30 years of guitar

Thirty years of guitar.

Brooklyn, New York.

In April 1984 at the age of 12, I picked up my father’s beat up acoustic guitar and set out how to learn how to play it. Up until I started guitar, I had dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Personally, I didn’t care for winning and losing, so I stopped playing organized baseball. Music seemed the way for me. I was passionate about learning and wanted to learn how to play guitar. At the very beginning, I took some informal “lessons” with a family friend, learned a few power chords and took off from there.

6 months into that, my uncle bought me my first electric guitar – an imitation Les Paul. I was so excited.

Marco Oppedisano - 13 years old

Then about a year later, I took 6 more months of lessons with another family friend (who was actually quite good) and then basically became self –taught. My youth was spent listening to hard rock, heavy metal and 80s shred. I practiced at least 4 hours a day. In my later teens I discovered jazz and fusion. This was a time before kids had a plethora of after-school activities to choose from. Would that have made a difference for me? All I know is that I lived to play guitar. I would often fall asleep playing it. It’s all I wanted to do.

I became one of those rock guitarists in my late teens who felt that I needed validation by learning classical guitar. There were many out there – longhaired metal heads plucking the nylon. (I didn’t have long hair though). So, right out of high school, I enrolled into the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music as a classical guitar major. After 2 years of studying classical guitar, I eventually switched focus and finished with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Composition.

I managed to get in the conservatory as a primarily self-taught rock musician. I didn’t have the type of music background many conservatory students had. My parents were hard working Italian immigrants. They would ask me to sing while playing and I could never do it seriously. So, I made fun of Italian style folk songs. I played only two chords (D and A7) and improvised lyrics in Italian and broken English.

(Now as a band/guitar teacher, I can “sing” and play at the same time fairly well. I would have never imagined that happening. Life is funny.)

I wanted to play fast. I wanted to make noise. I loved feedback. I wanted to learn as much as possible about it. And as much as I loved the guitar, I learned that I hated it too. I fantasized smashing it into pieces. It was the perfect vehicle for my angst and sometimes it still is. I’m just not a kid anymore.

guitar 5.4.12 (1) alt

Long story short; I went on to get a Master’s Degree in Music Composition. After traveling some winding creative roads and getting lost too, I became a composer and use lots of guitar in my music (I have 4 albums available).

30 years of guitar and I see myself as a composer first and foremost.

Read some of my other blog posts to learn more about me and to hear my music.

http://www.marcooppedisano.net

Queens, New York.

Primo Volo for solo classical guitar and Urban Mosaic for solo electric guitar (other guitar music)

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.

Primo Volo (p.1) – Marco Oppedisano

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.

For example: Here’s a recording of me playing It Ain’t Necessarily So by George Gershwin (arr. by Howard Morgen). (recorded back in 2000 on a late 50’s Gibson ES 175 – amazing instrument)

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/25547198/01%20It%20Ain%27t%20Necessarily%20So%20%28Gershwin_Morgen%29.mp3

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.

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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…