Heartdance Cover Photo

Folias Duo Celebrates 20 Years

How did you both meet and form a band?

In the fall of 2002, Andrew and I met as graduate students at Michigan State University. Our first meeting was very quiet. We sat together on my futon and listened to Andrew’s compositions. Afterward, we played the tango charts I had brought with me from my years of learning to play and dance the tango in Kansas City, MO, where I did my undergraduate studies.

As we formed our duo, the process was organic from the beginning. Our rehearsals just seemed to work. In our first few years, we had a reciprocal process. We played Andrew’s compositions and songs, learning to adapt them for flute and guitar, and we also played the tango music I wanted to perform for dancers.

When did you get your first gig?

Only a few weeks after we met, we landed a gig at a Cuban restaurant in Lansing, MI. Suddenly, we had a reason to keep playing and developing new music every week. Michigan State University was also a welcoming place for new music. We challenged ourselves to learn and perform newly written pieces for graduate composition recitals. We had a lot to chew on back then, but it taught us a lot about imagining what was possible for our instruments.

The flute and guitar combination is an untapped genre, unlike the string quartet genre, which has volumes of published music. The possibilities for our duo combination are vast and unexplored, which excites us.

When did you start touring?

In the summer of 2003, we embarked on our first performance tour in the West. We played in small halls, libraries, and churches, camping all the way to Oregon and back. Now, some twenty years later, many want to know how we manage to book our own tours, write all the music, and camp along the way without killing each other!

The first thing I would say is that we both really appreciate being outside and enjoy the challenge of not taking things like temperature-controlled environments, a consistent power source, independent transportation, relative safety, and health for granted. Consciously placing ourselves every night in a tent on the ground in unfamiliar environments helps us see things about ourselves that we wouldn’t see in ordinary (truly privileged) day-to-day reality. Laying our heads on the ground is a gold mine for creativity! It also makes us nicer and more understanding humans.

Eventually, our touring goals became loftier, and we booked tours in Europe, Argentina, and Chile. Our ultimate tour was probably the road trip we took in 2011 when we drove from Michigan to Fairbanks Alaska and played concerts all the way through the US and Canada. That’s some crazy mileage. We just laugh now when people ask how we can stand to drive all the way through Nebraska!

Both of you love to cook, how do you integrate that into your busy lives?

Andrew and I share a love for cooking, local food, and great wine. Cooking is not a chore for us, but rather a curiosity and a stress relief. I enjoy exploring how the seasons work and living near the year-round farmer’s market in Grand Rapids, MI allows us to learn about community access, biodiversity, and vegetables grown in winter hoop houses. This knowledge extends to our travels, where we seek out local products and utilize them in our cooking.

Andrew worked in the Michigan wine industry in his 20s and is now a home winemaker. When we have time and resources, we travel to understand the land and people who make wine. Understanding the environment (land, elevation, soil, sun) and the people (culture, history) who grew/made it is crucial to truly understand food and wine. We have a rule though not to visit wineries on gig days. However, we always make time for farmer’s markets.

How did you come up with the idea for your newest album Heartdance?

We’ve had the idea for an album called Heartdance for three years, ever since Andrew wrote his set of pieces based on the life cycle of the dragonfly. Upon our first listen to the MIDI realization of the “Dragonfly” pieces I think we both knew these were special, music that would be appealable and beautiful for an audience to listen to, but also very engaging and challenging for us as players. The four movements “Aquatic,” “Molting,” “Flying,” and “Heartdance,”  are compositions that are going to age well. We know we can perform, study and grow with them for years to come–a set of dream pieces for classical musicians, really.

The other compositions on the Heartdance album we developed during the 40+ live streams we’ve presented since the pandemic. For two years we had a push to write and present our own music twice a month, an unexpected gift for us as composer-performers.

Our music is an anomaly. We don’t play the classics of European music, but we love to combine techniques of tonal and atonal music theory as I do in my piece “Meadow Dream” inspired by the music of pianist and composer Alexander Scriabin. We aren’t folk musicians, however, most of our music is inspired in some way by folkloric music, as I do with my piece “Looking Glass” inspired by Argentine music or the two African flute (tambin) pieces “Dance of the Foxes,” and “Forgotten Peach Blossoms,” an adventurous undertaking by Andrew, his first compositions for this unique three-holed flute from Guinea. It would be a stretch to call us jazz musicians, but we venture into descriptive, improvisatory music in an odd meter (⅞) in the piece “Nighthawk” a piece we wrote together about an experience we had with a pair of nighthawks.

What was your recording process like?

We recorded the album at Sono Luminus Studios in Boyce, Virginia with two other collaborators: producer Dan Merceruio and engineer Daniel Shores. We recorded our previous two Folias Music releases (“Dreaming to Live” and “Delicate Omens”) with Merceruio and Shores, and we’re so grateful as independent artists to have a team we can return to that we trust with our music. I would call Daniel Shore and Dan Merceruio a “ninja team,” probably one of the best for classical recording. Their immersive audio/production work with the Iceland Symphony and Icelandic composers is some of the most inspiring and innovative stuff out there for “classical” music right now. 

For more info, including bio please visit https://www.foliasmusic.com/about/

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