14. Guitar Suite
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This began in 2002 with a finger-picked E major piece that I eventually realised was a rip-off of Mozart’s Sonata XVI (A major) that I played on piano. Fortunately, copyright is not an issue with the classics (hooray!) and it ended up as the two ‘Sunshine’ pieces. It evolved but all the bits that make up the Suite have remained unchanged for approx 15 years although I’ve continued to practice it for fear of it evaporating from memory. Nothing ever came to mind to improve it, extend it, or bring in other instruments.
Some bits which were less integrated were therefore cannibalised into other tracks and, to my mind, the remaining individual pieces fit nicely together both in key and ‘feel’.
Back in 2002, I contemplated a “War of the Worlds” narrative concept ... an early volcanic ‘Earth’, a flaming impact from space sparking life, Man’s evolving into our current state, sending out a deep space probe, problems with it crashing on another (?) planet, and the whole process re-starting but perhaps this time without Man being at the top. I tried concocting the sound-effect montage ... interesting but unsatisfactory.
Having re-used some of the instrumental sections in other tracks, I was left with less musical passages but these now had closer and more consistent musical connections. The ‘Fanfare’ got me thinking of medieval parades/battles, being hunted through marshland, and the ‘Maypole’ sequence as a pleasant break from such wars. Sister-in-law Anita suggested “Agincourt” which really focused my mind as it would allow the second section to be explained via a storm/boat chapter.
I reacquainted myself with Jeff Wayne’s “War of the Worlds” dramatic musical extravaganza which used Richard Burton’s quintessential voice-over skills and pressed ahead with the idea of a voice-over that linked the musical passages into an overall narrative. With a twist at the end, of course!
The voice-over story however never gelled. Mike Levy gave a very helpful critique that the guitar parts sounded great but simply didn’t fit the cut and thrust of the storyline. This lifted (actually whipped off) the curtain of uncertainty for me. I stripped out the Agincourt story and all sound effects (which were to become a separate entity as the last track to be recorded). Sanity was restored! Or so I thought.
With nothing left to ‘disguise’ the guitar playing I needed to practice the whole ‘suite’ many times to get close to error free. It occurred to me that such a rare devotion to performance accuracy might make for a reasonable ‘live’ video (see further below).
That rehearsal practice really made the re-recording for the album more pleasurable and quick although it was done section by section ... allowing the end chords to decay for several seconds. This gave total freedom in how I overlapped sections. But it remained a single 12-string guitar.
However, the finished track just felt too bare and would be quite boring for most listeners. So I began to add orchestral instruments ... and once I’d started with the ‘fanfare’, everything else sounded weak by comparison. So ‘orchestrating’ the whole thing became a new project ... although that term is a little precious as I rarely use more than 2 or 3 instruments in any one section.
The very last section is left as unadorned soloist guitar ... a sonic change.
Using ‘audience’ bookends was an amusing afterthought (yes, I’m easily amused).