As a composer, and a guitarist performing mostly own works and arrangements, I have always had to deal with a very specific situation. I have often released recordings of works just finished. Oftentimes, there were no opportunities of performing these for a while, and then releasing. Surely, I would have preferred such routine, but in the less than a perfect world, I have developed a strategy which involves multiple steps, in order to polish and promote these same works.
One of the discoveries every young composer will make, is that it will take some time for the audiences to get acquainted with new compositions, before the decisions regarding the work’s future are made (publish, popularize, reach smaller niche audiences, forget about etc.). Hence, in 2008 I decided to digitally release all of my guitar works to date. It was more of a composer’s than performer’s edition. The feedback has enabled me to better understand how these compositions fare within certain segments of music lovers, and further releases were in a certain way my own reaction to the feedback. With all the knowledge and experience gained, there will be re-record and re-issue (in a tangible format) of final versions of some of these works, with some new, matured interpretations. Time usually works for music. As a composer, I followed certain ideas and visions while creating the works, but often some new details became visible after I performed or released these works. In some cases, I may have learned some techniques that would enhance the composition, and decided to add later. Work-in-progress style was rarely something I pursued, but I didn’t reject it if it was elevating my music.
“Revel” is an album that took a long time to prepare and release. The news is that I am not only playing premieres of brand new works, bursting with freshness of a new creation. This time around I am doing many things I was not educated to do. No, I am not reciting, juggling, or adding a holder for playing harmonica. I added many elements from flamenco technique, as well as the “mehrstimmiges Tremolo” (multi-voiced tremolo) that German guitarist Heinrich Albert perfected some hundred years ago, before it fell to oblivion. Nothing special? Well, juggling might have been easier, to start with.
Aphorisms, as a brief and humorous form, used to be very popular in formerly communist societies. They were often very funny, and critical to the powers to be, yet ambiguous enough not to justify persecution. I remember many from my childhood, as there used to be more humor on TV back then. Some time later, during my composition studies, I wrote some works in the spirit of aphoristic thought, and they gained some acceptance. My musical humor was rather pythonesque back then, and I was inspired by the fact that there was not much humor in the modern music. For the third time in a handful of sentences I shall reiterate my belief that there should be more humor on TV, in music, and life, before I go on to introduce yet another sequel of my own aphorisms. In the course of the years though, I have found, my humor has become less pythonesque, less clownish, more subtle.
A set of American songs throws a new light on classics. There is tradition of using Christmas related melodies in artistic renditions as old as Leoninus and Perotinus. Villancico de Navidad by Mangore is an example popular among guitarists. My “Mary Had A Baby”, based on a Christmas gospel song, joins that tradition. “Home On The Range” is a song I learned from my daughter, which she brought home from the 1stgrade. My version is hovering between euphoria and nostalgia – a dream of the clean prairies of the times passed. Another rendition with euphoric build-up, but melancholic repose, is “Oh My Darling Clementine”. The girls in the 2nd grade used to sing it, but I don’t recall what movie it was we saw it in. We used to like to watch a lot of westerns back then. That is where I heard “Cindy”. I remember that the old guy was a comical character. My version of “Cindy” is purposefully more convoluted and dramatic, but I did bear in mind that westerns can have only happy endings. “Shenandoah” is speculating that the main character (the one in love with chieftain’s daughter) may have been Irish, as there is a section exploiting a pipe like drone, which goes well with this shanty. Under the hood, the things are not quite so simple as I shall strive to keep it here, as enjoyment is my main objective!
“Ballade” owes as much to the medieval ballade, as to the romantic. It is a work of absolute music, striving to keep the vibrating melodies via the multi-voiced tremolo, reviving the forgotten technique of Heinrich Albert. The influences of medieval music in my work will often be hard to detect, as they don’t come with the tonal materials the medieval music is associated with. Unlike with Shenandoah, I will disclose some. The polyphonic songs by Machaut, Solage, Senleches, and other medieval masters, are happening within a very narrow range, sometimes not exceeding one and a half octaves! I was always marveling at how much music can be packed in so small space, especially considering that the guitarists consider their instrument’s range (three and half octaves) narrow. In Ballade much of the music is running under an octave for extended periods, giving a special prominence to later occurrences of large ambituses, and there are some, as the piece exploits the whole range of the guitar. Syncopation – as known in the medieval music – is running throughout the piece, ending in cadences. Harmonically and spiritually the piece does owe its pay to Ravel. Revel with Ravel could have been a good slogan for this album.