March 18, 2021

Around the World in Eighty Minutes, Presented by the SCF Guitar Ensemble, Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.-Facebook Livestream

Around the World in Eighty Minutes, Presented by the SCF Guitar Ensemble, Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.-Facebook Livestream

The SCF Guitar Ensemble presents music from all four corners of the earth: east, west, above and below the equator, music inspired by Thailand, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, the Northern Lights of Alaska, who knows where the sounds will take you!
This feast for the ears will include never before heard, newly commissioned works and a few popular favorites. The SCF Guitar Ensemble creates an orchestra-chamber sound like none other. You'll not want to miss this unique performance!

• Dr. Pete Carney Website & Facebook & Instagram

• Roger Hudson Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube

Dr. Jonathan Godfrey Website & Facebook & Instagram

State College of Florida Music Program Website & Facebook & Instagram

• SCF Theatre Program Website & Facebook Page & Instagram

State College of Florida Foundation Website & Facebook & Instagram

 

Support the show (https://scf-foundation.org/suncoastcultureclub/)

Transcript

Rex Willis and Robyn Bell

Robyn Bell: Today we have with us, our SCF instructor of guitar and composition and the conductor of the SCF Guitar Ensemble.  Mr. Rex Willis. Rex!. Welcome to the club. 

Rex Willis: Thank you. I love clubs. And this particular club is very unique. 

Robyn Bell: It is unique and Specific. 

Rex Willis: Yes, 

Robyn Bell: We are here to talk about the long awaited concert by the SCF Guitar Ensemble called Around the World in 80 minutes, which was supposed to be performed last March. But due to the shutdown, it got shut down, and now will be performed on Thursday, March 25th, 2021, 7:30 PM in the Neel Performing Arts Center and also live streamed on the SCF Music Facebook page. The concert will be open to. All SCF students, staff, and faculty to attend in person, but everyone else can join on the SCF music, Facebook page to enjoy these wonderful new works. And I'm very excited. We didn't give up on this concert, Mr. Willis, because it has such a cool concept.  You and five other composers have written original compositions for this concert and all of the pieces we'll take the listeners to some place around the world. Do I have the concept, right? 

Rex Willis: Yeah. Yes. That's pretty much it, the original idea Around the World in 80 minutes, the concert probably won't be 80 minutes. It'll be maybe 70. And knowing that these composers had. So many different experiences different countries, the festivals they've been to the music, the composers, they're all experienced degreed, composers professionals published, knowing that they would have influences by different composers, different countries, different trips they took. So the idea was you do whatever you want. I really left it open. I didn't have to be a specific area. And in fact, it didn't really have to be another exotic. Place, although we did get some exotic places and we got some music that really speaks of the person's personality. As we have played the pieces you kind of get to know the person better because it's coming from their head. It's coming from their heart is coming from their own personal experiences. And I feel like through these interviews,  people that I already knew. I got to know them even better. 

Robyn Bell:  And the cool thing is five of the six of you are right here at the State College of Florida and the sixth one's just across the river at Manatee School for the Arts. 

Rex Willis: Absolutely  and we all friends. We've known each other for quite a while. We have worked together for years now , and in fact we have collaborated in concerts on the stage working together, making projects, and one of the things that's really cool is that the experiences that we've shared in the past, I thought we would be building on that more than we did the compositions we got were like nothing I even expected more exotic than I thought more calm than I thought more raukus than I thought I really didn't know what to expect, but. Oh, , the variety.  I can't imagine somebody hearing this concert and going well, that all sounded the same. I'm pretty sure that's going to be the exact opposite of that. 

Robyn Bell: Know that makes rehearsals really fun when the music is so varied. I know that from experience as the conductor, when it's so different, you probably have different time signatures, different keys, different styles. It's been I'm sure, really good for the students too, to learn all of the different styles at the same time. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. I mean, when you go from a piece that's in four, four to one, that's in seven, eight to one that doesn't have any time Jon's piece actually it's timed, I'll be watching a timer. So we played this particular portion for four seconds. This one for 12 seconds, this one for 16 seconds. So it's been a huge variety in fact, Taking advantage of the sound effects of the guitar,  plucking the strings and all sorts of different ways. Tapping the guitar, stroking the string, scraping them  one piece where you actually using  a bow to play the guitar, like a violin or a cello. And so the techniques, the different sounds, there will be times if somebody heard what we were playing and didn't see us, they might not even know it's a guitar ensemble really exploiting all the different timbres. 

Robyn Bell: We're rehearsing a piece with a symphonic band right now that has that same concept where they just do random stuff for like 10 seconds and eight seconds. And  at first, the musicians who are so used to just looking at a chart and graph and doing exactly what's on there. And even if you're a jazz musician, improvising, you have set time and meter. So that took a while for the players to kind of get out of their box. Now you mentioned Jon, but before we go any further, let's just list the six composers. So , Rex Willis, as you wrote a piece 

Rex Willis: That is correct. And we've got Jan Weismuller who  actually  signs up for the class as a student, although he is a professional composer.  We've got Jon Godfrey who we just mentioned. Roger. Hudson from MSA, who is an excellent guitar player, 

Robyn Bell: MSA Manatee School for the Arts 

Rex Willis: Manatee School, for the Arts wonderful they have... 

Robyn Bell: He teaches guitar there. 

Rex Willis: He teaches guitar. He has class guitar all day long, I've visited the class. It always amazes me. Some of the students we get from MSA. Roger's a wonderful students because they don't get a lot of. Private lessons, but Roger has a way to teach a group, maybe eight, 10, 12 people. And somehow he gets the point across in beautiful ways. He's very interested in the students. They're interested in what he does and almost every year I get one of his students. 

Robyn Bell: And we must say his lovely daughter Camille Hudson was one of our top students here many years ago. 

Rex Willis: What dreamy, beautiful voice. Yeah, 

Robyn Bell: Who else we have 

Rex Willis:  Well, Pete Carney, who is,  our jazz instructor here. Don Bryn. , our  head of piano here at the school. He doesn't play guitar, but he understands the instrument. He's written for it many times. And the piece that he wrote, very fascinating piece.   Very specific timing. It's actually in seven, eight time  and what's interesting is it's very hypnotic and a  classical bass guitar keeps a pattern going through the whole thing. It's kind of minimalistic the same pattern goes for like four or five minutes. And the rest of the guitar players are playing extremely complicated.  Patterns that are very exotic and very different than notes. He uses  very exotic scales with this extremely complex, very polyphonic. We've got the guitar ensemble split into five different areas,  and there are times where , every single player is playing something different, , very individual lines. And so  all of us staying together has been quite a,  challenge.  Don  came into a rehearsal and he said, , you guys stop for just a second.  You're trying too hard. You're pushing the tempo too much  Hypnotic. He's got that written in there. hypnotico said, I want you to take that seriously and imagine that it's like a dreamy day, there's a haze. , you're feeling sleepy and you're relaxed and don't try to get that beat, let it happen. And then the bass player Alexis who's done a wonderful job has kept that beat going and not sped it up. And we're all laying back and letting and it happened. So a very technically difficult piece. And  what we learned is not to try so hard, the harder it was. The easier we had to treat it. I don't know if that makes sense. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah, it sure does. And I'm glad you explained it because in a moment I'm going to pass the interviewer hat along to you, and you're going to interview all the composers, but Don has not going to be able to join you for that session. So it was good. You explained his piece in detailed there. So as I said, you're going to talk to all the other composers, but who's talking to you, I guess that's me. So Rex, tell us about the piece you wrote for this particular concert, 

Rex Willis: You know,  this is a kind of a new director for me. , I like big, I like bombastic. I like those big pieces that in the concert with a bang complex harmonies, lots of Spanish rhythms and that sort of thing. And I really went to a different location this time, since this has kind of location around the world. , the name of the piece is Hymn to Peace and  it's no real message to it. Sure. It's been a tough year, but in general I wanted a piece that would be like meditation, a prayer, moment , to peace out, as we sometimes say . It doesn't have a strong beat to it. There are moments where the harmonies are obscured. There's actually a section,  of strange dreamy almost.  Like you're asleep and you're halfway waking up and halfway asleep. So. I just wanted something that was peaceful. And I typically don't do that. And it's interesting to kind of balance this out with Jon's piece, which is also kind of a spiritual experience. So Hymn to Peace is a simple short two minute piece sandwiched between a lot of exciting pieces of music and it just felt good. To be the one to kick back and,  get on that couch of music for a few minutes. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. . I like that description. The couch of music that kind of puts us in a very contemplate of state 

Rex Willis:  I think that's what I was looking for. 

Robyn Bell: Yeah. So your piece, instead of taking us to a specific place or region kind of floats in the air and the atmosphere, I would assume 

Rex Willis:  That's a great way to put it. 

Robyn Bell: Very cool. I'm looking forward to hearing that. Let's talk just a minute about the importance of commissioning new works for the guitar ensemble. It's not like a symphony orchestra or a jazz band where there's a ton of music available, right? 

Rex Willis: That is correct. When I first got into guitar ensemble the idea was mostly make transcriptions buy transcriptions. do your own arrangements. 

Robyn Bell: So transcriptions just for the average listener is,  a piece of music that's written for one set of instrumentation and you would rewrite it for guitar ensemble? 

Rex Willis: Absolutely.

Robyn Bell:  Okay. 

Rex Willis: Adopt it, adapt it. And whatever way, if it was in E flat, we would probably move it to the key of D a better key for the guitar. We were doing arrangements, transcriptions, Vivaldi, Bach, you name it. And there were a few original pieces. Well, In the last 15 to 20 years, it has just exploded. I have been to festivals in Europe on the other coast where guitar ensembles sometimes have 50, 60, 70 people playing like an orchestra. In fact, I was commissioned  and conducted a,  60 piece classical guitar ensemble  at Stetson University some years ago. And so now people are writing original music, specifically geared toward guitar ensemble. Now. In a way I can liken it to the orchestra.  As the orchestra is broken down into the different timbres and the high notes with the flutes and the Piccolo's, the low ones with the cellos, we kind of do the same thing with the guitar ensemble. We typically split it up into  maybe three, four, five groups. . And so we've got the ones playing the high notes, the ones playing the low notes to somewhere in between 

Robyn Bell: Kind of like a soprano alto, tenor bass choir. How you think about voicing it. 

Rex Willis: Exactly. And what's really cool is , we can play individual parts, very polyphonically very individually, or we can play big, huge chords.  So really it is like a little orchestra and by the time we do different timbres different techniques. There are times where. It kind of sounds like an orchestra in a way you might , lose that it's even guitarist. 

Robyn Bell: It's a string instrument like violin, viola, cello bass. So it would make sense. And also you have that added dimension of  where you can hit on the instrument to make percussion sounds. And you can. Just play so many chords and melodies at the same time, it's just really neat. 

Rex Willis: You can take your fingernails and scrape them across the strings.  You can take the strings up where the guitar is tuned at the head  of the guitar  and you can take your fingers and pick those strings. And it sounds like little birds chirping. You can take your fingers and scrape the strings that are at the bridge down at the bottom. And it. Sounds like maybe there's something crawling on the floor. There's so many different sounds. Yeah, 

Robyn Bell: Yeah.  Now you probably know your guitar students and their abilities the best, but when you reached out to the other composers for this project, and we have to mention this project was ready to go a year ago. So it's different. Members of the ensemble than it is now. But when you reached out to them, did you have to communicate with them about how hard or easy or difficult to piece can be, or maybe the specific length of the new pieces?

Rex Willis: Absolutely. First of all, you don't want the concert to be too short, too long. So definitely a discussion of that. We're going to have , this number of pieces, so, , no less than three, no more than six minutes. It's kind of the average and the difficulty level. They knew I had very good players. So. Basically upper intermediate to advanced might mean something to a guitar player. And it might mean something different to a keyboard player like Don. And so part of what we did was they would give me examples. They might send an excerpt of something just to make sure they're in the ballpark. 

Robyn Bell: And really. An advantage of modern technology because 20 years ago, or even before, when we didn't have music notation software, and you're writing everything by hand,  that process would be very different than what it looks like today. 

Rex Willis: Oh, completely different. Absolutely. And the number of guitar composers or non guitar composers that are writing for guitar ensemble has grown exponentially over the last few years.  There's a huge number of pieces to choose from this catalogs and the excitement that's growing. And now the pandemic slowed things down a little bit. For all of us, but I just got asked just a couple of weeks ago to do a conference in in New Mexico next January,  with , another guitar ensemble conducting 50 or 60 people. So we're,   coming back strong, 

Robyn Bell: Pete Carney. And I had a discussion many years ago about the role of guitar, like in the jazz band. And I think it relates to what you're talking about because.  , you know, he says that the  jazz piano player is disappearing, that the rhythm guitar player is taking over as the instrument in a , modern jazz ensemble to comp chords and be the accompaniment. I mean, pianos are big, they're heavy, they're expensive. You have to tune them, pay to get them tuned. Whereas the guitar. Well, I mean, you can buy a used guitar for maybe $50. I mean, it's not going to be good, but, and  it straps on your back and it weighs about four pounds. And off you go, I think just the modern conveniences of the instrument is sort of supplanting  the piano player , in today's society. 

Rex Willis: One of the things we've noticed, the guitar teachers, the amount of teachers teaching online. Now that's just grown for, I think, for all the instruments. And so there's the good side and the bad side.  We may not have as many guitar students as we used to. So many people are taking online zoom and all that sort of thing. But on the other hand, We are all learning. So many different things about composition, about the guitar, about the technique, and the students are able now to learn things I never imagined when I was their age, just by looking at YouTube and all , these sorts of 

Robyn Bell: Things so fast. 

Rex Willis: Oh, it's unbelievable, yeah. 

Robyn Bell:  Well, I'm going to tell you as you know, Rex, I love new music and I'm very excited to hear this concert. All new guitar ensemble music on March 25th, and even more excited to hear about the specific details of the other pieces. So I'm going to hand the mic over to you and let you interview the composers about their new pieces. 

Rex Willis: That sounds great. I can't wait. And Robyn, thank you so much. 

Rex Willis and Pete Carney 

Rex Willis: And now with another one of our composers. This guy has written music about a laundromat. I kid you not, but before we go there, wherever that may be, let's first. Get to know this one of a kind composer. And I do mean that with all due affection,  this is Dr. Pete Carney. How are you doing today, Pete? 

Pete Carney: It was great, man. Great to be here. 

Rex Willis: Fantastic.  This is fun. I'm telling you, I'm loving talking to these composers, these great creative minds. It's amazing. 

Pete Carney: We don't get to just talk about composition very much, you know?  the part of the struggle of being a composer is you're always feel isolated. You're not with each other. You're not with your type, you know, it could because you're writing your own piece and your own sort of world, oftentimes that it's nice to be around each other or have a conversation about writing because you find everybody has the same stumbling blocks and. Sort of climbs the same Hills with, you know, different backpacks, I guess. 

Rex Willis: I think the idea that,  the composers were often our own little world composing.  There is a lot of truth to that and it's so fun. Well, we're gonna,  run some composition stuff back and forth here just very briefly. Just tell us a little about yourself.  Your position here at the college, maybe a little about your background. 

Pete Carney:   This is my fifth year now. And I I was a composer. I started about the age of most of our students here. I started when I was a sophomore in college and I took a class. I just signed up for composition one Oh one with William Bolcom, turned out to be incredible influential guy and, you know, wanting to he wanted purists price and everything. And then I ended up taking less than with him and. Explored composition as I was also performing and just really felt that connection to the music on both sides of writing it and performing it. And I've always tried to exist like fluidly between performing it and writing it and giving it to other people maybe. And it's, if they influence each other, what you write influences, what you play and what you play influences, what you write. But I've been here five years and I'm a co composable, you know, Things for different scenarios. And I was excited to write this piece for the guitar ensemble. I usually write more jazz ensemble stuff, but I also have some like classical string quartets that I'm working on and, or smaller orchestra things.

Rex Willis: , Well, speaking of this piece, I, I want to start with a question for you, Dr. Carney, you are primarily. A saxophone player. And I mean, I've heard you many times, this guy's fantastic player. I mean, he can play classical. He can play an avant guard. He can play jazz, pop. I mean, you name it. This guy can do it. It's fantastic. But, and I, and you play the piano. Yeah. Yeah. You get by. Yeah. Right. And you can play you can jam with the, with the guys on jazz.

Pete Carney: Sure.

Rex Willis: But I, do you play guitar at all? Because you've, 

Pete Carney: I didn't, this was the first time I'd written. Well, I actually, when we first talked about it, I was like, Ooh, that guitar, like it's all the voicings and all the string choices. I'm like, I don't know that language. So if said, no, no, no guitar ensemble is just, you know, four, six parts, whatever you want. And that was completely liberating. Say, Oh, it's just a four-part piece of music. Right. I can do that. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. And, and so, so you're a saxophone player. You play piano, you're a composer, a music theory guy, and you're writing for instruments that you don't play. You have just a basic understanding of it. So in my view, you came at it as a, purely as a composer. You had the sound of the guitar in your head, you know, but, but thinking, well, I just want this music to be good. Right? And so you wrote the music the way you wanted it to sound. So what we discovered and I still remember Pete, one of the things that liberated us was you said in fact, I even wrote it down cause I kind of remember the quote. I thought it down here on the music, I'm looking at the score and you said, do what you want with it. Have some fun and adapt it for the guitar ensemble. 

Pete Carney: Yeah, I think it has, you know, even if you gave the piece to 10 different guitar ensembles, you would still get a different sound out of those groups because of personality and instrument type and how they read black and white music on paper and turned it into sound. You know, that's the fun part. I, to me, I feel like there's two composers in the world. There's people that want it to be exactly. I respect that, but I'm always of the other style, which is you know, you should play this music the way you interpret it. And I actually like leaving a little bit of the instructions out so that you don't feel like you're just doing the robots job of a performer. You're actually, you're part of the creative process, you know, because if it's going to have a life, it has to involve people and long-term. Trajectory of people playing the piece, right? If it's so specific, I almost find you can box people out for future performances, cause there's no room to do it better than that first performance.

Rex Willis: And, you know, and I think sometimes I think that we have that attitude about a Bach and Mozart and Beethoven. We look at the page, it's been there for hundreds of years. There's the ink dried on the page a long time ago. And sometimes we're probably not even as creative with that music as we should, when we really know that. They were very creative in the way that they interpreted it. And from day to day, the piece could evolve. So now what we found was. There were some notes in there that, that literally we couldn't play like one person let's say it was guitar part four. And let's say they had to play a low D and a low E at the same time, but we can't actually physically do that. 

Pete Carney: Right.

Rex Willis: So we had to talk with you about it. And you, you said, well, divided parts up in any way you want to. So that was very helpful. Again, I love the collaboration that we are working together. To create this music. 

Pete Carney: Right. And, you know, I guess  you build a piece on your brain and your put it on paper and then it should have a site has its own say like when it gets to rehearsal the rehearsal and the people playing it, they have a voice now. And I think it's healthy for the composer to say, no, these guys know their instrument. Like w you should listen to what they're saying and, and let the piece. You know, grow slightly differently than you had planned, like that low D and that low E thing. I knew that was a problem. It was like, well, I want to leave it in there and see what they're going to come up with.

Rex Willis: Let us deal with it. Which means you are putting your trust in us as well. And in the players too, I got to tell you, the players are, they're really very talented players, but we know there's more to it than talent they practice. 

Pete Carney: Right.

Rex Willis: And even more than that, they've got great instincts, but the. Additional element to that, that I love about. I know you get this with your ensembles is that they are very creative. And very interested in what's going on. They're inquisitive. They ask questions. They want to know. And they'll say, , like, , Mr. Willis, could you tell us about this part that Dr. Carney wrote here, what's going on with this these seconds that are very dissonant against each other, and they want to know more about the theory and that sort of thing. So, you know, you're also, I'm actually getting a lot out of the students as we do this now. I want to get, I have to do this the first time I saw the music and I saw the title, but first I'm going to tell you that the truth, I almost wondered is this something we can do at a two year college Maltese, Laundromat I'm exaggerating, but tell us about, is there a backstory?

Pete Carney: Yeah, it's sort of a collection of influences. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. I want, I want to be clear here. Maltese, 

Pete Carney: Maltese, Laundromat, 

Rex Willis: Laundromat.

Pete Carney: Right? So it's based off of when I was younger, I worked on cruise ships and we stopped in Malta and I got to, it was one of the most interesting places I went and it's I also met a beautiful girl who ended up being my wife there.

So what's neat about Malta is that you're so close to the middle East and you're also really close to Italy and you're also close to like Sorento and also like Greece. And, but you're not in any of them. You're not in any of them. Like you see this, some of these buildings look like you're in Egypt and the next thing definitely looks like you're in Italy. So, and it's been through, you know, at the middle of the Mediterranean, it's been through tons of Wars and conquers and conquering and cultural exchanges. So it's like I had a friend from St. Louis. He said, the problem with St. Louis is it's not. Anywhere, it's not exactly Midwestern or Southern or Western. It's a sort of gateway to places. And that's what I felt about Malta. It's so unique because it's, I wasn't like trying to write a Greek piece of music. It wasn't, it was somewhat in that Phrygian language, but it's more diluted. It's also more modern. It's been through a lot of history. So the music sort of the Island is a laundromat for all of these countries of the middle East.

Rex Willis: Very okay. I'm starting to get this picture here because laundry mat 

Pete Carney: Sort of tumbling, it seems melody sort of tumbling into each other, you know? They're, they're not like you hear parts of Greece, but you hear, hear parts of Italy. I hear something kind of modern. You might hear something dissonant, but they're not dominating each other. They're just, and they're just tumbling around each other, like a laundromat sort of. 

Rex Willis: I love it. And the whole idea of this concert in the first place was to get music from influences from all over the world. And that's what you've done, a great job of doing. And, you know, when I first saw the laundry mat title, I had this flashback to college and all my dirty clothes on the floor and go into the laundry mat and put my 50 cents in. And, but Oh, absolutely. That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. And now you and your the pretty girl that you met there and married, now you have your own laundromat at your house. 

Pete Carney: Right. And it was a personal experience, you know, and I like how you do write music about someplace in the world, unless you've been there. You know? And so I wanted to do something in there, felt like, Oh yeah, I went to this place and I have this feeling of the place and that sort of mixture of the Greek and the French and the Italians and the middle East and all these, like. This is just the center of all these cultures. 

Rex Willis: And you, you mentioned, you know, like Phrygian, you know, the scales and the chords that are in this are very interesting. There's some it tell us about some of the dissonances, the accents and how, what, how that was meaningful to be a part of this and what you actually did. 

Pete Carney: It's relevant. The, the basic material of it is, is relatively square. I play the piano for a second. Yeah, that works. We'll find it quick. It won't, it won't ruin anything. So it's basically, if, if I remember it was basically a fridge and a lot of the time which is the white keys on the piano. All right. But what's neat about modal music is that it has these sort of colors and shifting built into it. So that. Even though it's just the white keys, which we kind of would generally think of as diatonic or, or Consonant 

Rex Willis: exactly.

Pete Carney: When you combine those half steps that are hanging out around the scale, you start getting different stuff, right? So you can, you know, so you can find all these beautiful little colors that are built into the scale. Right. I usually think of C major the white keys of the piano, having all that potential in it. So it was really an exploration of the sort of distance that, that hides in every scale that we have. 

Yeah. And the dissonance. Really, I think, you know, we know that that if, if music is always consonant, it's going to get boring for a while. So consonance has more meaningfulness if it's dissonance, if it's dissonant and then you resolve it to constant. Another thing that's very interesting about this piece is it's rather polyphonic, right? In some cases homophonic and other cases where you'll have syncopation, these accents are bump, bump coming in when you least expect it. And then all of a sudden somebody comes in bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, and then somebody else I noticed  and it gives me, you know, now that you've explained this whole thing, it makes me feel like I am in almost in a market where if somebody. Going to a store, somebody somebody's running into going across the street, you know, negotiating.

Yeah. It is fragmented. You know, I think like in music, we all, we think about our big grand scheme is composers. Right. But how much of our life is really fragmented into little tiny pieces of stuff? Like, like the market is a perfect example. How do you describe a market? It's just, it's sort of chaotic, but it's governed by money, you know? And that's the kind of feeling you have in Malta is this big sort of city. This Island, this surrounded by all these countries, this Island kind of works itself out. Like there is a chaotic energy to it, but it's driven by the money of these other countries that are sort of influencing it. 

Rex Willis: That's fantastic. 

Pete Carney: It, musically is the same. Like I was inspired when I was working on this by a little video. I saw Stravinsky and he talked about the theory behind Rite of spring. He said, there is no theory behind it. He said it was all instinct. That piece was all just me playing and writing it down. Like it wasn't a music theory exercise as it's been analyzed. He said there is no theory to write a spring. Well, this is interesting. I mean, yes, there's content there's material, but there isn't that. That sort of governing principle that we usually think of as a component. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. We go back and we analyze these things so we can cause we need to understand how they were done so that we can continue as composers to utilize those techniques.

Pete Carney: For sure. 

Rex Willis: When you're in the moment, you have a way that you want it to sound and you'll do that. And you just ignore the music theory. 

Pete Carney: Your instinct is like, you're trying to get to most of the time, you know, like you're. You're trying to get, like, why am I really composing this? What is the energy that you want people to?

Rex Willis: And when you're doing that, you're not thinking about the rules, right? 

Pete Carney: That's right. Hopefully you've learned the rules, of course, because you don't have any content without some kind of rules, but the rules only gets you to that. Get the back to where you started before you learned the rules in some weird way 

Rex Willis: and mentioning Stravinsky. He almost created new rules for the rest of us to follow. And he was not trying to create rules that, but his music created and thanks for us, right? 

Pete Carney: Yeah. Yeah. I think he went in different directions obviously during his life, but that I was just totally blown away by that part of his life when he was, when the rules were sort of collapsing and he was still holding the music together, maybe. You know, there's still triads and normal stuff in there, but they're they're disobedient. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. And we're yeah, we're talking 1911, 12, 13, right. And had a huge change was taking place. I mean, in the world as well as music. So now what do you want people to feel? I don't even know if this is something that can be answered, but your, your general audience member, you, you love music. Maybe you're a musician. Maybe you're not. And you come in and, and you're just listening to this piece. What do you think people are going to feel? What do you expect them to think or feel? 

Pete Carney: I guess it's a journey, you know, like most of our competitions are just a trip somewhere and I don't think it's a trip. Like, you know, you, I guess sometimes composers write a trip for you to go to China or something. I don't think it's exactly that it's more like a trip through the time that I went through there and what I saw. So you get to imagine the place without being too specific, you know, I'd say it doesn't dig into like specific melodies. It's about feeling the energy of a place in the, like the sound of the life. This there. 

Rex Willis: Yeah, that, that's exactly what I get when I'm listening to the players. No, we all, I mean, I've been coming posing for decades. You've been composing for decades as well. We all started when we were very young. Can you name one or two or three composers that you and I know we always hate this question. I've gotten it myself before, but yeah. But when it really comes down to it, there's gotta be a couple of composers that you can say, yeah, I've been influenced by 10 or 15 or 20 or 50 composers. It's gotta be a couple of one. You can name it. 

Pete Carney: Sure. I mean, it's, I get, you know, being a kind of hybrid person like between jazz and classical, I'd definitely put Bartók in there and the same time as Duke Ellington and. You know, so 

Rex Willis: I love that. 

Pete Carney: Yeah. Yeah. Diversity of the 20th century. I mean, I think we're both kids from that century and we're teaching younger kids now, but we're from that century of, of all these sort of islands of ideas, you know, like you have the Bartók Island, you have the Duke Ellington Island, you have Stravinsky Island. And then, I mean, those would be the ones that I've definitely picked up on in John Coltrane. Hmm. In his composition is have like a spiritual quest that I've always, it's always kind of kept me honest, I think, you know? 

Rex Willis: Yeah. Yeah. Th that's that's fantastic. So in your career and you've had a fairly long one and, and as a composer, as an arranger, as a teacher, if you were to give advice to somebody now I'm limit target this. Specifically to the saxophone and you can branch out into this as a, as a musician as well, but I've never played the sax. Well, let's say that I am, you know, well, we're 13 years old and I want to take lessons with Dr. Pete Carney and I'm doing it. Maybe dual enrolled as a high school student coming into 15, 16 years old. I'm really practicing. And I'm. Practicing a couple of hours a day getting really good. I come to State College of Florida. I'm going to take lessons with him. What kind of advice do you tell them once, once they leave here? 

Pete Carney: Once they leave here, I think a lot of students, you know, should know that it's the beginning of your trip. It's not, it's not the middle or the end. Right. It's just, you've got time to, to be the musician you want to be. It takes decades, you know? And to be patient with yourself, but you have to, you have to have a routine in your life that makes you a musician. You don't get to dream about it. You get you do it. You, you know, the people that do it, they wake up and they do it and all day, and then they have a schedule that they practice there. Long tones, and then they practice their scales and they practice their music. Those three things are the main things of musicianship that I try to instill the most as far as foundational behavior. You know, it's not a dream, it's a behavior, it's an, you know, and, and the thing I always thought I thought about I heard a Kobe Bryant always said this, that the practice is the dream. Like, if you don't like the practice, then don't have that dream please. Because, and he said, I, as soon as he won whatever title it was last, you know, he, the next day he was in the gym shooting and everybody's like, why are you practicing? And he's like, I like doing this. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. And that's, you know, that's, that's a part of it is we, you know, we have to get our, our timecard out. Click click and clock in for work. That's what we're trying to balance, but, but if you don't want to do that, that is a part of the dream and a part of what we do.

Pete Carney: That's right. 

Rex Willis: Well, I'll tell you, this has been great. And I got a little side note here and I I'm hoping that my. My first cousin from Gainesville can listen to this podcast. I'm going to have to send them the link. Dwayne stood on because when I met Pete five years ago, the first time I heard him laugh, I thought I was hearing my, my cousin Dwayne laugh, and I've always enjoyed that. And I finally. Recorded and you had to agree. It was pretty similar. 

Pete Carney: Yeah, absolutely. 

Rex Willis: So we got to get us, it's like a family connection. I don't know how to explain it. Well, Peter Spann amazing having you here. 

Pete Carney: Yeah. It's been great hearing the kids rehearse. It's really been a joy to hear the piece come along and see people play it. It's, it's entirely different to hear people play your music than it is to write it, you know? 

Rex Willis: And I think you, you were like, wow, this is different. And even better than I thought it was going to be. Yeah. Well, we got great material to work with. We love the piece and we're having a great time with it. So thank you so much for once again, March 25th, folks, you're going to get to here. Maltese laundromat along with about seven or eight other amazing pieces of music. So when we come back from break, we are going to get to hear the piece of music written by another one of our composers. And we've decided to open the concert with this particular piece. And you're going to meet this man and just a few minutes after this break.

Rex Willis and Roger Hudson 

Rex Willis:  And now with another one of our commissioned composers for the guitar ensemble concert, March 25th, this creative mind has written a March. But before we begin, let's get to know Mr. Roger Hudson. How are you doing today? 

Roger Hudson: Good Rex. Happy to be here. . 

Rex Willis: Now tell us a little bit about yourself, Roger. Where are you teach maybe a little background? 

Roger Hudson: Well, I teach at Manatee School for the Arts over in Palmetto. I teach guitar and I teach commercial music ensemble as well. And before that I taught college. For about 20 years, taught guitar, 

Rex Willis: Where was that? 

Roger Hudson: At Middle Tennessee State University, and also at Austin Peay State University, which is up in Clarksville, Tennessee. 

 Rex Willis: How did you end up in Florida? 

Roger Hudson: Actually a friend of mine who also taught at Manatee School for the Arts, Dr. Jimmy Moore. He was working at that school. And I was playing up in Montreal at the jazz festival. Just happened to see him up there. He came to my performance. He was on his honeymoon in fact. And  we came out and we went to the lunch and, and I've been in Nashville for 15 years and I, I was kind of like ready for a change and I was sort of waiting out. Some possibilities for full-time college gigs and they were, I was still waiting. And so I said, you know, Jimmy, I'm thinking about coming down to your school and playing for your,   students. And  he claims that I said, or give me a job now that could very well be that. I said that, 

Rex Willis: Or it might've been your thought waves that he was picking up on. 

Roger Hudson: So eventually he got me down here and then I started teaching over there and I've always wanted to live in Florida. Anyway, my grandparents lived in Lakeland for years. We used to take two days from DC to drive to Lakeland and. I always wondered why we went to Lakeland, but I was like, aren't we supposed to go to Miami? 

Rex Willis: Where the music action is? Oh man, that's great. Now, now MSA that stands for Manatee

Roger Hudson: School for the Arts 

Rex Willis: School, for the Arts. Tell us just a little about that. 

Roger Hudson: Well, Manatee School for the Arts is a public charter school. And it is middle school and high school. And we are in school and we were, we were going to school every day. We have some students who also stay home, because of COVID, we have well, I started sixth grade and  students don't have to audition in sixth grade, but when they get older, there supposed to have . A particular art that they are interested in. And so in my case, , I teach guitar all day long, five days a week. And I have a lot of people ask me, can you take private students too? I'm like, I don't have any more time for students. 

Rex Willis: Energy, but you know, it's great, you know, that we both get to teach something that we love and, you know, sometimes things might seem like a job, but then I think, well, I could be doing something I don't want to do. So when it seems like a job, don't complain 

Roger Hudson: That's right. 

Rex Willis: Teaching guitar all day long. And, , I have to say for the record to Roger, , his creative mind, I've heard a lot of his music. I heard him do a concert just a few weeks ago. That was amazing. A fantastic, amazing guitar player that you, you write in so many different styles of music and it's, it's just just really amazing. I mean, from seventies, pop right on through to incredible. Delicious flamenco, Spanish flavors, maybe even some, all avant garde, some pop it just seems to be endless. You, you write in a lot of styles. Where does that come from? 

Roger Hudson: Well, I think that just as I'm sort of a spirit of the times, I think a little bit, I mean, I think it's, it's fairly difficult for me to just say, okay, I'm going to do this thing. And. That's all I'm going to do, you know, this part, this is my style and this is all I'm going to do. And you know, and this is where I'll be known for it, but I don't know. I'll just like exploration and I, and I feel like I'm always evolving and, and changing, you know, and I like to experiment with different things and an ex explored styles. I've always been interested and in food, different kinds of food. I liked different kinds of accents. I like different languages. And so music is sorta like that. So those different styles represent different sort of accents and dialects.  

Rex Willis: I love the fact that you mentioned food. My students get a kick out of me because I'm always coming up with food analogy. 

Roger Hudson: I'm wearing them out. Was I do that myself. Okay. I said, do you want to hear a food? No, go ahead. Give me one. 

Rex Willis: I love it now. Yeah. So I want to talk about your piece, but before we do talk about the difference, you know, you're, you're such a excellent acoustic player. Fingerstyle. And so  writing for solo guitar versus writing for guitar ensemble, where you break the group down and say quartet, 

Roger Hudson: right?

Rex Willis: How was that different? 

Roger Hudson: Well, it's different in that. Of course you really can't play. The four parts you can sort of approximate them. And then on my piano playing skills, aren't the best. So I don't really read my scores on the piano or anything like that. Of course, Finale and the, and Sibelius, and those programs can help you. Those music notation programs can help you hear your music so I can hear it. It's different in that. Like, for example, the March of the Saracens, the piece that's going to be performed in the, in our concert , was originally a solo. 

Rex Willis: I did not know that 

Roger Hudson: Originally a solo. And so what I've had to do, what you just do, you just sort of divide up the labor. A little bit, and then you can fatten it up a little bit with harmonically because you have some other, some more fingers that can play. But a lot of, you know, the funny thing about solo guitar playing is most of it is so hard that you can listen to it and go, you know, that would sound great with two guitars.

Rex Willis: Wait, when you said that about playing the guitar so hard, I was at  North Carolina School of the Arts for something many, many years ago. And it was a festival. And at the end of the festival, we had like a, a panel of, you know, a discussion, you know, the people that were the head of the, the festival and then all the students and everybody, and one of the guys comes out and he says, let's all admit right now, before we do anything else. Playing the guitar. Are we crazy? It's, you know, fingerstyle classical guitar. Are we crazy? The solar it's ridiculous, 

Roger Hudson: But we can't resist 

Rex Willis: Polyphonic, counterpoint, multiple lines. The left, hand's doing one thing the right hand is not even playing it, doing it, but yeah, so. We have really enjoyed playing this piece and I'm, I'm looking at it right now. It starts out with kind of a slow introduction or moderately slow. And then all of a sudden, duh, we slam into a nice big court and then it gets soft again. And you're kind of holding us off, kind of keeping us in suspense. And then  we get into the, from the ACE section to the B and all of a sudden we're just. Kicking kicking these beautiful Spanish sounding chords. What I'd like is first of all, March of the Saracens, tell us about the title, how it relates to the music. 

Roger Hudson: Well, it goes back to the last century, the nineties.

Rex Willis: Sorry. I thought you were going to say something like 1880, 

Roger Hudson: We're dating ourselves, right? 

Rex Willis: Don't even go there. 

Roger Hudson: So the nineties, not the 1890s, but the 1990s. And I was in Italy with a friend of mine who lives in Florence. And he said, you want to go to Arjun Tario and Arjun Tario is a, is an Island off the coast of Tuscany the far East. South Western tip of Tuscany and it's beautiful down there and everything. And we went down there and, and we were on the coast is very Rocky, beautiful coast. And then there was these towers, there's towers all along the coastline there. And I said, one of those towers, it isn't lighthouse because another Sarason towers. Now I had heard the word Sarason before, but I didn't really know what it was. And he says it's Sarason. So those are towers to watch. The  Saracens invading. And they're like, they were like pirates and they were like North African Islamic pirates back in the middle ages. And that's what they call the Europeans. Call them Saracens. I don't know where the word came from. Don't know anything about it. And so me when being, you know mixing fantasy and reality a lot. I, I I thought that's all these images. Oh, know the Saracens all about, you know, so I started writing this piece and I thought, yes, I kept thinking about Arjun Tario in those. So I kind of, I guess I could have called it the invasion of the Saracens they're coming from the sea. And it was, they're not really marching, but I just, you know, whatever. This made up the March. And so that's where this sort of harmonic minor thing comes from, or the modes of harmonic minor, which you get in a lot of middle Eastern music is sort of representing. The Saracens, so to speak. And then there's a middle section and it gets kind of thorny in there. Maybe there's a battle going on. I don't know. I made it up. I just made it up, you know, no real story, 

Rex Willis: And as we were practicing at this, the students and some of the comments we got. It's like, wow. I feel, Oh, I know what it was. It was last week we got done playing it. It's a very difficult piece, but wow. Is it coming together, man? Is it coming together? It's one of our, I mean, they're all our favorites, but there was something about it that made us decide to make this, the first piece on the concert, because it really makes a statement. And one of the students last week said, Wow. You know, I feel like, and this was like, the last chord is played. I feel like I just had somebody that was a great storyteller, the last five or six minutes. Tell me some story and I want to know what it was, but at the same rate, I can kind of make up my own version of it. And I think that's kind of the, it feels like a story. Yeah. We're going through we're we're traveling something's happening, 

Roger Hudson: Right. And it's slightly exotic, you know, you have , the rhythms and all that the , harmonic texture and everything is sort of exotic. There's some places in there that I know they, 

Rex Willis: Yeah, I'm looking, I'm looking at one, right?

Roger Hudson: It's coming along. Yeah. There, 

Rex Willis: Well, you know ,  I've enjoyed your music for years, and one of the things I've noticed. It is. I mean, every composer has their trademark, no matter how versatile or no matter how many different styles, you know, even you look at Aaron Copeland, you know, he had this Americana sound and yet he still wrote some music that was very dissonant, almost atonal. And somehow you can still feel it in there. And one of the things I've enjoyed with your music is I'll hear this harmonic minor sound, which to our audience , it's a minor scale that has a little leading tone at the very end that gets us back to tonic. And so you musicians out there, you know what I'm talking about, but it's that, that Eastern kind of sound. And  even kind of a folk sound, a rock sound, as opposed to the melodic minor, go on YouTube folks and you can see some tutorials. So, but what I really love is you throw in some surprises, so we're getting the harmonic minor scale, and all of a sudden you flat the second scale of degree, or you flat  the fifth scale or you sharp something that was not expected. And I'm like, okay, What in the world kind of scale was that. And I realized it doesn't matter. It just, it just, it just sounds great. I didn't even want to analyze it and I hate 

Roger Hudson: Please don't 

Rex Willis: I teach advanced music theory and I'm like going, I'm not sure how to analyze some of this beautiful stuff. 

Roger Hudson: Yeah. Well, let's see if I can kind of expound on the middle Eastern thing a little bit,

Rex Willis:  Please. 

Roger Hudson: I also can play the OOD a little bit. I play that in which is middle Eastern loot is what it is. That's where the loot came from. And so that. Scale is used quite a bit in middle Eastern music. And I love the rhythms. And the thing about it is when we talking about harmonic direction or,  does it make sense? Harmonically? A lot of the middle Eastern music is really not harmonically rich. It's rhythmically rich. And so it's all about. You know, you get 13 people playing, all playing the melody as what you know, and it's an ensemble and maybe a, maybe not a Turkish ensemble, but maybe some of them, you know, Morocco someplace that all of them playing a melody, but it's just the melodies really cool.

Rex Willis: In music history, we call that heterophony, I believe, remember those days, 

Roger Hudson: That was one. 

Rex Willis: And I'm looking at we're going along one and two and three and one, two, three, four, five, six. We love that. Beautiful a hemiola effect that that worked so well in this triplets. And tell us a little about the the Roski yacht or the strumming.

Roger Hudson: Okay. Well, there's a, in fact, I don't know whether you guys have figured that all out and I probably needed to write a little more in there about it. But the Roski auto I use a lot of, I just, just strumming with I with index fingers and up and down sort of. Strominger there's a lot of that in there. And there's an, as far as the Roski, like full fledged flamenco, Roski auto, I'm not really doing a lot of that in there. In fact, I was sort of trying to make it not sound like flamenco, even though it's going to have some flamenco, it's got an overlap going on there, just harmonically and everything, but yeah. It's not really meant to be a flamenco thing at all.  If I could be so bold, it would, it would be sort of like pre-dating flamenco as far as you know not, not my music's predating flamenco, but it's supposed to recall that sort of thing, you know? More ancient, I guess 

Rex Willis: I actually, now that you're saying that I totally get that  and our audience that I know they're going to want to tune in to this concert because it's well, wow. I mean, the diversity of styles with the next several composers, we're going to talk to, we're going to hear a different harmonic language. But , you start in two, four, And this kind of majestic moderate tempo. And then it just bolts right into the beautiful three, four times it's bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. And that's when it starts sounding like something is going on with  this Sarah sense, this battle that's taking place. And it sounds very March like fantastic. Really enjoy it. So we've talked about some of the techniques and the scales and the chords. So  what do you think people will, let's say that they don't know what the title is and maybe they go to concerts? I just, I love going to concerts. And they hear this music. What do you think they're going to? 

Roger Hudson: Hmm, well, I hope it. Like you said, one of your students mentioned it being like a story. What I hope every time that I perform or have a composition written, I hope I transport peoples someplace that, and I don't, it's not specific. As far as where I'm transporting them, you know, I do name my pieces. I don't, you know, it's not absolute music where I just name it, you know, symphony number one or something. Yeah. I give it a descriptive name or programmatic name. That's just because that's something I'm recalling, but ,  I don't know what they're going to think. Now it could remind them of something that they don't want to be reminded. I don't know. 

Rex Willis: That's not up to you. 

Roger Hudson: It's not up to me. I just transport them to someplace that takes her cares away. Especially now with COVID and everything, you know, and, and I just wrote a series of pieces called five surrealities. It's a mouthful, but surreality and so that this whole year has been surreal to me. So I just wrote all these pieces of sort of a catharsis for that. But the back to this piece,  I just hope that , it takes their cares away, and I'm not trying to, , make a statement you know what I mean? do generally hope people like the music. I'm not really one of those composers that says I don't care what people think on me. No. I want people to like, it's like cooking, right? Rex. I mean, you cook for somebody. You want to like them and you want to like it too. 

Rex Willis: One my favorite things, I just heard you say transport. Every time I write a piece of music, I have this, I tell my. Composition students. I say, you know, I want it to, I am going to give you a visual hair. Just imagine that you walk up to somebody and you, you tie a string on to their collar and you start pulling it one way. And they like. Oh, I didn't have no choice. I got to go where you're going. You want to take them where you want to, you want to transport them and I've always felt like that's, that's really what it's all about. I love it. Well let me ask you this, this question is, I'm just glad you're not asking me. So I'm going to give you a little set up here. Okay. I would like for you to name between one to two to three composers. And if you want to just focus on one, that's great. That has really, when it really comes down to it. Oh, you know, I know me, I could name easily 10 or 15 composers that like I could say practically changed my life, but narrow it down to somebody that you can honestly say this person, I just keep listening to or has. Impacted the way I compose 

Roger Hudson: And it's interesting, but it's different parts of my times in my life, they were different.  People, you know, , but I always come back to  Debussy and I love Debussy. I love I like do just pass Chick, Corea, love Chic Corea. I love his music, all those old seventies, Spain and Lafayette, and all this incredible masterwork.

Rex Willis: I love the fact that you just mentioned a French composer from impressionism, and then you jumped right into a completely different, yeah. 

Roger Hudson: Both piano players. Then what? There you go. Yeah. And they used, you know, sort of similar vocabulary in a way,  so those are two, I mean, just off the top of my head just as far as structure and,  organization, it would have to be Beethoven probably for me.

Rex Willis: Oh, my

Roger Hudson: Love Beethoven, you know, just the way he, yeah. You know, this has been over,  emphasize about him, but the way he could get mileage out of a really simple idea  he was just so good at that. , because my early, pieces, , I never had a problem with ideas, you know?

Rex Willis: Right.

Roger Hudson: Is this the assimilation? Yeah, like it, cause I, my first composition teacher, he's like, you know, you got about 10 pieces in this first eight measures. Just take this. This is really good. Just do this 

Rex Willis: totally relate. Oh my gosh. You know, I tried an experiment in one of my classes one time and it was actually a music appreciation class and  so I asked, I said, I need a non-music major a non-music person, we're gonna do a little experiment. I need somebody that's brave. And every once in a while you get lucky. And this was a couple of years ago and this this girl was just like, okay, what? And I said, I want you to make up a little tune that's between three to five notes. And she did it with most people were like, no, I don't sing. And I,  went to the piano. And I'm not, you know, I'm like you, I can get by with a few things on the piano, but I figured it out. Okay. Okay. Is this what let's just say her name was Sylvia says, is this what Sylvia just saying? And everybody's like, yeah, that sounds like it, Mr. Willis, that sounds like it. And so I took that melodic idea and made a, you know, like a 30 or 45 seconds of music out of it. Whoa. And, and so to, to your point form, Planning, what are you going to do with that idea and Beethoven the ultimate? 

Roger Hudson: Yeah, totally. 

Rex Willis: If you're going to get stuck on an Island for a long time. Give me Beethoven any day. Well, Roger, this is just then so much fun. I can't even thank you enough for, well, first of all, just writing this beautiful piece of music that was supposed to have been done last year, and then we got kind of sidetracked, but we are back doing concerts again. So thank you for writing a beautiful piece that we are. Looking forward to everyone hearing March of the Saracens and your contribution, and you're going to play on the concerts. 

Roger Hudson: I'm going to play. Yep. I got a practice. 

Rex Willis: I love it. 

Roger Hudson: I'm like, who wrote this thing? I know I did. I wrote that. Was it, what was he thinking? 

Rex Willis: I know, I think I gave you guitar part one did not. I made sure the composer has to played the hardest part. Well, thanks. So folks it's March 25th and Roger Hudson, March to the Saracens,  after we come back from break, we're going to hear from one of our student performers in the guitar ensemble and I kid you not, he practices more per day than most of you watch TV on the weekend.

That's right back in a few.

 

Rex Willis and Jacob Wicks 

Rex Willis: We're back from break. And now we're going to talk to one of the students who was going to play in the concert. Jacob, tell us a little about yourself. 

Jacob Wicks: Sure.  My name is Jacob Wicks for our concert I'm really looking forward to it. What I'm most excited about is that  me and Nathan's Farmer. We'll be doing solo pieces this concert, and this is the first time for me. were I'll actually be performing a solo piece for the guitar ensemble. 

Rex Willis: That's fantastic. Well, you know what? , let's get to that in just a couple of minutes. I'm so glad you mentioned it because you reminded me that I wanted to talk about that. First of all, how long have you played guitar? 

Jacob Wicks: That's a great question. Honestly, just, almost as long as I've been in the guitar ensemble, which is about two years now, 

Rex Willis: You've played numerous times in student recitals and everyone really enjoys your interpretation of the music you're playing  intermediate to advanced music. And that's not a very long time to have been playing guitar and playing a pretty advanced music. How. Many hours, just on average, would you say you practice per day? 

Jacob Wicks: Right now? I practice between at least four to five hours. But starting off, when I got into guitar, it was a slow start. So I was doing maybe , two hours at  max, usually.

Rex Willis:  And for folks that haven't had classical guitar lessons I'm sure that when you hear of a classical. Performer practicing, whether it's piano, flute, violin, I'm sure the first thing you think of as well, it does take hours per day. , but there's something unique about classical guitar that tends to take more time than . Some of the other instruments. Why do you think that is 

Jacob Wicks: One thing? And I think it's more similar to compare it to the piano because the piano is also a great solo instrument. It's polyphonic, which means. There's multiple interweaving parts and there's melody and accompaniment at the same time that one person is doing. So it makes it very difficult for the player to do these two things at once. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. And,  two with the guitar, the left hand and the right hand are not even physically doing the same function. 

Jacob Wicks: That's right. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. So  you have been playing guitar for the better part of two or two and a half years. You practice four or five hours a day. That's  quite a commitment. What different styles of music do you presently play? 

Jacob Wicks: Oh, man. Currently, I'm extremely addicted to a lot of Brazilian music. One of my favorite composers being Villalobos. And same with the solo piece. I'll be performing by Jorge Morale. He's not Brazilian himself. But the piece is called Brazilian Dance and it has a Latin style Samba feel. So  it's has a great groove to it. 

Rex Willis: Fantastic. So you're going to be playing this as a solo during the guitar ensemble program. So we're really looking forward to that. You and also Nathan Farmer. So as far as the type of music you listen to, you're also a composer. You're taking composition lessons, writing music, even for a theater program for monologues. So how has taking composition lessons as it affected your guitar playing in any way or the way that you look at theory?  

Jacob Wicks: I think one thing composition has really. Opened me up to  is listening , to the sound you're making. There's something about just playing the music and the notes that are written there and actually interpreting it in a way to where it's musical. And I think composition helps me really push that motive forward to become a more musical player.

Rex Willis: Yeah, , that's great. , And here we have commissioned five composers six, including me to write music for this concert , as professionals. And now you're a composer, a student composer doing some really nice work. So you're, playing all this original music, pretty advanced material. And so you're also gaining and learning in guitar ensemble about composing now. this question have a feeling you may not have seen this one coming, so I'll give you a second. , How has it been playing in guitar ensemble compared to being a solo guitarist? What kind of influence has played in a guitar ensemble had versus just being a solo guitarist?

Jacob Wicks: That's a great question because to me, I think the two worlds are. Almost completely different because in the ensemble you're playing with people and probably the most important part in playing with people is keeping time, time is almost the most important thing. Even over the notes. Sometimes as far as playing solo,  you have so much more Liberty with how much time you take, how much musical phrases you have to change. And, , Maybe you want to be a little quieter, softer, or maybe louder and more coarse. And you're playing in certain sections, whereas an ensemble you're almost trying to keep. A similar dynamic, but also a similar tone at times. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. It's,  more mechanical, more robotic. You want to use rubato a speed up, slow down and get louder, get softer. And yet you're limited because everyone has to do that at the same time. So you're not your own boss. With four or five, six, seven, or maybe 10 other people.

Jacob Wicks: Not at all. No. Your conductors, your boss. 

Rex Willis: Exactly. That would be yes. I know that guy.  We're always curious, because we get asked these questions. People come up to me and they go, Mr. Willis, who's your favorite guitar player? Who's your favorite composer? And it's just like, Oh, do I have to do, but,  seriously, as far as performers, guitar players are concerned you think of one or two or three, we don't have time for 15. That,  when you. Watched them play their live or YouTube, however that you can look and go. There's something about that that really influences me. 

Jacob Wicks: Yeah. I think the biggest person that really had an influence on me and also broadening my scope of guitar repertoire is Julian Bream. There's just something about his playing that I much prefer his recordings and his musical interpretation than other great players, which not to knock the other players. But , there's just something about Breams playing that really entrances me. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. You know, , I don't know if I told you this or not. I saw him in concert. 

Jacob Wicks: Yeah.

Rex Willis: Yeah. In Tampa, maybe. I don't know, 12, 13 years ago. And.   It was one of the most unique things I've ever seen a virtuoso. He had been a legend already from the time I don't know, the seventies. , even the sixties, he had been a legend to me and to many other people following up in Segovia Steps and,  John Williams the guitarist Christopher Parkinine, and. had a feeling we were in for a treat see and Julian Bream, because in videos you can see, he makes a lot of interesting faces that go along. But I think his interpretation of music is some of the most unique, . Tell us about , the sounds he gets on the guitar. 

Jacob Wicks: Wow. I think the greatest example of his musical abilities comes from his playings of. Isaac Albania is his music.  My personal favorite being his recording of Cordoba. It's absolutely beautiful. It's probably in my opinion, one of the best recordings of guitar music, I think I've ever heard. 

Rex Willis: , And I think the tambours that he gets from one extreme to the other from. Brilliant bright. Snappy sounds to incredibly warm. Lush sounds  he's ,  always been an inspiration for me as well. So  a last thought here. Do you have particular goals as a guitarist degree wise  short-term long-term hopes wishes or something, you know, 

Jacob Wicks: Of course I always have goals, but I don't, ever try to. Make them to where. I need them to  happen. One thing I want for sure is to keep on pursuing music, always increasing my repertoire. That's probably the biggest thing right now is just increasing my repertoire span. 

Rex Willis: Well, that would be obvious because almost every week now you're playing one or two pieces in series. That's wonderful. Cause that doesn't happen that often.

Jacob Wicks: And that's another thing I'm constantly performing, just getting comfortable, performing with people and in front of people. And I think as far as I want to go, would be very interesting and fulfilling to me. If I could eventually work up to my doctor, it's for it. 

Rex Willis: Absolutely. And in terms of goals, was in a masterclass with Pepe Romero, one of the greats, and he's still in his prime, amazing guitar player and an amazing teacher. And in the masterclass with him, one of my fellow students, this was a long time ago. I said Maestro, how long  did it take for you to. Not be nervous anymore. And he said, It was probably about a thousand concerts. And I think he might've been exaggerating, but the year point is to play a lot that's 

Jacob Wicks: Of course, because every time you learn something new from performing, 

Rex Willis: Do you ever. Absolutely. Well, we look so forward to, Jacob  as his cog in the wheel as his part of the machine that makes this guitar ensemble work playing guitar part one or two or three or four as solos  and to the entire concert and how this all fits together. Thank you for being our guest today. And we look forward to more guitar playing from you, sir. 

Jacob Wicks: Thank you. I look forward to the concert. Absolutely. Thank you.  When we come back from this next break, we'll talk to one of our commissioned composers about a piece of music he wrote dealing with childhood memories is quite lovely.

We'll be back soon.

 

Rex Willis and Jon Godfrey 

Rex Willis:  And now   for our March 25th concert. Around the world and 80 minutes, another one of our massively creative minds.  Jon Godfrey. How are you doing today, Jon? 

Jon Godfrey: Great. Thanks for having me. , 

Rex Willis: I heard you playing, , your really cool banjo piece the other night, , with the symphony. That was great piece. Did you have a good time doing that? 

Jon Godfrey: I did. , it's always a special experience to play banjo with the orchestra. It's not a combination you see every day. 

Rex Willis: No, in fact, it's one you see only once in a blue moon. So tell us just a little bit about yourself, what you're doing here at the college, , whatever comes to your mind.

Jon Godfrey: Well, one of the things that I like about,  my career is that I get to do a lot of different things and , I've really enjoyed getting to play in a lot of different genres.  I have a classical background, but I've also gotten a lot of experience playing jazz and rock and, I'm really grateful to be able to do a lot of different things that each jazz here at SCF is, you know?

Rex Willis: Right.

Jon Godfrey: And. Yeah, I, just really appreciate being to do a variety of things around town from Broadway shows to classical guitar and playing with the guitar ensemble. 

Rex Willis: It's not another day. Another dollar it's every day is a unique experience. 

Jon Godfrey: Right, right. That's how I like it.

Rex Willis: Yeah, absolutely. So as far as the piece that we asked our composers to write, we were wanting a variety of styles, maybe. Perhaps even influenced by other cultures, other countries. And we have gotten exactly that, the variety that folks are going to hear on this March 25th concerts just wonderful from one extreme to the other. Now let's hear about the name of your piece. What inspired it? Maybe a backstory, maybe some of the techniques. 

Jon Godfrey: The name of this piece is Rain Chimes. And it came from a personal experience of my personal memories. Really. I've always been infatuated with wind chimes. I love the sound of just putting wind chimes out. And I love the fact that they're sort of aleatoric and they sort of produce sound by chance,  without any sort of. Predetermination, I'm not putting on the staff, the notes that the wind really just by chance is creating the sound 

Rex Willis: Very cool. 

Jon Godfrey: And I love that wind chimes are always tuned to sort of a beautiful sonority. Like they're always like a major seventh chord or a pentatonic scale, or you never have heard like,  atonal wind chimes, or at least  I've not put them in my garden personally. And so I've always just loved that they sort of create this beautiful sonority and they  have this effervescent wringing quality and. I've always wanted to write a piece that's  for wind chimes. Like I thought it would be cool. Like if I could put a bunch of different chords together, like a bunch of different wind chimes that are different chords and make like a chord progression, like, and I hit one and then I hit another, like, I always thought that'd be kind of fun, but that's also very impractical. And so , I took that same idea and basically transferred it to guitar ensemble. Because if you think about it, guitar strings are very similar in the fact that they're attacking decay and they can create beautiful shimmering kind of qualities. And so I wanted to create that same experience of if I put a bunch of different beautifully pitched, Windchimes kind of next to each other and activated them one at a time. Like how could I make that work? And that basically took that . idea for the guitar ensemble 

Rex Willis: And thus the aleatoric the chance aspect of that, Now there is  a traditional him that you actually quote in there. And it reminds me of, I remember some of the first  church chimes, I heard when I was a kid, I thought, wow, those sound like they're out of tune. It was before I really, , understood overtones and that sort of thing. And the,  young students playing were like, wow, this is odd. It sounds like we're playing major sevenths or tritones or whatever kind of intervals. Tell us about that. And, and about the choice of that hymn. 

Jon Godfrey: That literally comes from a personal experience. So I drew a lot from growing up in rural Georgia. And my parents  lived all over North Georgia, but they,  spent a number of years in a kind of Western Georgia in a very small town where we literally heard church bells ringing to our house. And it feels very Norman Rockwell, almost like romantic, but one of the hymns is Near My God to Thee, which  takes its melody from the tune Bethany and literally the overtones that are ringing, we're just a bunch of parallel, minor sixth. And so in this tune, I,  play that,  melody, but all of these intervals, which create the sound of the overtone bells that you mentioned 

Rex Willis: And. I,  have to tell our audience here that it works because even though it's guitar players playing nylon string guitars with harmonics some of them are harmonics. Some of them are just playing the strings and gently. It really does remind me of the church bells that I remember hearing or that I still hear. , you can close your eyes and forget that there are guitar players playing it. , very nicely planned out. 

Jon Godfrey: Yeah, thank you. 

Rex Willis: Now, one of the things about , the rehearsals that I would have mentioned because  when we get into rehearsals and we have our particular part that we play, say a guitar quartet, you know, maybe I'm playing the bass line, I'm playing the treble line. Now I'm playing whichever part. And it's a linear experience. However, as we line the notes up, we're getting chords and, you know, different textures, but. You can practice these on your own and you get an idea of what it's like, but when  one of the performers is practicing this piece, maybe for 12 seconds or eight seconds or six seconds timed out, maybe they're just playing an E and a G sharp and a D back and forth for a few minutes. Tell us about that. 

Jon Godfrey: Yeah. So part of, , The wind chime aspect of this is  you actually create like a  vertical chord with wind chime, right? You can't play all the notes at once. They all sort of activate one or the other. And again, the thing about wind and wind chimes is that they play one note at a time and it creates this sort of haphazard chance experience. And so part of what I did for this piece is for each individual chord. I'm the notation. I write out, , six seconds or seven seconds, but no specific rhythms. So it's really up to the individual player. Just sort of feel out that they're their own wind in essence. 

Rex Willis: In essence, they are becoming the wind. That's creating this. 

Jon Godfrey: They are like the wind. 

Rex Willis: Now I'm going to make a particular sound here, snapping my fingers. You actually  have us doing that. 

Jon Godfrey: I do. I was really inspired. By the Eric Whitacre piece, Cloudburst for choir, which actually assimilates the sound of a storm through using a bunch of snaps. And he himself said that he got that technique from an old camp game is what you just create the sound of rain by a bunch of  chance snaps. There's they're not in any particular rhythm, everyone's just snapping and it creates this very beautiful. Very meditative sort of rain  sound, and that's what I was going for with this. And that's part of what inspired the name, Rain Chimes. 

Rex Willis: Oh, totally, totally works. And,  of course what's  interesting for you as the composer is that if you heard, Oh, let's just say five different guitar ensembles. Play this in five different concerts.  What is their interpretation going to be like, how is that going to vary? How does that feel should 

Jon Godfrey: It should be completely different every time with more or less sort of the guidelines of the piece providing the basic structure, but it should be a different experience every time. 

Rex Willis: And that's part of the fun, right? 

Jon Godfrey: Absolutely.

Rex Willis: So, let's,  move into another area of this. As far as composers, you've been composing for a long time, right?

Jon Godfrey: At least 20 minutes, 

Rex Willis: 20 years, something like that. Yeah. And so talked to our audience a little bit about. Composing for a solo guitar and composing for guitar ensemble, where you might have four, eight or 10 people. 

Jon Godfrey: It's a completely different experience. Composing for solo guitar is like a puzzle and  you not only have to worry about sounding good, but is it playable? Is it fun to play? You have to worry about the physicality of the instrument a lot more than you do. When you're writing for an ensemble with an ensemble, you can be much more free about. This is what I'm hearing. And instead of it being just one guitar, having to make sense out of a lot of different notes, you can give a note to a guitarist here or here. And as a result, it's much more liberating in a way, because you can focus more on just the sound that you want, as opposed to making this very complicated thing, work on a single instrument.

Rex Willis:  Very well said because as a  guitarist and a guitar composer, I've experienced that same thing. And it's much more of a chore to write for solo guitar. You write for multiple guitars. It kind of frees you up to think about the music more than the guitar. 

Jon Godfrey: Exactly.

Rex Willis: Now, this is moving into another dimension that sometimes when somebody asks me this question, I, never really know what to say. And that's why I'm asking you. I love a good challenge and I know you do Jon. 

Jon Godfrey: I'm scared 

Rex Willis: Of course, name a composer. Maybe one or two or even three. And is this hard to do because we all have multiple composers we love and we've been influenced by, but I want to specifically target guitar composer that has really influenced you a lot.

Jon Godfrey: That is a hard question for guitar composers. I think that my earliest and biggest influence was undoubtedly Roland Dyens. And he was the first guitar composer that really drew me into what was capable on the guitar. And that was really the solo guitar. And I listened to a lot of his music and it was just in awe that you can make one instrument sound like 10. And , so for the guitar, , he was really a big one. I don't listen to a whole lot of guitar composers as in wrecking my brain and doing this, it's kind of funny because the guitar is such a limited idiom in being a solo guitar and a lot of guitarists, write for that they're really. Tied up into their idiomatic process as well as their harmonic process. And so I often find that , I'll take a trick here and there from one, but in terms of just compositional process , I would say that I'm inspired by a few, but they're not a primary source of inspiration, 

Rex Willis: Which leads me to the next one in general name, a couple of composers that influence you with anything. You write orchestra, music, et cetera. 

Jon Godfrey: It's funny too, because I think philosophically far and away , the composer I gravitate most towards is John Cage. And as a composer that I love YouTube because you can go watch John Cage interviews and just had the most delightful manner of speaking than any other composer I can think of. But my music sounds nothing like his, and I'm sure he would hate my music because it's completely antithetical to everything he stood for. But just in terms of the philosophy of sound and how sound is presented and,  just everything about what he said about sound , was a hugely influential for me, even though my music, again, sounds nothing like it is, 

Rex Willis: But there's definitely a connection for those that are not as familiar, John Cage, one of the pieces he's well known for is  sonatas that he wrote for prepared piano, where you actually place objects into the strings to create , what might sound like a gamble on orchestra from Thailand, that sort of thing. But there's definitely a connection in that sense that there's some chances, some aleatoric aspect to it, and you're doing something  that is out of the norm. You're playing a  traditional instrument in a non traditional way. So to speak. 

Jon Godfrey: Yeah, exactly. And actually, now that I'm thinking about it, this is by far the most John Cage-ie piece I've ever written. And a lot of that does have to do with sort of the chance elements of the composition. Just that his music is often so involved in being. Progressive and avant-garde that that's not usually a language that I gravitate towards or speak, but yeah, that's sort of interesting. I'm just now putting that connection together. It was like, Oh wow. I really was inspired by John Cage with this piece. 

Rex Willis: There's no question about that. That's great. I'm glad that actually came up.  So  , as far as your career looking at, , where are you. You were say as a student as to where you are now back up to be in that 16, 18 year old student that practiced hours a day.  Is there any kind of advice that you would give to say our guitar players that are right here at the school that we're teaching?

Jon Godfrey: One of my favorite concepts is Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule, which is you can't become an expert in something without practicing 10,000 hours, which isn't actually what he said in his book, but that's how it's usually commonly interpreted. But. I often say that 10,000 hours of anything sounds kind of miserable to me and especially 10,000 hours of practice. But for me, , was not a good practicer as a student. , I was really much more interested in just sort of noodling around and practicing harmonies and seeing how different chords fit together. I was really much more interested in sound than I was in scales and things like that. And I don't know if this is good advice or bad advice, but just how I got into music  was literally. Like the word play, like playing around with the guitar, enjoying the sounds that you're making. I think I would not have existed as a guitarist. If I truly had tried to practice 10,000 hours , of scales or technique or anything, it was really more about. Creation and in creativity for me more than anything, 

Rex Willis: I love that. , remember having some of the same feelings. It's like, , I wanted to major in composition because of being a creative person. I love to write music, but I also, didn't mind practicing two or three hours a day. I'm not sure I wanted to practice four or five or six. And yet we're glad that there are people that 

Jon Godfrey: Yeah, yeah. Of course at a certain point, , when I was in grad school, that was the time to hammer out the scales and the slurs. And that was doing a lot of technical stuff more than anything, but no, and just in terms of , that pre college me. , It really was more about the enjoyment of the art than it was actually like trying to get faster or better or anything like that.

Rex Willis: Yeah. I remember days where it's like, okay, I've got the scales. They're really going well now I'm working on this Bach piece is going well. And a couple hours go by. And the next thing, you know, or grab my electric guitar and my wall pedal, or, you know, and I'm creating some Pink Floyd type of sounds and it all just goes together with being a creative person and writing music.

Jon Godfrey: Right.

Rex Willis:  This has been a lot of fun, Jon, and I must say hearing you play the guitar makes me think of somebody that did spend those five hours a day practicing. It's just fantastic. And Jon's going to join us and the guitar ensemble. He's gonna play some of the pieces with the guys. It's great because students get to work with professional guitar players and guitar players that are professional, get to work with students , and remember what it's like to grow and we just enjoy being together. So we're so glad you're going to be with us again on a guitar ensemble concert here at State College of Florida, 

Jon Godfrey: Honored to be a part of it. Thank you. 

Rex Willis:  Thank you so much,  well, when we come back from this break, we're going to talk to a composer who has written music influenced by one of his favorite places on earth. And it's a special little area and Ireland it's wonderful music. And I can't wait to find out more about it. We'll be right back. 

 

Rex Willis and Jan Wissmuller 

Rex Willis: I'm back now with another one of our commissioned composers for our March 25th concert. Another one of these great creative minds of force of nature. And his name is Jan Wissmuller.  Thank you for joining us here. On our podcast for our March 25th. State College of Florida guitar ensemble concert. Tell us a little about yourself. I know you  were born someplace exotic 

Jan Wissmuller: Well, I was born in exotic Detroit.

Rex Willis: Okay. So much for the exotic parts 

Jan Wissmuller: So much for exotic, and, did rock and roll. You know, the usual stuff as a teenager in the sixties, you didn't want to, but it was state law and you had to do it. , went for undergraduate work to a tactical university, where I was hell bent for leather to be a physicist. And took   a survey course in music. Very much like the one you teach. 

Rex Willis: Cool. 

Jan Wissmuller: And the teacher was a fellow named David Epstein, who was in fact a composer of art music. There were real, still living composers of art music 

Rex Willis: Wow.

Jan Wissmuller:  Far out. So I took that course and I kept taking courses and eventually ended up getting two bachelor's, one in music and one in physics and did all my graduate work after that in music theory and composition. So I got a master's and a doctorate. 

Rex Willis: Did you end up in the academic world for a period of time? 

Jan Wissmuller: Yes, I taught at Boston University for three years found out the teaching was not really my mellow. It was, not a thing I should be doing. 

Rex Willis: And in some of your encounters rehearsals or concerts you've I don't know if brush shoulders or shared notes or just been in the room with some famous people that I think our students sometimes study in music history.

Jan Wissmuller: Well we had some fun when I was a graduate student at Harvard, one of my jobs was that I was the stage manager for the, from a concert series, which took place in Sanders theater, which is this ancient building, which is still used as a lecture hall, but it has about a 300 seat. Theater in it with a balcony and the whole thing, and John Cage was doing a concert on 

Rex Willis: The John Cage 

Jan Wissmuller: And it was about 1975. And I've actually tried to find  the title of this piece because I can't remember the title, but I think it was an early version of the piece he wrote called Lecture on the Weather that he wrote for the bicentennial. As a matter of fact it's got readings from David Thoreau. And it's got people talking about a bunch of other things, and it's got a huge screen on the back with strange irregular objects being shown on the screen all the time. And the exciting part of it from somebody who a stage manager is we had a huge pile of subwoofers. We had 42 DC 300's, that's over 12,000 Watts of subwoofers. 

Rex Willis: Wow. 

Jan Wissmuller: To be the storm. 

Rex Willis: Right.

Jan Wissmuller: So in the middle, I don't think there was a storm. And John asked me if I would. Please conduct. And I said, okay what does that involve? Is there a crisis? Oh, you don't need a score to conduct. What you need to do is you see that clock at the back. So again, it's a lecture hall, so there's a clock that can be seen from the stage. And , as you reach over the balcony, you can reach down and touch the clock. He says, what I need for you to do is when I signaled to you that everyone is ready to start, you need to set that clock to exactly 8:00 PM. Even the second hand. 

Rex Willis: Oh my goodness. 

Jan Wissmuller: Which I did. So that was my successful debut. As a conductor. 

Rex Willis: There's a claim to fame with, they want to know my John cage. That's a great story. 

Jan Wissmuller: Incredibly pleasant personality, , really likable guy. We had to go get.  A portable 40 foot movie screen in order to do this. And John went with me in the van to pick it up and I practically had to drag him out. We'd have been late for the concert. He just got so involved in talking with the people who ran the store.

Rex Willis: That's fantastic. For any of you music students out there that you studied 20th century composition, you will come across John Cage and here's our composer who has an experience with him. Now Jan  the name of the piece that you have written and been commissioned to write for this concert is  Derryclare Lough am I saying that correctly? Derryclare Lough. 

Jan Wissmuller: Almost like Lochness except there's a U in it I don't think it changes the pronunciation a whole lot. 

Rex Willis: Well tell us a little bit about this piece. think that you might have some kind of a backstory or some interesting tidbits for us. 

Jan Wissmuller: Well, Derryclare Lough is quite real. , it's a Lough  in County Galway. And a chunk of it is right off the  highway that everybody drives down a lot and it's literally marked as a,  tourist photography place. But in spite of that notoriety, it's very beautiful and very peaceful and. Somewhat other. And so we've been to Ireland a lot of times and I won't leave. And if I can't take a trip to go there and visit it and I've,  actually walked out to there's a little Island in the  Southwest corner of the Lake. There's a little tiny Island that looks out over into the,  mountains, which are called either the 12 Hens or the 12 Bens, depending on who you ask. But it's probably the largest mountains in Ireland proper. And so we're talking Northwest. Core of Ireland, but not Northern Ireland. 

Rex Willis: How many times have you been there?  

Jan Wissmuller: A dozen something like a dozen. Yeah. 

Rex Willis: So what aspect of that inspired you to write this piece for the guitar ensemble?

Jan Wissmuller: Well, , we had discussed what the concert would be and we decided we were going to write about different pieces and different places. 

Rex Willis: Right.

Jan Wissmuller: And I was saying to myself, outside the U S is there a place where the place means something to me. And this is one of those  love traveling, but in terms of,  if I'm in a country, will I actually drive four hours to be in this one spot? This is one of them. So I wrote this. So the piece is a little bit of evocation of the place. It's a little bit an evocation of the combination of,  peace and otherness that you get there. And also it's a little bit me wrestling with Irish music tread, if you will, which I had never taken  really very seriously at all. And so I said, okay, let's,  think about. This music, what would we do with this music? I don't use any actual Irish music in it. It is more a fantasy on. What it sounds like to me  when it sounds really good to me. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. , and for those listening, you will notice when you hear this piece toward the end, there is a tune  and it really does sound almost like a traditional Irish tune , of sorts, but it is so catchy. Every one of us in the guitar ensemble, we almost complained Jan. It's like, Oh my gosh, I can't get that tune out of my head. Sometimes I'm three or four hours later  but it's lovely. It's just very, very catchy tune that dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. Where did that come from? 

Jan Wissmuller: It just,  came out of actually working with a thematic material in the piece. There really is only one melody and it's inversion. Is virtually all the material of the piece. There, obviously there are some,  accompanying bits and some,  transitional bits here and there, but nearly all of the piece. Is that  

Rex Willis: tell me about the, the inversion about the melody and the inversion.

Jan Wissmuller: Okay. So,  literally  if the initial version of the melody goes up a second and another second to a third, which is what you hear right at the beginning of the piece, when you do the inversion of it, it'll go down a second and down a second to a third. Now this is a,  piece where I tried everywhere to stay as pentatonic. With melodic material as I could. And so sometimes that inversion is not entirely, , a major third and may not convert to a major third because I'm staying within the same pentatonic scale. But basically it's,  an inversion of the thing. So the second thing you hear in the melody is actually the inversion and those two things yeah. Show up through the whole thing. And when it finally gets around to being sort of the jig piece, it's just the same stuff, but faster. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. Yeah. Now   the syncopation, the offbeats,  it's been a challenge. Now, these young students have done a great job  and,  really, that's why we're here as the challenge to learn as educational. What was going through your mind to have tunes melodies come in. On like on a second half of the beat or the last part of a beat, and then all this fitting together, like a puzzle.

Jan Wissmuller: , If you think of the pieces being in four parts as this very quiet introductory melody, and then there's this thing where we're really the,  sense of meter is a little bit messed with. And I think that's the section that you're referring to more than anything else. And then it begins to be sort of jig, like which things are pretty square after that.

Rex Willis: Exactly.

Jan Wissmuller: I was literally trying to defeat the notion of where the meter would be. And so I was displacing it. So you had the initial melody being answered by the inversion. , So there's,   a call and a response kind of thing. But when it happens is not in the same place. So the accompaniment is pretty squarely on it's little metric thing. And the two little melody things are sort of intentionally off. 

Rex Willis: Yeah. You know, it reminds me , the way you're describing this is , some of the medieval composers and even on, into the Baroque period that liked puzzles,  Mozart Bach, did it having a piece of music play, play it backwards and it sounds the same, or it matches up. like  you put the pieces to the puzzle together of these tunes being inverted.  But what's interesting is the audience,  doesn't know this is happening. They're listening to very beautiful music. We have worked hard to put the pieces together of how the,  syncopations we come in on off beats, and it's not the audience's job to know what we've had to go through, but the end result is this puzzle turned into a very smooth and lovely piece.

Jan Wissmuller: For me. That's a great deal of the fascination , of writing music is   I enjoy the fact that art music art and artifice have the same root that there's a certain amount of,  construction, a certain amount of puzzle making and solving. If you want there to be , it doesn't have to be a lot of what we think of as art music, particularly romantic era art music. Doesn't. bother with this at all, but there's a lot that does, the Baroque was deep in it. I suppose AKA GIM is the logical extreme of the medieval era or something like that. But,  people have always been sort of fascinated in how the pieces can go together and that remains a fascination for me.

Rex Willis: Fantastic. Yeah, , very educational for our listeners. And  for me, I I'll tell you  you're bringing back some memories of my graduate days. Listening to professors, talk about all the the math that's behind all of this. So when our audience is listening to this piece,  what did they get out of it?

 Jan Wissmuller:  I certainly haven't calculated anything.  My somewhat naive thinking is that if I find the music pleasing, when I set aside my  composers, hat and listened to it. Then I'm going to assume that at least some fair fraction of the audience will also find it pleasing back when one studied a lot of pieces, including pieces that perhaps you didn't love, but were sort of assigned. One of the rules I always had in life is before I go off and study hard on a piece of voluntarily. If it doesn't work the first time through, if it doesn't. Emotionally or effectively. Whatever you want to describe that response as if it doesn't work, then it's probably not worth analyzing. The first measure of a successful piece is it has to kind of work. you look at different musical eras, you have to be a little generous about what the word work means. But it has to work at some level in order to do that. And if the audience hears some things that sound vaguely evocative of Ireland  well then  I'm perfectly happy, 

Rex Willis: You know, hearing you talk about  the math side of it. , it is our job to make the music sound in a way that we want to hold the listener's attention. We want to take them on this trip with us. And  I think a lot of folks that don't write music, or maybe they don't feel like there's creative, maybe they're not writing their books and all that. Maybe they think there's some inspiration comes in the middle of the night.  And sometimes that happens and we just write and we go back and analyze it later and figure out what the heck we did, you know? 

Jan Wissmuller: have a lot of friends who are composers, who tend not to bring out their analytical tools until they've written themselves into a corner, have a problem in saying, okay, how is it that I can't get from here to there? Or  I need eight bars of something here. And I don't know what on earth actually, you know, what, what did I do afterwards? What did I do before? And, , suddenly they start asking themselves carefully what the piece is about. I usually find that after the pieces is entirely done, that there are. Things that , as an analytical listener, I would have heard that I wasn't thinking about at all when I wrote it. And then there are the things that I. Hopefully it wasn't thinking about it. 

Rex Willis: Right. One more question  that is all related this , as you are a composer, I'm a composer, we've got a number of pieces on this program that nobody has ever heard before, except that those of us that are rehearsing it   in terms of influence, who has influenced me, who has influenced you to turn out the music that we do is there a composer or two or three. Three, maybe that  just hit you really hard in your younger days? , 

Jan Wissmuller:  I thought about that question. . And it turns out that what I'm about to say is also  true for how I think about popular music in jazz and folk music and, you know, the whole list of all the other kinds of music people listen to when we're not listening to art music is that I find with a few very commonplace exceptions, like everything Mozart wrote in nearly everything Beethoven wrote,  with those aside. I find that pieces are more important to me. So I love Dumbarton Oaks concerto, but I really don't care about Stravinsky Songs for Shakespeare  because they just don't connect for me. I really, really like Pierre Lunaire, but I don't like any of Schoenberg's, string quartets at all. I dislike them actively. I think  may still be one of the most effective electronic pieces ever written, but I just. I think Stockhausen absolutely missed the boat everywhere else. You know? So it's, all over the place. And,  the pieces that influenced me in that way, I'll,  go spend time finding out what the composer thought and what he or she was doing. ,  when all of that came along just to understand the piece in that 

Rex Willis: I love this perspective. It's not named a composer is named pieces by different composers. I love that. That's fabulous. 

Jan Wissmuller: , So for me as I think for you sometimes at least, cause I know you put it in a class, the Trinity for the Victims of Hiroshima at the Penderecki.

Rex Willis: Yep. 

Jan Wissmuller: Colossal for me George Crumb , Ancient Voices of Children. Yeah. Just your whole notion of a sound world. Just, just got a big smack between the eyes when that happened. And I've been writing electronic music before that and it's still, it was like bang. So those were important. The Rite of Spring is, you know, 

Rex Willis: What can you say? Yeah. 

Jan Wissmuller: Yeah. Well, you reach the point very early on in your thinking where you forget about the French audience and everything else, and you find yourself saying this is one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever heard, , not effective as ballet, which of course it is, but one of the very beautiful pieces. And , then you have to start thinking about, okay, why am I thinking that? And some other people may find that challenging, 

Rex Willis: Right? For young composers. I've got three or four folks taking lessons with me now, age,  18 early twenties. What are your thoughts to them about composition?

Jan Wissmuller:  Get an independent source of income. 

Rex Willis: That's a good one. 

Jan Wissmuller: First thought. It seems to me that the composers who are most successful now, , who make pieces that people want to listen to have sort of gone through and gotten adequate mastery of most of the eras of music that we have there, they can write pretty good faux classical, pretty good faux romantic. They can write pretty good.  Whatever you want to call the music of Debussy and Fauré and people like that. And they may be, even can do pretty good Baroque. I don't know many people who really write effective medieval, but  that's a different kind of thing. And then they start. Solving the problems they want to solve and asking where they're going to go. And from there, they may go on in a thousand different directions but , they have that basis. And so the thing I would encourage people more than anything to do is during your student years go off and imitate a lot of different styles. Get out of your comfort zone. , If English, madrigals are just not your thing, write. One, 

Rex Willis: Right.  

Jan Wissmuller: If you don't understand why Bach bothered with a fugue, . Figure it out one way or another. Yeah. And the, and those kinds of things, it will serve you well later.

Rex Willis: Absolutely.

Jan Wissmuller: When what you're doing is just writing 15 minutes of , movie score. 

Rex Willis: Excellent. We wrap this up. Jan, one of the things that comes to my mind is you and I are fairly mature compared to our students age. And we've been working on that's news to you, 

Jan Wissmuller: What a surprise. 

Rex Willis: Wow. And and we both been working  with these students , for some time now. And one of the things I just want to say to you is I really enjoy the interaction that you have with the students the last few years that you've been joining us and what they get out of,  your experience as a musician and as a composer and  the stories that sometimes are silly and fun,  and usually relevant in some ways, but. I just want to thank you for your interaction.  It's enjoyable and very natural and easy. 

Jan Wissmuller:  It's been a gift to be able to play in the ensemble. , as you may know, it's actually fairly hard to find groups to play music with. And the social aspect of making music is a very important thing. So getting together with people and doing the very pleasant. But difficult work of getting pieces to work is,  very rewarding. And I've had a great time. The kids have uniformly been great. 

Rex Willis:  Well thank you so much, Jan. It's been. A pleasure having you join us today and we're, can't wait to hear your music and you play along on your piece and all the other pieces. 

Jan Wissmuller: Yeah. I'm looking forward to the concert of I'm looking forward to hearing all the pieces, , when they're really as polished as we can get them 

Rex Willis: And we're getting close, got a few more weeks. And we hope all of you can join us on the SCF Music Facebook page on Thursday, March 25th at 7:30 PM. To enjoy the SCF Guitar Ensembles perform Around the World in 80 Minutes, a concert of newly composed music by six fantastic local composers taking you to all points on the map.