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Sam Cave forthcoming CD release on Metiér: Guitar Sonatas

Categories -, CD Release, Guitar, John Croft, Metier- Divine Records, Sam Cave, solo

The recording for Sam Cave’s CD is all done now, and Metiér (a division of Divine Records) are due to release the disc early in 2019.   I’m honoured that Sam has recorded my Guitar Sonata and Second Guitar Sonata to include on the disc; these are pieces which I wrote specially for Sam, and he’s championed them in numerous concerts in China and across the UK over the last few years.

I had fun assisting John Croft on the production of the Guitar Sonata recording– photos here:

Here’s the press release:

and an album taster (Sam’s own piece from the album): 

And Sam’s website:

I’ve also had fun creating liner notes on my pieces, which I’ve included below.  Sam’s liner notes also give a fascinating insight into the way he views the connections between the pieces on the CD (including works by Murail, Radulescu, Fox and Sam Cave himself as well as my two sonatas), and Sam’s said it’s OK to include those here too for everyone to see (scroll down).


My liner notes:

Guitar Sonata (2009-11)

 The First Guitar sonata was written for and dedicated to Sam Cave.  
The work explores the very strict structuring of two contrasting materials, which are presented in alternating sections.  Material one largely consists of clouds of harmonics, material two of “normal” fretted chords and figurations.  The section lengths progressively change: to begin with material one dominates; later on, material two dominates.  This discourse between two contrasting materials prompted the designation of sonata, following the model of Jean Barraqué’s Piano Sonata. 

The two essential materials of the first sonata.

The work uses a microtonal tuning of the strings to access certain “spectral” harmonies that imitate the pitches of the harmonic series.  The A-string is tuned to B 2/3 flat, while the B string is tuned to C 1/4 sharp, allowing for notes that approximate respectively the 7th and 11th partials over given fundamentals.  The main “fundamental” of the work is E2 (the lowest string of the guitar).  This note emphatically appears in the final section, when all the pent-up energies of the work are released and evaporate.   


Second Guitar Sonata (2011-14)

After the extreme technical virtuosity and invention of the first sonata, I sought a different approach in the Second Guitar Sonata (2011-14).  During a trip to Georgia in September 2011, I hiked up to the emblematic Trinity Church of Gergeti in the shadow of the Mount Kazbegi; I was struck not only by the extraordinary calm and beauty of that place, but also by the bizarrely dry acoustic (the distances between the surrounding mountains is so great that there is seemingly no echo).  In the second sonata, I try to capture this tranquillity, the vast sense of space, and the sublime landscape in the music of the second sonata. 

A poem accompanies the work.




around us rise

the towering rocks


earth-brown at noon

blue-grey at dusk


in the moonlight,

silver shadow


the crags are still:

we are quiet, we wait.


The second sonata, though technically simpler than the first, places far greater demands of listening on the performer.  Both the surface rhythms and the “structural” rhythms (the progression from one gesture to the next) are determined entirely by the decay of “guide notes” written on the upper staff.  Material on inferior staves happens only within the time frame of the decay of the guide notes, while the repetition of individual notes and figures is also determined by their own decay. 

The opening of the Second Guitar Sonata


Here are Sam’s excellent liner notes:

Refracted Resonance


“…plucked sound has a remarkable quality because the actual pluck is the apex of the sound, and thereafter it dies, and if you are playing a phrase of six or seven notes you are actually dealing with six or seven births and six or seven deaths….the excitement is also in the space between the notes and therein lies the poetry of plucked sound…”

Julian Bream (A Life in the Country, 1976 BBC Documentary)


For every note the guitar can play there are an infinite number of tone colours waiting to be coaxed from its body. My fascination with the timbral palette of the guitar has underpinned my love for the instrument and all of the work I have done in exploring, commissioning and creating new music for it. This disc is a culmination of many years of that work. In it I have tried to explore the kinds of music and ways of playing the guitar that move and inspire me. The composers represented on this recording are those who have made the biggest impact on me musically and personally in the last ten years.


The music on this is disc is united, and indeed contrasted, by several main thematic ideas. Firstly there is music that revels in, and in some cases is controlled by, the natural decay of resonating sound. George Holloway’s Second Guitar Sonata and my short Refracted Meditations III both show the kind of fascination with the ‘birth/death’ element of plucked sound that Julian Bream spoke of so eloquently back in 1976. There is also music that mirrors my own obsession with the harmonic series of overtones. Tellur (Tristan Murail), Subconscious Wave (Horatiu Radulescu) and Holloway’s Guitar Sonata all have their harmonic language rooted in the beauty and ‘otherness’ of the overtone series. The remarkable differences between them – the flamenco inspired strumming in Tellur, the wild bowing of Subconscious Wave and the extreme physical virtuosity of the Guitar Sonata – show the strength of each composer’s voice and the inventiveness of their writing for the guitar. Some of the music presented in this recording is linked by an interest in process. Fox’s Chile and Murail’s Tellur, whilst superficially linked by their exploration of various strumming techniques, use process in differing ways, either smoothly or as a kind of discontinuity. Finally, I have tried to reflect my interest in differing kinds of virtuosity. There is music that requires physical dexterity (Tellur and Guitar Sonata), music that requires rhythmic virtuosity (Chile and Second Guitar Sonata), music that requires ‘conceptual’ virtuosity (Subconscious Wave). Perhaps most importantly, there is also music that requires the performer to engage in a virtuosity based purely on ones ability to listen to the sound one is producing (Second Guitar Sonata).