Friday, November 08, 2013

Guitar Ensemble Nov. 8 Program and Notes

Gongan by Bill Kanengiser
Performers: Charlie Sleep, Justin Santos, Jason Hall, and Kris Lang.

 World Music Primer by Dusan Bogdanovic
 1. Balkanska Petica (Balkan Five)
 2. Sakura
 Justin Santos and Rory Urquhart

 3. Auld Lang Syne
 4. Makedonsko Devojce (Macedonian Lass)
 Rory Urquhart, Jake Masterson, Nick Hart

5. Hsiao Pai Ts'ai (Little Cabbage)
6. An African Puzzle
 Justin Santos, Kris Lang, Rory Urquhart

Irish Dance--  Traditional Arr. by Jeremy Sparks
 Kris Lang, Rory Urquhart, Greg Willis, Jake Masterson

 Agua y Vinho by Egberto Gismonti  Alex Diaz and Jake Masterson

 Easy Winners by Scott Joplin
Greg Willis, Alex Diaz, Leonardo Simmons

 Danza del Corregidor by Manuel de Falla
 Jason Hall, Justin Santos, Charlie Sleep

Miller’s Dance
Kris Lang and Jason Hall
 Danza del Juego de Amor
 Justin Santos, Charlie Sleep, and Nick Lambson

Program Notes
by Nicholas Lambson

This year, the HSU Guitar Ensemble will perform music from around the world. The guitar is a main element in so many musical styles and cultures, and our concerts will reflect that diversity.

There are also a few “non-Western” pieces arranged for guitar, including some short works based on music from Africa, China, and Japan. We are also doing another prepared guitar piece where we place various objects on the strings to change the sound of the instrument. Last year we performed a piece that imitated an African thumb piano, or mbira, and our new piece imitates Indonesian Gamelan orchestras.

William Kanengiser is an extraordinary guitar soloist, member of the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, pedagogue, and professor at the Thornton School of Music at USC. While he is not known for his compositions, these works are sophisticated, highly effective, and exciting pieces.

 Gongan utilizes prepared guitar techniques, requiring us to alter the sound of the instrument by placing foreign objects on the strings. We are using screws, bolts, washers, foam, and alligator clips for this one, and the effect is truly amazing! Musically, the pentatonic pitch collection is a clear representation of gamelan, and the rhythmic organization does this as well. Different “instruments” will be playing rhythmic cycles of various lengths, and gongs mark important moments where everything aligns. Kanengiser’s work is extremely unique, and a major contribution to the guitar repertoire.

Dusan Bogdanovic was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1955. He completed his studies in composition and orchestration at the Geneva Conservatory with Pierre Wissmer and Alberto Ginastera, and in guitar performance with Maria Livia São Marcos. Early in his career, he received the only First Prize at the Geneva Competition, and gave a highly acclaimed debut recital in Carnegie Hall in 1977. He has taught at the University of Southern California, San Francisco Conservatory and is currently at the Geneva Conservatory.

 His performing and recording activities include work with chamber ensembles of diverse stylistic orientations: the De Falla Guitar Trio; a harpsichord and guitar duo with Elaine Comparone; and jazz collaborations with Anthony Cox, Charlie Haden, Milcho Leviev, James Newton, Arto Tuncbayaci, and others.

 Dusan Bogdanovic has recorded nearly 20 albums, and over 70 works have been published. His theoretical work includes polyrhythmic and polymetric studies, as well as a bilingual publication covering three-voice counterpoint and Renaissance improvisation for guitar and Ex Ovo: a guide for perplexed composers and improvisers. He has also collaborated on multi-disciplinary projects involving music, psychology, philosophy and fine arts.

 World Music Primer clearly displays Bogdanovic’s connection with world music in general, though the Balkan and Macedonian works in this collection are the most unique to him, being from that region. Those pieces feature odd rhythms (5/8 and 7/8), syncopations, and ornaments, traits were are often found in folk traditions of Eastern Europe.

 Jeremy Sparks was born in London, England. He began his guitar studies under Oswald Rantucci at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Upon receiving his performance degree in 1976 he formed the Buffalo Guitar Quartet, and composed music for four guitars, which was virtually non-existent at that time..

Sparks was also mentor to several highly successful guitarists including Jason Vieaux who heads the Cleveland Institute of Music.  He has toured the world, recorded multiple albums, and won the Guitar Foundation of America Competition, among others.

 Irish Medley is perhaps his most performed work, which is popular due to the very colorful and effective arrangement. Sparks employs harmonics and percussive effects along with thoughtful placement of voices in terms of range and color; and he does so in service to the music and not for its own sake which makes it all the more effective.

 Egberto Amin Gismonti began his formal music studies at the age of six on piano. After studying classical music for 15 years, he went to Paris to study orchestration and analysis with Nadia Boulanger and the composer Jean Barraqué, a disciple of Schoenberg and Webern. After his return to Brazil, Gismonti began to explore other musical genres. He was attracted by Ravel's approach to orchestration and chord voicings, as well as by "choro", a Brazilian instrumental popular music featuring various types of guitars. In order to play this music he learned to play guitar, beginning on the 6-string classical instrument and switching to a ten-stringed guitar in 1973. He spent two years experimenting with different tunings and searching for new sounds. This exploration of timbre is further reflected in his use of kalimbas, Shō, voice, bells, etc. By the early '70s, he had laid the groundwork for his current style which incorporated elements drawn from musicians as wide-ranging as Django Reinhardt and Jimi Hendrix.

 Agua y Vinho translates to “Water and Wine.” It features some very interesting harmonies with an extremely expressive melody, which also ends in an unorthodox whole-tone scale. The arrangement of this work was done for two guitars by Spanish guitar professor, Jesus Saiz-Huedo.

Scott Joplin was born in the late 1860s in Texarkana, on the border between Texas and Arkansas. He played the guitar while very young, took up the piano a little later on, and eventually became a travelling musician as a teen. He immersed himself in the emerging musical form known as ragtime and became the genre’s foremost composer. The genre is named for its “ragged” rhythms, referring to heavily syncopated melodies against a constant harmonic pattern. Many of his works are famous even today with tunes like The Entertainer, Solace and The Maple Leaf Rag being common knowledge. Maple Leaf Rag was the biggest-selling ragtime song in history, and Joplin collected one cent for every copy of the sheet music sold.

 Joplin also penned the operas Guest of Honor and Treemonisha, the latter of which was given a full production treatment in the 1970s film, The Sting, which brought The Entertainer back to public awareness. Joplin was awarded a special posthumous Pulitzer Prize for “contributions to American music” in 1976.

 Regarded as the greatest Spanish composer of the twentieth century, Manuel de Falla developed an interest in native Spanish music - in particular Andalusian flamenco - while studying with Felipe Pedrell in Madrid in the late 1890s. From 1907 to 1914 he lived in Paris where he met, and was influenced by, Ravel, Debussy and Dukas.

 Works such as the ballet El amor brujo and the one-act opera La vida breve are notably nationalistic in character, though a Stravinskian neo-classicism can be heard in works such as the Harpsichord Concerto, composed when he lived in Granada from 1921 to 1939. Homenaje is his only original guitar work and it is a landmark of 20th century guitar repertoire. However, his works are very frequently performed as arrangements on the guitar. The music is so inspired by the instrument, and by the flamenco tradition, that even his orchestral works suggest strumming, and the voicings of chords are similar to how they would be playing on guitar. In fact, Falla later arranged Homenaje for orchestra and he needed to change very little. The transference or these ballets to the guitar is so easily done, and so convincing, that it is hard to imagine the originals.

 All of Falla’s works on our program are from ballets. Danza del Corregidor and the Miller’s Dance are both from The Three Cornered Hat, and Danza del Juego de Amor is from El Amor Brujo. Each work features typical Spanish traits such as hemiola, the use of Phrygian and Phrygian Dominant modes, and a heavy emphasis on rhythm. However, Falla blends these traditional traits with contemporary harmonies. Danza del Juego de Amor is an excellent example of this. Danza del Corregidor is perhaps more in line with the folk tradition, and the Miller’s Dance is notable for its clear references to flamenco guitar, and the use of rasgueado strumming techniques.

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