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What's Become of Composers?


Kramer Ferrington III.

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I must admit that I find virtuosi a bit dull. Vai, Malmsteen, Hedges... I always have this initial "wow" factor, but it invariably goes in one ear and out the other.

 

Or so I thought, until I started listening to classical guitar a few days ago. John Williams especially. Good classical guitarists tick all the boxes: tone, ability, feeling, etc, but to me, they have an edge in that they also tend to play more memorable stuff than say, Yngwie Malmsteen. It makes such a difference.

 

So what's become of The Composer? It seems to be such a vanished figure these days. Are there any proper composers in electric guitar music? I don't mean song writers, 'cause there's heaps of them out there. I mean people who will write a proper concerto or a sonata or whatever and intend it for others to play. Even under another description, if they find the terms "sonata" or "concerto" to be a bit stuffy.

 

Why do we have so many brilliant technicians, and so few people writing for them?

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Because the technical playing part of the equation is the EASY part!! LOL.....relatively speaking, of course.

 

Creation is always the difficult part.

 

I was just discussing this with my 15 yo son. He says that there are still great guitarists, and good creative music being created.

 

I'm gonna ask him to play some for me. Maybe I'm just getting old (and I am!!) but, I've not noiced much that catches my attention. Then again, it may be that I'm NOT paying attention. That's why I'm going to ask him to play some for me.

Don

 

"There once was a note, Pure and Easy. Playing so free, like a breath rippling by."

 

 

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=574296

 

http://www.myspace.com/imdrs

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I haven't heard much either Don. I think the guitar is slowly making it's way back to being a rhythm instrument. No one wants to hear a good solo anymore. It's more about the lyrics and the beat.

 

As for the classical stuff, I'm sure there must still be good composers out there? There are a few classical guys on here that may provide a much better perspective on this. Myself, I got into this a few years back, learned a bunch of songs, bought a bunch of CDs and added it to my repitoure. I love the stuff, but in small doses, from time to time.

 

You around Sas?

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I haven't heard much either Don. I think the guitar is slowly making it's way back to being a rhythm instrument. No one wants to hear a good solo anymore. It's more about the lyrics and the beat.

 

As for the classical stuff, I'm sure there must still be good composers out there? There are a few classical guys on here that may provide a much better perspective on this. Myself, I got into this a few years back, learned a bunch of songs, bought a bunch of CDs and added it to my repitoure. I love the stuff, but in small doses, from time to time.

 

You around Sas?

And that's fine too Craig, we both know the real name of the game is singing!!

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I think Andy Summers fits the bill and Trevor Rabin. Steve Vai is very schooled and could write anything for anyone almost....he just chooses the shred thing as far as what we hear from him usually.

 

 

I understand the point you are making, but I also feel no matter what you write, you are composing.

 

A good arranger could take any Hendrix song and arrange it for an orchestra...as has been done with the Beatles or perhaps stuff the Boston Pops takes on.

 

There must be many composers in the classical guitar genre.

 

I would like to learn to be a composer...in the sense of how you meant.....writing for orchestra from guitar.

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There are probably more great composers around today than ever, its just that instrumental music is out of favor. The only real venue for such music right now is TV, film, and theater. It is true that guitar virtuosi of any style don't have a great track record of writing great music.

 

I think Vai has the potential, I've heard some things that are really creative. I like Eric Johnson's writing but not everything he releases is great. Pat Metheny is both a great composer and guitarist, I think he will be recognized more and more. He is starting to have classical guitarists recognize him, check out Jason Vieaux's "Images of Metheny" for classical guitar.

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Mind if I cut and paste an essay in here? Well if so then skip past this long long post. If you have way too much time or just avoiding digging out your drive way, then have at it. I typed this off the cuff; so if I make a generalization that you might not agree with, well I might agree with you.

 

Well: here's an essay. I can't avoid the snow shoveling any longer. Again, if it is too long for you, skip it-- please!

 

Composers generally have not favored writing for the guitar. While there is a lot of music composed for the guitar, there is a lot more for other instruments. I think there are three factors: 1) the guitar's versatility; 2) the trends in the composer's "art" music scene; and 3) the difficulties many non-guitarist composers find in writing for our instrument.

 

I think with respect to guitar, it is function of the guitar's versatility that that is at the source of the dilemma. We are able to find our selves in such a diverse set of playing situations that playing completely "composed" music like a guitar and harpsichord duet composed by Ponce is just a narrow slice of what we can do. As improvised music has risen in status equal to "art" music the "serious" guitarist can be 100% serious without giving a "rat's ass" about conveying what the composer intended-- which is a kind of obsession in classical music. Thus the kind of guitarist that develops the skills to interpret the composer's written page-- which is way more detailed than a lead sheet or a "hey listen, it goes like this"-- is rare. Rare: that is not better than any other kind, but just a different set of skills to read and know what the composer is getting at.

 

Just what the composer is getting at has been a tough thing through the 20th century-- especially if we accept a line drawn between composer and songwriter. "Art music" got increasingly noisy and that has not lent itself to the guitar's strengths. Composers want louder louds and quieter quiets, and the guitar has a limited dynamic range. Until the sub-sections on guitars in the "other stringed instruments" chapter in orchestration books is expanded to include Fender and Marshall Amps and volume pedals, the guitar will be seen as an instrument composers can't really get a full dynamic range out of. What the guitar is good at, it is very good at. Composers that worked with Segovia saw the beauty the guitar can express. Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Ponce fell in love with the guitar; but like the other composers that Segovia favored, they were generally more restrained and conservative musically and perhaps more willing to live with what other composers might see as limitations. The composers Segovia favored were generally considered outside the "mainstream" trends in art music, so little mention of them will be found in the text books as young composers study the history of their art. Stravinsky, a giant in early 20th century music still studied in detail in universities today, once asked Segovia why the guitarist hadn't approached him to compose for the guitar. Segovia said that he wouldn't do him the insult of not playing it-- a knock on the music the guy wrote. Was Segovia right? I somewhat think he is. I think that if students of composition were to study the full scope of works by guys that Segovia favored in comparison to those that are traditionally studies, "our guys" would fair pretty well. I personally think Ponce in particular would leap in status. As for the trends in 20th century music that Segovia ignored, well the concert halls do not fill up for that stuff. At two concerts I attended this past year, an orchestra and a string quartet, the audience sat on their hands for the modern selections but applauded enthusiastically for Romantic and Classical and even Impressionist music. In the concert halls Beethoven still rules, Schoenberg still drools. In the university understanding the diverse sounds of the 20th century are goals; and the Ponce's of the world that grew to use those sounds organically instead of snapping to the trends instantly are left out. All the effort spent on learning modern techniques comes at the expense of something; the idiosyncrasies of the guitar are only one of the things they can't spend the time on.

 

And the guitar has it's idiosyncrasies. We know the guitar, but people that don't play it for years have a big learning curve to understand how and where things can be played on it. Many famous pieces for classical guitar are considered unplayable as written. They must be edited or arranged or tweaked in some way by the player. Some things like slurs or the giving a note it's full written length are the compromises, sometimes it is leaving out a voice.

 

Sometimes it isn't the music that is the problem but the understanding of it. Regondi was a great guitarist whose music was not understood, and so even after it was "rediscovered it was left unplayed until recently. Giuliani's music was written off by Segovia for a variety of reasons, but all rather unfairly as that music and other very showy and idiomatic music from that era is now very popular among audiences and guitarists. Finding the guitarist that can convincingly play Bach, Weiss, Giuliani, Regondi, Ponce, Tansman, Tedesco, or Dodgson (let alone the many things left written for guitar but still essentially unplayed) is a rare find.

 

This goes back to the guitar's versatility, and the range and preference of each guitarist. Our instrument is capable of far more than any of us individually. For a composer that doesn't play guitar to find his own voice on our instrument, it involves finding a guitarist that understands his voice. It might be akin to finding one's soul mate. But I'm leaving out the guitarists as the composer. I think for many guitarists the versatility of our instrument is also at work here. Like Brian Wilson's Smile album, the range of possibilities is greater and often more interesting than any one path through the music. Once we know the instrument we can run with it in any direction we want, improvising and changing and playing with the music as much as playing the music. We are not stuck with any one straight line on our instrument, and the fun is navigating those twists and turns freely. Pinning it down to one route, and one way is almost contrary to our nature for some of us. Composing may be nice; but for many of us: at its best the finished product will only be a starting point.

 

 

 

 

check out some comedy I've done:

http://louhasspoken.tumblr.com/

My Unitarian Jihad Name: Brother Broadsword of Enlightened Compassion.

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Yeah I spaced on Pat......too many distractions...kids running around...cannot concentrate and it is a good thread. The album The Way Up is great compositionally....themes and motifs that grow etc.

 

Larry Carlton is another who has composed for film as has Knopfler, Jimmy Page, Ry Cooder, Daniel Lanois...the list goes on....

 

 

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..........Our instrument is capable of far more than any of us individually.......... But I'm leaving out the guitarists as the composer.........

 

I struggled with the bulk of your text.....I have no idea what it is you are trying to say......and I do not mean that unkindly.

 

I thought we were discussing guitar players who compose for other instruments... orchestral music whether large orchestra or a small string quartet.

 

The question was..."Are there any proper composers in electric guitar music.... people who will write a proper concerto or a sonata or whatever and intend it for others to play?"

 

 

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Hair:

 

I don't know that I agree with some parts of that essay. To say that people don't write for the guitar because it is too versatile is just plain weird. Nobody's stopped writing for the piano, even though pianos have been used in as many styles of music as guitars.

 

To complain about the guitar's limited dynamic range is to ignore amplification, ie to have lived on Mars for the past seventy odd years ;) We can have dynamics up the wazoo if we want.

 

For a composer that doesn't play guitar to find his own voice on our instrument, it involves finding a guitarist that understands his voice.

 

Well, I'm a mediocre guitarist at best, but even I can come up with feasible stuff that would sound interesting, if only I could play it. Doesn't mean that other, more skillful players couldn't make it work.

 

I guess my point is that we have such great technicians these days, guys that can play anything. And they waste their time on writing ho-hum albums. They could be so much better if they left the composing to others. But there don't seem to be a lot of "others" doing the writing.

 

The current "art scene" doesn't matter very much, AFAIK, because it has its audience who probably wouldn't bother going to see Vai play anyway. But perhaps the shredders, with their classical inclinations would be chuffed to have someone compose for them.

 

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I was ALWAYS around classical music and people in classical music when i was little and growing up. My Mom was an excellent technician who could sight read pretty much anything. I learned to appreciate piano and its interpretations more than guitar.

 

Like if I am going to listen to classical I would opt to hear a great classical pianist liek Ashkenazy playing Rachmoninoff, or Chopin. Rachmoninoff is my favorite composer.

 

Though I respect the technical ability of classical guitar, because it is the hardest by far, I have yet to enjoy the guitar's ability to interpret classical music. Not to say I am not open to it, cuz if something grabs me I will listen to it constantly.

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Though I respect the technical ability of classical guitar, because it is the hardest by far, I have yet to enjoy the guitar's ability to interpret classical music. Not to say I am not open to it, cuz if something grabs me I will listen to it constantly.

 

Well, what I meant (if you're referring to my original post, of course) is that the thing I'm enjoying about listening to classical guitar is that they have great technique, and are playing great music.

 

I think it'd be great if people stepped forward and wrote music for the legions of shredders out there. Or for all the great acoustic players. Not necessarily "classical" music, or even "classical sounding"", but something approaching that, at least in the scope and grandeur of it. They don't have to CALL the stuff "concertos" or anything, but it'd be great if there was more music on that level.

 

There's no shortage of technically gifted players out there, and so little for them to do. Well, that's the way it seems to me, anyway. :)

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The profession of "composer" is not what it once was. Most people that love music that much are playing it and writing songs for themselves. If someone else covers it then thats fine but usually writing is for self gratification.

 

In the past when orchestral music was popular, you almost needed someone that could write for all the instruments. It wouldn't do for 70 some odd players to each write their own parts. A Mozart or Beethoven had to invision all the different timbres and harmonies and organize the music for large groups to play. Even someone writing a four part choral piece had different skills and responibilities than a modern pop songwriter.

 

The advent of electric guitar and other modern instrumentation sort of made orchestras obsolete. A 4 piece band could put out as much volume and range of sounds as many more musicians of the past. Its just much more common to write for your own insular unit rather than for someone else. I bet even the staff writers in Nashville and other places started writing for themselves before they found they could make more money selling their songs to someone prettier or with a better voice.

 

There still is a need for someone who can invision the whole sound, thats kind of the role producers play now (George Martin's role with the Beatles comes to mind).

 

Even though the market for instrumental music has changed, I am surprised that more music hasn't been written for electric guitar. Some of the players with incredible chops but lacking in songwriting skills could really benefit from a composers help. This includes almost all of the shredder school of players.

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In the past when orchestral music was popular, you almost needed someone that could write for all the instruments. It wouldn't do for 70 some odd players to each write their own parts. A Mozart or Beethoven had to invision all the different timbres and harmonies and organize the music for large groups to play. Even someone writing a four part choral piece had different skills and responibilities than a modern pop songwriter.

 

Yeah, I think that's what an orchestrator does. Sounds like a dream job :) IIRC, an orchestator grabs the raw score and says "We'll give this line here to the oboes, blah, blah, blah". I believe it's a glorified name for an arranger, but there must be more to it than that.

 

Even though the market for instrumental music has changed, I am surprised that more music hasn't been written for electric guitar. Some of the players with incredible chops but lacking in songwriting skills could really benefit from a composers help. This includes almost all of the shredder school of players.

 

Yup! Yup! My point precisely! :D:thu:

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http://www.billwandel.com/

 

This guy is a composer. I mean he can write for symphony orchestra and does. Then he goes to Prague and records them cheaply.

 

But it is commercial music for films commercials, etc.

 

I like him! :thu: But yeah, I meant guitar composers, like an electric Tarrega or something. Wish someone like that would turn up.

 

Nothing wrong with films and commercials though. So many classical composers wrote for operas and entertainments, and what are they if not the films and commercials of the time? :)

 

Here you go, I hope this helps. :D

 

Randy

 

http://www.musicated.com/CGCL/music/CGCL_nation.html

 

Erm, no I meant for electric guitar.

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Hey Kramer, what I mean by the versatility being like an obstacle in this context is that guitar is used in a lot of folk music-- I guess it started there--, and in music that has little need for a composer. While a piano is similarly versatile, I don't think it has the role in any folk music that guitar has. The other thing about piano is that since its invention, every noteworthy composer I'm aware of with the exception of Berlioz played piano. Berlioz played guitar and I think flute (so, he's one of us).

 

I think I said something about orchestration books. What I meant was that until amplifiers and volume pedals and stuff make it into orchestration books, the average composer isn't going know how to write for electric guitar. Guitar is hardly mentioned in orchestration books, and it's lack of dynamic range compared to other instruments makes it tough to "play well with others" as composers learn to apply their ideas to the various instruments. Electric guitar could manage it, but even if it were spelled out nicely in orchestration books there is still the snob factor.

 

As for guitarists taking it upon themselves to start "composing" as opposed to just song writing: well, I guess it depends on how we define it; but to learn to understand like Sonata form and see how its been used over the years and how the rules are broken and all that takes a lot of study. And that's just a Sonata. Composition is an art form that requires the full attention of the composer just as guitar playing does from us. Brahms used to "warm up" just like we warm up on our instruments but instead he worked on counterpoint exercises for a while before begining to look for ideas for the music he was about to work on. So for him it all started with counterpoint.

 

I mean it's a lot of work. There are a lot of guitarists that are composers, but if it is true (as it seems) that in the grand scheme of things there are way more guitarists than guitarist/composers or that most composers ignore the guitar. I'd look: to the fact that we don't have to compose on guitar to have a good time and to even make serious music, and to the fact that most people that study composition don't learn much about any guitar (let alone electric guitar).

check out some comedy I've done:

http://louhasspoken.tumblr.com/

My Unitarian Jihad Name: Brother Broadsword of Enlightened Compassion.

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Hey Kramer, what I mean by the versatility being like an obstacle in this context is that guitar is used in a lot of folk music-- I guess it started there--, and in music that has little need for a composer.

 

Yeah, well you could make the same comment about flutes (blowing into some sort of tube seems to be a pretty universal human concept) or even vocals. And yet people write pieces for flute and/or choirs.

 

The other thing about piano is that since its invention, every noteworthy composer I'm aware of with the exception of Berlioz played piano.

 

Good point. :thu:

 

I think I said something about orchestration books. What I meant was that until amplifiers and volume pedals and stuff make it into orchestration books, the average composer isn't going know how to write for electric guitar.

 

Ok, but books and conservatories tend to be somewhat behind their times.

 

As for guitarists taking it upon themselves to start "composing" as opposed to just song writing: well, I guess it depends on how we define it; but to learn to understand like Sonata form and see how its been used over the years and how the rules are broken and all that takes a lot of study. And that's just a Sonata.

 

Ok, how my train of thought started was that I was listening to John Williams doing Isaac Alberniz's "Echoes Of Spain" (which admittedly began as piano pieces) and I guess I was disappointed that the pieces were SO much better than the stuff on "Real Illusions", the only Vai album I have. I wish we had stuff as good as that in the electric guitar's "repertoire", for want of a better term.

 

When I was listening to Alberniz's stuff, I wasn't concerned about how well he stuck to one classical format or another, I was just thinking "Wow, this is good!" and that was when I stepped back from listening and formed conscious thoughts. The rest of the time I was just absorbed in the music.

 

Like I said before, I don't really care if people write concertos or not, or if they write concertos and fugues and sonatas and whatevers under another name, it's just the quality that I'd like.

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Guitar Pro 5, has the ability to write out not only the notation, but it also has symbols, characters and words which let you know which effects to use, when to push the wah up and down etc...

 

I'm not sure if it has been used to "compose" new guitar music, opposed to writing out an exisiting piece. But the technology is there, at least.

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These guys are NOT what you're wondering about, but they're around there. However, I'm not sure in these links you'll be able to hear any of their stuff. I met them while in grad school. I know they HAVE written for electric guitar, but it's usually something far from Yngwie-type stuff.

 

http://www.myspace.com/anthonyjosephlanman

 

http://www.myspace.com/bensjacob

 

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=26092237

 

Look around their "friends" list--I know especially Tony has always been interested in blending pop music and concert music aesthetics.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

My MySpace Space

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Yes, "concert music" composition is a full-time job in itself, but it doesn't mean a tecnhically advanced player like Vai wouldn't be able to do it if he really wanted to. It's just a matter of aesthetics, and probably the fear of losing fanbase.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

My MySpace Space

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I think the major difficulty in electric guitar with orchestra composition is electric guitar voices do not blend well with existing orchestral arrangements. It always seems to sound like a solo instrument playing above the orchestra.

 

That may be fine for a solo artist with orchestra, but then what? I have yet to hear the distorted electric guitar in an orchestral piece that doesn't sound contrived or simply "soloed" in the arrangement. That works well for certain short form songs, particularly in older Elton John songs with arrangments by the incredible Paul Buckmaster, but again, the modern band plays "in front" of the orchestra, not truly as a part of it, IMO.

 

I think the description, "Bach Rock" says it all... It's not truly classical music, not modern rock composition... I don't know that classical music played on distorted or effected electric guitars will ever truly integrate into the classical paradigm. Distorted electric guitar simply demands too much attention to lay back in an orchestra piece without sounding like a gimmick.

 

The one exception is in classical compositions for some film and tv where the "modern" sound of distorted guitar can sometimes disappear into the arrangement because the content of the show supports it.

 

Just my .02 and I'm not sure how coherent these thoughts are, but I don't have time to reconsider and edit now so... there they are. ;) YMMV.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

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