Three Interludes

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The classical guitar is quite charged for me. It’s my father’s instrument, and, for a brief time, it was mine too, but I never mastered it, or even came close. When it’s well-played it always seems like a particular kind of conjuring to me. Like a tight-rope act.

It’s a composer’s cliché that the classical guitar is amongst the hardest instruments to write well for. But clichés are clichés because they’re true. Like the orchestra (also an instrument), you want to forget it’s there and just write your music. But you can’t. The guitar is it’s music and vice versa.

In writing these interludes, I’ve tried to stay as close as possible to my own tactile experience of the instrument. To what Feldman called the ‘reality’ of the sound. And to my affection for the clear-voiced beauty of its timbre.

The suite of miniatures is a form I’ve liked for a while now. I always think of those Impressionist paintings of the same subject at different times of the day, in different light. Or three photographs of the same still life.

In this music for guitar, the subject is the material of the first miniature — Tanka. A ‘tanka’ is a Japanese poetic form that the pianist Aki Takahashi introduced me to. It’s quite strictly formulated, like ‘haiku’. And actually I composed a piece for Aki, which I called ‘tanka’, and in which I mapped the structural rules of the form quite directly. This ‘tanka’ for Philip is freer, though. Like a memory of the original form, not the form exactly.

With the next two miniatures in the set – Organum and Ketawang –  this process continues; something more is forgotten, and things previously heard as small details become more significant.

i. Tanka
ii. Organum
iii. Ketawang

Instrumentation: solo classical guitar
Duration: circa 6′
Date of composition: 2012
Commissioned by Fractal for Philip Lawson Irish tour 2012/2013.
First Performance: Philip Lawson, The Centre for Creative Practices, Pembroke Street, Dublin, 9 November 2012
Score: Please email to obtain the latest score.