Duo Noire: Night Triptych


In this wonderful collection of works for two guitars by a group of composers hailing from many spots on the globe, Duo Noire provides a compelling snapshot of the range of expression in contemporary chamber music for the instrument. Featuring music by Clarice Assad, Mary Kouyoumdijan, Courtney Bryan, Golfam Khayam, Gity Razaz and Gabriella Smith, the duo virtuosically presents a program that is aesthetically diverse, but focused around the values of narrative shape and expressive transparency.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 57:30

Hocus Pocus

Clarice Assad
01I. Abracadabra!
I. Abracadabra!
02II. Shamans
II. Shamans
03III. Klutzy Witches
III. Klutzy Witches
05Soli Deo Gloria
Soli Deo Gloria

Night Triptych

Golfam Khayam
06I. Improvisatory
I. Improvisatory
07II. Quasi Furioso
II. Quasi Furioso
08III. Rubato, Amoroso, Molto Cantabile
III. Rubato, Amoroso, Molto Cantabile

Four Haikus

Gity Razaz
09I. Moderato
I. Moderato
10II. Andante
II. Andante
11III. Largo
III. Largo
12IV. Energetic
IV. Energetic
13Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain
Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain

“Night Triptych” opens with Clarice Assad’s (of the famed Assad guitar family) Hocus Pocus, a dynamic work blending the rhythmic intensity and rich harmonic color of the music from her native Brasil with an encyclopedic understanding of the timbral possibilities on the instrument. Percussive effects and brilliant arpeggios mark the opening movement, and a brooding second movement leads into a driving finale. Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Byblos is inspired by the ancient Lebanese city of the same name, and involves an accompanying electronic track that subtly deconstructs a Mediterranean traditional dance in hazy washes of sound. The guitar writing at times evokes the figurations of its regional cousin, the oud, and the relationship between live performers and the atmospheric backing track frames the push and pull between past and present in Kouyoumdjian’s engagement with this city that has seen multiple civilizations come and go. With its title, Courtney Bryan’s Soli Deo Gloria signals its alignment with centuries of work dedicated to the glory of a higher being and purpose. The composition’s journey is framed in terms of Bryan’s relationship to the stages of prayer — Contemplative, Unsettled and Searching, Questioning and Hoping, a Prayer, Pursuing, Realization, Acceptance. Bryan’s incorporation of jazz and gospel elements is subtle, integrated elegantly into her evolving compositional argument. Iranian composer Golfam Khayam’s title work is in three movements, “Improvisatory”, “Quasi Furioso”, and “Rubato, Amoroso, Molto Cantabile.” As with Kouyoumdjian’s work, we hear echoes of the oud and Middle Eastern music in fleet, ornamental slurred passages and pointed grace notes. But despite the hints at a geographically specific orientation, overall Khayam’s work comes from a place of universal contemplation, a style consistent to those familiar with ECM, the revered German label on which she has been featured. Also of Iranian heritage, Gity Razaz’s work is more squarely within the modernist compositional tradition, and her Four Haikus are four tightly crafted pieces, reminiscent in language and approach to the great late 20th century repertoire for guitar commissioned by Julian Bream. These works give the listener a chance to hear Duo Noire’s cultivated ensemble blend, well considered interpretative approach, and particularly in the second and final movements, rhythmic vibrancy. Gabriella Smith’s Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain engages with popular music more overtly than the other music on the recording, opening with an ostinato figure articulated with a slide that gives way to an insistent groove with engaging polyrhythmic counterpoint in harmonics. Shades of bluegrass and slide guitar inflect the minimalist structure.

- D. Lippel

  • Produced by Duo Noire
  • Recorded at University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Engineered, edited, mixed by William Coulter
  • Mastered by Ryan Streber, Oktaven Audio
  • Layout and design by Jessica Slaven
  • Artwork by Marie Rodriguez

Duo Noire

Duo Noire is a "virtuosic pair” (I Care if You Listen) of pioneering African-American classical guitarists, Thomas Flippin and Christopher Mallett. Offering “profoundly enjoyable” premieres of genre-bending contemporary music with “spectacular precision,” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Duo Noire is breaking new ground in the world of guitar chamber music.

The duo has been featured on the cover of the Guitar Foundation of America's quarterly journal, Soundboard, as well as in articles by Chamber Music Magazine, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Classical Guitar Magazine, and others. Their debut album was the first recording of Juilliard professor Raymond Lustig’s inspired minimalist work, FIGMENTS. The album has been repeatedly broadcast on WQXR and Q2 radio and was praised as “a unique and entrancing album that exists at the unusual intersection of minimalism and impressive classical guitar technique” (I Care if You Listen).

Duo Noire has performed at China’s Peking University, the 92 Street Y in New York City, Georgetown University, the New York City Classical Guitar Society, the Omaha Under the Radar and April in Santa Cruz new music festivals, and at the Times Center in a performance for the MacDowell Colony. The pair have also received fellowships from the Avaloch Farm Music Institute in New Hampshire and the Norfolk Music Festival in Connecticut. They frequently collaborate with GRAMMY- winning guitarist Bill Coulter, as well as MacArthur Fellow Jason Moran and the Porgy and Bess Broadway star Alicia Hall Moran.

Thomas and Christopher are graduates of the Yale School of Music. Today, Christopher is on the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is co-owner of the California Conservatory of Music near San Francisco. Thomas is on the faculty of Concordia College Conservatory and the Diller-Quaile School of Music in New York.


Clarice Assad

Clarice Assad (b.1978): Latin GRAMMY-nominee, Clarice Assad, is an acclaimed Brazilian-American singer, pianist, and composer. Born in Rio de Janeiro to a family of distinguished musicians during an oppressive military dictatorship, she turned to composition as an emotional outlet. Hocus Pocus depicts a cartoonish and magical conjuring of sound effects and textures between two guitars, and features moments of structured improvisation with spoons and percussion. (M.M. University of Michigan)


Mary Kouyoumdjian

Mary Kouyoumdjian (b.1983): As a first generation Armenian-American from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, composer Mary Kouyoumdjian draws on her heritage in the sonic palette of Byblos, which is based on a recent visit to one of the oldest cities in Lebanon, first inhabited in 8,800 B.C.E. Byblos calls upon its performers to play “like folk instrumentalists, grittily and digging in. Imagine how one might approach playing an oud.” (D.M.A. Columbia University)


Courtney Bryan

Courtney Bryan (b.1982): A native of New Orleans and an accomplished classical and jazz pianist, Courtney Bryan notates the feeling of improvisation, interweaving new music, jazz, traditional gospel, spirituals, and hymns. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone) takes the listener through the stages of a prayer: “contemplative; unsettled and searching; questioning and hoping; a prayer; pursuing; realization; acceptance.” (D.M.A. Columbia University).


Golfam Khayam

Golfam Khayam (b. 1983): Iranian composer and E.C.M. Records Artist Golfam Khayam was born in Tehran to a family of artists. She has studied a number of Persian strummed instruments, which inform her use of extended techniques she developed for the Western classical guitar: mallet hits, fingernail taps, chopstick scrapes, and more. Night Triptych, in which the performers rhythmically improvise their parts until aligning at specific notes, combines her love for contemporary classical music and Persian ethnic music. (M.M. University of Cincinnati, M.A. Haute École de Musique de Genève)


Gity Razaz

Gity Razaz (b.1986): Raised in a family of physicians in Tehran, Iran, Gity Razaz immigrated to the United States in her teens. Mesmerized by the piano as a child, she began composing Western classical music for it intuitively. According to Razaz, “The influence of my culture and traditional Persian music is more subconscious than literal in my compositions.” In the Four Haikus, performers are asked to feel certain sections as either recitative or aria, and to phrase the music as a singer might. (M.M. Juilliard)


Gabriella Smith

Gabriella Smith (b.1991): Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, polymath Gabriella Smith began composing at the age of 8. An outdoor enthusiast, she can often be found backpacking with her ukulele and drawing musical inspiration from nature. Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain is based on a poem she wrote in her youth. In the composition, Smith imagines “interlocking loops and patterns and textures and rain” and incorporates structured improvisatory elements, as well as a glass slide for glissandi and a moment of “wild, crazy, vibrato.” (D.M.A. Princeton University)