By Daniel Lippel
Soli Deo Gloria is sectional, alternating between sections featuring bell-like harmonics and jagged passages with accented chords and angular meter shifts. Performance indications in the score entreat the performers to “make a wish,” “pursue your wish,” “revisit your wish,” as well as descriptive terms such as “contemplative,” “unsettled and searching,” “questioning and hoping,” and “acceptance.”
Laura Schwartz’ two movement Miniature Flowering Plants (I. Perennial and II. Annual) is also in a quarter tone tuning, and is a study in delicate harmonics. Schwartz explores the bell-like ringing of harmonics in both movements, toggling back and forth between insistent repeated notes and entangled figures of closely spaces intervals.
“Cadences” is the third movement in a six movement suite co-composed by Daniel Lippel and Orianna Webb in 2008 titled Mirrored Spaces, and featured on a recently released recording by Lippel of the same name. Written in responsorial fashion, the two reacted to and integrated material from the other’s movements. Lippel chose quarter tone tunings for two of his movements (the tuning in “Cadences” is, from low to high, D-A-D-F# 1/4 #, B, D# 1/4#). The piece progresses through various cadential moments framed by central pitches as well as rhythmic arrival points before a coda that highlights the quarter-tone discrepancies between harmonics.
Gity Razaz was born in Iran and emigrated to the United States when she was a teenager. Four Haikus balances lyrical elements with contrapuntal writing. The opening movements functions as a prelude, evocative of a French Overture with its dotted rhythms. The second movement develops a flowing, arc shaped line, building intensity into a vigorous middle section before returning to the opening motive. The third movement Largo contains echoes from the first movement, set in a free, singing texture. The final movement is a short, propulsive fugue, affording the two guitars the opportunity to trade chromatic passagework back and forth. Both the Razaz and Bryan pieces were written for the guitar duo, Duo Noire.
Featured on Grgic’s recording Balkanisms, the two Miroslav Tadić works heard here capture the spirit of music from the Balkan Peninsula. Mixed meters, ornamental grace notes, and virtuosic passagework pervade the works by the Serbian guitarist and composer Tadić, paying homage to the rich musical tradition of the region.
Helmut Lachenmann’s Salut für Caudwell is a seminal work for guitar duo that transformed the landscape of repertoire for the instrumentation, as well as the trajectory of extended technique performance on the guitar. Christopher Caudwell is the figure referenced in the title, a British Marxist whose Illusion and Reality, according to Lachenmann, “demanded an art which realistically confronts reality in its multi-layered contradictions.” Lachenmann dissects some of Caudwell’s writing and parses it out amongst the two guitarists in a highly coordinated passage the involves speaking word and phrase fragments while playing simultaneously. The work demands a vast new library of extended techniques, many of which involve a bottle neck slide which is often used to articulate pitches far above the conventional playing range of the instrument. The end result is a twenty five minute ballet of gesture (both sonic and physical) for two, sometimes militaristic, other times delicate and ethereal, but throughout, not remotely like any other piece in the repertoire.