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unsung string duo

by Matthew Pierce



01. “Ludd’s Lament” was written in honor of Ned Ludd, the “founder” of the Luddite movement, a rag-tag group of troublemakers and rabble-rousers who went around the English countryside in the 19th century smashing machinery and anything else that represented industrialization or “progress.” Now the Luddite name is used to describe anyone who is believed to be in some way an enemy of technology-enhanced progress. In the piece, we tried to juxtapose the mechanical sounds of machinery with the pastoral harmonies of the “natural world.” We also included ample smashing sounds to illustrate their not-so-harmonious relationship with one another. Notice the middle section, which is an adaptation of the “Dies Irae,” a medieval plainchant which means literally “Day of Wrath.”

02. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a cover of the famous Nirvana song, which is, in our opinion, one of the greatest rock tunes of all time. The long intro is actually the chord progression to the song played VERY slowly interspersed with more recognizable figures from the original tune. Our more literal rendition in the second half conveys our conflicting feelings about the tune, its author, and the whole “phenomenon” they unwittingly spawned.

03. “Rose of Sharon” is the oldest tune in the bunch and was written after reading “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. The piece is named for the character Rose of Sharon from that book and is a simple, pretty tune that isn’t meant to be anything more than that.

04. “African Robot Factory” was inspired by an interview of Brian Eno in “WIRED” magazine in which he described some sounds as like those one would hear in “an African robot factory.” This made no sense to us, so we decided to write a piece that sounded like what you would hear in “an African robot factory.”

05. “Lonely Cactus” is a piece we like to refer to as “Matthew’s self-portrait.” It is a “traditional” cowboy lament played in such a way that it reminds you more of chinese music than of typical western music. Imagine an Erhu (the Chinese “violin”) and a Pipa (the Chinese “banjo”) playing a western-style duet.

06. “Shiva’s Dinner” is written for the Indian god Shiva, the Destroyer, who in all his pictorial depictions has a blue throat. Legend has it that at some point poison was churned out of the ocean and Shiva ate it in order to save mankind from destruction. After consuming the poison, his wife, Parvati, clasped her hands around his throat so tightly that the poison remained there and his throat became permanently blue.

07. “The National Anthem” isn’t the real National Anthem, but it could be. This tune is actually a perverse conflation of the National Anthem, American blues figures, and the song “FAME (I’m gonna live forever)” from the movie of the same name. Since America leads the world in celebrity-worship, we figured this would be fitting. This recording was made live off the sound board at the Wooster Group’s Performing Garage in New York City in 1996 so it is gloriously cheesy. Byron plays electric guitar and “sings” the high part, Matthew plays electric violin and “sings” the low part.


released February 23, 2007

unsung string duo

The unsung string duo is Byron Estep and Matthew Pierce.

Matthew Pierce plays Violin, Viola and Electric Violin.
Byron Estep plays Acoustic Guitar, National Steel Guitar, 12-string Guitar, Electric Guitar, and Banjo.
Audrey Terry plays Double Bass on “Rose of Sharon”.

Produced by Byron Estep and Matthew Pierce.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” written by Kurt Cobain and used by permission.
“Fame (I Wanna Live Forever)” written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford and used by permission.

All other songs written by Byron Estep (BMI) and Matthew Pierce (ASCAP) except: “Lonely Cactus” written by Matthew Pierce (ASCAP).
All songs Copyright ©2007.

All songs recorded at St. Mark’s Studio except:
“Fame (I Wanna Live Forever)” recorded live at
The Wooster Group’s Performing Garage.
Cover Art, Design and Layout by Christine Darch.


all rights reserved



Matthew Pierce East Northport, New York

Composer/Violinist Matthew Pierce is celebrated for his new classical scores commissioned by American ballet companies. Born in Brooklyn in 1968, Pierce grew up in Seattle, studied violin performance with Shirley Givens at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and moved to New York where he began writing music for the theater. Pierce has a special aptitude for dance. ... more

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