Daniel Lippel: Mirrored Spaces


Guitarist Daniel Lippel releases a double CD set of premieres for solo classical and electric guitar and with electronics by several composer colleagues: Ryan Streber,  Orianna Webb, John Link, Kyle Bartlett, Sergio Kafejian, Douglas Boyce, Dalia With, Karin Wetzel, Sidney Corbett, Ethan Wickman, Christopher Bailey, and Lippel himself. Mirrored Spaces engages with many different parameters through which musical ideas are refracted, including microtonality, the aesthetics of electro-acoustic music, timbral exploration, and historical and extra-musical reference points.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 129:49
01Amorphose 2
Amorphose 2
Daniel Lippel, guitar, Philip White, live electronics7:13
02Aphorisms: Whom the Gods...
Aphorisms: Whom the Gods...
Daniel Lippel, guitar0:52

Mirrored Spaces

Orianna Webb (b. 1974)/Daniel Lippel (b. 1976)
Daniel Lippel, guitar
03I. Refracted
I. Refracted
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:41
04II. Sturdy
II. Sturdy
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:03
05III. Cadences
III. Cadences
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:17
06IV. Reflected
IV. Reflected
Daniel Lippel, guitar2:00
07V. Rondo
V. Rondo
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:20
08VI. Song
VI. Song
Daniel Lippel, guitar4:58
09Aphorisms: When Music Itself...
Aphorisms: When Music Itself...
Daniel Lippel, guitar0:57
Daniel Lippel, guitar10:34
11Aphorisms: Solon the Lawmaker...
Aphorisms: Solon the Lawmaker...
Daniel Lippel, guitar0:45
12Primo cum lumine solis
Primo cum lumine solis
Daniel Lippel, guitar3:43
13Aphorisms: It Needs a Body...
Aphorisms: It Needs a Body...
Daniel Lippel, guitar1:01
14Like Minds
Like Minds
Daniel Lippel, guitar11:48
15From Scratch
From Scratch
Daniel Lippel, guitar, Sergio Kafejian, electronics11:18
16Aphorisms: Whosoever is Delighted...
Aphorisms: Whosoever is Delighted...
Daniel Lippel, guitar1:23
17Detroit Rain Song Graffiti
Detroit Rain Song Graffiti
Daniel Lippel, guitar6:02
18Aphorisms: We Seek Destruction...
Aphorisms: We Seek Destruction...
Daniel Lippel, guitar1:11


Douglas Boyce (b. 1970)
Daniel Lippel, guitar
19I. Cumiliform
I. Cumiliform
Daniel Lippel, guitar2:50
20II. Galante
II. Galante
Daniel Lippel, guitar1:37
21III. Empfindsamer (offstage)
III. Empfindsamer (offstage)
Daniel Lippel, guitar3:10
22IV: Air de cour
IV: Air de cour
Daniel Lippel, guitar3:15
23V. Brise
V. Brise
Daniel Lippel, guitar2:32
24Aphorisms: There is No Excellent Beauty...
Aphorisms: There is No Excellent Beauty...
Daniel Lippel, guitar1:56
25Joie Divisions
Joie Divisions
Daniel Lippel, guitar6:54
26Aphorisms: Man Comes into the World...
Aphorisms: Man Comes into the World...
Daniel Lippel, guitar1:19
27Arc of Infinity
Arc of Infinity
Daniel Lippel, guitar, Christopher Bailey, electronics16:27
28Aphorisms: Love is Necessarily...
Aphorisms: Love is Necessarily...
Daniel Lippel, guitar1:43
29Scaffold (live)
Scaffold (live)
Daniel Lippel, guitar7:00

“Mirrored Spaces” is a double album of premiere recordings of works by composer colleagues that eschews stylistic agendas in favor of a balanced program in which contrasting aesthetics are in dialogue with each other. Tracing back to a 2008 performance entitled “Experiments in Co-Composition” at The Tank, a NYC venue that hosted many new music events in the early 2000s, the album includes three works from that concert alongside several others composed more recently, many in the same spirit of collaboration. “Mirrored Spaces” frames the entire project, as an album and piece title, but also as a jumping off point for relationships between pieces. Featuring music by American composers Orianna Webb, John Link, Kyle Bartlett, Douglas Boyce, Ryan Streber, Ethan Wickman, Christopher Bailey, and myself, as well as overseas composers Dalia R. With (Lithuania), Sergio Kafejian (Brazil), Karin Wetzel (Switzerland), and Sidney Corbett (Germany), the release is geographically and sonically diverse.

The album is loosely organized around a metaphorical exploration of mirrors within a musical context and how that relates to the properties of the classical and electric guitar, electro-acoustic music, structure and material, programmatic and historical relationships, alternate tunings, and microtonality. Kyle Bartlett’s Kurtag-esque Aphorisms, placed throughout the recording like a series of recurring monologues, and Dalia Raudonikyté With’s Primo cum lumine solis both wordlessly translate literary sources into poignant sonic miniatures. Ethan Wickman’s Joie Divisions and Douglas Boyce’s Partita engage with historical tradition as a filter through which we hear contemporary material. The movements of Mirrored Spaces were written in a responsorial fashion with composer Orianna Webb -- the process manifesting itself both in terms of our creative reactions to the material supplied by the other, but also a recontextualization of equal-tempered material written in standard tuning within a quarter-tone alternate tuning.

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Four electro-acoustic works each demonstrate a different relationship between the electronics and the acoustic instrument. Karin Wetzel’s Amorphose 2 for guitar and live electronics (Phillip White performs the electronics part), unfolds largely as a meditation around central pitches created by an unorthodox scordatura as sixteen cues generate various delays and processes of the guitar, at times shadowing the performer, and at others asserting a life of their own. John Link’s Like Minds can be seen as an extension of Mario Davidovsky’s work in electro-acoustic music; Davidovsky established symbiotic but independent relationships between electronics and instrumentalist; Link toys with obscuring the boundaries altogether. São Paulo based Sergio Kafejian’s From Scratch engages with similar aesthetic issues, but the sonic language of both parts are drawn from a rarefied vocabulary of extended techniques on the guitar including scratches, percussive sounds, and slides, and the extensive use of a plastic ruler grinding along the strings. Christopher Bailey’s Arc of Infinity places the guitar inside a sonic house of mirrors comprised of three "virtual instruments": bell-like sounds, a “dirty sampler” composed out of guitar notes from recent recorded repertoire, and flanged/delayed/filtered sounds.

The three works for electric guitar on “Mirrored Spaces” share the common link of exploring alternate tunings, while the Corbett and Streber both filter classical guitar technique through the unique characteristics of its amplified cousin. In Ryan Streber’s Descent, the guitar is tuned similarly to a cello (C-G-D-A-B-E), and played through two amplifiers in a journey from a high to low tessitura, and from a clean to a distorted sound. Sidney Corbett’s Detroit Rain Song Graffiti is a tone painting capturing an uneasy calm in one of America’s most fraught cities, and calls for the 6th string to be tuned to a low E-flat , opening up resonant voicings to a set of uncommon sonorities. Lippel’s Scaffold was written as a transitional structured improvisation; electric guitars on stands are in tunings used in Mirrored Spaces and Descent, and a third guitar is in a quasi-stepwise tuning while an ebow sustains pitches that are adjusted with the tuning pegs. Loop pedals and a pre-recorded file entering at the end create a wash as the piece moves from one tonal center to another. The live recording of Scaffold from The Tank 2008 performance is included here as an audio time capsule, placing the album in the context of the performance that planted the initial seed for the project.

– D. Lippel

Produced by Daniel Lippel

Recording engineer: Ryan Streber for all tracks (oktavenaudio.com), except Ethan Wickman’s Joie Divisions, recorded by Stephen Krause

Recording locations: Mirrored Spaces: Oktaven Audio (Yonkers) on 11.19.11; Descent: Sweeney Auditorium (Smith College) on 1.9.09; Joie Divisions: University of Texas at San Antonio on 10.1.14; Scaffold: recorded live at The Tank (279 Church Street, New York) on 9.25.08, coda recorded at Oktaven Audio (Mt. Vernon) on 11.28.18

All other tracks recorded at Oktaven Audio (Mt. Vernon): Detroit Rain Song Graffiti 3.16.17; From Scratch 12.16.17; Amorphose 2 11.11.18; Like Minds 12.27.2018; Arc of Infinity 2.14.19 and 2.27.19; Aphorisms 5.13.2019 and 7.12.19; Partita 5.14.19 and 7.12.19; Primo cum lumine solis 8.12.19

Editing: Ryan Streber, except Christopher Bailey (Arc of Infinity) and Sergio Kafejian (From Scratch)

Assistant editing: Charles Mueller (Wetzel, Wickman, Webb, Bartlett, Boyce, With, Link), Hansdale Hsu (Wickman), Edwin Huet (Bartlett), Teng Chen (Corbett)

Session producers: Orianna Webb/Ryan Streber (Mirrored Spaces), Christopher Bailey (Arc of Infinity), John Link (Like Minds), Sergio Kafejian (From Scratch), Ethan Wickman (Joie Divisions), Peter Gilbert/Ryan Streber (Primo cum lumine solis), all other tracks Ryan Streber

Editing producers: Christopher Bailey/Daniel Lippel (Arc of Infinity), John Link/Daniel Lippel (Like Minds), Sergio Kafejian/Daniel Lippel (From Scratch), all other tracks Daniel Lippel

Design and layout: Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com

Cover/back photos: Janke Laskowski, unsplash.com/@janke

Liner Notes: Daniel Lippel

All works are heard in their premiere recordings, except Descent which was released on Ryan Streber: Concentric (New Focus FCR155) and Primo cum lumine solis, which was released in a different recorded version on Dalia Raudonikytė With: Solitarius (New Focus FCR186)

Daniel Lippel

Guitarist Dan Lippel, called a "modern guitar polymath (Guitar Review)" and an "exciting soloist" (NY Times) is active as a soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist. He has been the guitarist for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) since 2005 and new music quartet Flexible Music since 2003. Recent performance highlights include recitals at Sinus Ton Festival (Germany), University of Texas at San Antonio, MOCA Cleveland, Center for New Music in San Francisco, and chamber performances at the Macau Music Festival (China), Sibelius Academy (Finland), Cologne's Acht Brücken Festival (Germany), and the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. He has appeared as a guest with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and New York New Music Ensemble, among others, and recorded for Kairos, Bridge, Albany, Starkland, Centaur, and Fat Cat.


Karin Wetzel

Karin Wetzel was born in Berlin in 1981 and studied composition and music theory with Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf and Gesine Schröder at the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig. Her compositional output encompasses works for solo instrument, ensemble, orchestra, electroacoustic works, and installations. Her compositions have been performed by such musicians and ensembles as Ensemble Modern, Johannes Kalitzke, Ensemble Proton Bern, Ensemble SoloVoices, and at such festivals as the Archipel Festival Geneva, Primavera en la Habana, ICMC Athens, cresc... Biennale für moderne Musik Frankfurt Rhein-Main, MATA Festival and Tage für neue Musik (New Music Days) Weimar.


Kyle Bartlett

Kyle Bartlett was born in Los Angeles and grew up in rural Arkansas. She is a founding member of the esteemed new music collective counter)induction, and many of her major works have been written for the ensemble. In addition to c)i, most recently her music has been performed by the Prism Saxophone Quartet (US), Oerknal (NL) and E-MEX (DE).


Orianna Webb

Orianna Webb's music has been described as "abound[ing] in urgent and mysterious detail"(Cleveland Plain Dealer). Her work has been recognized with honors and commissions from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Fromm Foundation, ASCAP, the American Music Center, SCI, and the International Alliance for Women in Music. Orianna lives in Queens, NYC.


Ryan Streber

Ryan Streber is a composer and audio engineer based in New York City whose works have been performed in the United States and abroad by artists and ensembles such as The American Composers Orchestra, The Lucerne Percussion Group, The Juilliard Orchestra, The New Juilliard Ensemble, Flexible Music, Line C3 Percussion Quartet, ACME, Boston Conservatory, Gemini Youth Orchestra, Fountain Chamber Ensemble, and many others. His most orchestral work, Arcuare, was read by The ACO in its 2007 Underwood New Music Readings. Other recent works include Shadow Etudes for counter)induction, the string quartet Repexus II commissioned and premiered by ACME, solo pieces for guitarist Daniel Lippel, percussionist Haruka Fujii, and cellist Sumire Kudo, as well as ensemble compositions for the Boston Conservatory Saxophone Ensemble and BoCo Wind Ensemble, Bacchae Fragments for 12 percussionists which was commissioned by the Lucerne Festival Academy's percussion ensemble, and the new music collective counter)induction of which he is a member.

Besides composing concert music, Ryan has scored two short films, designed sound for over a dozen theatrical productions in and around New York, played electric guitar and percussion in bands, and collaborated with other artists in music and multi-media performances and recordings ranging from pop and rock to experimental and jazz.

As an audio engineer and producer, Ryan co-owns and operates Oktaven Audio in Yonkers, NY. He has worked with numerous artists and ensembles on hundreds of live and studio recording projects, including CDs released on the New Focus, Kairos, Tzadik, Naxos, New Amsterdam, Mode, Innova,ryan_streber-1.jpg

Hot Cup, Albany, Carrier, CAG, New Dynamic, Bridge, GM, Rune, Centaur, Neuma, Capstone, and Arabesque labels.

Ryan received his BMA with Distinction and MMA from The Juilliard School, studying composition with Christopher Rouse and Milton Babbitt. He served as the director of Juilliard's Composers Forum and coordinator for the composition department from 2005 to 2012, and he has also taught composition in the school's Evening Division. He is a recipient of the ASCAP Morton Gould award and Juilliard's Palmer Dixon prize.

Born in 1979 in Rochester, NY, Ryan currently resides in Yonkers, NY.


Dalia Raudonikytė With

Dalia Raudonikytė With was a composer, pianist, and educator. Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, she also lived in Oslo and New York City. Her catalogue includes works for solo instruments to symphonies and from chamber ensembles to electro-acoustic composition. Her music has been performed across Europe, Russia, and the United States, including at the Oslo International Church Music Festival, Bergen International Festival in Norway, MATA Festival, and New York Electronic Art Festival. Dalia R. With was the recipient of several grants and fellowships from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania, Norwegian Music Funds, Norwegian Society of Composers, and Arts Council Norway.


John Link

John Link (b. 1962) is a composer and writer based in New York City. His music has been commissioned and performed throughout the United States and in Japan, and is recorded on the New Focus Recordings, Bridge Records, and 60x60 labels. His scholarly writings on the American composer Elliott Carter (1908-2012) have appeared in journals in the United States, Italy, and the U.K. including Tempo, Sonus, the Journal of the Society for American Music, Chicago Review, and Music and Letters. He is currently a Professor in the Music Department at William Paterson University.

Sergio Kafejian

Sergio Kafejian obtained his Master Degree from Brunel University (London), PhD from UNESP and is currently developing continued Postdoctoral Research at São Paulo State University (USP). He is the recipient of several composition prizes including the Bourges International Electroacoustical Music Contest (1998 and 2008), Concurso Ritmo e Som (1994 and 1998), Gilberto Mendes Contest for Orchestra (2008) and FUNARTE Classical Composition Prizes (2008 and 2014). His professional output consists of instrumental and electroacoustic compositions as well as pedagogic projects involving contemporary improvisation, composition and performance.

Sidney Corbett

Born in 1960 in Chicago, Sidney Corbett has mainly been active in Europe since 1985. He is an artist outside the boundaries of the “new music“ mainstream whose stance is nonetheless explicitly contemporary. Corbett’s work draws upon a broad range of sources, both musical and extra-musical, including literature and the visual arts and engages philosophical and theological questions. A strong sense of lyricism and complexly overlaid rhythmic pulsations are characteristic of his music. Since 2006, Corbett is Professor of Composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts Mannheim and is also the director of the local Forum for New Music.


Douglas Boyce

Douglas Boyce writes chamber music that draws on Renaissance traditions and modernist aesthetics, building rich rhythmic structures that shift between order, fragmentation, elegance, and ferocity. Regarding A Book of Songs (2006, in process), the Washington Post wrote “[they] can only be described as drop-dead beautiful. Easily the most captivating works on the program, these songs of love and death are extraordinarily well written and insightful.” Regarding La Déploration, (2016) Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim wrote that "...the violinist, cellist... and clarinetist... spread out throughout the crypt. Against vaporous harmonics and ghostly fragments of Renaissance music played by the strings, [a] warm, clear clarinet announced itself as very much alive as it sashayed in and out of blues territory and laughed in the face of their mournful keening.”


Ethan Wickman

Described as a "composer of facility and imagination, the kind to whom both performers and audiences respond" (The New York Times), composer Ethan Wickman's music has been performed by soloists and ensembles in venues in the U.S. and around the world. He has received grants and commissions from the Barlow Endowment, Meet the Composer and the American Composers Forum among others and his works have been performed by such ensembles as the Aspen Concert Orchestra, the Avalon String Quartet, the Soli Ensemble, the Newton Symphony, the Gryphon Trio, Flexible Music, and Zeitgeist, and by many performers at venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and at universities and concert halls both domestic and international. Formerly on the faculties of Indiana University-South Bend and the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, he is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


Christopher Bailey

Born outside of Philadelphia, PA, Christopher Bailey turned to music composition in his late ‘teens, and to electroacoustic composition during his studies at the Eastman School of Music, and later at Columbia University. He is currently based in Boston, but frequently participates in musical events in New York City. His music explores a variety of musical threads, including microtonality, acousmatic and concrète sounds, serialist junk sculpture, ornate musical details laid out in flat forms, and constrained improvisation.

Recent commissions include Empty Theatre, a piano concerto with string orchestra, commissioned for a portrait concert of his music as part of the Sinus Ton Festival in Magdeburg, Germany (October 2014); a chamber-music version of Mergurs Ehd Ffleweh Bq Nsolst, ostensibly a field recording of denizens of the planet Mercury, featured on MATA’s 2013 festival in New York City; Composition For S#1††¥ Piano, Drum Samples, Concrete Sounds, and Processing, for the Allen Strange Award of the Washington Composers Forum; Harvest Kitchen, commissioned by Harvestworks in New York City; and Out Of, written for Marilyn Nonken.

He was a 2nd-Prize recipient in the Seoul 2005 International Composers Competition in Korea (Timelash); Balladei (for piano and ‘tape’) was a finalist at the Earplay competition in 2007; Sand (an interactive computer-music composition) won a mention at Denmark’s 2007 Infinite Composing interactive computer-music competition; Walking Down the Hillside at Cortona, and Seeing it’s Towers Rise Before Me (for 2 pianos tuned to 19-tone-equal-temperament) won a mention in the 2009 Salvatore Martirano Competition at the University of Illinois. Previous awards include prizes from BMI, ASCAP, and the Bearns Prize.




The WholeNote

One disc I’ll certainly not be able to do justice in this limited space is guitarist Daniel Lippel’s double CD “Mirrored Spaces”. I would normally be daunted by the prospect of two and a half hours of solo guitar music, but to my delight Lippel has produced such a diverse program that I didn’t notice the time passing. First and foremost, let me state that although he is a truly accomplished classical guitarist, from the dozen composers represented here, there are very few offerings that would be at home on a traditional Spanish guitar recital. Even in pieces such as Lippel’s own Reflected with its quasi-Renaissance feel, our equilibrium is thrown off-kilter by rapid microtonal passages. A number of the pieces involve electronics, live or otherwise. One that particularly struck me was Christopher Bailey’s Arc of Infinity in which I found myself wondering “What if?” the subtle electronic part was transcribed for live cimbalom – how different would that piece be? At any rate, it is extremely effective. While most of the recital is played on a traditional nylon string acoustic guitar, a number of tracks employ an electric instrument, from the gentle harmonics of Sidney Corbett’s Detroit Rain Song Graffiti, to the distortion, feedback and note bending of Lippel’s concluding Scaffold (live). Interspersed throughout the two discs are the nine movements of Kyle Bartlett’s Aphorisms, all using a traditional Spanish guitar, but utilizing a number of extended techniques. If you think you already know what a guitar sounds like, or think that a double CD would be a bit “much of a muchness,” I urge you to check out this remarkable disc.

- David Olds, 11.28.19, The WholeNote



Even if Lippel never released another album under his own name, we would all owe him a debt for his wise and generous steering of the ship that is New Focus Recordings, which issues a seemingly endless stream of great albums each year. And that's not to mention his superb work within many ensembles, ICE and counter)induction among them. But here he has followed up last year's remarkable "...through which the past shines" with yet another gift, a vast collection across the possibilities of guitar music as sprawling and adventurous as the White Album, featuring pieces by Orianna Webb, John Link, Kyle Bartlett, Douglas Boyce, Ryan Streber, Ethan Wickman, Christopher Bailey, Dalia R. With, Sergio Kafejian, Karin Wetzel, Sidney Corbett, and Lippel himself. From solo acoustic gems like Wickman's Joie Divisions to electro-acoustic works like the alternately sparkling and serrated Like Minds by Link, Lippel wants us to hear it all, feel it all, and marvel at it all.

The project has its roots in a 2008 performance, represented here by a live recording of Lippel's own Scaffold for electric guitar, full of moody string-bending, feedback and distortion, which will echo in your head long after the album ends. I'll leave it to the sociologists to look into why, after a peripatetic series of collaborations, premieres and recording sessions, "Mirrored Spaces" comes to us in the same season as "All Mirrors" by Angel Olsen or mirrored heart by "FKA Twigs", but I will say it is as vital a reflection of our times as either of those fertile and exploratory journeys into the heart of pop expressionism. I will be listening to, and taking nourishment from, "Mirrored Spaces" for quite some time. I suggest you start now.

-Jeremy Shatan, 11.30.19, An Earful


Gapplegate Classical Modern Music Review

Some albums have such a voluminous and well-defined yet complex conceptual framework that doing justice to it all within the limited time and space of a blog article seems daunting. Such a release I feel is most definitely at hand with virtuoso New Music guitarist Daniel Lippel and his two-CD album Mirrored Spaces (New Focus Recordings FCR239).

The idea of Mirrored Spaces took shape initially in a Lippel guitar concert of 2008 that forwarded three "Experiments in Co-Composition." which to varying degrees involved a compositional collaboration between performer (Lippel) and composer (others, Lippel). The present album expands the idea to a richly varied tapestry of works, including the original "Mirrored Spaces," "Descent," and "Scaffold" by, respectively, Orianna Webb and Lippel, Ryan Streber, and again, Daniel Lippel.

From there we hear another nine single- or multi-movement works here, all stemming from the collaborative idea and benefiting greatly from it.

The entire program, as Daniel states in the liners, makes metaphorical use of the idea of mirroring in our "appearance driven culture," with collaborations that give an alternate mirroring centered on the sound qualities and potential of the guitar, "its electronic doppelgangers," plus structure, progammaticity, history and usage of materials. Underlying this are factors regarding special tunings (scordatura), microtones, electro-acoustic aesthetics and the extended voice of the electric guitar.

Such concerns, taken all together, animate and inform the music yet too the results are quite a bit more than the sum of these conceptual parts in that the excelling comes out of the compositional-performative doing. That of course is how it always must be, nonetheless what is remarkable about this program is the how as much as the what.

From the first listen I was taken with it all. The works for electric guitar especially caught my attention because I have long thought there was great potential in an electric-New Music nexus. So the retuned electric springs forward dramatically in works by Sidney Corbett ("Detroit Rain Song Graffiti") and Ryan Streber ("Descent"). A live recording of Lippel's "Scaffold" is another great example of the electric and special tunings along with sustain worthy of the classic psychedelic guitar tradition. Note should also be made of Ethan Wickman's "Joie Division" and how it relates nicely to the electric idea with a combined acoustic part and simultaneous electronic counterplay. It is fascinating and dexterous, truly. There are many other gems too numerous to mention.

All of the program is fascinating and musically rich, showing great inventive and performative imagination, locking in a way of thinking about New Music and the guitar in a single breath, with a wide breadth for today (pardon the phrase). The collaborative idea indeed pays off with guitar-centric advancement that is informed by Lippel's intimate involvement with the instrument and the creative impetus of the composers to spur forward what the contemporary situation can give us.

It is a tour de force for an appealing and intensive synergy between the guitar and the latest compositional Modernisms. Hurrah!

-Grego Edwards, 12.19.2019, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review


Avant Music News

From guitarist Daniel Lippel comes a two-CD set containing a generous collection of recent work for solo guitarist. On the recording Lippel, a virtuoso specializing in the contemporary repertoire for guitar, plays both nylon string classical guitar and electric guitar, conventionally and with extended technique, with and without electronic augmentation. But no matter the instrumental set-up or the musical setting, Lippel’s performances are characteristically deft and assured.

A dominant theme on Mirrored Spaces is the use of alternative tunings and microtonality. The title work, a six-part suite co-composed by Lippel and Orianna Webb in 2006-2008, draws on quarter-tone tuning. The quarter-tone discrepancies create a wobbly choric effect, giving parts of the suite a strangely unstable feeling. Other parts sound like more conventional, albeit beautifully adventurous, classical guitar playing.

Ryan Streber’s Descent for scordatura electric guitar and two amplifiers was also a collaborative composition. The piece, which detunes the guitar’s four lowest strings from standard fourths tuning to the cello’s fifths tuning, has as its central trope the subtle incongruity of having an electric guitar played with classical technique. The piece slowly descends from the instrument’s upper to lower registers and in the process dresses it up in an increasingly overdriven, distorted sound.

Other pieces exploring alternative tunings include Christopher Bailey’s Arc of Infinity, a multi-faceted work for guitar and three layers of electronic sounds that uses overtones in standard tuning to create harmonies in Just Intonation, and Lippel’s own Scaffold, which incorporates three guitars using three different tunings.

Extended technique is more-or-less taken for granted on many of these performances, but they come to the fore particularly on From Scratch, a 2017 electroacoustic work by Sergio Kafejian, that envelops its skittering runs and fragmentary phrases in aggressive, percussive gestures, string scraping, snap pizzicato, and plucking behind the bridge.

No brief review can do justice to the rich variety of music in this collection. One can only say: Listen.

-Daniel Barbiero, 11.4.19, Avant Music News


Can This Even Be Called Music?

Classical guitar player and composer Daniel Lippel just released "Mirrored Spaces" via New Focus Recordings, and it’s a massive one, at over two hours long! The album regroups many composers, but the centrepiece is definitely Lippel’s eponymous hexaptych. Mirrored Spaces uses a quarter-tone tuning— microtonality is a very present theme throughout the album — and many extended techniques suitable for an avant-garde album such as this one. It’s a highly admirable and respectable double-album.

- Dave Tremblay, 11.16.19, Can This Even Be Called Music?


The Guitar

This 2-CD compilation that I have in hand makes me believe, via its dark gradients and simple cover design, that I will be listening to something along the lines of minimalist pumpkin pie until I give it a whirl. Think not of a pumpkin pie but a Rorschach test version of said pie whose entire recipe delves into an analytical process of how the composers intentionally subverted the conventions of pie. Not only that, but Daniel Lippel plays all this on the guitar. No actual pie involved. Amazing.

The 15-track album just over two hours long is entitled Mirrored Spaces (New Focus Recordings) and is produced and performed entirely by Daniel Lippel, using electric and acoustic guitars and classical technique, along with unconventional tunings. So already, you've got to know that this album conjures up one mother of a Claes Oldenburg, not muslin-soaked in plaster over a wire frame, but certainly manipulated electronically through a guitar.

Lippel states that the album is "loosely organized around a metaphorical exploration of mirrors within a musical context..." with its pieces, written by various composers, including Lippel himself, all connecting as a collaborative and thematic call-and-response. Rather than go into the academic details of how each piece was composed, using a hemidemisemiquaverspoonful of sugar, a stave of flour, tempered cream and a clef of fresh pumpkin, I'm simply going to report how it sounds.

CD #1: The first piece, Amorphose 2, written by Karin Wetzel and performed by Philip White, sounds like a guitaristic version of what you might hear if you place a stethoscope to the abdomen of someone experiencing a bad case of gurgling guts, and I don't mean that facetiously at all but as a compliment. It's a superb example of guitaristic indigestion. Why not? The press release states the piece is a "meditation around central pitches created by an unorthodox [tuning] as 16 live electronic cues generate various delays and processes of the guitar, at times shadowing the performer, and at others, asserting a life of their own!" Indeed.

Kyle Bartlett's Aphorisms "Whom the Gods" opens with a singular and pensive movement, to be continued further in the album. Mirrored Spaces, the recipient of Harvard's Fromm Music Foundation grant, is a brilliant 6-movement piece written by Orianna Webb and Daniel Lippe!. The piece opens with a deliciously off-key and eerie movement "Refracted", broken by thunderously echoing whacks upon the guitar sound board. The music soars and ascends like a beautifully strange shadow of an unidentifiable varmint (cat? rat?) scaling nimbly across tiled rooftops of an old city in the dusk. The second movement, "Sturdy", conveys a stride of normal tonality, modernity, and sweetness to the point where I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The third movement, "Cadences", returns to a gloriously spry tonal off-ness (described by Lippel as a quarter-tone alternate tuning) that descends into a pooling quiet and stillness before returning to its original rhythms with insistent urgency haloed by a hovering set of gnat-like harmonics. The fourth movement "Reflected" echoes the second movement's graceful tonal personality. The fifth movement, "Rondo" is punctuated and sassy in its swooping glissandos and snapping strings that evolves into a wonderful creep, haloed by the same gnat-like harmonics of the earlier third movement. The bin movement, "Song," concludes in a normal tuning with a temperate melody, merrily minding its own business, as if nothing dramatic happened at all within the past twenty-four minutes.

Bartlett's Aphorisms "When Music Itself" returns for a second, gloomily ponderous wisp of a movement that opens with a strum followed by a few sharp percussive thumps upon the guitar soundboard, concluding with querulous arpeggio. Ryan Streber's Descent opens with a tickle of electric guitar in a cello tuning, followed by rudely intense strums that ascend into a sprinkling of harmonics, more tickles and a delicate arpeggio, lashed by even more wakeful strums. The piece develops more insistence, pointed delivery and defined sharpness to its arpeggios before settling into an afternoon sugar crash of wandering doldrums and a muddied, bad mood.

Bartlett's Aphorisms "Solon the Lawmaker" returns for a brief interlude of a palate-wiping arpeggio and a grammatical ellipse of the same repeated note. Dalia Raudonikyte With's gentle Primo cum lumina solis billows like a breeze caught in a sail. Bartlett's Aphorisms "It Needs a Body" returns for a final movement of a beautifully ominous lurch punctuated by an ascending melody. CD #1 closes with John Link's Like Minds, sounds like a wordless afterthought during a busy day, ending with a gurgling pizzicato echo of Wetzel's Amorphose 2 earlier, opening bout of musical indigestion. This is, after all, a lot of pie.

CD #2: Sao Paulo-based composer Sergio Kafejian's From Scratch, distant soundboard percussion, descending percussive effect, like a series of jar lids eased and wrenched off before notes spill out. The effect of a plastic ruler scraped along the guitar strings is amusing for the first minute before it becomes repetitive. The piece shifts gears after the third minute, unleashing a sprinkling of notes played above the guitar nut, yet it devolves quickly into more uncomfortable slithering and scraping. At the 7th minute mark, the scraping concludes with galloping strums followed by evenly spaced, low chimes layered with more upper nut string dither.

Kyle Bartlett's Aphorisms "Whosoever is Delighted" continues on this second disc, spread out as they are in the first. A few raw strums trailed by pensive legato notes concludes with a trill slashed by a strum. To be honest, I couldn't really tell the difference between where track 1 of this CD ended and where track 2 started, except that the 11 minutes of track one had, at some point, expired. I had to rewind and re-listen, as the pie has become ponderous.

Sidney Corbett's Detroit Rain Song Graffiti offers sweetly chiming yet random treble notes, representing urban unease in E-flat. Bartlett's Aphorisms: "We Seek Destruction" presents a soft yet still prickly interlude, like the sonic texture of a ball-tipped hairbrush gliding through your hair rather than say, using a hedgehog.

Douglas Boyce's 5-movement Partita opens with slow introductory movement followed by notes that tinkle and burp as a more lively change-up. The third movement is resonantly muddied yet pleasant in its distant brooding. The fourth movement opens sinuously and gently before it is shaken awake by the frittered, jagged energy of the last movement that conducts itself like two lanes commuter traffic shoving and jostling past each other on subway stairs during any given night. The piece concludes with an atonally drifting sunset of notes fading on the horizon.

Bartlett's Aphorisms, "There Is No Excellent Beauty" features percussion and ascending slithering along the strings that escalates into high-pitched, frenzied wiping and a dramatic fall-off to gently-played treble notes that turn querulous before getting slapped back into timidity.

Ethan Wickman's Joie Divisions, lively jagged strumming interspersed with an ascending arpeggio. The piece turns into an elegantly modern andante that reintroduces the jagged strumming before breaking into a tremolo with a melody that turns more New Yorkers-at-rush-hour in tempo. Its a lovely piece, which, given its present company with the other tracks, may be seen as either quaintly or mercifully conventional.

Bartlett's Aphorisms," Man Comes into the World" offers a quasi-tinkle-burp ponderous interlude. Christopher Baily's 16:27 minute-long Arc of Infinity is described as placing the guitar "inside a sonic house of mirrors comprised of three 'virtual instruments', bell-like sounds, a 'dirty sampler' composed out of guitar notes from recently recorded repertoire, and flanged/delayed/filtered sounds. This piece abruptly cuts out into very intentional mutes of silence that will lead you to believe your CD-player has malfunctioned.

Bartlett's Aphorisms, "Love is Necessarily" sweetly tonal notes that quickly lose their promise of melody to sour fudging followed by more of the infamous tinkly-burps of earlier, concluding with a meandering, descending trudge.

Daniel Lippel's Scaffold, the electric guitar piece that inspired this album, is a 2008 recording that took place at The Tank, recorded in the presence of this writer, who recalls that particular performance well, as the original space had been a recently-shuttered Soho speakeasy burlesque house. The prior stage furniture, props, and bar counter had been hastily ripped up, leaving behind prominent nail holes along with lighter gradations and faint outlines upon the wooden floorboards (and much else to the imagination) where musicians now sat, performing pieces like this one: plaintive and eerie siren swoops of electric guitar.

Let's face it: modern music is not about to inspire any cowboy-hatted yowling, country music sing-along cat memes unless turned Cubist, but even Cubism would be considered the more approachable cousin at this party.

This is the kind of music that forces you to listen and consider its techniques and approach-that is, if you've managed to resist any first impulse to run away. I've always been open to hearing what contemporary composers are up to on the guitar as a refreshing exchange to historical classical guitar, but I don't kid myself that just because it's contemporary and new means that it escapes bearing out its own tropes. It's a challenge to create and coordinate an album of new music that wants to defy what the ear is accustomed to hearing. When new music works, it's because it's found a way to embrace and spark the imagination rather than alienate its listener.

Lippel excels at structure and balance, not just within his own compositions but also with his careful thought in the layout of this album. A 2-disc CD set of modern guitar music speaks of Lippel's generosity as a producer to showcase a number of new contemporary voices for both solo and electric guitar.

-Julia Crowe, 11.13.19, The Guitar


Midwest Record

This very ambitious double cd of premiere works by contemporary classical composers is going to strike you like you’re listening to ​Segovia on acid—with him being the one on acid. A set of solo classical and acoustic guitar with electronics thrown in as a side dish, this isn’t solo guitar for a romantic evening with wine, music and thou but it is a rocket set to take you to guitar galaxies beyond the beyond. Way more John Williams than Frank Zappa, this is a fine adventure for the adventurous.​

-Chris Spector, 10.26.19, Midwest Record



Guitarist Daniel Lippel presents a double CD of premieres for solo classical and electric guitar (some with electronics). The music is stylistically diverse, but there are some common threads, including explorations of the properties of acoustic and electric guitars, electro-acoustic music, alternate tunings and microtonality. There are four electro-acoustic pieces. Karin Wetzel's "Amorphose 2" opens the album with a frequently gentle interaction between classical guitar and electronics, sometimes blossoming into a chorus of guitars or a deep echo. John Link's "Like Minds" casts the electronics in a more active role, culminating in a dense pointillistic cloud. "Mirrored Spaces" (a collaboration between Orianna Webb and the guitarist) immediately establishes the striking sound of equal-tempered and quarter-tone tunings. The three electric guitar works all explore alternate tunings--Lippel's "Scaffold" closes the album with a very electronic-sounding combination of detuning, ebow and looping. - © Mark Sullivan, Minor7th


New Music Buff

This double album by guitarist, composer, producer, etc. Dan Lippel is sort of his Yellow Brick Road, an album which listeners of a certain age know well. Elton John’s album was more about dropping the shackles of adolescence and conformity but Mirrored Spaces is more about setting aside the shackles of Lippel’s very busy life with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), Flexible Music, and the daunting task of producing for (the also very busy and wonderful) New Focus Recordings. Here he presents a virtual manifesto of works for solo guitar with electronics which, if only by proximity of release date, suggests a comparison with Jennifer Koh’s Limitless.

The present disc is at once a virtual CV of his interests as performer and composer as well as a forward looking compilation by which future new chamber music with guitar will be compared. It is a collection which looks like he culled the best of his current working repertoire to present a sort of photograph of his vision.

The two discs are actually an overwhelming listening experience of new material. Here are the tracks:

It’s easy to see the richness and complexity of this release from the track listing alone. Having already demonstrated his facility with minimalist classics like his wonderful recording of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint he presents selections from what appears to be his current active repertoire. It is a joy to see the diversity of composers he has chosen. Clearly he confronts the new and technically challenging works with the same zeal with which he approaches his various other responsibilities as performer and producer. We even get to hear some of his chops as a composer in the live recording of Scaffold as well as his collaborative work with Orianna Webb on the eponymous Mirrored Spaces. These are unusual works, not the “usual suspects” not the latest rage but new and interesting music. Even the presentation of Kyle Bartlett’s pithy Aphorisms are scattered among the other tracks like pepper on your salad at a restaurant (personally my obsessive nature wants to re-order these tracks in sequence) demonstrating a sensitivity to alternate ways to present music. I have at best a passing knowledge of most of these composers having heard some of the work of Douglas Boyce and some of Kyle Bartlett. I know Ryan Streber via his work as a recording engineer. The rest of the name are new to these ears. And that is exactly the point of this wonderful collection. I really can’t say much useful about the individual pieces except to say that they are compelling listening. The liner notes included in the CD release are useful and informative. (Now last I looked the CD version is not available on Amazon so you will have to go to Bandcamp to order it but I highly recommend it for the notes alone.) Many of these pieces will have a significant performance life and you heard them here first. Much as Jennifer Koh defines new collaborative adventures in Limitless with her trusty violin, Lippel brings his axe down on some challenging but substantive music in this forward looking collection.

— Allan Cronin, 1.09.2020



I thought I was a decent record collector. I thought I have a good discoteque by now, especially as regards contemporary guitar music, but this record made me immediately review my positions. Do you know how many double cds I have of contemporary classical guitar? Nobody. And believe me, I have a lot of them. I did a search on Discogs.com. I haven’t found any. This album is an exception.

I come from the noise. I come from rock, from popular music. In those lands the double albums, if they are not simple compilations of successes, are viewed with a mixture of respect, unbelief and veneration. They tell complex stories. Concept albums. The sum of their passages goes beyond a simple final arithmetic. From a double album the fan of popular music expects a broad and extensive narrative, a sort of cultural manifesto, or, as often happens on live recordings, a sort of summary of the best of the best.

How does a double album behave in the context of such a specific musical niche as that of contemporary guitar music? Does it keep that concentration of energies and visions typical of the popular music or does it move on to other semantic territories? “Mirrored Spaces” by guitarist Daniel Lippel is a double world premiere album of music by American composers Orianna Webb, John Link, Kyle Bartlett, Douglas Boyce, Ryan Streber, Ethan Wickman, Christopher Bailey and Lippel himself, as well as the composers of other lands like Dalia R. With (Lithuania), Sergio Kafejian (Brazil), Karin Wetzel (Switzerland) and Sidney Corbett (Germany).

The title tells us something more about this musical panorama, it’s a different program from the usual guitar recital, something more similar to a concept album where pieces with different qualities are “mirrored” and reflect with each other increasing the listening prospects and the possibilities of exploration within classical and electric guitar, electroacoustic music, structure and form, programmatic and historical relationships, alternative tunings and microtonality.

I would like to emphasize not only the high quality intrinsic to each pieces but also the intelligent way in which they have been proposed and amalgamated, reflected between them. “Mirrored Spaces” is an album that must be listened to in a religious and exact sequence, in order not to get lost in that maze of complexity that Daniel Lippel has proudly and intelligently created.

A decomposed and casual listening would alter that series of planes and reflected surfaces whose sum shows us a decidedly more articulated structure than that of a simple recital or single listening.

A listening that led me to other thoughts and other connections. While listening to the music of “Mirrored Spaces” I was reading the book “Per Volontà e per Caso” by Pierre Boulez, where the composer talks about his life and his music in a long interview with Célestin Deliège and I came across a significant sentence, where Boulez compares the phenomenon of the historical evolution of music to the objects placed under the limestone sources.

Due to the action of the wellsprings, even a fairly simple, even banal, object becomes petrified, becoming a wonderful and balanced object. Then the fount continues to drip and, progressively, this object becomes overloaded with limestone, becoming an almost baroque object, until it becomes so saturated that it no longer has any reason for being. At that point we separate from it and look for something else. Hence a notion of history as a non-linear, but discontinuous, asymmetric, almost sinusoidal type. I think something similar is happening now in the world of contemporary guitar music, especially in academia.

On the one hand, the most extreme and disruptive forms of the twentieth century of which Boulez himself was a leading exponent seem to have exhausted their creative energies, also due to a radical political and social change. At the same time, perhaps thanks to the recent commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, I see the return of neoclassical forms, and I have no interest about them. Here it is. I believe that Daniel Lippel’s double CD goes in a different direction, perhaps not surprisingly it comes from a country like the United States where certain energies, including entrepreneurial ones, have not run out and where a certain faith in innovation has been maintained.

“Mirrored Spaces” is an album of innovative forms and, above all, it expresses a tension towards something else, towards different perspectives. In addition, it’s a double cd. It’s a lesson to be learned.

— Andrea Aguzzi, 3.23.2020



Daniel Lippel, whom I would guess is in his 40s, commenced his formal education at Oberlin and at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and earned his D.M.A. in 2006 in the studio of David Starobin at the Manhattan School of Music. His dissertation topic was on guitar works by Mario Davidovsky, and throughout his career he has been most involved with new music for guitar, both in solo and chamber music contexts. His extensive discography dates back to 2004 (Resonance, New Focus Recordings), and he is very much in demand as a performer and also a teacher.

On this new release, Lippel highlights the collaborative relationship that he has enjoyed with other composers. In 2008, he worked with Orianna Webb and Ryan Streber, among others, to assemble a program he called “Experiments in Co-Composition,” and the works they created are the basis of this new release. At that same concert, he also performed a work of his own, Scaffold, and that live performance brings the present release to a satisfying end. (I think it is one of the strongest works on this program.) Everything else appears to have been recorded under studio conditions, mostly in 2018 and 2019, although two of the recordings (the title work and Descent) are about a decade old.

Overall, the program explores mirrors as a metaphor—in Lippel’s words, “with respect to the acoustic properties of the guitar, its electronic doppelgangers, structure, programmatic, and historical relationships, and treatment of material.” At several different points in this program, Lippel uses electric guitars (sometimes more than one at a time), amplifiers, non-conventional tuning, microtonality, and “the aesthetics of electro-acoustic music.” For example, in Ryan Streber’s Descent, an electric guitar is tuned like a cello, with the two additional strings tuned to B and E. The piece starts with a capo on the frets, which raises the pitch of all six strings, but later the capo is removed, lowering the pitch, and “a slow process of revealing progressively lower pitches eventually leads the work down in register to the detuned lowest string.” Lippel also writes, “Select moments in this work were written collaboratively; Ryan provided a skeleton for where a passage was coming from and where it needed to go, and I improvised around these restraints and presented a few options to him.” (It should be mentioned that composers do not necessarily learn in music schools specifically how to write for the guitar, and are often at least partly dependent on guitarists to instruct them in what is possible and not possible.)

I took particular interest in Ethan Wickman’s Joie Divisions. It is based on an earlier work (Joie) whose themes are ornamented and extended using the 16th- and 17th-century technique of division. It also is based on "Disorder," an iconic song by the British post-punk band Joy Division, which is another form of mirroring, I suppose.

The packaging includes nine brief aphorisms by Francis Bacon, Elias Canetti, and others. These aphorisms have been wordlessly set, if you will, to music by composer Kyle Bartlett. Each Aphorism is one or two minutes long, and the nine of them have been interspersed amongst the longer works on this program as scene-changing interludes.

Despite its variety, this program makes for challenging listening. For me, it was more intellectually involving—and there is much to admire here from that perspective—than emotionally engaging, but your experience might be different than mine. Lippel, like Starobin, is one of those guitarists who views the guitar as an instrument no less capable of advancing musical frontiers than any other instrument, and his strong musicianship supports that view. Given the program’s length, more casual listeners might be intimidated, but fear not: Lippel has uploaded tracks from this release onto YouTube, so one can explore its contents with minimal risk, and make a decision about just how deep to dive.

— Raymond Tuttle, 5.03.2020

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