Juan's World

Guitarist, Composer, Writer, Publisher

Interview with Composer/Guitarist Jürg Kindle: Practical Aspects of Classical-Guitar Composition, Part III

For my article on practical matters of composition for classical guitar (Classical Guitar, Summer 2017), I interviewed three acclaimed composers and a publisher of classical guitar music. This series of posts publishes the full interviews. The second is with Jürg Kindle, one of the most prominent contemporary pedagogical composers for the classical guitar.

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Interview with Composer/Guitarist Stephen Goss: Practical Aspects of Classical-Guitar Composition, Part II

For my article on practical matters of composition for classical guitar (Classical Guitar, Summer 2017), I interviewed three acclaimed composers and a publisher of classical guitar music. This series of posts publishes the full interviews. The first is with Stephen Goss, based in the UK, one of the most renowned composers for the contemporary classical guitar

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Water Wearing Stone: Practical Matters of Classical Guitar Composition

A composer creates, above all. Today’s composers must nevertheless navigate a myriad of factors including commissions, licensing and copyright, distribution and digital streaming, on and on. Perchance in Bach’s day it was easier: toiling in obscurity and poverty, or gaining fame—if not riches—most composers labored under the patronage of a wealthy and influential benefactor. Then again, Bach didn’t have the option of sending a performer MIDI files via Dropbox. Composers in the 21st century possess countless options, although most of us will still be unlikely, except under near-miraculous circumstances, to receive rich recompense for our work. Composing can be rewarding and worthwhile in and of itself, but whether an established or aspiring composer, attention to practical aspects and business details may have a great influence over your ultimate success.

Note: This article first appeared in Classical Guitar magazine's Summer 2017 issue.

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Innovation and the Publishing Start-Up

Choice magazine's annual University Press Forum offers the perspectives of University Press directors on a variety of topics. This year's Forum—the 13th in the series—addresses the topic of Innovation at the University Press. Essays from eight University Press directors are included in this year's Forum, including Bruce Austin, RIT Press; Courtney Burkholder, Texas Tech University Press; Faye Chadwell, Oregon State University Press; Steve Cohn, Duke University Press; Linda Manning, The University of Alabama Press; Gianna Mosser, Liz Hamilton, and Jane Bunker at Northwestern University Press; Mary Rose Muccie, Temple University Press; and yours truly.

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Review of my CD in Classical Guitar magazine

The Winter 2016 issue of Classical Guitar magazine includes a brief review of my CD, Serenata de la Sirena, excerpted below:

"This American guitarist-composer, who traditionally has specialized in playing works by Latin and South American composers, has self-produced a CD of nine homespun pieces mixed with five other works. Warren’s title track is warm and Latin in style, with a nice melody and harmonies. Leo Brouwer’s arrangement of “Drume Negrita” follows, with a new interlude composed by Warren, and a couple of other moments where he deviates, in an improvisatory way, from the printed score… Antonio Lauro’s short “La Catira” is a rarity that Warren plays very well. There are also two pieces by Baden Powell: “Berceuse a Jussara” is a work I had not heard before—Warren dispatches it with an almost jazz-like touch that suits the piece nicely; and “Afro Sambas” is complex and highly rhythmic through-out… The rest of the works are Warren’s. “Nisene” is a complex, patterned, arpeggiated, piece…"

Classical Guitar magazine, Winter 2016


Improvisation and Classical Guitar – Part 2

My article on improvisation and classical guitar (Classical Guitar Summer 2016) considers the history and context of classical guitar improvisation (and classical music in general); discusses why and when to improvise; and provides some strategies on how to get started.

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing three imminent classical guitarists—Roland Dyens, Dušan Bogdanović, and Andrew York—asking them many of the same questions. Herein is an edited transcript of these conversations that expands on many of the techniques and topics discussed in part 1.

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Improvisation and Classical Guitar

The first step, and in some ways the most difficult one, is to wrap your head around the idea of improvisation on the classical guitar. What precisely is improvisation, and what is not? A familiar part of the musical toolbox for guitarists specializing in jazz, flamenco, bluegrass, blues, rock and other genres, improvisation has been relatively neglected, if not exactly derided, in modern classical guitar. This extends to classical music in general, of course. Considering the history of classical music and the evolution of the guitar, it’s perhaps surprising that improvisation does not play a larger role.

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Mastering at Airshow

Mastering is both a communication process as well as a technical one. The final step in the recording process, where the final mixes are sweetened and balanced, the flow and sequencing of the album is perfected, the space between tracks is determined and the relative volume levels between songs is made consistent.

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Guitarreros de Madrid

Luthiers and guitar shops in the Spanish capital

On my trip this August to Madrid, I decided to spend some time visiting a few of the city’s guitar shops and luthiers—artisanal guitar makers. I’ve visited Spain and Madrid several times previously, yet seven years had transpired since my last visit and I had rarely endeavored to visit classical or flamenco guitar makers there. August is arguably not the best month to visit Madrid—a majority of the residents have fled the oppressive heat of the city for vacations at the beach or abroad, and the inhabitants that remain are not inclined to work much, so while shops such as the Corte Inglés or Zara are promoting rare sale prices, many smaller boutiques, restaurants, and other businesses have irregular hours or are closed for the month. On the other hand, while tourists are in abundance, the fact that the populace has abandoned the metropolis leaves Madrid’s streets, cafés and bars relatively deserted.

The guitar in Spain, it goes without saying, is as ubiquitous as bulls and bullfighting. When we refer to the “Spanish guitar” today it can mean both the classical guitar or flamenco guitar; though similar in some ways in construction, the latter generally features a lower action, with strings sometimes “buzzing” against the frets, and a width, or bout, that is typically narrower than its classical counterpart. The early development of the guitar had perhaps as much to do with Italy as Spain, and of course today superb classical and flamenco guitars are made in every corner of the world. But it’s easy to associate the classical guitar primarily with Spain, and with Madrid in particular, which has been the heart of Spanish guitar making since the mid-eighteenth century.

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University Presses Gather on a High Note

University press representatives from the US, Canada, and abroad ascended to the Mile-High City for the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) 2015 Annual Meeting, June 18–20, on a high that probably had little to do with the marijuana dispensary across the 16th Street Mall from the host hotel Sheraton Denver. Despite the reality that many presses are necessarily accepting the mantra that “flat is the new up”—particularly for small to medium presses that the AAUP terms Tier 1, 2, and 3—the mood in Denver was decidedly upbeat. AAUP’s membership is a decidedly collegial and supportive group of professionals truly concerned with the creation, production, and dissemination of scholarship. The meeting’s theme “Connect, Collaborate” was not an empty platitude. The meeting’s positive mood can also be attributed to spirit of innovation embraced by many presses, the feeling that while scholarship and the academy are changing, university presses are willing and able to evolve and help drive developments, even if the precise path from here to there is still opaque.

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Chocolate Express

I arrived at the station in the nick of time, as usual, relying on my watch running fast and on the train granting me the favor of arriving five minutes late. Thanks to both, my watch ahead and the train delayed, I had enough time for a cup of coffee in the station’s café. It was empty. The man behind the counter wiped the stainless steel surface with a rag. He worked slowly, gazing attentively at his image reflected in the metal, as if his life depended on it. I’ve been catching the train every Friday for nearly two years in this very station, drinking a last-minute coffee in this very bar, with the same man wiping the counter for lack of anything better to do. By now we could be friends, of a sort, but we aren’t, and both of us are content with the mutual dislike that unites us. He’s a man from the North, used to dealing with cows and not with people. And I appreciate that. That he doesn’t ask about my family or mention the weekend’s game. That he gives me my coffee like he feeds the livestock. I couldn’t abide by anything else after a tough week on the job, one I do for the money and nothing else, just as he’s a waiter without it being his calling.

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Chocolate Expreso

Llegué a la estación con la hora pegada, como siempre, confiando en que mi reloj estuviera adelantado y que el tren me hiciera la cortesía de llegar cinco minutos tarde. Gracias a ambas cosas, el adelanto de mi reloj y el retraso del tren, pude tomarme un café en el bar. Estaba desierto. El hombre detrás de la barra pasaba la bayeta por el mostrador de acero inoxidable. Lo hacía despacio, mirando con mucha atención su imagen reflejada en el metal, como si en ello le fuera la vida. Llevo casi dos años cogiendo el tren cada viernes en esa misma estación, tomándome un café urgente en ese mismo bar en el que el hombre siempre limpia el mostrador a falta de otra cosa mejor que hacer. A estas alturas podríamos ser amigos o algo parecido, pero no lo somos y a los dos nos satisface esa antipatía que nos une. El es un hombre del norte, acostumbrado a tratar con las vacas y no con las personas. A mí eso me gusta. Que no me pregunte por la familia ni comente el partido del domingo. Que me dé el café como se echa de comer a los animales. No podría soportar otra cosa después de la dura semana en ese trabajo que hago sólo por dinero, igual que él es un camarero sin vocación.

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Learning, Practice, and Mastery

In Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, authors Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel argue that learning is more meaningful and effective when effortful, even as we are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we are not. ... The relationship of learning, practice, and mastery in the case of musicianship is explored thoroughly in Gerald Klickstein’s The Musician's Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness. Written especially classical and jazz instrumentalists and vocalists at the university level, the book nevertheless provides important lessons for musicians of widely diverse levels and backgrounds.

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