A Conversation on Luis Andrei Cobo’s latest music album The Disarrange

Charles Coleman | Hong Kong | April 2023

With the release of The Disarrange, a new album featuring music of the composer Luis Andrei Cobo, Vantage is delighted to include the interview of the composer together with pianist Tamami Honma, soprano Tamara Hardesty and artist Heather Green, the artists who are involved in the making of the album. This interview was led by the distinguished composer Charles Coleman.

Composer Luis Andrei Cobo, a native of New York City, has had a passion for music since he saw the movie Star Wars at age four, which was also when he started taking piano lessons. Following a deep and abiding love of film scores, Cobo has been composing music since the age of 12. In 1990 he was admitted to Manhattan School of Music, eventually completing both his BM and MM, where he studied with David Noon, Aaron Jay Kernis, Richard Danielpour and Giampaolo Bracali. Since then he has written music for many different medium but prefers composing art songs. By day, Cobo works as a software engineer for large reputable companies. He is a single dad, living in Jersey City with his dog, Darwin.



Charles Coleman has written more than 100 compositions starting with Five Songs of Mother Goose (1993) for soprano and piano, which was published by Vanguard Music in 1993. Young Words for Chamber Ensemble was commissioned in 1995 by Litchfiel Performing Arts of Connecticut and was choreographed by the Pilobolus Dance Company. Elegy (1995) for string orchestra, Westside Nocturne (1997) for solo piano and Pastorale (1999) for flute, cello and guitar (1999).

Coleman received a commission to write a major symphonic work celebrating the opening of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 2001–2002 season with its then new music director, Paavo Järvi. Streetscape for Full Orchestra – a furious walk through the streets of Coleman’s native Manhattan, was first performed on 14 September 2001 in Cincinnati, three days after the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Many commissions followed including Pavement (2002) with the Dogs of Desire chamber orchestra conducted by David Alan Miller, Red Oak Dawn (2006) premiered by New Jersey Symphony conducted by Neeme Järvi, his Violin Concerto (2013) commissioned by violinist Tatiana Berman and the Constella Music Festival, and his orchestral works Drenched (2018) and Bach Inspired (2018), commissioned by the MDR Symphony Orchestra of Leipzig and later that year, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra led by Kristjan Järvi.

Tamami Honma is an internationally acclaimed pianist renowned for the spell-binding power and expressiveness of her performances. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, she maintains a busy schedule as a concert soloist, collaborative performer, conductor, teacher and recording artist. She has performed at major venues including Wigmore Hall and Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall and in 2017 her premiere of the piano concerto composed for her by Luis Andrei Cobo was voted as San Francisco Classical Voice’s Best of the Bay. Her discography, which includes 12 CDs, have consistently received five star reviews and “Editor’s Choice” in BBC Music and Gramophone magazines. Her recording of the Chopin concertos with the Vilnius String Quartet was The Independent‘s “CD of the Week”. She is on faculty as Collaborative Pianist at Stanford University and later this year will be releasing new recordings of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas for Divine Art.

Tamara Hardesty, soprano, has been described by New York Times music critic James R. Oestreich as “…a particular joy, singing with a clear, agile soprano and spinning out the coloratura with ease.” Andrew Porter wrote in the New Yorker magazine that Hardesty “…gave pleasure in many gentle, fluent, well-shaped passages.”

Hardesty has sung lead roles with such opera companies as Connecticut Grand Opera, Western Opera Theater Tours, Sarasota Opera and Peach State Summer Theatre. Her concert appearances as soloist include performing at the Kennedy Center, the National Opera Center, and as a frequent guest of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.

Dr Hardesty earned her BM from Manhattan School of Music, her MM from Curtis Institute of Music, and her DMA from the University of Connecticut, and previously served on the faculty at New York University. She is now an associate professor of voice and the director of VSU Opera at Valdosta State University in Georgia.

“Ms. Green’s searing, powerful performance was spellbinding.”

– Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

Heather Green is a vocal, literary, physical and visual artist, who was born on a farm in Pennsylvania. After a formative period in NYC, she moved to Berlin, Germany in 2019. Green has been heralded for her operatic portrayals ranging from Romantic to contemporary works, and is also a sought-after lyricist. In 2023, Green will sing the title role in Elektra at Bürgersaal Zehlendorf, and make her debut at the German State Opera in Berlin. Two-time award-winner of the Mellon Grant for Creative Research, the LISMA scholarship, and the New York Is Book Country Fast Fiction Contest, Green holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute, and an Associate’s Degree from the Swedish Institute for Health Sciences.

Charles: Hello, everyone. I’m Charles Coleman here to talk about recently newly made album called The Disarrange featuring the music of Luis Andrei Cobo. We also have here three of the musical artists: the two vocalists that are featured, along with one of the pianists. We have soprano Tamara Hardesty, along with great soprano/poetess Heather Green. Over here we have the pianist, Tamami Honma, who performs the solo piano works that are featured through this album.

Luis: Charles, tell us a little bit about yourself here.

Charles: I’m Charles Coleman, composer, vocalist, conductor, and a few other things I can’t think of at the moment.

Luis, we’ve known each other a long time. I’ve seen the development of your music for years. I’ve seen you in the beginning with your Romantic-esque, Chopin-esque and Rachmaninoff-esque influences; eventually you develop and come up with your own thing.

This album represents a lot of your mature works that you’ve written while you’ve established this. Talking about composers in general, we talked before about the issue of how composers have certain habits and certain ways in terms of their harmonic language and motivic development. Every time I hear your stuff, Luis, even if I don’t know the piece, I know you wrote it. That’s a good sign. Having said that, whenever you compose a work, are you aware of this? If so, is this something that you try to utilise, work with or work against?

Luis: As you pointed out, this album actually has music from all the periods of my compositional life. Pieces as early as “Slow Motion”, which is one of the earliest pieces on this, from 1991. Then some more recent works that were premiered on this album. I’ve always had a penchant for the romantic music, Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Scriabin, etc.

But over the years, I’ve tried to stick to the nuances, the little things that make them special. I don’t want to sound like Rachmaninoff, John Adams or Mahler. But I take the things that I feel speak to me the most and merge them into something. As composers, we are amalgams of all the things that we hear and we tend to choose based on what makes us feel in the moment; something that we want to hear more of.

Am I aware that my music has certain patterns and habits? Absolutely. Sometimes painfully aware, where I’m writing a piece of music and I’m like, “Wait a minute! Was that Chopin? Did I write this?” That’s the conundrum of composers, especially when you write in a vernacular that is common, rather than the avant-garde where they are looking to experiment.

My music is not experimental. It is steeped in the traditions and it’s hard sometimes to extricate myself from all the things that I’ve heard. Am I really bringing something new to this? I do because I question this a lot considering that my habits are established. When there is a I–V relationship or when there’s some sort of third modulation or something, you’ve heard these things before. There’s nothing new. But I go for what I feel captures the essence of whether it is the poem or the piece that I’m trying to say and try to ignore that little voice in my head that says, “Well, this isn’t exactly adventurous or taking any risks, or being novel in anyway.” That is a struggle that I have perennially when I’m composing.

Charles: This leads me to a question to our three performers here, two sopranos and a pianist. You’ve all grown up with repertoire by famous dead guys like Schubert, Puccini, Verdi, Rachmaninoff and all the rest. Yet here you are on this album featuring the music of a living composer. Do you feel good, bad or indifferent about that, as opposed to working with a dead guy you don’t have to deal with?

Heather: Well, I would say that it’s not just the difference between someone who is living and the old dead guy. I mean it genuinely, that getting to sing Luis’s work and collaborate with Luis is such a pleasure. One of the benefits that we receive from him not trying to stray from the language that has been developed over time is that he produces something that is always beautiful and moving.

Tamara: Yes, the harmonic language and the chromaticism really speaks to my soul. The way he sets words, sometimes to get it exactly right, it’s complicated and you have to subdivide down to the eighth note and figure out how he’s fitting five syllables over a triplet. But it’s not meant to be played with a metronome. Instead, it matches the rhythm of the language almost like a classical recitative, like with Puccini, where it’s written as a 16th note pickup, but you’re clearly going to stretch it.

There is romantic rubato in his music. The poems he chooses really speak to what I like to express. There are 150 years of tradition to worry about fitting into the box that we have to with pieces, comparing yourself to Joan Sutherland or something. But just talking with him: “Okay, you want a crescendo there.” Nobody’s ever done it before, so it’s up to me to set that new standard.

Heather: Also, it’s great to be able to discuss with Luis what is possible vocally and to push the limits and the boundaries of that. “I have a really big range; can you write me something for contralto and soprano at the same time?” Or when there is a word that should really be understood, that’s set on a high B, and I have to say I don’t think I can enunciate that word that high in my register. Then, if we want that word to be understood, we take it down a little bit. So, to have that kind of flexibility to make the most of the artistry is really great.

Charles: Well, especially in the song “Worms”, a poem that you wrote that Luis set. You have a low F sharp at the very end, after all the high stuff you got. I don’t know how you did it, but you did it.

Heather: Well, I’m so glad Luis let me because it’s so much fun.

Charles: I don’t know if every singer agrees with that. You nailed it. That was a tricky one there. It’s also the most thorny piece on the whole album. I mean that as a compliment, thorny, given that it’s a very contrasting song to virtually everything else.

Tamami, what would you have to say about that as a pianist, in terms of having the composer breathing down your neck as you’re working with him as he’s alive and doing this stuff?

Tamami: I wonder if we have any less than the so-called great dead composers, because we have the musicologists, we have the critics, we have all this history of the known performances of these known works. I feel like we have people breathing down our neck, whether they’re living or they’re dead. At one point, the composers were all alive. I like to treat every work that comes across my way as though it was just written; that’s how I keep things fresh, and I like to take that approach.

What’s interesting about Luis mentioning that he might be self-conscious, or that he might touch on other people compositions: how can you not? If you’re writing for voice or for piano, how many works do we have where you’re going to be working within the tonal perimeters? He’s not avant-garde. He’s still writing very much in the tradition of classicists, but still finding his own voice, which is truly hard to do. There are thousands of pieces for these two genres, and yet he’s managed to find his own sound where we are like, “Yeah, that’s Luis. Luis wrote that.”

It has taken a long time to get there, but he just kept at it. And there are really cool things we can do while people are alive. You can ask them questions, they can somewhat customise their pieces for you; like you said, I don’t know how many people can actually sing “Worms” the way Heather sings it.

Tamara: One does have to be a very, very strong and intelligent musician to decipher what Luis writes. However, once one has done that, it’s beautiful. And no offence to anyone, but a lot of contemporary music is very cool to analyse, and I don’t care for it; I want something pretty.

Charles: This is The Disarrange featuring the music of Luis Cobo. It’s mostly your vocal music, but it has various insertions of your piano music played by Tamami. Did you have that in mind immediately when forming this album?

Luis: Well, when I was first assembling the album, I wanted to make just vocal music. I sat down and I listened to all the songs, and I thought, “Something is missing.” It was only 28 minutes of music and I felt I wanted to fill it in. I was looking at my schedule: “Could I write a whole bunch of more songs to make it 45 minutes or an hour?” But then I started looking at my piano works and I realised that a lot of them share similar character to the vocal pieces simply because I write them almost at the same time.

Thanks to Tamami, who kind of got me into the whole notion of writing musings whenever I’m writing a larger piece of music. A lot of the piano works that were premiered on this were really musings that were inspired by some of the other songs that I was working on. Pretty much all the pieces are relative keys to the next work. Where it ends, that’s where it starts. Or it will start on the dominant. There is a key relationship between each piece. It ends up feeling like one cohesive work.

Charles: There is a harmonic consistency between them.

“Time Does Not Bring Relief”: that’s an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem. Very tragic poem, which Heather delivered with the utmost expression that I’ve ever heard from a singer. Maybe one might be nitpicking here; when you did that piece, it sounds corny, but it sounds like you were going to the depths of your soul. Were you reaching into something of your own personal nature to apply it to the performance of that work?

Heather: Millay’s work is so moving and touching. This piece in particular is really an experience that all humans can relate to: time does not bring relief. That feeling that when you truly love someone and you’re no longer together with that person, it doesn’t mean that those feelings ever go away.

What I love this poem, which Luis so achingly paints at the end, is that it sounds like the speaker, the narrator, is complaining about being burdened with this memory, this painful memory. “I miss him in the weeping of the rain; I want him at the shrinking of the tide; The old snows melt from every mountain-side.” All these things that happen and they do not bring relief from this memory. And yet, at the end, when we come to “And entering with relief, some quiet place where never stepped his foot or shone his face”, he’s not there. So, I am stricken with his remembrance. It’s almost something that one does not want to get rid of. Its bittersweetness, which is so eloquently illustrated here by Luis.

Charles: Which is then followed in that same concert a piece called “Worms”, setting a poem of yours, almost the antithesis of the Millay poem, probably the thorniest, and again as a compliment. Were you looking over Luis’s shoulder as he was composing or did you just let him do his thing and comment afterwards?

Heather: Not at all. For me, “Worms” is a lot different than Luis’s other pieces. I mean, it’s equally complex and maybe more complex, but it’s more aggressive and I really thought that he completely understood the feeling of the poem, the drive, the anxiety, and something pushing you forward to things that you don’t really want to discover. The anger, the shame, and then the parts where it becomes a little more introspective. It’s looking at the meta picture of it all. Totally at the end, when it dissolves into this insane resignation of the laughter, I couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate setting for that poem, which is kind of wacky, to say the least.

Charles: Talking about the issue of setting poetry to music. Luis, obviously, we have to initially like the poems that we set to music, but then have to consider whether it works. When you choose your poetry, Luis, are you taking any of that into account, or do you just like the poem and you set it?

Luis: That’s a really big question. Sometimes, I’m asked, “Here’s a poem, I would like you to set this.” Like the Rilke songs that I did years ago, somebody said, “Here are a bunch of poems, please set these for me.” Since then I’ve spent an enormous amount of time poring over poems until I find one that I can express. Not so much that whether the poem speaks to me but whose essence my music can actually work through, I can bring this poem to life through what I know how to compose. There are certain types of poems that cover emotions and feelings that I’m not comfortable composing: I don’t have the right tools to express this, but certain poems really do work for me.

If you look at the album as a whole, a lot of the songs have a certain melancholy, sadness or bittersweetness to them. That is something that has been in my vernacular since my earliest works. That is something that I default to.

But also you have to think about the rhythm of the words and whether or not the words themselves are settable. Sometimes you find poems where the words are awkward to sing.

When I’m composing I tend to err on the side of trying to get the rhythm of the words to match how you would speak them when you sing. This is not my invention. This is something that I learned from John Adams, of all people. I read an article years ago where he was asked about this. And I thought, “Hmm… let me try that.” I find that it is very liberating in terms of how you can get the lines and words to be said. You can just read the poem out loud and feel it, and the music comes. But when I choose poems, that’s secondary.

Charles: Let me talk about one of the pieces on here. The titular work, “The Disarrange”, features the setting of the poem “The Disarrange”, written in memoriam for Giampaolo Bracali.

Luis: There’s an interesting story. It’s a little heartbreaking. So, when Giampaolo Bracali passed away, Gene [Pritsker] called me up and said, “Bracali died. We’re going to have a memorial concert.” I asked, “Okay, what do you need from me?” He’s said, “Write a piece. Write something new.” At the time, I had been writing songs on the poetry of Jennifer Michael Hecht. If you guys don’t know her work, she writes these gorgeous little poems. She’s a historian actually. Her poems are steeped in historical allegory. She’s just wonderful. I have met her a few times.

I wrote to her, and I said, “Listen, my mentor passed away. I want to write a song.” I went through her poems, and I couldn’t really find anything quite right for this. And she said that she had never written a dirge. She’s never written a poem for a funeral. But she said that she had a bunch of unpublished poems. She handed me three unpublished poems. She said, “There are a lot of lines in here; take what you like.” So, I did. I spent some time and took a bunch of lines from the poems. I reassembled them, kind of like Cards Against Humanity. I rearranged them and I came up with like a structure that sort of felt right to me; it felt like a loss: looking at the universe from a perspective of a life lived and we all meet our end somehow.

I showed this to her. She says, “Yeah, okay, that’s great. You can have it.” I asked, “I need a title.” She said, “Just call it ‘The Disarrange’. That’s what you did, you took my poem and disarranged it.” That’s the title. Then I sat and wrote the piece, and I was so pleased with it at the end. I hadn’t written anything big in a while. It was the first chamber piece that I wrote since Manhattan School days. It was about 10 years that I really hadn’t written anything. This was a big deal for me. I was like finishing something and I was actually going to have my first premiere out of college. I was so excited. I thought, “I really have to show this to Giampaolo.” And it was in that moment that it really hit me, that he’s gone. I was bereft: “Oh, my God, this was written for him because he’s not here.” And I couldn’t show him. I wanted to show him.

Charles: Getting back to one of the solo piano works, one of my favourite works that Luis has written was “Slow Motion”, which is a very brave work for lack of a better term because it’s all a bunch of sustained notes rooted in the key of E flat minor. I’ve tried to write pieces like that where it has a static but meaningful idea. Unfortunately, most of the time I have to change something about a minute or two in, whether it be the speed of the notes or the dynamic. I mean, even though physically “Slow Motion” is easy to play, there is a nuance and an ambiance it tries to achieve. Every note is important because it’s so slow. Therefore, the listener cannot help but listen to it intently. What was it like trying to play that one, Tamami?

Tamami: It was difficult. Because we have our ears on whatever the time is going on, we are still thinking about resolutions. We’re still aware there are things that need to be resolved. There are dynamics written in this thing and how do you carry it over, q=38 or 44, or some impossible speed? There were a lot of long notes. A lot of ties. You have to do this all in one take. You almost have to breathe differently.

Charles: Luis, in composing that piece, my first thought, I surprisingly was perfectly happy with the pacing of it. I did not want it to go; as I said that when I tried to do anything like that, ultimately, I got to modulate. How was that for you? Was it hard to stick to your guns in that piece?

Luis: No. In fact, I wrote the piece in a single afternoon. I had the idea for it. and the idea came from the fact that I just spent a year or two preparing for piano auditions. I was playing Beethoven and Chopin. I was thinking, “Wow, all this music they want to hear from us, everything that people want to hear, requires you to do all these calisthenics on the piano.” Nobody’s really listening to the notes. They are listening to how fast you play, how well you can express all the complicated little inner voices, and all of that. You are judged on how fast you move. And I thought, “Yeah, but the piano by itself is this beautiful sounding instrument that you can press one note and listen to that one note for a little while. Just listen to it.” I would sit sometimes and just play a chord. I would put my ear up to the piano and just let it ring, listen to all the different overtones and the piano speaking to me. I decided, “I’m going to write an etude for piano that is completely the opposite of all the other etudes that are out there, which worry about the techniques.” I was determined.

The idea was really kind of simple when I sat down to think about it. Writing it down, I realised that I wanted it to be a lot longer. When I got to the climax of the piece, that chord, it was like there is an arc. With the arc, here is the moment, and I had to taper it away. The form created itself.

The amount of muscle control you need to get pianissimo out of a piano without using the quiet pedal is significant. You’re not allowed to use the third pedal. In fact, it only tells you to use the sustain pedal, throughout. You hold down the sustain pedal, and you’ve got to play this relatively consistent dynamic for the entire work. It is an exercise in self-control.

Now, when I was writing this piece, Dr David Noon was my teacher. There was one bar in the piece where there is a quarter note. There is an actual quarter note, a syncopation in that one bar. But only that bar. That’s the only bar that has it. And it’s there because Dr David Noon pencilled that in on my score. It used to be half notes. He’s like, “No, no, no. This one is going to be a quarter note, this one.” I’m like, “That’s it?” He says, “Yeah, yeah. Trust me, this is the quarter note.” I just left it alone. I was, what, 19? I said to him, “Okay, if you think so.” The more I heard it, the more I realised why it needed to be there. It suddenly opened up the space for all the other rhythms to kind of fall into place like I can have these slightly longer chords and all because of that one little syncopation in the beginning. It created a really nice balance, which I missed when I was first composing it.

Charles: As far as talking about another piece that has a sustained element, this is track six on the album, “On the Strength of All Conviction and the Stamina of Love”. The longest title I have ever seen. Was that another sticking to your guns and maintaining that? Was it easy or hard?

Luis: Easy or hard is very subjective. I say that the piece required it, let’s put it that way.

If you know the poem, “On the Strength of All Conviction and the Stamina of Love”, the last line of the sentence is, “we must not curse the passage of time”. It’s the last line of the poem, right? This is time, tick-tock, tick-tock. The whole piece is tick-tocking on B flat. Not so coincidentally, that’s the pitch the universe resonates at. I don’t know if you knew this. Way down on the frequency scale, negative whatever, it resonates in B flat. When I’m going to have this ticking clock, it’s going to be in B flat, but it’s going to be in a B flat that we can actually hear.

Charles: Were you ever tempted to modulate to another note, but keeping that rhythm?

Luis: No, I wanted to keep it on B flat and keep that rhythm. Just keep that passage of time because the idea is, by the end of the piece, we must not curse the passage of time. That’s the whole point. We need to be so comfortable that we don’t want to see it go away. We have to exist in it. If I changed it to another note, even a little bit, it would suddenly lose its meaning: I’ve broken the space–time continuum for my own purposes. I want to acknowledge that this beating clock is always going to be there. It is always there, whether you like it or not. And I got a little flack on this from a pianist friend of mine, who’s not going to be named, who said, “You realise that you are essentially ripping off Ravel [Le Gibet].” I was like, “Yes, yes. I kind of am.”

Charles: Talking about another song, the one that’s set in Russian, “I Thought My Heart Had Forgotten”. Luis, you speak a little Russian, correct?

Luis: A little, yeah. My Russian is terrible, though.

Charles: Tamara, you were the singer in this one. It’s tricky for a lot of Americans trying to speak or sing Russian; it’s like a four-year-old trying to speak English.

Tamara: There are a lot of consonants. Luis was able to pronounce it for me, but he also hooked me up with a friend who was Russian. I used IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet, to transcribe the sounds she was making into the symbols of IPA. Then reiterate them back to her. Then tweak it a little bit, because this letter or that letter is not exactly the same as you would do it in a different language. Using IPA, I was able to pronounce everything correctly. Now that’s said, if something is on a high note, we modify the vowel, right? I mean, we do that in all the languages. It’s one of those things that you work very, very hard to make it sound natural and expressive.

Then, of course, I had the translation. I don’t speak Russian at all, but I had the translation of what each word meant. And what each phrase was trying to express. I tried to give him that as much as possible.

Charles: This album ends with a very interesting – I don’t think I’ve ever heard this from you, Luis – the song “Musing”. Which has a kind of tuneful nature to it in F major. To me, the fact that you placed it at the end feels right as rain. It’s like we’re coming home. Did you feel anything like that in composing it?

Luis: Well, if I were to give it another name, it would have been “Postlude”. But, because Tamami inspired it, it’s one of the musings. It was the first one that I wrote in the collection of the little things that I had been writing. I don’t know how I would categorise it. It just kind of showed up. When I finished it, my thought that this is kind of like Schumann, maybe?

Tamami: I was going to say, Luis, another thing is that it has a lot to do with perception as well. Charles mentioned “Le Petit Basque” sounded like Poulenc and I thought it sounded like Ravel. I thought that the new thing sounds a little bit like MacDowell, like the “Fireside Tales”, was a little piece of Americana.

Charles: Is there anything else that I should add or cover or that you’d like to say about this very touching album?

Luis: A couple of things. Firstly, there are three world premieres on this album. All of them rendered by Tamami. “Prelude”, “The Musing” and “Le Petit Basque” are all pieces that have never been heard anywhere else or performed anywhere.

I was super-excited to actually have an album released before they were even performed in a concert hall. It’s like the de facto version of them is for all posterity. This is it.

See the whole idea of a world premiere in my mind is this is the first time anyone is hearing something. So, in the case of a recording, the first time anybody’s hearing it as a recording is now etched in stone, as it were. So, the first time you hear it, is the way that everyone is going to hear it. A live performance is transient, right? It’s like, so whoever showed up at that concert gets to hear it. But if you didn’t show up at that concert and you don’t hear a tape of the recording, the next concert you go to that is going to be performed by someone else, or you’re going to hear it differently. It’s not as concrete. It’s a fluid thing.

I was really excited to actually have world premieres on a physical recording. It’s not very common to do this. Of course, mainstream bands have been doing this for a long time. But for classical music, not so much. Most of classical albums are things that you’ve heard already. People usually don’t buy world premiere albums without having gone to see the concert. People would likely first go the concert and then maybe buy the album. It is usually in this order.

Charles: As far as the studio recordings that the two of you have done, where were they done? The solo piano works, were they all done in one particular space?

Tamami: Yeah, we call it the Calarte Studios. I converted a lot of my house space into a recording studio. I needed to have something that was stable, that was consistent, that was easy to get at many times over without breaking the bank and having to sell my house just to get it done. I used this set-up to record Luis’s work. And with the same engineer, Julian Brown.

Charles: As far as the vocal works, Tamara, where were they recorded?

Tamara: At the National Opera Center in Scorca Hall. Wonderful acoustics there.

Luis: The same place where we premiered one with Heather Green. Pretty much all the vocal music is at the National Opera Center, so it has the same sound. I was really pleased about this and why I brought them to Scorca in the first place. I wanted a consistent sound for all the voices. Jeremy Girard, the engineer, he knows how to do this. He’s quite good at this.

Charles: The two pieces with Heather were live performances with a general mic system. Did you use a more specific mic system with Tamara’s performances? It’s a very tricky process. Fortunately, with the two live performances here, because it was a smaller space with a smaller ensemble, everything worked out just fine. I’m sure you did a little bit of mastering on it, right?

Luis: Well, I’m going to throw something in there that was one of my favourite parts of the recording session with Tamara. We have all these small songs, “This Is Just to Say”, “The Dark Hills”, short little songs that you do in one take. You are not going to break them up. But then we have the longer songs, “The Disarrange”, “On the Strength of All Conviction and the Stamina of Love” and the Russian one. These are bigger, meatier songs. “The Disarrange” we tried to do in takes. We did many takes. It was good, some really great takes. And then we decided at the end, “Hey, why don’t we just do a run through? Let’s just do the whole thing in one go and see what happens.” That’s the one that made it to the CD.

Tamara: I’ve noticed that in a lot of my recordings, some of which were done at home during COVID, like pianist, gets me a custom-made track based on me singing at the piano showing her what I want. She gets me the track and I’m recording in the living room. First take, okay, it feels like a live performance. But there is always something that I’d like to go back and fix. So, I would do a second take, and you fix that thing. But then you mess up something else. I’m going to do a third take and diminishing returns, right? You get tired, you get in your head. Almost always the first take is the best because it may have a flub, but it feels like a live performance and has that energy to it.

Luis: Right. And that’s really what ended up happening. You guys did a couple dozen takes of “The Disarrange”. And then, when you did the one run through, everybody felt urgency. It was there. The urgency of getting through the entire piece was there. You all knew the parts, you all knew the things to do, everything was kind of polished. And then, suddenly, there was this energy that built. Tamami, if I remember correctly, you didn’t do a lot of takes either from the recordings? You did a lot of complete recordings.

Tamami: “Slow Motion” has to be in one, the way that the pedal is marked. You have to be really careful and considerate on how it goes into the next one without stopping. So, those kinds of things and the layering that happens, it has to be one. They are amazing engineers. They can fix a lot of things. But, at a certain point, you are making products that aren’t human. It cannot be done live.

Charles: On that note, we’re talking about the album The Disarrange, featuring the lovely music of our composer, Luis Andrei Cobo, featuring, among others, pianist Tamami Honma and soprano Tamara Hardesty. This is a very touching album.