The Enchanted Guitar Forest
Release Date: February 12, 2016
Catalog #: BR8943
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century

The Enchanted Guitar Forest

Alex Lubet composer, guitarist
Maja Radovanlija composer, guitarist

Transporting the listener to a mysterious and enthralling sonic world, composers and guitarists Alex Lubet and Maja Radovanlija present their debut release on Big Round Records, THE ENCHANTED GUITAR FOREST, which captures the duo’s Eastern European, specifically Jewish and Balkan, heritage.

Influenced by the composition and playing styles of blues and jazz as well as world and classical music, Lubet and Radovanlija deliver their signature approach of using traditional melodies combined with improvisation, producing a sound driven lyrically and rhythmically, out of which flows interwoven harmonic structures. Many of the solo and duo works featured on the album use thematic material of traditional songs from Jewish and Eastern European folk music, including Macedonian Dream, inspired by a Macedonian tune which uses a traditional Balkan meter of 7/8 (3+2+2); and Los Bilbilicos (“The Nightingales”), a set of variations which Radovanlija composed after an old Sephardic song about longing for lost love. Lubet’s Ein Keiloheinu uses the opening passage from Julius Freudenthal’s well-known synagogue hymn, transforming it through sections of improvisation and re-harmonization. Other pieces take inspiration and material from classical music such as Lubet’s Aria, based on Puccini’s famous “O mio babbino caro” from his opera Gianni Schicchi.


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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Macedonian Dream Maja Radovanlija Alex Lubet, acoustic guitar; Maja Radovanlija, classical guitar 6:55
02 Los Bibilicos (Arr. M. Radovanlija for Guitar) Maja Radovanlija Maja Radovanlija, classical guitar 6:13
03 Aria (After Puccini) Alex Lubet Alex Lubet, acoustic guitar 4:40
04 Ein Keiloheinu (After Freudenthal) Alex Lubet Alex Lubet, National Reso-Phonic Guitar; Maja Radovanlija, classical guitar 6:02
05 Semi-Improvised Nostalgic Study Maja Radovanlija Maja Radovanlija, classical guitar 4:29
06 Slow Blues Alex Lubet Alex Lubet, acoustic guitar 3:35
07 Eliyahu Hanavi (Arr. A. Lubet & M. Radovanlija for 2 Guitars) Alex Lubet Alex Lubet, soprano ukulele; Maja Radovanlija, prepared classical guitar 5:24
08 Ma Yafeh Hayom (Arr. A. Lubet & M. Radovanlija for 2 Guitars) Isachaar Miron, arr. Alex Lubet Alex Lubet, acoustic guitar; Maja Radovanlija, classical guitar 3:51

Recorded January 9-12, Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall,
School of Music, University of Minnesota MN
Session Producer Steve Barnett
Session Engineer Preston Smith

Photography Michal Daniel & Ivana Pantelic

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Audio Director Jeff LeRoy
Production Engineer Nate Hunter

Art & Production Director Brett Picknell
Graphic Designer Ryan Harrison

A&R Brandon MacNeil
Marketing Manager Ethan Fortin

Artist Information

Alex Lubet Guitarist

Alex Lubet

Composer, Guitarist

A native of Chicago, composer, multi-instrumentalist, author, and educator Alex Lubet has lived in Minnesota since 1979.  While having written works in many idioms, he has long devoted himself principally to performing his own music, as a solo acoustic guitarist and in collaboration with artists including Maja Radovanlija, Swiss free jazz pianist Guerino Mazzola, and his wife, taiko and fue (Japanese drums and horizontal flute) player Iris Shiraishi. 

Maja Radovanlija

Composer, Guitarist

A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Maja Radovanlija received her initial training at the University of Belgrade, with graduate studies at Indiana University. She was won several awards and competitions, including second prize at the Petar Konjevic International Competition in Belgrade. A student of early music, Latin American music, and jazz, Maja began composing and performing her own works in graduate school. She is distinguished by her passion for improvisation, rare among classical guitarists. Having performed widely in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and throughout the US, Maja is a member of the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet and often performs in the US with (among many) ImprovIsAn’Do and Improvised Ecosystems; in Belgrade with the ImprovE Collective, and with Hungarian violist/composer Szilard Mezei. Maja has taught guitar at the University of Minnesota since 2011.

Maja plays a double top guitar, made in West Branch, Iowa by luthier John H. Dick.


Our duo of very different yet kindred artists – Alex, a classically trained composer and (largely) self-taught acoustic guitarist, Maja a classically trained guitarist and self-taught composer — began in 2011. Our musical signature is a blend of composition and improvisation, in works that celebrate the unique glories of our instrument and our Eastern European – Jewish and Balkan – heritage. We have many other influences as well: blues, jazz, rock, world and contemporary Western art musics, and even Italian opera. Our sound is driven by melody and rhythm; harmony emerges from their flow.

– Alex Lubet

Macedonian Dream is inspired by the traditional Macedonian song Prošeta se Jovka Kumanovka. In typical Balkan traditional meter – 7/8 (3+2+2), the song is very old, dating from when Macedonia was part of the Ottoman Empire. Its lyrics tell of the position of women. This piece is especially dear to us; our first original composition, we think of its as our theme song. After a slow introduction in free rhythm, the melody alternates with solos – Maja, then Alex – and a slow coda. We play the piece in drop D tuning. 

Maja Radovanlija

Los Bilbilicos (Ladino or Judeo-Spanish, “The Nightingales”) is an old Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish or Ladino) song of longing for lost love. Maja learned this song from her Colombian friend Adriana Caro Gomez, who played it on alto recorder in Bloomington, Indiana, where Maja did her my graduate studies). The song always sounded Balkan to her, similar to a Bosnian song she knows, probably brought to Bosnia by Sephardic Jews who immigrated to Balkans in the 15th century. Maja’s composition is a set of variations. Improvised parts are very few, mostly occurring between variations and the chord sequence that serves as a prelude/interlude/postlude.

The nightingales sing
with sighs of love
my spirit my luck
they’re in your power.

The rose blooms
in the month of May
my spirit feels only darkness
suffering from the love.

Come faster my dove
come faster with me
come faster dear
run and save me.

Click here for translation

– Maja Radovanlija

Aria is based on Puccini’s famous “O mio babbino caro” from his opera Gianni Schicchi. The piece begins and ends with this wonderful melody played verbatim, but with neo-medieval harmonization. In the improvisational mid-section, Puccini’s melody remains a clear presence, surrounded by drones, embellishing flourishes, and the unusual high natural harmonics that listeners may know from Alex’s Spectral Blues album (PARMA). He plays this piece in open C Major 7th tuning.

– Alex Lubet

Ein Keiloheinu (Hebrew, “There is None Like Our God”) uses the opening section of 19th century German composer’s Julius Freudenthal’s well-known synagogue hymn. The original, in a major key, sounds more Western than characteristically Jewish. In the first two sections of this piece, we improvise, on motives Freudenthal’s melody, transformed from major tonality into the Jewish prayer mode Ahavah Rabbah, lending an Eastern ambience. Alex plays with a metal slide on the first solo, in free rhythm, over Maja’s mostly drone accompaniment. Maja solos over Alex’s ostinato, played in “spectral” harmonics, in fast 7/8 time. Finally, Freudenthal’s major melody is heard complete, re-harmonized, first in 5/8 and ultimately in the original 4/4, though a reminiscence of the opening improve puts in an appearance before the work comes to a close. Alex and Maja use the same open C Major 7th tuning here as Alex uses in Aria.

– Alex Lubet

Semi-improvised Nostalgic study is one of the first improvised pieces Maja performed in her recitals. Mostly improvised, it is bookended by a free rhythmic Prelude and Postlude, with a 7/8 Dance in the middle of the piece, on a short, simple theme. The piece employs a Balkan tuning, in which the third string is tuned down to F and the sixth string down to D. The work uses a quasi-Balkan combination of D Dorian and A harmonic minor scales, which could be some sort of Balkan scale, and characteristically Serbian embellishments, inspired by field recording of traditional songs from southern Serbia.

Because the piece includes a short theme, Maja calls it Semi-Improvised. She uses it in her teaching, thus it is a Study. Finally, it expresses her nostalgia for her home, Belgrade, Serbia. Like many world travelers, Maja only started to explore her heritage, Balkan music, upon leaving home, moving to the US.

– Maja Radovanlija

Slow Blues is what its title says, although its sparse texture and harmonic conception place it at some sonic distance from “three chords and the truth.” Nonetheless, the feeling of the blues, Alex’s lifelong musical inspiration, is abundant. With the exception of a single chord, the entire performance was a single “straight take” with no edits, an extreme rarity in the 21st century world of digital audio recording.

– Alex Lubet

Eliyahu Hanavi (Hebrew, “Elijah the Prophet”) is a traditional Jewish melody, principally associated with the Passover holiday. Our version is much faster than it is typically sung and alternates the tune, heard in its entirety only at the end, with solos, Maja first, followed by Alex. Maja prepares her guitar by putting paper between the strings at the bridge, to give a remarkable, buzzing sound. This was our first “Jewish” piece.

– Alex Lubet

Ma Yafeh Hayom (Hebrew, “How Beautiful is This Day”) is a simple, gorgeous melody by the late Isachaar Miron. Our arrangement is a single presentation of the original tune, surrounded by brief improvisations. In free rhythm and very quiet, we close nearly all our concerts with this work, ending on a note of peace. We use drop D tuning for this work.

– Alex Lubet