Classical Guitar & South America, A Match Made In Heaven

Ever since I began studying classical guitar, I knew I wanted to one day write music for the instrument, and eventually record an album. I studied classical guitar for a few years in high school, had some amazing experiences studying and performing, and then went off to college at JMU to continue studying the instrument. Once at JMU, however, I quickly switched majors; my teacher at the time just didn’t match up to the skills, experience, and overall incredible teaching style of my original teacher, Sam Dorsey (more about him in another post). Although I felt strongly that I had made the right choice switching majors, it did have the unfortunate side effect of leading me to put classical guitar on the back burner for a while, revisiting it only sparingly during the course of my 5 years at college (jazz, pop, and rock guitar being at the forefront of my music life during this time).

After college, I quickly picked the classical guitar back up and began brushing up on my technique. I focused on re-learning my old repertoire, as well as learning new pieces to add to my repertoire. Eventually, I started incorporating classical guitar into my performances at local weddings and art shows, etc. Now, it is a key component of my act. Despite this, I still wasn’t composing music for the instrument.

This past fall, I finally put my foot down and decided I was going to write some music for it and record a damn album. My initial songs weren’t so great. In fact, I hated them. I didn’t have any direction, just an inclination to do something. At least I was writing. This in itself was a struggle though; my mind did everything in its power to distract me (and still continues to do so in these final stages of completing my songs for the album). The saving grace? Antonio Lauro, a Venezuelan guitar composer.

Lauro composed a wide variety of music for the classical guitar. One of the best recordings I know of is John Williams (the guitarist, not the film composer) performing Lauro’s works. I’ve had this recording for a while, but never really listened to it. I stumbled back on it recently, only after I decided to start writing music for classical guitar. After listening, I became addicted… Lauro’s music is a subtle but astounding portrait of Venezuelan music for classical guitar. His music puts you in a happy mood, a very happy mood. It is melodic, rhythmic/percussive, and fun. Listening to Lauro’s music also made me think back to another one of my guitar idols, Agustin Barrios, a Paraguayan guitarist/composer. Barrios incorporates more of a “romantic” element (think Chopin for guitar) into his compositions, but the music is nonetheless similar to Lauro’s in that it has this very positive/melodic/rhythmic aspect to it (Lauro was inspired by Barrios). I then had a revelation…

The classical guitar was MADE for South American music. Don’t get me wrong, classical music does sound great on the nylon guitar, but South American music (in my opinion) sounds EVEN better. I don’t know quite yet how to describe concisely what I mean when I say “South American music for guitar.” All I know is that I now wanted to write (and plan to continue to write) “songs of a classical style on nylon guitar that could be played at South American-type festivities that vary between a) very fun/upbeat b) happy but mellow and c) flamenco-esque, and that could all be played/listened to under a palm tree (or several) near the ocean.”

THAT is the type of music I wanted to write. The result? I have absolutely no idea whether or not I’ve been successful at it. What I do know is that I personally feel happy with what I’ve written so far. I enjoy playing the songs myself. They seem to sort of hit the mark. However, I sincerely hope everyone enjoys them. But, we’ll see… I’ll post a sample soon and you can tell me then : )

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