Update September 24, 2015: The successful kickstarter campaign which funded the writing of “Rhapsody & Afterglow” by Eric Sessler will finally receive its premiere this October in Philadephia! Please see the press-release below for details. Thanks again to all of you who made a contribution!
It’s hard not to be a little excited about new music being written for the guitar, and perhaps more so when the work is comissioned by an amazing guitarist like Jason Vieaux. Check out the Kickstarter for composer Eric Sessler and Jason Vieaux’s new project and see if you wouldn’t like to support the creation of a new work for guitar.
Composing for Jason Vieaux:
The story of a collaboration past & present.
By Eric Sessler
Back in 1997, Vera Wilson-artistic director of Astral Artists in Philadelphia-asked me to write a new work for classical guitar in memory of Randall Hoffman. She told me that Astral had recently added the first guitarist to their roster and that he was “pretty good”. His name was Jason Vieaux and of course, she was more than right about his prodigious talent. I wrote Sonata No. 1 for the occasion and Jason gave it a remarkable premiere at Swarthmore College. Afterwards, I was overjoyed to learn that Jason would continue performing the Sonata, which he ultimately did for several seasons across the United States and abroad. For my own career it was the first exposure that I had received to such an extent and Jason’s performances led directly to additional commissions and publication by Les Productions d’OZ in Canada. One such commission came from Nicholas Goluses who heard Jason perform the Sonata. That piece turned into a duo for flute & guitar called Hammerhead which Nicholas performed with his outstanding flute partner Bonita Boyd. (Incidentally, Boyd & Goluses will feature Hammerhead at the National Flute Association convention in Chicago this summer.)
In the intervening years, well, you all probably know of Jason’s establishment as one of the leading guitarists of his generation. For myself, my path has taken me to teaching positions at the Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School and a composing career that includes guitar works, as well as music for solo, chamber, vocal and orchestral forces. At Curtis, for many years I felt that I had the distinction of being the only guitarist around but of course Curtis did not have a guitar department at the time and so I would get strange looks every time that I brought my case into the building. That honor is gone now since the guitar department began a few years ago and in my place there’s Jason, David Starobin and a studio of talented guitarists. Nowadays, I probably could file my nails or glue ping-pong balls on them without a second look from anyone.
Now that Jason and I are colleagues at Curtis it has given us a chance to bring to fruition a second opportunity to collaborate together-one that we’ve talked about for years. Embracing the new online paradigm we’ve decided to utilize Kickstarter as a means to get the new guitar work written for Jason. It is my first attempt at a Kickstarter campaign and I feel a little bit like I’m doing a PBS fund drive. I just wish that I had tote bags or umbrellas to give out as rewards!
It has been a little more than fifteen years since Jason and I worked on Sonata No. 1 together and I am eager to see what a new collaboration with him will produce. Although it is hard to say what this new work will be like beforehand I can tell you that I am a big fan of alternate tunings for the guitar. I’ve used these tunings in my guitar works like Hammerhead which uses an open G major tuning in the second movement. Additionally, I have utilized alternate tunings as a source of creative inspiration for non-guitar works like my flute concerto and string quartet. In the quartet, for example, the third movement begins with the ensemble performing a chord which combines notes from both the open A major and G major tunings played together as a chord divided between the four instruments. They then slide into and out of this trading the “tuning” notes back and forth. You can hear the effect that I am describing in the following interview link:
One final word about potential inspiration for the new work for Jason-recently, I’ve fallen in love with the songs of Nick Drake and I would love to infuse a bit of that beautiful vibe into the composition. I’ll just have to figure out how and if I am able to incorporate that influence later this year when I sit down to compose.
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