It was in the early 1970's when I first learned of the 'classical' and 'flamenco' guitar. I was aged about 4 or 5 and about that time, people also talked of the 'Spanish guitar'. Being very young I began to investigate this mystery. Through this I began my path of discovery that remains as strong today, if not stronger. Hence, the Sherlock Holmes inspired subtitle, 'A Case Of The Spanish Guitar'
This album presents a mixture of music, some originating in Spain and some not. Milan and Mudarra both wrote for the Royal courts whilst retaining links to trends in folk-music of singing and dancing. Aguado and Sor were distinctly inspired by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart following the trends in European classical music and the arts of the day. The output of the eclectic Tarrega somehow embraces the contemporary romanticism that was popular in his day whilst borrowing from the baroque and classical periods and also the traditional flamenco. In addition, the piece by Myers and my own humble offering presented here are not Spanish at all but nonetheless retain a link with the influence of Spanish culture and music. Exactly, I would argue, how the traces of Spanish influence remain in otherwise unrelated music are retained is part of the 'mystery'. Maybe it is the sound of the guitar itself that reminds one of Spain? Whatever the reason, when I play this wonderful instrument, and especially in the genres presented here, I cannot help but see and feel Spain.
Some of the relatively early Spanish renaissance music presented here was written for the vihuela, an instrument that is a distant relative to the guitar. In the case of Gaspar Sanz, he played the baroque guitar that was quite different to the modern equivalent. Vihuela composers wrote in a form of tablature (i.e. a notation system relating to where to put the fretting fingers of the left-hand, and conveys basic rhythmic guidance) that is not too difficult to comprehend. The vihuela music of Luis Milan and Alonso Mudarra can transcribed for the modern guitar with relative ease. In the instance of Mudarra (and Sanz), modern day thinking would err towards hoping to understand the composers holistic intent, which would be a mistake; their music was slightly free nature and certainly not dogmatic in the slightest. In Mudarra’s transcripts, there are often mistakes that relating to bar placement and rhythmic values, that again can be quickly and logically solved. I have offered two interpretations of the same work by Mudarra; a Galliard (dance) is normally lively in character. However, I have presented an alternative view at the end of the album as a more considered and reflective view of Mudarra that I hope you enjoy.
When approaching Luis Milan’s works, I feel his music lends itself to a more contrapuntal approach and I have tried to imitate the popular vocal-ensemble style of the day. I feel that Milan ‘floats’ in an abstract way, as if reaching out to the divine source. I would sincerely hope that Luis Milan would not object to my particular adaptation of his music. The practice of adapting music for a more capable instrument by encompassing a greater dynamic range, linking pitches by inserting melodic scales and therefore doubling the rhythmic values seemed appropriate here. I hope my vision is seen as an imaginative interpretation that hopes to transcend sound in a way that is beyond it being simply ‘music’ and therefore befitting what I suspect Milan might have approved of. Two aspects of my background have aided my research. First, having been trained In musicology via a PhD doctorate I try to remain impartial as an interpreter and yet be emotive when it comes to the performance. Secondly, my links with the Lute Society of Great Britain has helped kept me in touch with the latest thoughts and developments in approaching renaissance music and I thank them for their publications, manuscripts and inspiration. These days, the internet also provides original manuscripts and the click of a button. At one time, you would have to travel continents to see such material as I once was force to do in flying halfway across the world to see some original drafts by Richard Wagner.
I cite Stanley Myers ‘Cavatina’ (theme from the ‘Deer Hunter’), and John Williams beautiful interpretation of it, as one of the turning points in my life. Whilst I played the guitar and was completely fascinated by it, the release of the wonderful recording around early 1979 really pushed me further down that road. I have bumped into John Williams a few times over the years and despite much prodding and verbal prompting from my friends, I could not embarrass myself in telling him to his face what in inspiration he has been to me! Despite what has just been said, my interpretation here is my own vision for this piece. Certainly, I see Cavatina in perspective with the dramatic, disturbing and ultimately sad contents of the film.
My own composition Cryptogram No. 2 has a mystery at the source of it. Someone who is either very clever or has too much time on their hands might work it out one day perhaps? The same can be said for Cryptogram No.1 that appeared on my previous release ‘Reverie On A Hill’. The dog wags the tail and not the other way round for me so the point is the music per se and not the ‘message’, although your sub-conscious might still hear a message?
The programming of the pieces by Fernando Sor is an experiment. I have tried to find four pieces that complement each other as a set. The opening little study in A minor, followed by the B minor study as a kind of slow second movement works nicely together. The sometimes jolly and also serous minuet follows in the customary third place then a theme and variations rounds it off. Sor’s Mozart variations (on the theme from the ‘Magic Flute’: ‘O Cara Armonia’) contains a theme preceded by a slow introduction, a humourous first variation, a wonderful slow movement (as I see it) then a jolly third variation. By the time of the fourth variations, the momentum starts picking up reaches a brilliant peak before the coda rounds it all off. It’s one of my favourite all-time pieces of music and great fun to play and perform.
I would like to dedicate this album to my late friend Larry Lucas who died under the most tragic of circumstances. Larry encouraged my guitar playing at the very times when I had serious doubts that the path of classical guitar I had chosen for myself was the right one.
I would like to thank the mystery owner of 1FD Studios for providing me with the time and space to record at my leisure. Thanks also to my family for their support: George and Sheila, Karen and Sam, Tracy, Chris and Lucia. A big special thanks goes to Caz, Saul, Martin Wismer and the A.R.R.S. Pakistani Curry Guide To Survival and for his hospitality in the French-Auvergne, Lucky The Cat, Champs and Rossi, Mike Twisse, Peter 'Desi' Kablean, Dave and Linda Ashton (Dave took the cover photo shot so a huge thank you to Dave!). A big 'Rutle' thank you goes to my fellow Beatles and everyone at 'Rutleophone': Dan, James, Tom, Nick and Roger. My gratitude also goes to my friends in Spain: Stephen and Marjolein Hill, Graham Emes and Lauren Sebastian for their hospitality, Albert Nuijten and Deyanira Pijuan for support beyond the call of duty, Thomas 'the octopus is in the garage' Rodriguez, Gabriel 'Yiyo' Rodriguez, Salty, Chris McNeil, Lino Diaz, Steve 'Whistling Mule El Bongo', Sophie 'Biba Bolubba' for her hospitality, Pablo and Dovi Requena.
For the instruments used here, particular thanks goes to Stephen Hill for making me a guitar that I could rely on in the studio, which is a difficult thing when recording an instrument usually. Usually, every fault or problem is magnified by at least ten, so Mr Hill's guitar stood up to the test once again.
Lastly, I'd like to thank Lord Krishna, and in particular, his 'angel' George Harrison for helping me to rediscover the value of life and the pursuit of happiness. One day, I randomly thought about George Harrison during the course of one week I felt the desire to talk with on of Lord Krishna's followers from Bhaktivedanta Manor. Within the week, and whilst visiting the Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy favourite City, Guildford of all places(!), I accidentally bumped into a Krishna follower; we discussed life, death, George Harrison's work and beliefs and furthermore, his notion of 'love'. From that moment events started to unfold in the most positive of senses and previously challenging tasks suddenly seemed a whole lot easier. Hence this recording. Since that time, a Beatle band called me and asked me to play electric guitar with them and I now enjoy the best of both worlds: that is, having fun playing 'George Harrison' in the UK and Europe as well as the serious matter of moving forward technically with my solo playing.
Dale Harris, London, January 2013.