When Morton Feldman’s electric guitar piece for Christian Wolff was stolen from Wolff’s car in 1967 [the score was actually in the guitar case that was stolen], it was considered to be lost forever. All there was left was a raw sketch, found in the late 1990’s by Jogrim Erland, but still no-one knew how the original score looked like.
However in 2008 a radio recording was discovered of Wolff playing the Feldman composition ‘The Possibility of a New Work for Electric Guitar’.
Recorded in the mid 60’s, with a very poor sound quality, it was the start of Seth Josel’s reconstruction of the score. The reconstruction of the Feldman sketch is on the left page, and the transcription of the Wolff audio-recording is on the right page.
So what to make of this? Is this the real thing? Or will it always be what it is, a reconstruction? We wanted it so badly! A piece by Feldman for our beloved instrument.
Listen for yourself! Here are three guitar players working with Seth Josel’s reconstruction of the score.
Today, while working on a transcription for electric guitar of a Telemann ‘Fantasia’ , i was thinking of another transcription i once made a long time ago of a piece by Orlando Gibbons [1583-1625],
The piece i’m referring to ‘Five Part In Nomine’ was scored for Wurlitzer Electric Piano, Vibraphone and Electric Guitar. A fine instrumentation!
This may be the right moment to post a transcription i made of a panel discussion that was video taped by Other Minds in 2010. Charles Armirkhanian is discussing the 2nd String Quartet with composer Jurg Frey. You can see it here: https://archive.org/details/OMF_2010_03_04_c2_01
My transcription: ” I can tell something of the background of the piece, which is a book which I have at home, it’s an old book of the late 18th Century, which is a choral book, a book with chorals and psalms, and many years before I wrote this string quartet I was busy with these books, I copied single voices and parts in my sketchbook and made scores of these chorals, because this book is not in the usual score, it’s written first the soprano, alto and then tenor and then the bass. If you want to know how the harmonisation is then you have to make a score. And I like it very much to copy without a special focus why I’m doing that, and I combined it, this material, with other material of my work and slowly slowly it started to become a process into the direction of the String Quartet. And this process I think was the interesting thing, how can you turn a choral book into my own music, and this was a slow process. It was also a very delicate balance between pushing it forward and let it happen, and you cannot force a piece process, but if you are doing nothing you will not have a piece in the end. So, it’s some kind of letting go for it, let it happen and to come to, yeah, slowly the piece comes into focus and after months, it was not a struggle, sometimes I stopped for weeks and then after months I thought maybe this could be a String Quartet and then it took me another 1 and a 1/2 years to elaborate all details of color, of durations and so on. So this book is on the background, and this book doesn’t have any variation it’s just this book and it’s 80 or 90 psalms..”
What strikes me so is this important role church music, psalms and hymns and chorales still play in music. This leads me to my own fascination with church music in general. From the Ecole de Notre Dame, to Orlando Gibbons, to Claude Goudimel, [the composer to which Jurg Frey might be referring to, when he speaks of his book of chorals], Goudimel the composer of the Genevan Psalter Book, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claude_Goudimel], to Jurg Frey, to Morton Feldman [” if i want my music to demonstrate anything, it is that ‘nature and human nature are one. Unlike Stockhausen, i don’t feel called upon to forcefully ‘mediate’ between the two. Stockhausen believes in Hegel; i believe in God. it is as simple as that”]. [‘A life without Bach and Beethoven’ – Give my Regards to Eight Street].
I get the feeling this is a universal thing, at least in the context of western music, and it surely is of importance to me. I’m convinced that some knowledge of this subject will give you good insights of music in general.
So for now i’d like to end with the mentioning of Roscoe Holcomb, a Kentucky Mountain Music man with a strong faith.
Where does it come from and what does it do? in short:
the EGO is an instrument consisting of an electric guitar and some pedals with a special routing. this special routing makes it into a breathing organic instrument, like a harmonium. [to see and to make this routing yourself look at the ‘system diagram psd’]
where does it come from?
ever since i began playing the electric guitar i felt that the sound reminded me of an organ sound. I felt deeply attracted to this sound, to me it was pure sound of great quality. i never questioned this but from time to time i wrote some notes about it in sketchbooks or heard music on records where the two instruments [electric guitar and organ/ harmonium] were used. Between 2008 and 2014 i was, together with Luuk de Weert, doing a project concentrating on electro acoustic music which gave me new ideas about sound[s], Later on i got interested in making these sounds in the ‘real world’. [from laptop to analog instruments] Modulair thinking had entered my musical world.
But it was only until i began to study the music of Morton Feldman that my quest for the electric organ sound could really begin. Bellows and breathing: the main thing is breath, breathing. this concept is vital. Listening to some Feldman compositions [Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello; Piano and StringQuartet] i noticed the way the strings moved, like a bellow. I realized that the foundation of this electric guitar organ might be found in this breathing organism. But how to translate this concept to the guitar? And here my modulair thinking helped me out. It might have to do with routing. I started experimenting with some pedals and slowly slowly my guitar started to breathe. The solution [to this point] that is most satisfying consists of a Freeze sound retainer and a volume pedal. The routing was the most challenging part, but once found is extremely simple. You just take the volume pedal away from its traditional place at the start of a chain and bring it to the end.
As you can see in the system diagram you need 2 Freeze sustainer pedals and 3 Volume pedals for best results. So you always need one Volume pedal extra [the one you use to get a controlled signal out of your guitar].
So this is all about SOUND, the realization of a soundwish.
How to use this sound, in composition, is for another story.