Juan's World

Guitarist, Composer, Writer, Publisher

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Interview with Composer/Guitarist Javier Farias: Practical Aspects of Classical-Guitar Composition, Part IV

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 extended interview is with Stephen Goss, based in the UK, one of the most renowned composers for the contemporary classical guitar. The second interview is with Jürg Kindle, one of the most prominent contemporary pedagogical composers for the classical guitar. This third interview is with Chilean composer and guitarist Javier Farias.

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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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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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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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