Though I have used the electric guitar in a recent song cycle (A Field Manual, 2008) a guitar-like instruments — the mandolin and banjo — in many of my Aliceworks, the thought of writing a solo guitar piece for such an accomplished artist as David Leisner filled me with trepidation. As it turned out, however, this was the happiest "co-creative" experience of my composing career. David has a knack for turning my cycle "base" elements into pure guitar "gold".
Movement I, First Things First, is an adaptation of a recent piece for piano, left hand alone. With little change, it fits quite naturally into the guitar range and technique. The phrase "first things first" is familiar to many, but is of special significance to people in "recovery" (from various addictions) — one of which is myself. Recovery is a fact of my own life.
The movement has a discursive quality, ranges through many keys and includes an elaborate recapitulation not unlike the first movement of a Sonata-Allegro form. The principal material is an oscillating triplet figure that, in the middle section, takes on a Spanish flavor and, at the end, a cantabile expressivity.
Following without pause is Movement II, Fugue, My Fetish. Another fact of my life is that I love to write fugues. This became an increased challenge with the guitar — an instrument not naturally given to counterpoint. On the other hand, there are the amazing Bach fugues for lute and solo violin that inspired me.
After an introduction, a rising scale line, capped by a triplet figure, is the theme of a fast-moving, extensively developed fugue in three voices. It acts as a kind of scherzo were this a four movement sonata or symphony.
Movement III, Farewell, R.W., is the slow movement and "soul" of the work. Tranquil, even ecstatic, it was inspired one afternoon by feelings surrounding my most recent relationship breakup (from my fifth husband) — a sad fact of my life.
And, for the finale, there is Fandango Forever — the most elaborate and lengthy of the movements. It was conceived as an act of pure perversity: early on, I as searching for musical ideas and asked David Leisner about what style guitar music he would least like me to compose. Without hesitation he answered vehemently, "Spanish - it is so hackneyed!" I liked his intensity, took his words as a challenge, and responded, laughing, "Then that's what the finale will be!" And so it was.
My intention was to write completely idiomatic and highly virtuosic flamenco music — fast moving multi-string chords, seductive harmonies, — even some indigenous percussive effects. I wanted this movement to seem inconceivable on any other instrument — except of course for the contrasting middle section, which is another of my knuckle-busting fugues. Irrepressible, the clangorous flamenco music returns and yields to an even more brilliantly virtuosic coda, capped finally by an outburst — from the guitarist himself!