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On competitions (but not only)

(Photo: Achraf Baznani) This pretends to be some incoherent, contradictory, maybe trivial and probably ineffectual but well-meant advice and warnings about entering competitions. I have been quite often in juries of international guitar competitions, which might not be the best way of passing your time. I would honestly prefer sitting in a tropical beach, or failing that, a pool, with some Campari at hand. But duty is duty. The three good things about being in the jury are: 1) you do not have to play; 2) you get to meet again old friends; and 3) it gives you a very good observatory from which to see the trends and fads prevailing in the younger colleagues. Since certain things keep recurring

Cuestiones del momento: palabras

Otro tema, o no tan otro. Quien quiera pensarlo en serio, puede consultar al gran Carlos Vega aquí. Se trata de algunos usos lingüísticos (locales y bastante recientes pero dominantes) que me tienen un poco harto, como el denominar lo que uno hace “música académica” (incluso a nivel oficial). Voy a ser asistemático e inconexo, al fin y al cabo es lo que me sale más natural, pero ésta va a tener que ver con los "géneros" musicales. En la foto pueden ver una representación gráfica de la estructura de esta entrada. De este lado de la cancha, del lado que Tosar llamaba “impopular”, el adjetivo “académico” es un insulto. Designa a quien copia o imita modelos del pasado, se queda en fórmulas en v

Pablo Márquez remembers Boulez

I met Pierre Boulez in 1994, when he was searching for a second guitarist to perform with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, alterning with Marie-Thérèse Ghirardi, the regular guitar-partner of the ensemble since its creation in 1976. Laszlo Hadady, who was by then one of the oboists of the ensemble, introduced me to him, and as Boulez sat in one of the rehearsals rooms of the freshly new Cité de la Musique in Paris, I played for him a piece by a composer I knew he appreciated very highly, Elliott Carter (Changes). He was really positive about my performance, and promised to call me when an opportunity would appear. The opportunity came one year later, when an integral of Berio's “Sequenze” was

Goodbye Pierre Boulez

I am not going to repeat things you can already read, better said and better documented, in so many places these days. I do want to say that with Boulez dies one of the last people (in this small field of life called “classical music”) who was REALLY sure of what he was doing. In 1931 a six-year-old boy listens in a radio (surely a pretty primitive one) to something that fascinates him. It is “The Nightingale” by Stravinsky. He is educated in a seminar or two, fights with his father to go study composition to Paris, where he absorbs everything like a sponge and fights successively with almost all his teachers, barks like a dog to be let into the establishment (his own words), once inside, he

Adiós Pierre Boulez

No voy a repetir lo que ustedes pueden leer, mejor dicho y documentado, en tantos sitios. Sí quería decir que con Boulez se muere una de las últimas personas (de este pequeño sector de la vida que es la música culta, "clásica", impopular o como la llamen, por favor, no "académica", que es un insulto) que estaba REALMENTE segura de lo que hacía. En 1931 un niño de 6 años escucha en una radio (seguramente bastante primitiva) algo que lo fascina. Es "Le Chant du Rossignol" de Stravinsky. Lo educan en un seminario o varios, se pelea con el padre para ir a estudiar composición a París, donde absorbe todo como una esponja y se va peleando sucesivamente con casi todos sus maestros, ladra como un pe

Eduardo’s equation and other things

I think the following equation describes pretty well the process of learning a new piece or solving a difficult passage in a piece: T = D/P - T is the time it takes learning the piece or passage - D is the objective difficulty of the piece or passage - P is the patience we have to solve things. So, when difficulty is bigger and patience is the same, learning takes more time. When difficulty is the same and patience is bigger, it takes less time. When P tends to zero, learning time tends to infinite (I am sure the colleagues who teach beginners will have a story or two about this). When patience tends to infinite, time tends to zero (this is called “perfect sightreading at black-belt mastery

La ecuación de Fernández y otras cosas

He llegado a la conclusión que la siguiente ecuación describe bastante bien el proceso de resolución de las dificultades de una pieza: T = D/P En la fórmula: - T es tiempo de aprendizaje, o sea, el tiempo que lleva resolver el problema - D es la dificultad objetiva del pasaje u obra que estamos estudiando - P es la paciencia que tengamos para resolver el problema. Entonces, a más dificultad e igual paciencia, más tiempo de aprendizaje. A igual dificultad y más paciencia, menos tiempo. A paciencia tendiendo a cero, tiempo de aprendizaje que tiende al infinito (mis colegas que enseñan a principiantes probablemente tendrán algo que contar sobre esto). A paciencia tendiendo al infinito, tiempo t

18 instantáneas de Abel Carlevaro

(Foto: Alfonso de Béjar) Texto escrito para Gitarre und Laute en 2001, originalmente en inglés. Lo que sigue es una traducción de ese original al español, hecha por Alfredo Escande y revisada por mí. Gracias, Alfredo! 1 Carlevaro está tocando sus “Preludios Americanos” en televisión. Yo tengo alrededor de diez años de edad, y nunca he visto nada ni remotamente parecido a esto, aunque mi padre me ha llevado a varios conciertos de guitarra, incluso de Segovia. No puedo creer lo que veo y escucho. No hay ninguna sensación de esfuerzo: la música sólo fluye. No solamente no hay indicio de que el intérprete esté preocupado por algo, sino que los dedos parecen tener sus propios ojos, haciendo su tr

18 snapshots on Abel Carlevaro

(text written as an obit for the German magazine "Gitarre und Laute") Photo by Alfonso de Béjar 1. Carlevaro is playing his “Preludios Americanos” on TV. I am about ten years old, and I have never seen anything remotely like this, although my father has taken me to several guitar concerts, including Segovia. I just cannot believe what I see and hear. There is no sense of effort whatsoever – the music just flows. Not only there are no indications that the player is concerned about anything, but the fingers seem to have their own eyes, doing their job unerringly and accurately – player and guitar are integrated seamlessly, like some mythical beast, half player and half guitar. Sometimes, th

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