Songs Without Words is a compilation of classical, contemporary classical, and Latin pieces, many of which he has played live at various events in the United States and Germany. The album is titled after Mendelssohn's famous piano compositions, two of which are here arranged for guitar.
"[Words] seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words."
- Felix Mendelssohn
Torsten selected music from around the world – from the Near East, Africa, Australia, Europe and the Americas – because of the enjoyment he gets from playing these pieces, and for the stories they tell. Called ‘programmatic music’, these compositions tell a tale – such as Koyunbaba’s description of a shepherd’s experience of the landscape of a region in Turkey, or The Magic Box, which relates how a small town in Cameroon was introduced to the gramophone.
"The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety."
- Felix Mendelssohn
Programmatic music, pieces that tell a story, always appealed to Torsten. When he performs, he likes to take a moment before each number to share with the audience something about the composer, the arranger, or about the meaning or the mood of the pieces.
Influences & Favourites
Torsten has been playing David Qualey’s arrangement of the Bach piece, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, since 1987. Many of Qualey’s distinctive compositions are favourites of Torsten’s, often incorporating ragtime and swing beats among the classical pieces. The unique interpretation and expression of Das Frankfurter Gitarrenduo of guitar and lute so impressed Torsten that he included several of their pieces in his repertoire. Torsten’s overall favourite classical composer is J. S. Bach. Spaniard Narciso Yepes was one of the few guitarists Torsten is aware of who played Bach with a 10-string guitar, the bigger range of the instrument making it sound closer to the original version.
Growing up in Germany, Torsten picked up the acoustic guitar at 13 years old – all his friends were learning electric guitar, but he couldn’t afford one. As he began teaching himself from books and an extensive collection of sheet music from the Münster City Library, he found that classical music suited him. He liked folk music too, but he couldn’t sing and play at the same time (well, in fact, he says, he can’t sing at all). When he encountered a small Andante by Ferdinando Carulli, he was hooked. The piece captured him and it was the first that he memorized. He was fascinated by the polyphonic nature of the guitar, the ability to play two or more voices simultaneously.
After moving to San Diego, California, Torsten joined the MiraCosta College Guitar Ensemble in 1996, where he was fortunate to meet a number of talented amateur classical guitarists who would become long-time friends – Gary Peek (a professional bassist who plays several duets with Torsten on Songs without Words), Don Wilson, John McLaren – and where he worked with guitarist Peter Pupping. Torsten’s playing benefited from the influence of several professional guitarists in the San Diego area with whom he also became friends, namely Scott Wolf, Randy Pile, Eric Foster, Colin McAllister, and Jimmy Patton. The guitar which Torsten uses for most of the tracks on Songs without Words was built by Pepe Romero, Jr., a luthier of the famous Romero clan here in San Diego.
"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
- Albert Schweitzer, 1875-1965