moira smiley & VOCO:
voice accordion banjo percussion body percussion
voice percussion body percussion
cello voice body percussion
voice body percussion
Recorded April, 2009
Scott Fraser Recording Studio
Mt. Washington, CA
Mixed by Dave Weber, Airtime Studios
Bloomington, IN www.airtimestudios.com
Produced by Moira Smiley & Dave Weber
Guest Musicians: TJ Troy (percussion), Fabrice Martinez & Ursula Knudsen (Fishtank Ensemble violin & voice)These are original and traditional songs written and chosen for their full, emotional way with the voices in harmony. Hungarian composer / ethnographer, Béla Bartók's last six "Mikrokosmos" piano miniatures were Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm - dances in 5/8, 7/8 and 9/8. Moira's childhood soaked in Eastern European folk songs and Béla Bartók's music influenced her writing and arranging more than almost anything else (next to early American modal music). In the spirit of Bartók's creativity and deep study of folk songs, VOCO brings together arrangements of rural songs from Bulgaria and Hungary with Moira's originals and music based on the themes of Bartók.
dances and their rhythms: paidushko = 5/8 ruchenitsa = 7/8 karsilama = 9/8 kopanitsa = 11/8
Notes from Moira:
1. Zelena *Green Mikrokosmos
Using the buoyant 5/8 rhythm of the Paidushko dance, I built a new structure with the themes of the 150th Mikrokosmos. This rhythm always made me think of the new green of Spring. While improvising on these themes, the brave, youthful feel (romp!) of Spring seems to emerge from a winter beginning.
2. Izgrejala (Gel Moma) / Tk Mi Kazaha
This famous Bulgarian diaphonic (two-part song) says "A bright morning star rises, pretty girl, good girl. I see no bright star, only this pretty 'Vida' (girl)".
From the village of Venelin, in southeast Bulgaria (just off the Black Sea coast and not far from Turkey), Tk Mi Kazaha is another Springtime song. Moira learned this from singer / collector Mary Sherhart's notation of Velichka Zlateva's singing (Balkanton BHM C7451).
Translation: Someone told the Lazare that a beautiful girl lives here. The Lazare want her to come out of her house to see if she's engaged or married. They say: "If she's note engaged, let's engage her on Easter itself with multi-colored eggs, and if she's not, let's marry her off on St. George's Day with the furry lambs."
...the story of a couple in a night of looking back, weeping, laughing and dancing to remember their long life together. On this special night the matriarch and patriarch of an extended Macedonian family let their bodies slowly dance away the years of burden. This was the music for Regina Klenjoski Dance Theater's performance of the story of one Macedonian family. The song passes from the lament into the kopanitsa (11/8) dance and finally rises up to throw both hands in the air and a shout to the night sky.
4. Summer Has Come
This little Mikrokosmos caught my ear and wouldn't let go one early morning. Dreamy, hazy visions of summer kept coming up as I played it over and over on the piano. The words spilled out about summer's (and our) inexorable ripening, even when we wish we could stay in spring.
Named for the part of LA that most of us VOCOs live in, Moira wrote this after reading again the verses of the shape-note hymn called 'Vernon'. John Wesley's lyrics about a night-time struggle with a divine force inspired a more personal re-telling.
6. Szerelem, Szerelem
Though the original one or two-voice version of this old Hungarian song is just as exquisite (listen to Sebó or Marta Sebastyen), we've enjoyed the sweet pile of harmony that came from Moira's singing with KITKA's artistic director, Janet Kutulas. Translation: "Love, wretched love, why do you not blossom on every treetop - every cyprus tree? Why do you not come to every young woman and man?".
7. Siberia's Snows (Russia)
Imagine the depletion of earth's protections and energy - a world after all oil is gone, which swings from hellish heat to bitter cold. I wrote these new apocalyptic verses while singing "Russia", a raucous and righteous member of the shape-note family (The Sacred Harp, p. 107). Written in the 1780s by Daniel Read with text by the most famous hymnodist, Isaac Watts in the early 1700s. The "rock and refuge" in this song always spoke to me of imminent apocalypse - the ending of all earthly calm, where all that was left for us was this lonely rock.
8. Out Of A Child
I wrote this when I was 15, in direct response to hearing Béla Bartók's Violin Duos. Jessica's cello and my voice were written as the conversation of two children discovering a world together. Growing up in the pastures of my parents' small farm, I remember writing this in a period of shock - when the palpable inner world faded against the confusing world of "growing up".
9. The Hat - Matchmaking Song
Hats off to Bartók again. The 74th Mikrokosmos is here sung, mostly as you find it written. We added the see-sawing voices, as if all the villagers were gossiping around this cryptic little English translation of Hungarian "matchmaking" words.
10. Rano *Early Morn' Mikrokosmos
The first of the Mikrokosmos that inspired me to re-imagine these miniatures for VOCO. The Karsimala rhythm (9/8) finds home in the cello line, and we sing the early morning in with "rano". I get to pretend I'm a gypsy clarinet or fiddle playing with this beautiful melodic theme. The body percussion is the foundation for the sparkling riq.