I have composed a variety of music for guitar. A few solo and duo classical guitar pieces, a couple of quartets, an electric guitar concerto with percussion ensemble and some mixed ensemble works. This doesn’t count concert music without guitar – mostly student stuff – a few a cappella pieces, solo piano music, solo clarinet, string quartet, etc..
Since 2006, I’ve composed only electroacoustic music using guitars in various contexts.
I’ll talk a little about 2 solo guitar pieces composed around the same time: Urban Mosaic for solo electric guitar (2002) and Primo Volo (2003) for solo classical guitar. This entry will talk mostly about Primo Volo.
Why these two pieces? Well, to be quite honest, I feel they are my best work for guitars outside of my electroacoustic music. If I were like some old masters, I’d destroy some of my older scores (nowadays it would involve more deleting), but I don’t take myself THAT seriously and I’d probably end up feeling badly about it..
My composition, Primo Volo (Italian for “First Flight”) was composed for the New York City based guitarist Oren Fader and released on an album of compositions dedicated to him called, First Flight (released in 2005). I also worked as producer and editor for the recording. To be so involved with the making of this album was a great experience. Oren is the consummate musician (an incredible sightreader especially for a guitarist) and an all around great guy.
Primo Volo was composed in one month in Spring 2003. Oren performed it many times (a composer’s dream…), so it had a nice life outside of the manuscript.
I must note that this piece was composed without picking up the guitar at all. Just Finale and me. I studied classical guitar in the conservatory seriously for 2 years and throughout my career, I’ve played and recorded various fingerstyle pieces, so I’m quite familiar with the style and technique.
As a guitarist, composing without the guitar prevented me from being too heavily influenced by certain habits or idiosyncracies. I wanted the music to come more from my mind and ears and less from my hands. I highly suggest this method for any composer who is composing music for their own instrument and wants to try something different.
Primo Volo is a difficult work and I have never attempted to perform it, nor will I ever. Whenever I’ve composed a guitar piece for someone else, I’ve never thought of performing it myself. There’s a particular amount of satisfaction watching someone else play your music well – besides the relief of having someone else do the hard work….
I’ll avoid discussing the particulars of this work in depth. To use a cliché , I’d rather let the music do the talking. A few things though: The form of the piece deals with the contrast between slow and fast. Many facets of classical guitar technique are explored with a love for both natural and artificial harmonics. It’s also quite tonal – to my ears at least.
If anyone out there is interested in the score, let me know. For anyone who is feeling charitable, it is also available online for sale here at a reasonable price (along with some other music):
And finally here’s the video/score for Primo Volo in its entirety.
Urban Mosaic (2002) for solo electric guitar was composed for the award winning classical guitarist, Kevin R. Gallagher. The piece consists of 4 contrasting movements each focusing on a different electric guitar technique:
Mvt. 1 – “behind the nut”
Mvt . 2 – E-bow
Mvt. 3 – rock guitar solo
Mvt. 4 – fingerstyle ballad
Clocking in at a little over 14 minutes, Urban Mosaic is a demanding work. Gallagher is a highly versatile guitarist and masterful interpreter, so I had the freedom to compose a challenging piece for him. There are very few guitarists who possess the ability to perform on both the electric and classical guitar with the skill he can.
Also, the score is available for sale online here…
Here is a video score of the piece. Thanks for listening…