Guitar piece – untitled (as yet)

Some of the score of the second movement. Apparently I like semiquavers.

Right now what I’m writing as I’m writing this blog is a solo guitar piece.

A longer piece

I’m basically writing it because I wanted to compose a longer piece for the guitar than the ones I’ve often seen. I used to feel that there were too many short pieces of not much more than a page or two, or pieces like suites with several shortish movements. While the guitar’s repertoire has expanded greatly and become enriched with all manner of styles in the last decades, my desire for longer pieces still remains. 

Ideas

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I thought it was time write some serious guitar music. This is more or less the beginning of that.

The most important thing here then is to write something – this means that rather than taking months to go deep into my artistic psyche and soul, contemplating how to explore the timbral qualities of the instrument and brooding upon what this piece might say about me as a composer in this world in 2018, I’m going bash out something that has more of an improvised quality and is fun to play. We’ll see. Sometimes preventing rumination on single notes is impossible.

I also want to write pieces I can play, which helps to add a dimension of technical realism to it, i.e. not write things that are too difficult, and thus increase the chance of other guitarists being able to enjoy it as well.

Several movements

I found myself thinking “multi-movemently”, with the urge to compose a piece with about four or five separate parts that were different in character. I’m not about to write another suite though, I hope, and I reckon there are enough already – at least four that were good enough not to mess with. A sonata might be closer to how I was thinking, but I wasn’t about to start meddling with sonata form – there’s probably been enough of that too. The important thing is just to compose with the sort of musical character and materials I had in mind.

Four or five

The structure of all the movements in terms of their character will basically be:

  1. Fast and rhythmic, brutal 
  2. Quite fast and rhythmic, smoother
  3. Slow and intense
  4. Humorous, somewhat erratic; moderate tempo.
  5. Faster and rhythmic, brutal 

Character

You might have got a sense that the element of “force” figures here, you might have noticed that the word “brutal” appears twice. Probably something to do with the fact that I like music like that, but also with the intention of going beyond the intimate, delicate, nice and gentle character that the classical guitar tends to have. Not that I want to stop the guitar being like this, it’s just I want more badassness in the repertoire. 

Next time

In the next post I’ll tell you about some specifics of how I’m composing the second movement, which is where I’m starting, with some of the sheet music too.

5 Replies to “Guitar piece – untitled (as yet)”

  1. Very interesting.
    When I’m writing a book or a paper, I more often start with an overall theme than with the separate parts – although sometimes separate parts come together around a theme. You don’t mention what might give the piece coherence. Does that come later?

    1. Thank you for your comment Aunty!
      Very interesting yourself! I think there is probably a paper, or a few books, that could be written about this. I’ll try to be brief and keep it as relevant to just this piece as possible.

      Are you referring to the fact that I have mentioned the different movements? If so, then rather than beginning with parts, I have begun with describing an overall idea of the global trajectory of the musical discourse.

      Often in music, the term “theme” is used for a melody, or a particular section of a piece and the musical materials used to construct it. You will find something like this here, but this requires a more “microscopic” treatment (which you’ll see a little about next time). The global structure, however deals with the macroscopic, which I have attempted to describe with the adjectives above.

      Before this, however, came a musical “idea” in all its vague abstraction, which in this case could be said to be made up of quite raw sensations of scale, atmosphere, movement, force, and other elements of how I like to play the guitar and from my musical language.

      It is essentially the first and last points that most contribute to coherence here – the idea is perhaps the spirit that runs throughout the piece and perhaps gives the whole the kind of balance I want guided by musical sensibilities, while the musical language – through the motifs, harmonic and guitar sonorities and structure used – are developed and coordinated in relation to each other in ways that make them coherent. I also generally begin with whatever is clearest in my mind with a sense of its relationship to the whole, and then things develop from there, the materials become fixed, and then things grow further in relation to each other. To be honest though, the real answer is: I use my musical sensibilities.

      Does that answer your question?

  2. It’s an interesting comparison with writing a paper or book, and I suspect that there are many similarities.

    Sometimes when planning text, there is a sweep of ideas that you want to get across, so the whole thing sort of comes as a concept.

    Other times, there is a single idea, but in order to convey that idea, there is a lot of other stuff that needs to be said. So all the words before and after are pretty much packing for the thing you want to say.

    I suspect music composition is similar: sometimes there is a melody or some musical idiom that the composer wants to explore, but sometimes there is a whole thing that needs addressing.

    Of course there are perhaps other, related parallels. Are you writing because you want to write the words; or are you writing because you want people to hear and understand the ideas or words? That is, is the text only for the author, or does the author care about the reader at all.

    Roni, you said you owed the guitar some composition. So where do you fit in with this!?

    1. Thanks, interesting points, indeed the question of whether music can actually “say” anything is probably a discussion that delves into the very depths of what music is. Or at least its relationship, difference and similarity with language, especially since compositions are usually written.

      I basically want to write music that I want to play on the guitar, and hope that someone else might want to play it too, and that people will want to hear it. I compose, the guitar is my instrument, and a good instrument too, and to me these factors equal me writing music for it.

      I also want the guitar to have some really profound, amazing, [insert extreme adjective here] music in the repertoire, so in order for that to happen, composing needs to happen too. I might not be the one to write the music that is the pinnacle of the repertoire, but it’ll be more likely to happen if I do. At least I’ll darn well try.

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