My two guitar sonatas were both written for and dedicated to Sam Cave. Thanks to Sam, these two pieces have become my most often performed compositions! Sam is preparing a professional recording of both sonatas, which I eagerly await. In the meantime, I post here the videos of Sam’s earlier performances (from his visit to Tianjin in 2015):
Guitar Sonata No.1
Guitar Sonata No.2
A note on the first guitar sonata:
The Guitar sonata (2009-2011) was written for Sam Cave— a composer’s dream performer, both open and committed (he is a composer in his own right). He asked me to compose whatever I wanted, and this proved both liberating and terrifying.
I latched onto “imprisonment” as my central concept, although it shifted over the long writing-period, so that finally the work explores the very strict structuring of two opposing materials. Material One consists of clouds of harmonics, Material Two of normal “fretted” chords. This balance between two contrasting materials alone prompted the designation of sonata.
The work uses a microtonal tuning of the strings to access certain “spectral” harmonies that imitate the pitches of the harmonic series (particularly the 11th and 13th harmonics). The A-string is tuned to B 2/3 flat, while the B string is tuned to C 1/4 sharp. The “fundamental” of the work–in at least an illusory sense–is the low E (the lowest string of the guitar). I save this note right for the final section, when all the pent-up energies of the work are released and evaporate; the progress towards this note is admittedly elliptical, and so the image of a unicursal but serpentine labyrinth, more than a prison, would help to sum up this work.
The second sonata was inspired by my trip in 2010 to Kazbegi mountain in the Republic of Georgia. I was there with Rūta Vitkauskaitė and other members of KLIUDŽIAU to perform her opera ID at the Tbilisi International Theatre Festival. At the end of our days in Tbilisi we took a minibus to the far North of the country in search of the Gergeti Trinity Church situated on a mountain plateau in the midst of the Caucasus mountains, and in the shadow of the third highest mountain in Georgia. It was the feeling of enormous space and calmness that I felt on the plateau–oddly, it was the driest acoustic I have ever experienced, perhaps because the mountains around us were in fact so distant from us that there could be no reverberation off them when we called out– that I subsequently tried to capture in the second sonata. It took me two years to find the concept, notation and harmonic sound world that could begin to evoke that unforgettable moment of my life.
A poem accompanies the sonata:
around us rise
the towering rocks
earth-brown at noon
blue-grey at dusk
in the moonlight,
the crags are still:
we are quiet, we wait.