Friday, April 08, 2011

Whirler of the Dance: Nicholas Lambson

Whether or not you can name the style, you know the music. Guitarist and HSU professor Nicholas Lambson performs a concert of contemporary music at Fulkerson Recital Hall on Friday, April 8, that mostly exemplifies the style called minimalism. “It’s probably the most accessible 20th century style,” Lambson said. With African and electronic music influences, “it’s familiar to audiences, partly because so much modern pop music is so similar.”

Nor does minimalism mean “simple.” Two of the works Lambson performs are complicated enough to be required pieces in guitar competitions, to test a guitarist’s abilities. The first of these is “Whirler of the Dance” by Spanish-born and American-educated Carlos Rivera. “His writing for guitar shows an intimate understanding of the instrument,” with constantly changing meters and melodies, plus percussive effects.

The Suite Venozolano by Antonio Lauro “ is very much in line with Venezuelan music, except that it uses some very interesting jazz harmonies,” Lambson said. “This is another competition piece, with the infamous ‘Danza Negra’ section being the challenge.”

“Equinox” is by Toru Takemitsu, Japan’s most famous 20th century composer, whose influences include Debussy and John Cage as well as traditional Japanese music. “Being a non-guitarist composer, his piece is unique, but he definitely has mastered the variety of sounds that the guitar can make, even if what he is asking for is quite hard!”

The concert begins and ends with works by two eminent Americans. Probably the best-known American composer in this style is Philip Glass. He wrote music for the 1985 Paul Schrader film “Mishima: A Life in Four Acts,” and later arranged it for string quartet. “I fell in love with this piece, and immediately heard the guitar in this work,” Lambson said. “I arranged the string quartet for guitar—and for many sections, I definitely prefer the guitar arrangement.” For this piece, Lambson is joined by student guitarists Colin Gaddie, Jason Hall and Chase LaRue.

Lambson’s final selection is “Electric Counterpoint” by the influential American composer Steve Reich. It’s a piece for ensemble and soloist, though the ensemble part is often pre-recorded, as it will be for Lambson’s concert. He will play the guitar solo to a recording of 12 other guitars plus two electric basses, made by his former teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory, David Tanenbaum. “I am thrilled to be using his pre-recorded tape to play against,” Lambson said. “It’s a great piece, and I know people will really love it!”

Guitarist Nicholas Lambson performs on Friday April 8 at 8 PM in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. $8/$3 from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. A Faculty Artist Series concert produced by the HSU Department of Music.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye

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