Quick, before summer ends, I’m excited to announce the CD release of Mythologies by composer Danaë Xanthe Vlasse!
Back in October 2020, I had the pleasure of hosting a blog interview with this remarkable composer, announcing the release of her Poème CD. It’s an honor to meet up with her again. I hope you enjoy the story behind this remarkable album.
LRW: As an art teacher, the cover art of an album gets noticed right away. May I ask who designed your cover art?
DV: I commissioned the artwork from Greg Spalenka, a brilliant illustrator whose previous work I was familiar with. I feel that he conceived a superb visual representation of the sonic landscapes in the album.
LRW: Indeed. Wonderful work! I’ll have to research more about this remarkable illustrator. May I ask who was the graphic designer?
DV: Of course. Jeff Burne handled the graphic design.
LRW: Thanks! What is the story of how and why you chose this title and subject for your compositions? Why now? Details, please.
DV: My father was raised on the island of Ithaca; a place made famous in Homer’s Odyssey as the home of the great king Odysseus. This album is something I’ve been working towards for about 5 years, slowly writing music that would honor my Greek heritage.
LRW: OMG gorgeous! Beautiful music for a beautiful mythical space. Please go on.
DV: I took two years off from working on MYTHOLOGIES in order to produce my 2020 Album “Poème” (which honors my French half). As soon as I finished “Poème” I was compelled to complete this other project, so in May of 2020, in the quiet of the Covid lockdowns, I started writing the remaining music that would be recorded in the Winter season (Dec-March).
LRW: How lovely to honor your two backgrounds with beautiful musical compositions! I recognized the two vocalists from your prior projects, Hila Piltmann, Sangeeta Kaur and of course, world renowned pianist, Robert Thies.
Collaborating with other musicians can be tricky. How did you decide on the musicians for this album? Had you worked with the others before?
DV: Yes, I have had the pleasure of working with my dearest friends sopranos Hila Plitmann and Sangeeta Kaur and pianist Robert Thies since 2018; they were all on my last album “Poème,” and they defined for me a standard of musicianship and personal connection that I want to be surrounded by all the time!
LRW: Indeed. Good energy all around. How do you make it work?
DV: Because I prioritize working in an environment of passion, talent and creative flow, I focus on working with people who celebrate each other’s talents, and who have a positive attitude that promotes inspiration.
LRW: Attitude is everything when collaborating. Can you tell me a little bit about the other musicians on your album?
DV: I had worked with cellist Éru Matsumoto and violist Virginie D’Avezac de Castéra on other projects. I knew what sweet spirits they are and wanted to involve them with this music, so I wrote parts specifically to cater to their talents.
LRW: They must have been thrilled to have parts tailored for their style of playing. What about the other musicians on the album?
DV: The rest of my collaborators were all long-time acquaintances for whom I felt much admiration, and I couldn’t wait to include them on a project that would feature their wonderful musical versatility.
Pianist Brendan White is someone I’d heard several times in concerts around Los Angeles so I knew he could handle the task I’d give him; he did an amazing job recording the piano part for “Sirens” (which is probably the hardest endurance piece I’ve written).
Flutist Wouter Kellerman brought the unforgettable sound of the Contrabass flute to “Poseidon & Odysseus”. He also plays Alto and Soprano flutes on “Penelope.”
Lili Haydn’s violin (led by Robert’s unparalleled pianism, and joined by Éru on cello) offers an incredibly powerful emotional rise, from a painful and lonely start to triumphant ecstasy on “Nepenthe.”
Nadeem Majdalany’s percussion included Glass Harp, Ocean Drum, Rain Stick and Thunder Sheet; it was masterfully calibrated to generate a more vivid storytelling experience for listeners on the last track of the album, “Sirens.”
LRW: Wow, you really gave a lot of thought to the musicians you chose for your project. Are there any others you’d like to acknowledge?
DV: Last but not least, the other contributor whom I must acknowledge is Emilio D. Miler who produced this album with me (and also recorded some percussion); he was part of this project since we met in 2017 and I leaned on him as a friend along the way as I was writing this music. When I decided to move into this project seriously, he was my obvious choice to officially co-produce since he’d been witness to the process for years already. I should add I’m grateful to engineers Gerhard Joost of Groove Mountain Studio and Nick Tipp, along with Silas Brown of Legacy Sound who all lent their valuable expertise; their work yielded a fantastic audio quality on this album.”
All the artists on this album are the epitome of dream colleagues!
LRW: Your musical dream team! Every moment must have been inspiring, working with these dedicated spirits. Since you recorded four of the tracks on this album yourself, why didn’t you record all the piano parts for this project?
DV: There were times I wished I could have recorded my own music but couldn’t, due to an injury. Apart from that, there are usually two reasons I seek for others play my music.
1) As a composer, I feel it validates the quality of my work to have others present it.
2) Moreover, I welcome the fresh perspective which other pianists can bring when they interpret my music. Pianist Robert Thies is a particular example of someone who really elevates my writing; he always understands my musical phrasing, intuitively does the most appropriate pedaling, and generally leaves me in awe of my own music!
LRW: Good points. So sorry to hear of your injury, though. Glad you found the collaboration that honored your compositions. Your label, Cezanne Producciones, is based in Spain. How did they become interested in your music?
DV: Most labels specializing in Classical music are based in Europe. Though a few had shown interest in releasing this music, my co-producer introduced me to Javier Monteverde de Mesa, the owner of Cezanne, who assured me he’d look after the release personally (which he did!), and I liked that boutique approach better than becoming one of many releases in a more numerous catalog.
LRW: Good to know. Good strategy. Is this CD part of a series of albums dedicated to Greek Mythologies rather than a standalone recording?
DV: Astute question! I believe it’s very likely there will be a “MYTHOLOGIES II” album in the future!
LRW: Why thank you! Ooh, please keep me posted. Thank you! With many concert halls still closed, would you happen to be planning a live stream event of some of these remarkable works? Maybe a YouTube video or a series? If so, may we please know the link where to view them? Thank you.
DV: Sangeeta Kaur, one of the featured sopranos on the album, will be releasing a PBS special in the Fall, and “Penelope” will be featured in that show. The set was specifically designed for this piece, and the performance (which I was fortunate enough to see when it was recorded) is positively stunning!
LRW: That’s so cool! I’ll look forward to watching the special and cheering when your piece is featured. Once concert halls open again, do you plan to perform these works live? If so, how may my students, readers and I be kept informed? Is there a mailing list we may subscribe to?
DV: Yes, I hope there will be more performances. Anyone who wishes to subscribe to the mailing list may do so on the CONTACT page of my website.
LRW: Thanks for the intel and link. Where may my readers purchase your CD? Is it also available on music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple iTunes, etc.?
DV: The album is available on all streaming platforms. Digital downloads may be purchased at Apple Music, Band Camp, and others. Listen/Stream/Download.
LRW: Are CDs available as well?
DV: Physical copies will only be produced in very limited supply and are already instant collector’s editions because the album art by Greg Spalenka is spectacular and every single page of the booklet was designed with immense attention to detail by Jeff Burne. The whole package is truly a work of art! These may be purchased by contacting me through my website.
LRW: Thank you so much for the information. It’s a pleasure to share your story and beautiful music with my students and subscribers. I wish you all the best with this and future musical endeavors.
To learn more about or correspond with this remarkable composer, please visit these links:
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