Duo Orfeo, now finishing out their spring season, will be heading into the fall season with plenty to talk about. The pair of classical guitarists – Jamie Balmer and Joseph Ricker, who have performed as Duo Orfeo since 2005 – will be working on an impressive array of groundbreaking musical endeavors over the next several months.
Nat Evans, a west coast composer who was connected to Duo Orfeo by writer Ross Simonnini after an interview for The Believer, approached the pair about writing a piece. Jamie and Joe were excited to work on something that could relate to their arrangements of sacred vocal music featured in the Soli Deo Gloria program, and the results were astonishing and unexpected. Evans’s creation, “Branching Streams in the Dark,” involves electronically bowed guitars; the guitar parts themselves are based formally on the outlines of a Buddhist chant, and an electronic turntable provides an extra layer to the soundscape, which Joe comments will “remain a secret until the premiere.”
Thomas Shuttenhelm, a composer well known to classical guitarists and a professor at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music (where he and Joe originally met), was inspired by Duo Orfeo’s music, and discussed with them his desire to begin writing for the electric guitar. Knowing him to be an Anglophile and a scholar of music history, they approached him with an idea: write a series of variations for two electric guitars on “O Nata Lux” by Thomas Tallis. Described by Duo Orfeo as “a mystical prayer of the highest perfection containing crazy dissonances within its pure Renaissance polyphony,” the piece provides a structure against which Shuttenhelm’s own backwards variations are built, beginning with his own music and proceeding toward a transcription of the original which will appear at the end – the pair have yet to hear the results but are very excited to do so.
Before Taylan Cihan began pursuing his doctorate in composition at Cornell, he was a wizard of the electric guitar, mastering the extended techniques of jazz, heavy metal, and more, before moving deep into the waters of electronic music. Joe and Jamie have just started exchanging ideas with him for a highly collaborative project, noting they “have no idea how it’s going to turn out, but it will certainly be like nothing else we’ve ever done.”
When they’re not working with innovators in classical and electronic guitar composition, Joe and Jamie are hard at work performing and planning for an upcoming studio session to record a classical guitar album. Check back for updates and announcements to learn more about Duo Orfeo’s dynamic list of programs and recordings – we can’t wait to hear what’s next!
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