Knickerbocker Suite

for guitar and violin

The piece is dedicated to Steven R. Saunders, who commissioned the work for Knickerbocker Artists U.S.A.  The piece commemorates the unveiling of Glenna Goodacres's Vietnam Women's Memorial.  The reception for Ms. Goodacre was just one of the many memorable evenings spent at Steve's Perry House Galleries.

The work was premiered that evening, Dr. Kenneth Sarch, violin, and Mr. Eric Ulreich performing.  The first and third sections of the work are constructed from intense development of short motivic statements taken from two traditional melodies sung in the Virginia highlands.  The middle section is a rumination upon a traditional hymn.  I remember at the time this was written being under the spell of Papa Haydn, being fascinated by his use of indigenous material, especially in his Symphony 103.  His tightly woven motivic kernels and endless variation continue to enthrall me.  Duration: 9'.

 

Charlestown

for solo guitar

 (from the American Melody series)

This piece for solo guitar is an elaborate arrangement of an old American melody by the same name.  I love these tunes: their melodic lines and rhythmic gestures have been honed by generations of performing.  I've written it before - these tunes have strength.  Most were meant to be sung, and perhaps that's why a string instrument makes for the best arrangement: the human touch is a direct contact with the production of the sound.

This piece is in the form of a theme and variations, always a welcomed challenge.  As to the reason I enjoy writing these pieces for guitar, it is in the instrument's limits.  It permits one voice, yes, but not more than two or three continuously; One cannot stray too far afield, a temptation I would definitely entertain if writing this series for piano solo.  Duration: 5'.

Victor Main

The performer on the excerpt and recording is Victor Main, whose participation - as a former student of mine who went on to study guitar at the Mannes School of Music - has made this a very satisfying collaboration.  Please do visit Victor's webpage at <www.victormainguitar.yolasite.com>.

 

Passione

for guitar and organ/electronic recording, or as a work for guitar solo

This work has its beginnings in the Alleluia for a-capella STAB chorus.  That piece, as successful as it is for unaccompanied choir, kept singing to my imagination, kept insisting there was more breadth to be drawn out.  What I was hearing, though, was not more notes, but sonic blocks, planes of sound that merged and emerged in a constant shifting.  And these blocks were not to be emotionally neutral.  They would retain the emotional content realized by the notes and other details of the original composition.

The solution was found in the spectral technique of composition begun by the French in the 1970's and championed by composers like Gerard Grisey and Tristan Murail.  I found that, with the sympathetic notes generated from the initial chords, the technique allowed the sonic blocks to echo any intention found in the original composition.  For this duet I choose the organ as the vehicle for the spectral element because of the purity of its harmonics.  Ultimately, the spectral element will be realized by a chamber string ensemble.

The score for the piece contains the guitar part and also a CD of the organ part, thus giving the choice of one or two performers.   Duration: 6'.

Benjamin Christie is the performer on the excerpt.