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Voutchkova, Biliana / Sarah Davachi: Slow Poem for Stiebler (Another Timbre)

An extended piece jointly developed by US West Coast composers Sarah Davachi & Biliana Voutchkova, who perform on reed organ and violin & voice respectively, taking short moments and gestures from Ernstalbrecht Stiebler's composition Für Biliana and expanding them into a longform duo of beautifully fragile, slowly circling harmonic suspensions.

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product information:

Label: Another Timbre
Catalog ID: at204
Squidco Product Code: 33016

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2023
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded ar 2220 Arts + Archives, in Los Angeles, California, in April, 2022, by Daniel Knowles.


Biliana Voutchkova-violin, voice

Sarah Davachi-reed organ

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Artist Biographies:

"Biliana Voutchkova is a dedicated, thoroughly engaged composer-performer whose work combines regular performances of major solo violin/ensemble works and new works by contemporary composers often written for her, improvisation and performance work reaching into the realm of dance and movement. Her constant research as a creative artist spans the widest possible range of sound and movement and extends her sonic, physical and technical capacities evolving into the development of a highly individual artistic musical language.

Biliana is a risk taker approaching contemporary classical repertoire with the same inspiration and freedom characteristic of her forceful improvisations. She collaborates with an international pool of renowned artists - among those are Mazen Kerbaj, Audrey Chen, Ute Wassermann, Iva Bittová, Robin Hayward, Jacques Demierre, Matthias Bauer, Frances-Marie Uitti, Séverine Ballon, Helmut Lachenmann, Michael Thieke, Hans Peter Kuhn, George Lewis, Georg Nussbaumer, Clayton Thomas, Axel Dörner, Peter Ablinger and many others. ​Biliana has been heard at festivals and concert series worldwide, her appearances ranging from celebrated concert venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York, the Berliner Philharmonie and Radial System V in Berlin, and Suntory Hall in Tokyo, to performances in the most vivid experimental places such as Kule/Labor sonor, Ausland, Quite Cue, Studio 8 and Exploratorium in Berlin, Saal 100 in Amsterdam, and the Knitting Factory in New York. After her 14 years long residence in the USA, Biliana now lives in Berlin and collaborates with the Splitter Orchestra, Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop, Ensemble Modern, Zeitkratzer, Work in Progress, Ensembles United Berlin, Mosaik, LUX:NM and others. She is the co-founder of her dance/music group GRAPESHADE and OSM (open sound & movement collective). Her recent/current projects include solo concerts at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, MuseRuole Festival, Radar Festval, Radialsystem V and Unerhörte Musik, concert appearance with Iva Bittová and Phil Minton, the solo portrait concert/presentation and the project "Gazes that matter" at Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, the performance of Alban Berg's chamber concerto for the March Music Days Festival, the concert tour in Bulgaria/Serbia with Voutchkova/Thieke duo supported by the Goethe Institut and performances for the festivals Klangwerkstatt, Jazzfest and Faithful in Berlin, Blurred Edges in Hamburg, Rainy Days in Luxemburg and Klarafestival in Brüssel.

Born in the family of musicians, Biliana Voutchkova begins playing violin at the age of four, makes her orchestra debut at the age of nine, and records her first CD for the Japanese label Crown Record Ltd. at the age of sixteen. She studies classical violin, in her college years starts being involved with the contemporary and improvised music scene in New York. Among her teachers are Peter Arnaoudov, Abram Stern and Felix Galimir. Ms. Voutchkova holds degrees from the University of Southern California and New School for Social Research/Mannes College of Music in New York (MM in music). She has received top honors at the Kozian International Music Competition, CRS National Competition for Performing Artists, and Music and the Earth International Contemporary Music Competition. At the age of nineteen, she was invited to the United States, and was presented the special Jasha Heifetz Violin Scholarshipfor for her studies at the University of Southern California. After her move to New York in 1995 her continuous interest and exploration of the music of today remains being a major part of her work. "

-Biliana Voutchkova Website (

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"Sarah Davachi (b. 1987, Canada) is a composer and performer whose work is concerned with the close intricacies of timbral and temporal space, utilizing extended durations and considered harmonic structures that emphasize gradual variations in texture, overtone complexity, psychoacoustic phenomena, and tuning and intonation. Her compositions span solo, chamber ensemble, and acousmatic formats, incorporating a wide range of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. Similarly informed by minimalist and longform tenets, early music concepts of form, affect, and intervallic harmony, as well as experimental production practices of the electroacoustic studio environment, in her sound is an intimate and patient experience that lessens perceptions of the familiar and the distant.

In addition to her acclaimed recorded output, Davachi has toured extensively alongside artists such as Ellen Arkbro, Oren Ambarchi, Grouper, William Basinski, Catherine Lamb, Aaron Dilloway, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Michael Pisaro, Loren Connors, Tashi Wada, David Rosenboom, Charlemagne Palestine, Arnold Dreyblatt, and filmmaker Paul Clipson. Commissioned projects include large-scale works for Quatuor Bozzini, the London Contemporary Orchestra, Yarn/Wire, Apartment House, Wild Up, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Cello Octet Amsterdam, Bonner Kunstverein, the Canadian International Organ Competition, and Western Front New Music. Her work has been presented internationally by Southbank Centre (London, UK), Barbican Centre (London, UK), Kontraklang (Berlin, DE), Ina GRM (Paris, FR), Issue Project Room (New York, USA), Lampo (Chicago, USA), Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg, DE), Organ Reframed (London, UK), The Getty (Los Angeles, USA), Orgelpark (Amsterdam, NL), Le Guess Who? (Utrecht, NL), The Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles, USA), Mazeum Festival (Kyoto, JP), Open Frame (Sydney, AU), Unsound (Kraków, PL), Église du Gesù (Montréal, CA), Église Saint-Eustache (Paris, FR), Temppeliaukio Church (Helsinki, FI), Grace Cathedral (San Francisco, USA), Rockefeller Memorial Chapel (Chicago, USA), Lapidárium Národního Muzea (Prague, CZ), and Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid, ES), among others. In 2020 she founded Late Music, an imprint within the partner labels division of Warp Records.

Between 2007 and 2017, Davachi had the unique opportunity to work for the National Music Centre in Canada as an interpreter and content developer of their collection of acoustic and electronic keyboard instruments. She has held artist residencies with The Banff Centre for the Arts, Quatuor Bozzini's Composer's Kitchen, STEIM, Elektronmusikstudion, OBORO Montréal, the Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio, the National Music Centre, and the Swiss Museum & Center for Electronic Music Instruments, and holds a master's degree in electronic music and recording media from Mills College in Oakland, California. Davachi is currently a doctoral candidate in musicology at UCLA, focusing on timbre, phenomenology, and critical organology, and is based in Los Angeles, California."

-Sarah Davachi Website (

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track listing:

1. Slow poem for Stiebler 48:44
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

Another Timbre Interview with Sarah Davachi & Biliana Voutchkova

How did 'Slow poem for Stiebler' come about?

SD: 'Slow poem for Stiebler' came about initially in 2020 with the release of 'Für Biliana', written for Biliana by the German composer Ernstalbrecht Stiebler. I had been a long-time admirer of Stiebler's music and reached out to Biliana to express my enthusiasm for the release - Biliana and I had originally met in 2018 when she and Cat Lamb accompanied me on strings in a concert I gave in Berlin. Biliana then reached out to me a few months later to see if I would like to work on a sort of re-composition of 'Für Biliana', perhaps something that we could perform together. We received a grant from the Goethe Institut to support the project and began working in earnest in the summer/fall of 2021. We did some back and forth sharing of ideas and score material, and in February 2022 Biliana did a rough presentation of some of the material in Berlin. In April 2022 we organised a recording session and concert as part of a residency Biliana was doing in Los Angeles, so we formalised the structure of the piece that you hear in the recording for that, although the piece is by design somewhat flexible and modular.

BV: From my side, the idea of inviting Sarah for this collaboration came very naturally. When she mentioned that she is an admirer of Stiebler's music, I immediately connected what was evident - my wish of collaborating with her, and engaging further with Ernstalbrecht's pieces in a different way. I never did a re-composition of an existing piece before. I was eager to see where our common appreciation, inventiveness and the completely different parameters settled from the very beginning would bring us.

So the source of the piece is taken from Stiebler's 'Fur Biliana', but how did you transform the original material?

SD: We were thinking of it as a sort of remix or re-composition of Stiebler's original piece. From my side, I was really drawn to the simplicity and beauty of the harmonies and intervals, as well as the circular non-narrative movement of the piece as a whole. I wanted to slow that down quite a lot and really luxuriate in the harmonies. So essentially we took different sections of the piece and extended them over a much longer period of time and broke them apart much more, made them more circular, and added in a kind of heterophony into the texture with the harmonizing of organ and voice in addition to the violin. We thought that it would be interesting to make the piece "modular", so we can choose different sections and order them in different ways to create a completely different structure of a really variable length. Each section is fully notated, but of course the pacing is quite variable with us moving through the piece intuitively while also listening closely to what the other person is doing and noticing when they've moved through different notes or intervals. It's a piece that focuses on simplicity and listening, which I think is reflective of Stiebler's approach.

BV: I just want to add a few more words about our first in person session in Berlin, in October 2021. We had a long talk, listened and reflected on the original piece and some other music which we found relevant for the project, and tried out various combinations of voice/violin textures referring to the 'Für Biliana' score. My most particular interest was to find ways of interweaving violin, voice and organ alongside subtle field recordings. I think our exchange that day was very fruitful. Many ideas which we followed appeared then for the first time - for example, the wish to have a flexible structure which allows variations.

Sarah, how much of your previous music works in the same way (ie notated, but allowing a lot of freedom in interpretation)?

SD: A lot of my music is written this way. It started just as a convenient way of notating my live solo performances early on - I would give myself rough parameters of things that I should be doing at certain times and for how long I should be doing them before moving onto the next thing, and over the years I found that that was actually a really meaningful way of performing music, to be able to listen actively in the moment and really respond or change things acoustically, to pay attention to and process what's happening at any given moment. Each performance ends up being a bit different because of how you're feeling or what the space accommodates and where it takes you, and I find that really interesting. A lot of the chamber music that I compose also incorporates a fair amount of decision making on part of the players in terms of which notes they play, when they play them, and for how long they are held - I'll give a couple options, but I think it's really interesting when the players can decide in the moment how things are going to sound. I like the idea of music that changes with each iteration, and I believe strongly in the concept of iteration as a form of expression, things that are the same but different. I find it depressing that so much notated music tends to focus on the notes exactly as they are on the page, with musicians often reading the music and just checking out mentally - I want to give musicians the opportunity to listen while they perform, to be more active members in the acoustic space that they are creating. And I think that sensitivity comes through to the listener in a beautiful way as well.

Could you tell us a bit more about your background in contemporary music?

SD: I grew up playing piano through the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada, very institutionalised, learning the canon. At a certain point, I found myself particularly interested in chords and harmonies - I would pause on certain chords that I was playing just to prolong the experience and my enjoyment of the sound, and then I began to wonder about music that could be based on this vertical harmonic principle, which I found early on in the minimalist compositions of people like La Monte Young and Éliane Radigue. So my initial interest in writing contemporary music was to chase this feeling of intimacy with sound, of being within sounds that I found to be beautiful or moving in some way. I found myself drawn to electronic music early on in part because of the flexibility it offered, and in part because of the control that it gave me. In electronic music composed in the studio, I could be both composer and performer and I didn't have to worry about how to explain ideas that I was still trying to make sense of in my own head to someone else. Once I felt a bit more comfortable in that sonic world, it was very exciting to be able to branch out more and start to incorporate acoustic instruments as well as different ideas about tuning and timbre and texture. I worked initially in the form of electroacoustic composition - recording acoustic instruments at various held tones and then editing those recordings and processing and assembling them in the studio into acousmatic pieces meant only for playback. I still work that way a lot of the time, and occasionally I'll create an acoustic chamber piece through those means and only notate it after the fact. Through my work with the organ, which I became interested in while I was doing my MFA at Mills College, I was able to come out of the studio a bit and explore the world of acoustic composition more directly, on account of having a special relationship with keyboard instruments. The relationship between composer and performer, and the dialogue and possibility for interpretation, is so sacred to me and I'm really enjoying splitting my time between studio-based works that are private and involve only me, as well as flexible acoustic works that I can hand off to ensembles to interpret and bring new life to. As I said earlier, iteration is a really important concept to my work and I've become more interested in the formalized and notational aspects of contemporary practice as a way of constantly moving closer to a certain feeling, of how different articulations of the same feeling can have vastly different meanings.

BV: Can I add something? Strangely enough, this question made me think of my present, wondering why and how I arrived here after a pretty solid early classical / later on contemporary music education. I am now mostly interested in creating new work, collaborative or solo, composed or improvised, acoustic, electro-acoustic or audio-visual, but always allowing space for spontaneity and response to the current moment. I connect to intuition and the knowledge locked within us, searching for the circumstances which enable them to arise to the surface. Through sound and deep listening, I engage with the ephemeral, transient, the dreamworld, with various kinds of verbal and non-verbal communication and connectivity between people, places and all of life, allowing the occurrence of touching and meaningful experiences.

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Piano & Keyboards
Stringed Instruments
Duo Recordings
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
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