Song in Mistranslation
flute, clarinet and cello
Sato Moughalian, flute; Nick Gallas, clarinet and Karen Ouzounian, cello
September 29, 2011 - Estonian House, NYC
Roberta Michel, flute; Nick Gallas, clarinet and Karen Ouzounian, cello
PDF of Score
About the piece:
The roots of Song in Mistranslation lie many years ago in a recording I came across while doing research at the Estonian Folklore Archives. The recording was a folksong called Käte käskimine (Bidding Hands to do Work) in a southeastern dialect of Estonian called Setu. Though I grew up in California, Estonian was my ﬁrst language, but I was unable to understand more than a few words of the strange Setu dialect. Despite this, the music drew me in with its oddly hypnotic harmonies (most Estonian folk music is monophonic - without harmony), off kilter lilt and unexpected call and response patterns. I wrote a quick transcription and got back to the work I was supposed to be doing. Many years later, I thought of that song as I was beginning a piece for ﬂute and cello (I added the clarinet later on in the process). Without looking at the transcription I began writing. What emerged was music clearly but distantly inﬂuenced by the Setu song. I like to think that years of the music sitting in the back of my brain ﬁltered out the deep and essential elements of the music that I could connect to. But I also realize that the music I wrote would not be identiﬁed by a Setu singer as having anything to do with her music. This sense of a cultural one-way street is something that I think immigrant families such as mine often face. To the extent to which music can actually beanything, this music is certainly more about an American experience than anything Estonian.