San Francisco Guitar Quartet | Chasing Light

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Chasing Light

by San Francisco Guitar Quartet

This latest release features the SFGQ's polished performances of freshly innovative and accessible music by talented new living composers, Garry Eister, Christopher Gainey, Mark Knippel, Andrew York, Darin Au, and Clarice Assad.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Marenje
5:06 $0.99
2. In the Dark, Even Your Father Dances
4:20 $0.99
3. In Stillness, I Think of the Other Side of the Moon
3:23 $0.99
4. Chasing Light
3:43 $0.99
5. Attained Elusiveness
4:12 $0.99
6. Chasing Dragons
3:45 $0.99
7. Flowing Through
13:25 $0.99
8. Mazurka Op. 50 No. 1
2:19 $0.99
9. Mazurka Op. 50 No. 3
3:07 $0.99
10. Pacific Coast Highway
5:25 $0.99
11. Lotus Eaters
5:13 $0.99
12. Bluezilian
3:08 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Mark Knippel: Marenje*

The following note is provided by the composer:

“Marenje is a traditional welcoming song of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. My composition is based solely on the opening material of the original song. The entrances of the first two guitars are exactly what would be played on the mbira [traditional African instrument consisting of a wooden soundboard with 22 to 28 metal keys] and marimba. One of the techniques of Shona music that I employed is having the same material played on two instruments offset by one eighth note. This idea permeates my composition, as it is one of the ideas of their music that I found especially striking.”

Marenje, begins as a whispering, euphoric murmur, as if you are walking into a bustling street market, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds. A minute into the piece, all four guitars crescendo into a fully-blossomed, gently-jiving, jovial sonic soundscape that grows in intensity, and culminates in a quasi-percussive, exuberant, upper register ostinato played by one guitar, fluttering over the other three like a liberated bird-of-paradise.

Garry Eister: Chasing Light*

Garry Eister writes the following note for Chasing Light:

“Chasing Light uses a grab bag of techniques, including irregular meters, meant to evoke the rhythmic feel of Eastern European dances. The outer movements are in E minor. The middle movement is in E-flat minor, which, by its "sinking down" a half step below the movements that surround it, helps impart the feeling of isolation and stillness that its title indicates. The final movement is meant to convey a sense of urgency, of running or driving as fast as possible toward the Western horizon in an attempt to delay the setting of the Sun.”

Throughout Chasing Light, a sense of combative harmony pervades. Each guitar is autonomous, yet interconnected with the others. Through coherent use of imitation, unison, accent, textural variation, and overlapping melodic lines, Eister creates a robust quartet in which each guitar is of equal importance, fighting and playing with one another in an ecstatic cloud of sound.

Mark Knippel: Attained Elusiveness*

Unlike Marenje, Attained Elusiveness possesses none of the effervescent giddiness that permeates the former. Instead, it features Steve Reich-like transient sonic fractals that flash and evaporate as snowflakes on a windowpane, elusive, yet, for a fleeting moment, attained.

Darin Au: Chasing Dragons

The most straightforward composition on the album, Chasing Dragons soars in a self-assured, flowing arc. There may be dragons, but they are observed in transit, as if from a hangglider. Punctuated by raspy rasgueados, spiky accents, and icy harmonics, an ominous nether world is hinted at, yet never entered. A great distance is traveled over a brief period of time.

Christopher Gainey: Flowing Through: Rhapsody on a theme of Egberto Gismonti*

Christopher Gainey shares the following note:

“I have always loved [Brazilian composer Egberto Gismonti’s] Agua e Vinho, and I was fascinated by how different performers used it as the basis for very individual embellishment/improvisation. In essence, Flowing Through is a set of variations on Agua e Vinho, with one exception; when the theme comes in at the end of the piece, it is placed together with material from the first variation that reconfigures the original theme into a ternary form (Agua e Vinho forming the "A" section, while its variation forms a "B" theme). The notation fluctuates between precisely notated music and much more flexible, somewhat indeterminate, methods of notation that allow the ensemble some interpretive freedom.”

Karol Szymanowski: Mazurkas, Op. 50, Nos. 1 and 3

Arranging solo piano works for guitar quartet is, at first glance, counterintuitive. The luminescent sonority of the piano is markedly different than the brighter sound of the classical guitar. However, the two mazurkas that guitarist Patrick O’Connell selected and arranged transfer strikingly well to four guitars. The hushed dynamics (rarely exceeding mezzo-piano), combined with rich, colorful modal layering, allow opportunity for the guitars to explore hues and colors beyond the scope of the original piano. Through the use of idiomatic guitar techniques, such as artificial harmonics, and through exploitation of the guitar’s broad timbral palette, new insight into Szymanowski’s music is gained.

Andrew York: Pacific Coast Highway

Like Lotus Eaters, Andrew York’s Pacific Coast Highway is melody-centered and harmonically stable. A self-confident first guitar both plays with and battles against the remaining guitar “trio.” The first half of the piece is placid, daydreamy; the second half intense, excited. Evocative of the seemingly infinite Californian Pacific Coast Highway, the musical terrain is ever-changing, winding, rocking, and rolling.

Andrew York: Lotus Eaters

Andrew York’s Lotus Eaters was written for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (LAGQ), and possesses the carefree charm of a late summer backyard barbecue. Through harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic constriction, it gains a spatial freedom, with evocations of Wes Montgomery, Ali Farka Touré, and Al Di Meola flickering like fireflies throughout the piece. As an added bonus, SFGQ has added two minutes of infectious improvisation to the original.

Clarice Assad: Bluezilian

Clarice Assad describes Bluezilian as follows:

“I wrote Bluezilian for LAGQ, in 2005, as an encore piece. At the time, I had just broken a foot and was unable to walk or get out much. Feeling a bit down and constrained, I decided to work on a piece that would be light and fun, almost cartoonish—something that, in certain spots, would make me want to giggle. I purposely made the decision to use and abuse musical clichés. The piece is a musical satire that draws connections between American popular styles and Brazilian rhythmic and harmonic sensibilities. All parts, as simple as they may be, are filled with nuances to be explored, and the parts themselves communicate between one another.”

Bluezilian is a highly-caffeinated, animated whirlwind trip: accents kick, glissandi jolt, trills zap, and chords smack. It sounds as if a cartoon volcano was erupting in a harmonic kaleidoscope of plucks and strums. But it also sings and dances, swells and spins. Rarely has a such a short piece contained so much exuberant energy.

Liner notes by Patrick Durek

* Premiere recording and dedication to the San Francisco Guitar Quartet



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