November 10, 2012

New website

Hi all,
I've redone my Classical Guitar Tulsa website and am moving my blog there. All new posts will be there instead of here so please update your bookmarks. I apologize for the initial inconvenience, but I think the format is much nicer for reading and for the videos I like to link to.

At long last, I have some ideas for new posts I intend to write soon, so please keep an eye on the new blog.

June 1, 2012

A bit of a rant

One thing that has always frustrated me about classical guitar is something that many people find to be one of its primary assets. I've lost count of how many times someone has said to me, "oh, I love classical guitar! It's so soothing!"

It comes off as a sort of unintentionally back-handed compliment, so I am most surprised when this comes from other musicians whom I feel should know better... It reminds me of a classical radio station in the SF Bay Area, which has the slogan, "Casual. Comfortable. Classical." Because we all know that the reason for all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into composing and performing classical music is to make your morning commute a little less stressful.

There are two similar notions I have been pondering, especially today, as I have been at a music teachers' conference in Oklahoma City.

  • As a guitarist, I must only be interested in guitar stuff. (Guitarist/composer Brad Richter gave a talk and performed a new piece that the music teacher's association commissioned from him. Therefore, since I am a classical guitarist, this must be the only reason I am here.)
  • It is surprising that I may find presentations interesting even if they do not involve the guitar. 
Now, I don't take these personally or hold them against the people who express them, because it does genuinely seem to be true that guitarists tend to be interested only in guitar stuff. This is something I have struggled with, too, as I see it as a shortcoming of the guitar community and because I see myself reflected in it.

On the flip side, I play Irish music on flute, and have often ended up in uncomfortable conversations in which I had to explain to people that I don't play Scottish or "Celtic" music. Many people don't know the difference, and many people take it as a sign of snobbery. I know some people find it really off-putting and I am sorry for that, but it's just pure honesty. 

But to me, they are quite different musically, and some things appeal to me and others don't. In fact, to say that I play Irish music is almost a bit misleading, because there are styles within Irish music which don't appeal to me and therefore I don't play them. In the end, I don't wish to do a disservice to music that I don't appreciate by pretending that I can do it justice.

So maybe the classical guitar community is kind of conservative and insular, and in some cases may be ignorant of the larger classical music community... But I am glad that there are some people out there who can hear something other than soothing background music, because we guitarists would be in REALLY sorry shape if nobody could hear the artistry that we aspire to.

So, upon much reflection, I am happy that there is a community of people who appreciate classical guitar for what it actually is, because it is really difficult being passionate about music for which most people have only apathy. People who only like guitar music deserve high quality music to enjoy, too. We can do our best to expand our audience, but let's start by being grateful for what we have.

May 31, 2012

Classical Guitarists: Conversations by Jim Tosone

I recently ran across the book "Classical Guitarists: Conversations" by Jim Tosone and was surprised I hadn't heard about it before. It features interviews with many prominent classical guitarists and composers, and they all go into greater depth than one typically finds in an artist interview.

The highlights or me are the interviews with John Williams, David Starobin, Sharon Isbin, and George Crumb, but the entire book is well worth a read.

Here are a few things I picked up from the book that I found interesting:

  • George Crumb has written more for the guitar than I realized. When I was in high school, my friend Len introduced me to Crumb's music, and it opened my eyes to a whole world of music I didn't know existed. I think this is a large part of why I am a classical musician today. I am now determined to perform Crumb's "Mundus Canis" someday.
  • Many of the artists featured in the book play Thomas Humphrey Millenium guitars (or did at the time of the interview).
  • Having ridiculously long fingers, according to Eliot Fisk, is not always an asset when playing guitar. He talks about having to finger some typical open position chords differently because his fingers just get in the way. My thought on this is that we get good by figuring out what works for us, not forcing ourselves into preconceived notions. 

May 24, 2012

Segovia: El Renacimiento de la Guitarra

An hour long documentary on Segovia. It's in Spanish, but features lots of performances.

April 26, 2012

Narvaez: Fantasia played by two guitarists

Here's one of my favorite pieces, by my favorite composer, played by two of my favorite guitarists. Enjoy!

First, Pablo Marquez.

Next, Kevin Gallagher.

April 23, 2012

Matt Palmer

My wife and I drove four hours each way yesterday to see Matt Palmer perform in Kansas City, MO. My conclusion: it was well worth it! Matt's making a name for himself based on his impressive technique, but his tone, phrasing, and timing are wonderfully tasteful.

If you live anywhere near Kansas City and are not aware of the Kansas City Guitar Society, you should make a point of connecting with them.

April 15, 2012

New book by Jean-Francois Desrosby

I just read "Guitarists: Unlock your potential" by Jean-Francois Desrosby. I'm still digesting the information, but it's a very succinct book which looks at guitar technique from a physiological perspective. It did give me some new ideas to think about, but most of what I have gotten from it so far are explanations as to why some things which seem most logical don't work (usually because that logic is based on incomplete or mistaken information).

The main principal of his book is to use each muscle in the manner for which it was designed. A good example is giving the task of shifting positions to the large shoulder and arm muscles, rather than driving it from the hand, so the hand can stay relaxed. You may say, "how can the hand move without the help of the arm and shoulder, anyway?" I suppose it can't, but on the flip side, many guitarists create tension in their hand while shifting when in fact the hand should be able to stay relaxed. The key is to figure out what is actually going on whenever you do something, and remove all the elements that are unnecessary.

Here's a video of Mr. Desrosby: