Guitar thing

I've been wanting to write for guitar for a long time, but the instrument intimidates me. I won't get into the issues of performer/composers//composer/performers, but it seems fair to say that composing for the guitar is often the domain of guitarists. It makes sense when one considers the conceptual basis of the instrument as six overlapping lines of pitches. Most of our traditional western instruments, except strings and valved brass, have a single linear sequence of pitches. The piano and harp are clear examples of pitches arranged in a line from low to high. Woodwinds have sort of wrap-around sequences, but basically continue to be a single line from low to high, using a register key to double the length of the line. Orchestral strings have four overlapping lines, providing multiple options for most of the pitches. These options, of course, facilitate a variety of performance patterns (i.e. fingerings), but this multiplicity of patterns confuses my simple linear mind, and I have a tough time conceptualizing which notes can be played simultaneously and which patterns are idiomatic. The guitar is exponentially more complicated in my mind.

Anyway, I decided to avoid all of my paralyzing concerns about which harmonies and chords are possible, and compose a mostly melodic piece, using rhythm and register to create interest instead of harmony (check out Ligeti's Musica Ricercata to see a brilliant example of this sort of thing). So I'm going to just string a bunch of notes together in sequence. I'm going to make the guitar monolinear so I can understand it.

I'll write more about it as it takes shape, but it's been a long time since I composed and the shape is pretty foggy right now. The process--and the music--feels stiff, but today--the third straight day of composing--the feeling is starting to come back.

Teaser: it's 12-tone minimalist. Maybe. I'm thirty seconds in and have only used one pitch class so far (see the first movement of the Ligeti mentioned above).

©2017 Joshua Harris