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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Classical Guitar Music for Reading and Studying

Classical Guitar Music for Reading and Studying
William Wilson, guitar
My latest album, Classical Guitar Music for Reading and Studying, is my first "ensemble" album. To date all my albums have been mostly solo guitar, with a few additions here and there. My last four albums have been all solo playing. On the other hand Music for Reading, is all ensemble playing and includes pieces for two, three, and four guitars. All but two pieces I arranged from the original score (of the other two one was originally for two guitars and one was written for any instrument).

The album was recorded in my home studio using a new style of recording. For years I have favored condenser mics (Neumann KM 184s) which provide a squeaky clean and bright sound. I've always struggled with this. Though the clarity is good, it lacks warmth and emphasizes noises like string squeaks. Starting with my Christmas album I've been experimenting with ribbon mics. In particular the AEA R84. For that album I used two AEAs and two Neumanns (yes that's 4 mics for one guitar). For Music for Reading I used only one AEA, and I'm really liking the sound! The ribbon gives the guitar such warmth and squeaks seem to fade into the distance.

The music selections are some of my favorites from classical music repertoire. The album includes the following:

Handel Water Music: Two movements from the first suite in F and two from the second in D. I had played an arrangement of Handel's music years ago and again recently with the Encinitas Guitar Orchestra. Originally played on barges for the king they make a bold opening to the album.

Delibés Lakme: Flower Duet: One of the most famous opera duets, though I'd never heard it on guitar. I think all the running lines and parallels between the two voices work great. The first of three opera selections I included, no doubt inspired by my wife soprano Mary Ann Carr.

Selections from Bach's Anna Magdalena Notebook: I've always been a big fan of Classical Guitar LPs. Recently I acquired two Segovia LPs The Intimate Guitar. He includes many of Bach's little minuets for solo guitar on them which are lovely. This inspired me to include my own version of them, but for two guitars. Also included is the Musette, to which I added some pizzicato, all are very fun.

Offenbach Tales from Hoffmann: Barcarolle: I first became acquainted with this piece from the great film La Vita é Bella though it is originally from the opera Tales from Hoffmann. It has a beautiful melody and rolls along in a 6/8 meter. A Barcarolle is a boat song so the rolling nature of it makes perfect sense. I love this melody so much I make all my young students learn it and share the original with them whenever possible. My own version is for four guitars. One for each of the original vocal parts and the orchestral part split among the other two.

Giuliani Polonaise Concertante: This is the only piece on the album that was originally for the guitar. It's a standard in guitar duo repertoire. It's very playful and fits the theme of the album perfectly I think.

Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro: "Duettino" Sull 'Aria: Yet another duet from an opera also appearing in a recent movie. This time the opera is Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and the movie was Shawshank Redemption.

Telemann Sechs Kanonische Sonaten, Sonata I:  Perhaps the funnest piece (certainly to play!) Telemann's canons consist of one line of music played in canon by two players. Think Row, row, row your boat on steroids. I included all three movements of his first sonata. It can be hard to tell but its just one melody played twice and off by one measure. And no I didn't just record myself once and copy and paste it, that would be cheating!

Beethoven Symphony No. 6: I. Allego ma non troppo I've always loved Beethoven's sixth symphony, the "Pastoral." The first movement is labeled as "'Awakening of cheerful feelings on arrival in the countryside." It's beautiful Beethoven without the angst.

Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: This was the piece that started the whole project. It's been recorded many times before though I haven't heard it for two guitars (That doesn't mean it hasn't been done) Hopefully my recording brings something fresh to these timeless melodies!

The album is available on iTunes / Apple Music at https://itun.es/us/MKBj- , and by the time you read this most likely on Spotify and elsewhere. Here is a sample for you to enjoy right now:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Miniatures


For seven years I had the good fortune of performing Christmas music at Sea World in San Diego, CA. Before Shamu's Christmas show I would perform Classical Guitar renditions of Christmas tunes. Not songs about snow, but actual Christmas music. Each year I would play about 20 or so shows. I added a few songs each season and got to really love my set.
This year I decided it was time I recorded the set. I sat down to record the other night with the goal of recording one or two songs by the end of the night. Two hours later I had recorded about 25 songs! All those years of performing the pieces had stuck with me, even though I hadn't played many of them in two years time they had stuck with me. After I finished my set I decided to record a few new pieces, just for fun. These were tunes I had never played before, just sight reading. And of those about 5 came out really great, with interesting arrangements. 
If you'd like to hear the recording here's a sample, What Child is This?. And the full album is up at iTunes: O Little Town of Bethlehem: Christmas Miniatures for Guitar. Enjoy!


Friday, February 15, 2013

Classical Guitar Music for Sleep and Relaxation



I'm excited to announce the release of my latest album, Music for Sleep and Relaxation. This album is a collection of solo guitar pieces, many are arrangements of famous melodies such as Debussy's Clair de Lune and the Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. There are many "Sleep" albums already out there, so why another one? My problem with many of them is that they are so full of synthesized sounds and sound effects they sound like a trip to outer space. A sleep album to me means more than just synths and slow tempos, it means songs of comfort. If you can't sleep, it's often because you are stressed, worried, etc. So my album contains melodies that are familiar and comforting. I hope you enjoy it!

Available as a download at: iTunes , Amazon.
Or as a physical CD.

Track List:
 
1. El Noi De La Mare - Anonymous - 2:14
2. Gymnopédie No. 1 - Erik Satie - 2:51
3. Clair De Lune - Claude Debussy - 3:48
4. Canon in D - Johann Pachelbel - 3:39
5. Lascia Ch'io Pianga - G.F. Handel - 2:02
6 Largo from "New World Symphony" - Antonin Dvorak - 2:08
7. Españoleta - Gaspar Sanz - 2:05
8. Gymnopédie No. 2 - Erik Satie - 2:23
9. Estudio No. 5 - Fernando Sor - 2:41
10. Sheep May Safely Graze - J.S. Bach - 3:53
11. Largo from "Xerxes"- G.F. Handel - 2:11
12. Romanza - Anonymous - 2:46
13. Arioso - J.S. Bach - 2:27
14. Gymnopédie No. 3 - Erik Satie - 2:03
15. Wachet Auf - J.S. Bach - 2:24
16. Estudio No. 1 - Fernando Sor - 1:46
17. Adagio from "Pathetique Sonata" - L.V. Beethoven - 3:05





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Don Wilson and El Noi de la Mare



Growing up I had many guitar heroes: my teacher Peter Pupping, who is the reason I am a guitarist today, and Tom Griesgraber, now one of the world's great Chapman Stick players. And of course I looked up to all the greats: John Williams, Christopher Parkening, Julian Bream, Pepe Romero, Pat Metheny, just to name a few. And then there was Don Wilson.
I met Don at the Mira Costa College guitar ensemble. He was in his 60s, retired, and devoted to both his guitar and his boogie board. He used to keep track of his practice and the number of waves he had caught that day on his pocket calendar. His playing was all heart and all music. I can still hear his singing (sometimes grunting) as he performed. I have many happy memories of riding together to concerts as well as his stories of Aaron Shearer (with whom he backpacked). Don famously said "Playing the guitar is like walking ten dogs. Usually everything goes along fine, but every once in a while you go past a fire hydrant, and watch out!"
The piece I remember Don playing most vividly is El Noi de la Mare. Made famous by Andrés Segovia, El Noi de la Mare is a Catalonian Christmas song. Don honed his version to perfection. Borrowing a little from this or that guitarist and adding his own touches until it was a masterpiece. So, it is with much humility that I present my own recording of this great piece, inspired by the master, Don Wilson. Don, I hope you like it!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Dia De Los Muertos - Original Nuevo Flamenco Piece


With Halloween just around the corner I decided to release my original piece, Dia de los Muertos. It's a Nuevo Flamenco style piece in D minor with a slightly eerie quality. I thought it was a perfect fit for the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead (The popular celebration of the Catholic All Soul's Day dedicated to praying for the deceased) Like the song, it's a little "creepy," but hopefully beautiful.

I wrote and recorded the song in about four hours. I was feeling sick that day, and didn't feel like doing any "real work." First I put down the drum track. This was followed with the synth parts and bass line. Next I layer down the electric guitar parts. There are two electric parts, both with distortion, one which occurs every bridge (aka chorus), and one which only comes in the final time, with giant distorted power chords! After that I recorded the rhythm guitar track on my classical guitar. The whole backing track was now complete, but I still didn't have a melody!

Every song I write comes together a little differently. Sometimes a melody comes first, sometimes chords, or a little background lick. With Dia de los Muertos, the melody grew out of many improvisations against the completed backing track. The final melody and lead part were about the fifth take I did. And it's pretty much recorded straight through (Meaning that I didn't do a lot of editing). I was particularly happy with the way the solo builds and the energy of the piece increases towards the end. Hope you like it, and Happy Halloween!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Estudio No. 5 by F. Sor


When performing I'm often asked "What do you think about while you play?" The answer varies. Usually I'm singing the melody in my head as I play. But, alongside that I'm thinking all kinds of things, from "What should I have for breakfast tomorrow?" to "What is the meaning of life?" 

I bring this up because when I was recording my version of Sor's Estudio No. 5 I was particularly moved by the sad story of Leiby Kletzk, the Hacidic boy recently murdered in New York. Something about that tragedy and the sadness of this piece will be forever linked for me. It was a difficult and emotional recording session, but in the end I felt like I said something. 

How is mankind capable of such beauty and such ugliness? 



Notes:

0:00 - Piece begins. A slow arpeggio study in B minor.
0:17 - Repeat of first section, slightly faster, building.
0:35 - Second section begins.
0:50 - Bigger, moves out of B minor eventually coming to rest on a big F# chord (The dominant).
1:06 - Return to B minor, recalls opening.
1:20 - Crescendo with climax at 1:25
1:36 - Repeat of second section. Starts in ponticello.
2:20 - Final crescendo, then dies away.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Claire de Lune - Debussy on Guitar - Free Recording



I never get tired of hearing Debussy's Claire de Lune. I've heard it on piano, for violin, and on my son's Baby Einstein movies! I still love it.  It's a great piece, full of interesting harmonic changes and soaring melodies.

 0:00 - The piece begins with the main theme, a flowing, wandering melody that slowly makes it's way down the major scale.

 0:50 - This is followed with a rhythmic section which alternates with dramatic bass notes.

 1:23 - Next a stormy melody which begins a modulation to a distant key (the chromatic mediant for those of you keeping score!)

2:00 - The climax of the piece comes at the completion of the modulation. Listen for the highest note of the piece followed with a beautiful two octave descending scale.

2:05 - A return to the earlier “stormy melody,” this time in a mellower mood.

2:30 - Now a return to the original flowing melody. Starting to wind down.

3:20 - The coda, hints of the earlier modulation (the chromatic mediant) and a gentle ending on the tonic chord.