Benjamin Verdery | Ben Verdery Guitar Project: On Vineyard Sound

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Ben Verdery Guitar Project: On Vineyard Sound

by Benjamin Verdery

Acclaimed guitarist Benjamin Verdery performs music by his composer colleagues at the Yale School of Music, including Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, David Lang, Hannah Lash, Christopher Theofanidis, Jack Vees, and Verdery himself
Genre: Classical: Contemporary
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Joaquin Is Dreaming: I. Joaquin Imagines a Part of His History
2:03 $0.99
2. Joaquin Is Dreaming: II. Joaquin Foresees a Future
2:49 $0.99
3. Joaquin Is Dreaming: III. Joaquin Is Sleeping, Joaquin Is Dreaming
2:58 $0.99
4. On Vineyard Sound: I. With Rhythmic Drive and Compulsion
2:06 $0.99
5. On Vineyard Sound: II. Andantino
4:45 $0.99
6. On Vineyard Sound: III. Brusque, Strident
1:46 $0.99
7. On Vineyard Sound: IV. With Rhythmic Drive and Propulsion - Coda
3:11 $0.99
8. Lullaby
8:32 $0.99
9. For Ben: I. Movement Number One
4:39 $0.99
10. For Ben: II. Play These Notes
1:43 $0.99
11. For Ben: III. This Dances Slowly
3:25 $0.99
12. January Echoes
4:20 $0.99
13. The Mentioning of Love
8:36 $0.99
14. En Ti Los Ríos Cantan
8:41 $0.99
15. Little Eye
7:45 $0.99
16. National Anthem
10:58 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The classical guitar world remains vibrant today, with never a shortage of innovative repertoire, enthusiastic practitioners, concerts, and festivals. Ben Verdery’s works synthesize the diverse strands of this vibrant musical network. A musician and a teacher, Ben’s artistic collaborations stretch across genres and musical idioms. (Recently, for example, he collaborated with a hip-hop artist and a beatboxer.) On this album, The Ben Verdery Guitar Project: On Vineyard Sound, Ben performs on a variety of guitars, ranging from Fender Stratocaster and steel string to baritone and classical. He is constantly expanding his repertoire with commissions, transcriptions, and original compositions. With his innovative creative spirit, Ben has engendered a richer sense of community at the Yale School of Music. His guitar students regularly perform chamber music with other musicians. In addition, Ben organizes a regular guitar festival that brings together a variety of musicians, cultures, and perspectives.

Recently, Ben decided to invite his composer colleagues from the Yale School of Music to write audition pieces with relatively few interpretative indications. Each prospective student must learn one of these unfamiliar compositions, which are designed to challenge and engage the musical imagination. This project has brought together the Yale compositional community in producing a new body of guitar music. Indeed, many of the pieces on this album started out as such audition pieces. Taken as a whole, album reflects the extraordinary depth of musical talent in the community of composers at Yale.

Martin Bresnick’s Joaquin is Dreaming was inspired by the birth of his grandchild, Joaquin Bresnick-Arias. Bresnick, who is usually acclaimed for his compositional rigor, here produces a particularly gentle and poetic piece. He writes of Joaquin, “His wonderfully complex human inheritance (American, Ecuadorean, Jewish, Catholic, Russian, German, Spanish, native South American and more) inspired me to reflect in a musical way on this joyful new person and his intricate place in a brave new world.”

The first movement of Ezra Laderman’s On Vineyard Sound began as an audition piece, but even in its nascent form, it garnered great attention and praise from guitarists. Laderman remarks, “Its four movements reflect on some of the characteristics that make the guitar so unique. Each movement stays within a specific sound world, with the last section being an extension of the first movement. As with so many of my works, the opening phrase of each movement becomes the foundation for all that will follow. It lays out a sequence of notes that will be explored, transformed, and illuminated.”

Aaron Kernis’ Lullaby was originally written for solo piano but eventually reworked into a duet for flute and guitar. In this flowing composition, the duet partners must play as one expressive body, negotiating moments of rubato in tandem.

Hannah Lash’s For Ben also enjoyed a radical transformation from audition piece to concert work. Originally, she wrote a wildly difficult and austere melody for classical guitar. Afterwards, Ben suggested playing it on electric guitar, making use of distortion and other timbral effects intrinsic to the instrument. The result is the second movement, “Play These Notes.” Lash later added the first and third movements, performed here on a classic 1956 Gibson Super 400 jazz guitar.

January Echoes, by Christopher Theofanidis, was adapted from his 1997 solo viola work Flow, my tears (the title a homage to John Dowland), which was dedicated to his teacher, the late Jacob Druckman. Theofanidis worked closely with Ben to restructure the piece and adapt it into this wistful and lyrical miniature.

Ingram Marshall’s The Mentioning of Love refers both to the love he felt for his late teacher, K.R.T. Wasitodipura (affectionately known as Pak Tjokro), and the love between Ben Verdery and Rie Schmidt, partners in music as in life. Marshall writes, “I decided to compose the piece as an homage to Pak Tjokro. Thus there are melodic quotes from his composition and scales close to the modes of the Indonesian gamelan orchestras. At the outset, the flute and guitar seem to be playing together, sharing the same scalar material, but there are clashes and disconnects, despite commonalities of pitch and durational patterns. Towards the middle of the piece, however, they settle down and cooperate more; there are even some playful moments. But the tenor of the piece is mostly reflective and meditational.”

Verdery’s En Ti Los Rios Cantan (“In You the Rivers Sing”) takes its inspiration from a sensual poem by Pablo Neruda. Indeed, the mellifluousness of Neruda’s voice generates much of the melodic and rhythmic content of this piece. Ben worked with Jack Vees at Yale’s Center for Studies in Music Technology to process Neruda’s voice for this composition. The following is the English translation of the pre-recorded text:

Cantan: Sing

Ah tu voz mysteriosa: Ah your mysterious voice

Crepuscolo cayendo en tus ojos, muñeca: Twilight falling in your eyes, toy doll

En ti los rios cantan: In you the rivers sing

David Lang’s little eye, originally written for “cello and four non-percussionists” was adapted for guitar, pedal steel, and brake drum by Verdery and Jack Vees. The guitar plays the part originally written for the cello. Lang enthusiastically approved when Ben suggested adding Segovia-esque colors, glissandi, and harmonics. The composer writes, “Small children get bored easily when traveling long distances by car. One way to distract them is to play the game I spy with my little eye, in which you look out the window and describe something you have noticed. In my experience this does work, not in a very subdued way—it is not the most exciting way to pass the time. Eventually, however, time does pass.”

When Ben commissioned Jack Vees to write a new piece, Jack first asked Ben what album was currently inspiring him. Ben named “High Violet” by The National. Vees then processed the album by playing it into a piano with the resonance pedal down, a technique he has employed in past works, producing a warm acoustic sound. The album’s structure, then, is closely allied to that of the solo piece. The entire album is reduced to just ten minutes, but many of The National’s distinctive qualities remain, including snatches of lead singer Matt Berninger’s haunting voice. Quotations from guitarist Bryce Dessner also intermingle with the solo melodies.

On the whole, The Ben Verdery Guitar Project: On Vineyard Sound has a striking trajectory. The first compositions begin in the homeworld of classical guitar repertory, but subsequent incursions of flute and electric guitar broaden the album’s sphere of influence. Later pieces offer cross-cultural references and electronic elements, all with an ethos of sensuality and darkness, and the album closes in a redemptive and optimistic mood. With its range of emotions, instruments, and compositional influences, this album furthers Ben Verdery’s unwavering commitment to pushing the artistic and musical envelope.



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