johnston; additional mixing by Dana Rath and Paul Binkley.
Mastered by Howard Johnston.
Photography by Kathryn MacDonald.
Cover art by Sharon Constant / Visible ink Design.
Strings by D’Addario.
Paul Binkley, Dana Rath and John Imholz play instruments made by John Monteleone. David Peters plays a Nugget mandolin made by Michael Kemnitzer.

The Modern Mandolin Quartet would like to thank the following people for their help and support with this project: Nadya Tichman and David Anton Imholz, Janet Ramos-Rath and Emily Rath, Maya Morishita, Tuck Andress and Patti Cathcart, Butch Baldassari, Peter D’Addario, Bette Imholz, Jim Kennedy, Jamie LeMoine, Mike Marshall, the Meadowsweet Dairy, Janet Miner, Corey Morishita, David Naggar, John Schaefer, Susan Skaggs and Robin Sutherland.

Seating arrangement for INTERPLAY :

Dana Rath John Imholz David Balakrishnan Paul Binkley David Peters
Mandolin II Mandocello Violin Mandola Mandolin I

INTERPLAY for Mandolin Quartet and Violin, by David Balakrishnan
David Balakrishnan, violin

1. Shoka 6:11
2. Inner Voices 5:29
3. Rishi’s Dance 5:20
4. Thyaga 6:57

by Tully Cathey

1. Fire 6:37
2. Earth 4:29
3. Air 9:11
4. Water 4:56

by Terry Riley

Total duration: 60:39

David Balakrishnan’s INTERPLAY and Tully Cathey’s ELEMENTS (Fire, Earth, and Air) were commissioned for the Modern Mandolin Quartet with a generous grant from the Meet The Composer /Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the LilaWallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.


My father, who is the source of the Sanskrit words used in the titles, was born and raised in the Kerala province of South India. He emigrated to America in the late forties, met my American mother at USC, got married, and raised a family in a suburb of Los Angeles. In those days it wasn’t at all fashionable to be foreign, so I ended up with very little knowledge or understanding of my father’s heritage. While Dad played his Indian music recordings of musicians like Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and V.V. Subbalakshmi behind the closed doors of his office (my mother said it sounded like cats being murdered) Mom started me playing classical music on the instrument she played passably well, the violin. Soon however, rock ‘n’ roll and the Beatles came out, and I became thoroughly immersed in playing rock guitar. At the same time, another interesting phenomenon, also due to the Beatles, came to pass -- all of a sudden my Dad’s records were really cool! I found myself slowly being seduced by the strange and wonderful music.

Interplay continues my lifelong search for ways to integrate various elements of the musical styles that I deeply love and with which I have intimate experience -- European classical music, American music genres like jazz, blues, rock, traditional American fiddle music, bluegrass, etc., and Indian classical music. This search continues to feed and challenge me, and to define the boundaries of my vision while providing tantalizing glimpses of seemingly endless possibilities that lie just over the horizon.

The main outlet for my work as a composer and performer has always been my group, the Turtle Island String Quartet. The TISQ was founded in 1985 in the San Francisco Bay Area, coinciding with the birthplace and date of another group that was to transform the world view of the string quartet tradition, the Modern Mandolin Quartet. The title for the piece is in part a reference to its intended functiuon as a connecting point between these two distinctly unique approaches to the string quartet form. To that end I make liberal use of various rhythmic and phrasing techniques, such as the “chop” and the “shuffle bow,” which were developed by the TISQ to emulate the sound of a jazz group. This gives the violin part a “vernacular” feel and makes it more feasible to employ the violin in a rhythmic background role. Since the MMQ is based in the Bay Area, I have had plenty of opportunities to meet with them to explore in depth many of the idiomatic mandolin techniques that the quartet uses to reinterpret Western classical music with such compelling results.

Throughout the first three movements runs the cyclic theme of loss and recovery. This can be taken on many levels, including loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, thoughts coming and going in meditation, even the transmigration of a soul through many lifetimes. The opending melody of Shoka has a wistful mood that I associate with the beginnings of acceptance after the initial intensity of deep grief subsides. This feeling is elicited by the use of the major/minor mode, which is reversed into the minor/major key of the second theme, and further utilized throughout the movement. The second movement, Inner Voices, is meant to evoke that still place one finds onself after truly accepting the inevitability of being completely alone. Rishi’s Dance is travelin’ music in 5/4, bringing us gently back to a place seemingly filled with joy and contentment. Sadly, as in life, such blissful states rarely last, and before we realize it is happening, we get caught up in the cyle of of attachment, loss, recovery and re-attachment again and again. But there is a way to finally transcend this cycle. That path, the hardest of all, and attained by only a very few hardy souls, is the subject matter of the last movement, Thyaga.

Such a path would have to contain a lot of struggle. To that end, I bring back thematic snippets from the first and third movements, combined with a hard driving “Indian/bluegrass” groove that lands in a 7/4 section evoking a joyous, frenetic sense of elation, returning to the darker groove, throwing out some question marks, and finally landing in a wide open but completely alien landscape. Maybe this is it, we’re there at last, but no, a little voice whispers that we’re not ready to completely let go yet, so it’s back to the struggle, more frenetic joy, wild gyrations of energy, reaching up to a screaming roar and...back, to the wide open place, and this time we’re here to stay. But where exactly are we? Since I’ve never been there myself I don’t know, so the piece ends with a question mark.
- David Balakrishnan


G Song is a set of 16 bar variations on a theme identified by G minor scales which rise asymetrically over a descending chord progression. This work, first performed by the composer on soprano saxophone and electronic organ, was written as part of the soundtrack for the 1973 French Film by Alexander Whitelaw, Le Secret de la Vie. Seven years later I recomposed these materials into a string quartet for the Kronos Quartet and it is this 1980 version that the Modern Mandolin Quartet has adapted.

- Terry Riley


"Elements" is inspired by the quaternity of fire, earth, air and water. This universal principle appears in myth, philosophy, religious tradition and art throughout history and across cultures. However, it is my personal experience with these forces of nature, as they appear in the geographical region of my home in the Western United States, that is my greatest source of inspiration for this work. The transformative power of these four elements, and the relationships between them, is evident in the recent fires in Yellowstone National Park; the multitude of earthquake zones, such as the Wasatch Fault upon which I live; the rarified atmosphere of mountain peaks in the Rockies and the Wasatch; and the floods of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which once covered a large part of Utah.

Among the symbols historically associated with the elements is that of number. In "Elements", I also explore the various poetic implications of number which each Element evokes. The cycle of four elements is associated in the Western mystical tradition with the twelve signs and houses of the astrological wheel, and occurs three times within the wheel. Fire is associated with 1, 5 and 9, Earth with 2, 6 and 10, Air with 3, 7 and 11, and Water with 4, 8 and 12. These associations served as a general guide for my inspiration, from which I generated ideas in various musical realms: form, meter, texture, melody, rhythm, harmony and timbre.

"Elements" is my sonic interpretation of the "quintessence" of each Element, and attempts to capture the unique potentials of the mandolin quartet, a medium for which I feel a special affinity as a guitarist.

ELEMENTS, for Mandolin Quartet by Tully Cathey

I. FIRE (dedicated to Paul Binkley)
Heating up I
Furious (as fast as possible)
Barren (slowly)
Heating up II
Echoes of Mingus

II. EARTH (dedicated to Randee Levine Cathey)
Chiming chords I (Very slowly)
Maestoso I (Slowly)
Chiming Chords II (tempo primo)
Interlude I
Interlude II
Maestoso II
Chiming Chords III (tempo primo)

III. AIR (dedicated to the memory of composer Heitor Villa-Lobos)
In three
Like a whisper
In seven
In eleven (not too fast)
Resonant like a bell (solo)
Blues (a little slower)
Broadly, like a chime

In four
Intense (in eight)
In twelve
Slowly and Broadly
First tempo

- Tully Cathey



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