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European Guitar Teachers Association uk

GUITAR
F O RU M
2

Lorenzo Micheli
Mauro Giulianis Guitar Technique
& Early Nineteenth-Century Pedagogy
Julian Bream
How to Write for the Guitar
Luis Zea
On Teaching the Unteachable
Sarn Dyer
:A Lesson with Ida:
an imaginary interview with Ida Presti
Fabio Zanon
:Mignone, Fernandez, Guarnieri:
Brazilian guitar music after Villa-Lobos

issn 14754789

 g u i ta r f o ru m 2
WINTER 2003
issn 1 4 7 5 4 7 8 9

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contents

How to Write for the Guitar, page 1


Julian Bream

Mignone, Fernandez, Guarnieri: Brazilian guitar music after Villa-Lobos, page 9


Fabio Zanon

A Lesson with Ida: an imaginary interview with Ida Presti, page 33


Sarn Dyer

Mauro Giulianis Guitar Technique & Early Nineteenth-Century Pedagogy, page 45


Lorenzo Micheli

On Teaching the Unteachable, page 71


Luis Zea

Contributors, page 99

How to Write for the Guitar (1957)


julian bream

This article first appeared in The Score


& i.m.a. Magazine, ed. William Glock,
n 19 (March 1957), pp 1926. It is
reprinted here as a tribute to Julian Bream
on his seventieth birthday. The Score last
appeared in 1961, and we have been unable
to trace its current copyright holders. We
are very grateful to Mr Bream for granting
us his permission to reprint the present
article, and especially for providing the
introduction.

int ro duc t ion


ne of the more attractive places to wine and dine in London during the late
1950s was a little club in Mayfair called the International Music Association.
For its premises it had use of a beautiful Georgian house in South Audley Street,
and it soon established itself as a fashionable meeting place and watering hole
for musicians from far and wide.
Apart from the excellent bar and restaurant, there was, in the heart of the
building, a charming Recital Room (complete with a little stage and grand piano), which could be hired for informal concerts, lectures or rehearsals. It could
boast a library, and even had its own in-house magazine called The Score.
The magazine was edited by the late William Glock, himself a fine concert
pianist whose career mysteriously never really materialised, but whose love,
knowledge and enthusiasm for music never diminished. Instead of pursuing a
performing career he eventually became a musical coach, an encourager, an enabler, and impressively, an indefatigable champion of contemporary music.
I used to bump into him at the club from time to time, and on one occasion
he asked me why my programmes on the guitar were so conservative, containing so little contemporary music, and none of it British. My reply to him was
quite straightforward: it was that most British composers hadnt a clue how to
write for the instrument. It was then that he suggested I should write an article
on how to write for the guitar. I got down to it at once, and it was duly included
in the next issue of The Score.
Looking back on the article some forty-six years later, it does appear rather
conservative, and very much of its period. Nevertheless, many of the principles
expressed are, in my opinion, still pertinent, in spite of the fact that the style and
language of much contemporary concert music has changed considerably.

Julian Bream, August 2003

Copyright 1957 by The Score & i.m.a Magazine


Introduction copyright 2003 by Julian Bream

h o w t o w r i t e f o r t h e g u i ta r
the most important thing to bear in mind when writing for an instrument
is the texture and character of its sound. The guitar is more suggestive and intimate than almost any other instrument, and therefore demands from the composer great imagination and feeling for colour especially since it is nearly always solo, and succeeds or falls purely on its own merits of musical expression.
My advice to composers trying to write suitable music for the guitar is: refer
to Bach. A detailed study of the unaccompanied violin sonatas would serve admirably as a guide to the application of harmony and counterpoint to the guitar, as well as to the suggestiveness that I mentioned just now; better still, compare Bachs own lute arrangements of the G minor Fugue from the First Violin
Sonata or of the whole C minor Cello Suite, and one will notice that with the
added advantage of more strings (and a closer tuning in fourths and thirds as on
the guitar), he has slightly elaborated the harmony and in some cases developed
the counterpoint. It is an interesting fact that whilst all the unaccompanied violin and cello music (not forgetting the lute suites) can be played on the guitar,
the same can hardly be said of a single keyboard work.
the tuning of the guitar is a curiosity in itself.
y

&

Example 1
The tuning remains constant, with the possible exception of the sixth string,
which is occasionally lowered a tone in pieces where the prevailing tonality is D.
Occasionally the fifth string is also retuned a tone lower for special eects in the
key of G, but this should only be done on the advice of a guitarist.
Although guitar music is written in the treble clef, it actually sounds an octave lower than written; thus the range of the guitar is similar to that of the cello,
though quite often the ear is deceived into thinking that it is considerably higher.
This can probably be attributed to the fact that the sound-chamber is somewhat
smaller than that of the cello, and therefore the overtones and natural resonances
are of a higher pitch.
The guitar fingerboard, unlike that of the violin, is divisioned o by thin
strips of metal (frets) placed a semitone apart. Since the notes are predetermined, the instrument is obviously tempered, though enharmonic dierences
can be achieved by the finger pushing into or pulling away from the fret.
The Spanish Guitar (as opposed to the Plectrum Guitar) is always plucked
with the fingers of the right hand and never with a plectrum or quill. Danceband players have developed the plectrum technique over the last thirty years
or so in order to obtain more power and drive in their rhythmic chord-playing,
but this method is artistically very limited since it cannot manage counterpoint,
and every chord is, and must be, slightly arpeggiated. With the thumb and three
fingers, the classical (Spanish) guitarist has in fact four plectra and can therefore
play four notes simultaneously.

julian bream

The guitar has a range of three octaves and a fifth.


inferior quality

&

Example 2
As with most stringed instruments, the very high notes of the guitar tend to have
less quality, and complicated passagework in the highest register sometimes
sounds thin and unconvincing; nevertheless, I am all in favour of mountaineering, if a composition really demands it. The chief thing to remember is that while
the top two strings generally sound well in extreme high positions if the instrument is a good one the bottom four, on the whole, tend to sound rather
boxy and dead above the twelfth fret, i.e. above the octave, and I would generally advise composers against writing six-note chords right up in the dust if
they really desire a musical sound!
By no means the least important point to bear in mind when writing for the
guitar is the span which the left hand is capable of stretching. For instance, it is
obviously impossible to play a chord in a high position, and also expect to play
a low F (first fret) on the sixth string; the composer must either bring the chord
down to the low F or else the low F up to the chord whichever is more vital to
the musical logic.
Example 3 should give some idea of the limits which the average left hand
can stretch. Although five or six frets is the average stretch between the first and

&

y 1 (1st fret)

q 4 (16th fret)

q 4 (10th fret)

q 4 (5th fret)

y 1 (5th fret)

y 1 (10th fret)

Example 3
fourth finger, this does not rule out the possibility of playing chords in the high
positions of the treble strings, and plucking open bass strings at the same time.
Many a good pedal is built up in this way, especially if the bass note is given a
little rhythmical interest.

j
j
j
j

n n n
###
&
.
.
.

J
J
J
J
Example 4
most instruments have their natural keys and resonances, the guitar being no
exception. It is, indeed, essentially a keybound instrument. This being so, atonal
works may present certain problems, though they can be entirely successful if
the composer has acquainted himself thoroughly with the fingerboard, and realised the importance of keeping the texture compact.
When using the conventional tonal system, the composer must select his
key or overall key feeling according to the natural resonances of the instrument.

how to write for the guitar

Since most of the natural harmonics and resonances are built up, as it were,
from the open strings, it is important to use the unstopped strings as much as
possible, particularly the lower three, which add a considerable lustre to the timbre when harmonically employed in conjunction with a phrase or figuration in
high positions on the treble strings. Often an open string may be harmonically
incorrect (academically speaking), but in a great many cases the unstopped bass
strings are so rich in natural harmonics that they often sound more convincing
in the harmony they suggest than a more harmonically conventional stopped
note that might hinder the fluency of a phrase simultaneously played above it.
Nevertheless, the first necessity is to choose a key that will give aesthetic satisfaction to the composer and that will also take into account the instruments
technical attributes and limitations. The natural keys of the guitar are A, E, D, G,
C, F and the tonic minors.
As can be observed, the three best keys have an open bass note, particularly
if in the key of D the sixth string is tuned a tone lower, thereby giving the composer two open D strings, a dominant A and a subdominant G all to ease the
performers burden!
the guitar has always been admired for its harmonic resources and it is in this
respect that the contemporary composer can use his imagination to the full, unfettered by the technical limitations of the instrument where counterpoint or
melody and accompaniment are concerned.
Although the guitar has six strings and can therefore play chords of up to six
notes, the technique of the right hand, as already observed, limits the number of
notes simultaneously playable to four (i.e. thumb and three fingers). Hence fiveand six-note chords are always slightly arpeggiated. If the composer requires
fast repeated chords, say at a moderate semiquaver speed, it would be advisable
to condense all the harmonic interest into four-note chords, or better still, if fluent fingerboard facility is also needed, into chords of three notes. However, a
composition may sometimes demand fast reiterated six-string thrumming, perhaps to give a sustained tremolando eect; here it is imperative that all six strings
be employed, as it is impossible, say, to miss out the third or any other inside
string for that matter when the performer is thrumming backwards and forwards across the six strings with the forefinger of the right hand.
The layout of harmony on the guitar is a comparatively simple thing, if a few
rules are observed. For instance, in common chords of four notes, the conventional rule of keeping the bottom note of the chord relatively far away from the
triad above it works particularly well, since the major third between the second
and third strings facilitates the close grouping of a triad, whilst a largish interval
between the tenor and bass parts gives a certain size and richness to a chord, because of the sympathetic harmonics arising from the bass as would happen in
example 5.
j
j
.
..
. n
# # # 6 .. #

#
& 8
.

. #.

.
Example 5
It is of prime importance to remember this rule, when employing the guitar for
accompaniments or in chamber ensembles. Triads in the extreme low positions

julian bream

sound extremely sonorous, but somehow lack brilliance and definition and get
lost in the general ensemble.
As I have explained earlier, I cannot suciently stress the importance of using
the open strings. This applies particularly to the writing of the more progressive
kind of harmony on the guitar. Villa-Lobos, for example, has achieved a brilliant
harmonic system, using stopped notes high up on the inside strings, in conjunction with open (unstopped) notes. Here is a typical example:
a)

0
& 00 b n # # #

b)
b # n b
0 #
n # #
0

Example 6
One might argue that artistically this is rather a nave system of chordal construction, but I can assure the reader that while three notes of every chord (a)
remain constant, each chord has its own harmonic character and bears little or
no resemblance to the preceding one.
The technical device known as the grand barr has great importance in the
construction of fingerboard harmony. This is achieved by placing the forefinger of the left hand over all six strings, and so producing, as it were, an adjustable nut. Most common six-note chords are stopped in this manner, and
when a phrase or chord moves up, say, a major third, all the player has to do is
to shift the grand barr four frets higher, which can be done with the minimum
of thought and eort. Incidentally, whilst the forefinger might be engaged in
performing the grand barr it is worth while to remember that the other three
fingers can articulate and stop notes at the same time, providing that they are
not required to stretch more than four frets higher than the point at which the
barr is fixed; and never, never expect a guitarist to perform the barr above the
tenth fret he probably would never physically recover if he tried!
although the lute (forerunner of the modern guitar with exactly the same
technique and similar tuning) reached the height of its development during a
great period of contrapuntal writing, it is interesting to note that the lute and
the guitar have considerable limitations in playing this kind of music. Neither
Dowland nor Bach, in their three- and four-part fugal expositions, ever required the lute to perform counterpoint at more than moderate quaver speed,
and they were both very careful to choose diatonic outlines, so as to eliminate
unnecessary movement on the fingerboard. By the very nature of the instrument, two-part counterpoint at moderate semiquaver speed, with the parts in
contrary motion, is never wholly successful, nor in parallel motion, which is just
as dicult to perform unless at a moderate quaver tempo. Once again, as in so
many cases when writing for the guitar, the composer must simplify the counterpoint, which the instrument finds dicult to project. For instance, if the top
part is the more important of the two, the secondary, or lower, part must undergo slight adjustment; losing some of its contrapuntal significance it takes on
a somewhat harmonic character, at the same time giving the performer more facility to shape and phrase the figuration above it. This system, which one might
term harmonic counterpoint, also applies in reverse, i.e. with the top part in a
simplified form supporting the figuration of the lower part.

how to write for the guitar

Some composers may argue that since there are so many limitations in twopart writing, how on earth are they to compose in three or four parts if the musical conception of a composition requires it? To this I would answer that two
parts played on the guitar have an eect of peculiar fullness and completion.
However, a discreet and fragmentary use of a third and fourth part, in the form
of harmonic punctuation, is often playable, as well as being suitable to the instrument. This technique is exploited to perfection in the fugues and other compositions of J.S. Bach.
trills and ornamentation are all embodied in a technique peculiar to the
guitar, known as the slur or legato. For instance, in example 7 the right hand

&

# #

Example 7
plucks no fewer than three times, the other unplucked notes being either hammered (ascending) or plucked (descending) by the left hand alone. This technique obviously gives shape to a phrase as well as giving considerable ease to
articulation, as the notes sounded by the right hand have slightly more rhythmical impetus and sonority than those plucked or hammered on the fingerboard. All the same, a guitarist cannot go on plucking with his left hand for ever,
unless the string is given a new lease of vibration from the right hand; hence
elongated trills are to be avoided at all costs in favour of shorter figuration. The
mordent, double-mordent, and the elaborated turn can serve adequately the
composer who indulges in baroque niceties.
of all the musical techniques most suited to the instrument, the arpeggio is
probably the most beautiful and evocative. There are many varieties of arpeggi;
in fact, as many permutations between six strings and four plucking fingers as
you would like to use. Here, as examples, are a few basic ones on the open strings.
a)

&

b)

##

c)

d)

Example 8
Arpeggi as a general rule must sound fluent and facile. The guitarist would be
more than delighted if the core of the arpeggio fell on adjacent strings, thus enabling him to throw it o and concentrate on other things, particularly if
melodic interest is also involved, as in example 9.
a)

###


n
&

Example 9
6

julian bream

b)

nnn

In determining the form of an arpeggio, it is worth while to note that the righthand thumb generally controls the fourth, fifth and sixth strings, and the remaining three fingers the third, second and first strings respectively. This explains why there is often a gap of one or two strings between the tenor and bass
notes of a guitar arpeggio, because the thumb has greater manuvrability than
the fingers and is physically more independent. Occasionally, however, it is necessary for the fingers to work in conjunction with the thumb on the bass strings,
as, for example, in these arpeggio figures which require such rapidity over all six
strings that the thumb would fail to cope over its bass territory.
a)

b)

&

Example 10
Another delightful technique on the guitar is the tremolo. This eect should be
used very sparingly, and I would advise composers to limit their use of it to extended compositions such as a sonata, suite, or concerto, where it can eectively
be used to give textural variety, when all the other stops have been pulled! Here
are two examples:
a)

b)

# # n
& #
n

#
n

J
Example 11
In the first example, the melodic interest is in the tremolo itself while the thumb
plucks a simple accompaniment underneath it. When played at a reasonably fast
speed, it can achieve a highly sustained musical line. The second example, with
the tune in the bass register, is rather unusual in guitar composition, but can
nevertheless be most eective.
harmonics on the guitar never cease to intrigue both composer and performer. They can be either natural or artificial. The most successful sounds are
the open natural harmonics playable on every string at the octave (12th fret),
the fifth above (7th fret), the octave above (5th fret), and the tenth above (4th
fret). (This last harmonic can also be found on the 9th fret.) Other harmonics
of higher partials do exist, but fail to resonate suciently to cover the actual percussive noise made when plucking the string. A very exciting sound is obtained
by the chordal treatment of harmonics. This, of course, can be successful only if
the left hand can stretch to the harmonics desired. Care and taste should be exercised when constructing chords in this manner, as fussiness can often occur,
easily disrupting the flow of a composition.
Artificial harmonics can be sounded on any required note and a whole phrase
can sometimes be played with this type of harmonic. Personally, I find the sound
rather thin in comparison with the natural kind, but of course this can vary with
the characteristics of dierent guitars. When indicating harmonics, it is advisable to write the open string with the fret position above it, thus:
how to write for the guitar

[Works subsequently commissioned and


edited by Julian Bream have tended to
show not the open string, but the note
desired with a diamond-shaped notehead,
the notation being the same for natural
and artificial harmonics. See for example
Benjamin Britten, Nocturnal after John
Dowland, op. 70 (London: Faber, 1965), or
Hans Werner Henze, Royal Winter Music:
first sonata on Shakespearean characters
(Mainz: Schott, 1976). Editor]

[Of all the fretted and bowed string


instruments, the guitar is the richest and
most complete in its harmonic and
contrapuntal possibilities.]

&

# # # XII

Example 12
Another interesting tone colour is the pizzicato note, plucked by the thumb whilst
the palm of the right hand is clamped down on the strings so as to produce a
mued eect not unlike the sound made by the harp stop on the harpsichord.
This is particularly eective in phrases of single notes in the bass register, or in
two- and three-note chords in the upper register of the instrument. The sound
is curiously pathetic and humorous! but nevertheless quite wholesome.
In concluding, I would like to mention one other characteristic of guitar playing, known as the slide or portamento. Although this technique is often abused
by instrumentalists, it can, when performed for sincere artistic ends, create a feeling of pathos and emotional intensity.
I sincerely hope that this short essay on writing for the guitar has not given
the impression that the diculties are insuperable. Falla wrote:Parmi les instruments corde avec manche, la guitare est le plus complet et le plus riche daprs
ses possibilits harmoniques et polyphoniques. May this encourage composers
to create a literature for an instrument that has been unduly neglected.


note
The following are well worth studying:
Bach: Lute works (Zimmerman)
Villa-Lobos: Douze tudes pour guitare (Max Eschig), Cinq prludes pour
guitare (Max Eschig)
Falla: Homenaje le tombeau de Claude Debussy (Chester)
Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Sonata (Schott)
Fernando Sor: 25 Studies (Chester)

julian bream

Mignone,Fernandez,Guarnieri:
Brazilian guitar music aer Via-Lobos
fa b i o z a n o n

int ro duc t ion


he guitar works of Heitor Villa-Lobos (18871959) certainly count among the
most performed of the twentieth-century repertoire. Of all composers who
were initially persuaded to write for the instrument by Andrs Segovia and
whose music found a way into his repertoire the Brazilian is probably the only
one who tried to create an individual language for the instrument, one which is
(at least in some of the Twelve Studies and the Guitar Concerto) informed by an
enlarged palette of harmonic possibilities and a commitment to innovation in
the musical discourse, inspired by an insiders knowledge of the fingerboard.
Some writers would go so far as to say that the Twelve Studies of 19289 are a
genuine watershed in the history of guitar writing, a referential work in which
an established composer of symphonic music managed to elaborate a specifically guitar-oriented language, taking as a point of departure the factual possibilities of the instrument in order to devise a unique and untranslatable harmonic, melodic, figurational and developmental style. Even though Segovia shied
away from placing Villa-Loboss works at the centre of his repertoire he performed only Studies 1, 7 and 8 and Preludes 1 and 3 with any regularity, and the
Guitar Concerto only at its premiere subsequent generations of players have
embraced all of his works. The relative accessibility of the Preludes and the Suite
populaire, and the maximised eect of guitaristic commonplaces in the Studies,
have made them extraordinarily popular with students and amateur players.
They have also become with various degrees of artistic success compositional models for the more recent and widespread phenomenon of the semiamateur guitarist-composer.
Over the last twenty years or so, some items of twentieth-century Brazilian
popular music have entered the repertoire of classical guitarists as well. This is
not surprising if we consider that the guitar is the instrumental basis of most
Brazilian folkloric and popular urban musical manifestations, and that many of
the players and composers who work in that sphere also have a classical training. Many of these musicians will readily invoke the name of Villa-Lobos as an
inspiration, on the grounds that the great composer used the guitar as a private
instrument, one which he would take up in order to share experiences with musicians from the popular realms most notably the choros players who indeed
played a significant part in his musical upbringing.

Copyright 2003 by Fabio Zanon

The solo guitar works of Villa-Lobos are


all published by Max Eschig (Paris):
Suite populaire brsilienne (19081923)
Chros n 1 (1920)
12 tudes (19289)
5 prludes (1940)
Concerto pour guitare et petit orchestre
(1951)

The overwhelming presence of a composer of Villa-Loboss standard in Brazilian musical life might lead one to assume that younger generations of classical composers, inspired by the international acceptance of his guitar works,
would also embrace, during the last fifty years or so, the cause of the guitar
repertoire and provide the instrument with a large and meritorious body of
works for the instrument. The assumption is right to a certain extent. The generation of nationalist composers which succeeded Villa-Lobos has endowed the
instrument with works of lasting importance and is the subject of this article.
Younger composers have also frequently visited the guitar, and a list of compositions can be found at the end of this article.
Nevertheless, a superficial examination of guitar recital programmes around
the world is discouraging. In the orchestral and chamber fields, none of these
composers has so far enjoyed the international exposure of Villa-Lobos. The absence of Brazilian classical composers of any standing in the repertoire of established and amateur players alike is almost total. Brazilian guitarists of international prominence tend either to create a repertoire of their own, consisting of
commissioned new music, or to rearrange and dress up some of the best items
of the popular tradition for wider consumption as a cross-over. Symphonic,
opera, chamber and piano series around the world also rarely bring any Brazilian music at all into their programmes, with the exception of a few works of
Villa-Lobos.
One might conclude, then, that either Villa-Loboss legacy was not sucient
to let a culture of serious guitar composition flourish, or that his was an exceptional case, an isolated surge of creative power in an otherwise non-existent culture for classical music. A superficial evaluation might lead one to conclude that
the focus of composition and of guitar composition moved north to other
countries, and that Villa-Loboss example is to be seen at its best in the works of
composers like the Venezuelan Lauro or the Cuban Brouwer.
None of this is quite the case. International criticism and musicology has
granted little attention to the production of Brazilian classical music after VillaLobos. There are many reasons for that, some of them of an artistic, some of a
sociological, historical and geo-political nature.
In fact, the three most important Brazilian composers of the generation following Villa-Lobos Francisco Mignone (18971986), Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez
(18971948) and Camargo Guarnieri (19071993), all of them established composers with a large catalogue of symphonic and chamber music have left guitar works of great quality. In the case of Mignone, this production rivals VillaLoboss own in number of works and standard of craftsmanship. If one prefers
to accept the often-repeated motto about the guitar having a precarious repertoire, an explanation for the disappointing international career of Mignone and
Guarnieri as guitar composers is even more elusive. The purpose of this article
is to bring attention to the guitar output of the second generation of Brazilian
nationalist composers and to investigate the reasons for their restricted dissemination among guitar students and professionals. It will also include a shortlist
of the major Brazilian compositions of the last fifty years or so which I consider
worthy of wider dissemination.
In such a relatively young country as Brazil, questions of national identity
have always been at the core of artistic creation. Thus, an overview of the history
of nationalism in Brazilian music is our point of departure.

10

fabio zanon

br azilian nationalism
Chopin and Liszt, eastern European composers, were probably the first to bring
to their work a consistent exploration of specifically national features in early
Romanticism, but, after the revolution year of 1848, rapid political changes and
the ensuing need to define national values put intense pressure on composers
of the second Romantic generation. Classical music, which is in essence an international style, can trace its origins back to the ecclesiastical and courtly music
of a handful of Central European countries. Slavonic, Scandinavian and Iberian
composers, following the example of their literary forerunners, brought to the
centre of their creative methods the search for a vernacular that would ideally
express both the consecrated classical forms and the specificity of their respective national characters.
It follows naturally that the Americas and other ex-colonies which were large
and rich enough to have a classical music culture would tread, after a considerable gap, the same path. But that is not necessarily the case, because the mechanism of the creative mind in a colonised environment is not the same. Whereas
countries such as Russia, Poland or Bohemia have had a continuous tradition of
folk and religious music for centuries a tradition which is concomitant with
the formation of the international style in classical music the process of colonisation has left the scar of a split identity. The artist of a colonised mentality is
forever trying to come to terms with the fact that most tools of the trade are imported, and that the sense of collective identity is not so clear cut: the societies
that once populated that particular environment either have been displaced or
have disappeared. These scars are still present today, not only in artistic realms
but also in the very constitution of society: the questionable attitude towards
technological and global issues and the several levels of ethnic and social conflict all bear witness to this fact. It is also important to remark that there is a
strong discrepancy between the ways this process of colonisation took in North
and South America.
The commonly encountered definition of Brazilian society as a confluence of
European, black African and native Indian cultures seems to imply that these
three branches had all the same relative cultural weight; in fact, native Indian
elements played a very modest role in the forging of a characteristically Brazilian artistic idiom. From the very beginning of the sixteenth century, Jesuit missionaries explored their musical inclinations as a strong tool for conversion. If
at the beginning some of the elements of plainchant may have been ignored and
Christian texts adapted to Indian melodies, by the end of that century Indian
culture had already capsized under the powerful apparatus of catechism, a process often called deculturation: Indian children were already performing Christian plays, playing the flute, violin and even harpsichord, and being graduated as
Masters of Arts in the first capital, Salvador in Bahia, where they were entitled
to play several instruments and organise choral singing. Cultural (and physical)
survival was a hard task for those Indian groups who refused to submit to the
Portuguese; they tended to run away, deeper and deeper into the hinterland, and
lose much of their vitality as the groups became smaller and less powerful. Two
and a half centuries later, the Rousseau-tinged myth of the savage as an icon of
purity and virtue impregnated the imagination of Romantic writers, and the

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

The Colonial Period

11

Mrio de Andrade, Msica, doce msica


(So Paulo: Livraria Martins, 1963), p 13.
In all quotations, translations from the
Portuguese are my own.

12

first steps in the armation of a Brazilian national cultural identity adopted the
good savage as the symbolic Brazilian individual, notwithstanding the smallness of the Indians actual share in their own cultural profile. Although there is
no music surviving from the first decades of colonisation, one can safely assume
that it was not of the same outstanding level as that being performed in Mexico
or Lima: conversion of such sophisticated civilisations as the Aztecs and Incas
required superior eorts of artistic persuasion.
Brazilian music in the Colonial period (which ended with the flight of the
Royal family from Portugal to Rio de Janeiro in 1808) was essentially Portuguese, in spite of the fact that it was composed and performed almost exclusively
by black and mulato (mixed white and black race) people. To this day, this interaction is one of the decisive factors in the establishment of a specifically
Brazilian idiom. Poet, writer and musicologist Mrio de Andrade said that the
Portuguese crystallised our harmonic tonality, gave us the strophic squareness
probably the syncopation as well, which we have taken charge of developing, in
contact with the rhythmic fidgetry of the African.
It must be added that this symbiosis between elements of African music and
the overwhelming power of European culture was very slow and almost imperceptible at the beginning. It was taken for granted that the status quo could only
be maintained if the culture of enslaved black people was treated with contempt. The progressive social ascent of mulatos did nothing to benefit the acceptance of African cultural elements. Quite the contrary: in their anxiety to belong to the mainstream of society, free people of mixed race tried to negate any
feature that could betray their origins. This behaviour is quite understandable
and still present not only in Brazil but also in the Andinian countries, where
mestizos from the town tend to reject the rural traditions.
There are records of Portuguese sacred music and Italian opera being performed in the major towns of Rio de Janeiro, So Paulo and Paran in the south
and Pernambuco, Bahia, Maranho and Par in the north of the country already
in the sixteenth century. What is so far the first important manuscript by a Brazilian composer is a Recitativo e aria by Caetano Mello Jesus, dated 1759, from
Salvador, but the first consistent movement of Brazilian musicians and composers happened in the state of Minas Gerais in the last decades of the eighteenth
century. Minas Gerais had quickly become one of the wealthiest and most enlightened parts of the country, thanks to its seemingly never-ending sources of
gold and precious stones. Splendid Baroque churches were erected in its major
towns, and at one time over a thousand musicians were working in a handful
of neighbouring towns. At first these composers were imported from Bahia or
Pernambuco, but local talent quickly flourished and the first Brazilian composers who can boast a corpus of works are Emerico Lobo de Mesquita (1746
1805), Francisco Gomes da Rocha (?1808) and Manuel Dias de Oliveira (1745
1813), among others whose surviving work is not so extended. All these composers, like most players and choir and orchestra directors of the period, were
probably of black or mulato origin. Practically the totality of this music is composed for the church, and characteristically Brazilian traces are non-existent.
The individual features that can be perceived are of an utterly practical nature
harmonic complexity is usually proportional to the category of musicians available at a certain church; the choices of instruments for certain scores might
seem unusual, but probably owed as much to the current availability of instruments and capable players. So strongly attached was this music to the Baroque

fabio zanon

churches of Minas Gerais that, by association, it has been called Brazilian


Baroque a completely misleading label. This tentative beginning of a Brazilian music history is much more akin to the early classical style of a Johann
Christian Bach, Pergolesi or a young Haydn, whose music was certainly imported by the Church during the period.
The arrival of the Portuguese Royal family in 1808 they were running away
from the Napoleonic invasions shifted the cultural focus back again to Rio de
Janeiro. It was a brief period of thirteen years, but a decisive one for the country, as the court was avid for entertainment of every nature. Opera composers
were brought from Portugal and a Royal Chapel was reorganised. This sudden
surge of activity revealed the uncommon talent of Father Jos Maurcio Nunes
Garcia (17671830), another mulato who can safely be called the first major Brazilian composer. Author of a wide variety of religious works and of a method for
pianoforte, his compositions display a detailed knowledge of Haydn; his masses
and especially his Requiem make a good showing alongside the average sacred
music composed in Europe at the time. Once again there is the individuality of
a gifted composer but no trace of a national style.
Independence was declared in 1822, and the return of the Royal Family to
Portugal meant a pronounced scaling down of resources for the performing
arts. Nevertheless, the newly crowned Emperor, Pedro I, was a music enthusiast
and a composer himself, and under his aegis Francisco Manuel da Silva (1785
1865), a former pupil of Nunes Garcia and the author of the National Anthem,
founded the National Conservatory. The return of Pedro I to Portugal cast a
shadow over this musical activity but there was still an extraordinary interest in
Italian opera, which must be regarded as a second important European influence towards the formulation of a Brazilian national style. The bel canto style of
Rossini and Bellini was adopted by composers of light and popular songs, and
the arias performed at social functions in the houses of well-to-do people became the basis for the formation of the Brazilian serenade style, the modinha,
which was to have a very important role in the works of Villa-Lobos and
Mignone decades later.
The reign of Pedro II marked an unusual flourishing of Brazilian culture. A
genuine erudite himself, an expert in linguistics, architecture and environmental issues, and admirer of poetry and literature, he was also very musical. Wagner was one of his passions: he was present at the opening of the Bayreuth festival and even invited Wagner to make a base for his activities in Rio de Janeiro.
The support he gave to the creation of a national press, to the translation and
publication of books, to scientific research, etc, is inestimable, but music will always be grateful to him for promoting Carlos Gomes (18361896), another composer of vaguely mulato origin and possibly the major opera composer of the
Americas. Opera in Brazil at the time, in spite of a few attempts to create opera
in the vernacular, meant Italian opera. Gomes, coming from a background as
a bandmaster, had already composed works of major consequence when he was
sent with a scholarship to Milan. There he met with great success: his opera Il
guarany was performed in every major opera house in the world. As his style
became more sophisticated, however, his initial success declined. A few years
after his death he was already forgotten except for a few extroverted arias. With
the hindsight of a century, one could today safely say that Gomes is the natural
link between Verdis mature style (Verdi was a great admirer of Gomes) and the

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

End of the Colonial Period:


Nunes Garcia, da Silva, Gomes

13

young Puccini. Fashion in opera operates in mysterious ways, but revivals of


Gomess operas have kept the taste of isolated attempts in spite of the splendid music and superior treatment of the voice; the less successful dramatic construction might be the reason.
But there is one important feature in Gomess otherwise purely Italian style.
There is a Brazilian national theme in at least two of his operas: the successful
Il guarany (The Guarani), based on the romantic novel by Alencar, in which the
main character is a Guarani Indian; and the most artistic, Lo schiavo (The Slave).
It might seem a timid start, but this would prove to be the slit through which
subsequent composers would peep. Gomes also composed popular songs at the
beginning of his career, some of which are still performed; even though he
was not a major agent in the development of national song, they are characteristic of their times and can already be classified as genuinely Brazilian modinhas
and lundus.
The Abolition:
birth of a popular style:

14

The abolition of slavery finally came in 1888 and the fall of the monarchic system could only follow suit in 1889, when the Republic was proclaimed and
Pedro II and his family were sent to exile in France. These are two very important events which exposed an undercurrent that had been present already in the
1870s. The presence of European musicians in Rio de Janeiro had encouraged
the wealthy society to adopt European dances waltzes, schottisches, polkas, etc
as their favourite light entertainment. Professional musicians, the majority of
whom, as has already been said, were of black origin, had the benefit of an insiders knowledge of the formal requirements of European dance music. With
the sudden freedom of expression allowed by the Abolition of 1888, these musicians were legally allowed to gather for their own pleasure and to adopt musical
elements of African origin for their interpretation a distinctive way of avoiding the strong part of the beat, an incorporation of choreographic elements, the
use of melodic repetition to achieve a certain periodic recurrence of rhythmic
features in the melody. This is the first real division between the activity of a
classical composer and the birth of a popular musical expression. It marked
the gradual replacement of the old-fashioned vocal style of the modinha with
the more expansive seresta, and the birth of the choro as the dominant urban instrumental dance form.
This new kind of expression was solemnly ignored by a few composers of an
exclusively European education some of them quite extraordinary composers
like Henrique Oswald (18521931) or Leopoldo Miguz (18501902) but started
to attract the attention of a few others, composers of a very high calibre such
as Alexandre Levy (18641892) and Alberto Nepomuceno (18641920). Perhaps
Nepomuceno will be best remembered for his splendid, if rather Germanic,
Symphony, but following the example of other minor composers he wrote in
1891 his Srie brasileira, a work that suers from the composers lack of experience but is the first symphonic piece whose main thematic material is derived
from Brazilian folklore. He was also a leader in the maintenance of musical education of high quality and a champion of the use of Portuguese as the language
for national song. Nepomuceno is a transitional composer in many ways: between the internationalism of his education and the strong impulse towards
a music of national character (probably prompted by his close relationship with
Edvard Grieg); between the conventionally scholastic and the innovative and
personal; between the symphonism of the nineteenth century and the new necessities of the twentieth; between the old monarchic order and the Republic.
fabio zanon

Concomitantly, some interesting things were happening in the realms of


popular and light music. Ernesto Nazareth (18631934), the ubiquitous pianist
of cafs and cinemas, started to write light piano pieces of exquisite workmanship but of an unmistakably Brazilian character. His numerous waltzes had already incorporated the intense melodic style of Chopin and the wide leaps of
Italian opera; his even more numerous tangos were only so called because the
real name of those dances, maxixes and choros, could not be pronounced in the
respectable households of the rich people who bought his music. His eloquent
talent was idolised by generations of composers, from Villa-Lobos and Mignone
to Gnatalli and Nobre. In the realm of operetta, a woman, Chiquinha Gonzaga
(18471935), was making history by being, against the furore of public opinion,
a professional musician, and by incorporating the new choreographic style, derived from the lundu, the polka and the habanera, into her stage works.
The birth of a new nation on the philosophic grounds of Positivism created the
right environment for a discussion of the national cultural identity and where it
was to be found. The acknowledgement of a superimposed diversity in opposition to an idealised, Rousseau-like aboriginal identity, corrupted and violated
by the white man, as the one found in the Romantic poets and writers like Jos
de Alencar and Castro Alves, was imminent. In a certain sense, the volcanic personality of Heitor Villa-Lobos (18871959) managed to reconcile both visions.
His Indian ancestry was probably very remote if it ever existed, his musical upbringing was in accordance with the petit-bourgeois expectations of his milieu,
but the desire to translate into sound the zeitgeist and the saturated aural experience of his early years pressed him to become a musical cannibal, who would
chew and digest a plethora of foreign influences from Csar Franck to Stravinsky. His intellectual basis encyclopedic and geographic knowledge from his father, sentimental Catholicism, Positivism and, later, a certain dictatorial rigidity
and the dangerous self-confidence of one who wont be outdone was much
weaker than his privileged ear and unique power of synthesis.
Villa-Lobos can be better understood in the light of the Week of Modern Art
which took place in So Paulo in 1922. In a series of three performances, lectures
and exhibitions in the Theatro Municipal, what was generally regarded as a subterranean movement of a group of insane enfants terribles became the platform
for a deep discussion about the updating of Brazilian artistic intelligence, the
right to permanent aesthetic research and the establishment of a national creative awareness. Seminal art works were ridiculed by the press, Villa-Lobos was
frequently greeted with catcalls, and the literary mentors of the movement,
Graa Aranha and Mrio de Andrade, had to deliver lectures under verbal insult.
But the magnetic personality and erudition of Mrio de Andrade poet, writer,
scholar, essayist and the most influential musicologist of the period had a
strong impact not only on Villa-Lobos but on scores of younger composers: two
of his intellectual siblings who admitted they owed more to Andrades teaching
than to anybody elses were Mignone and Guarnieri.
There was certainly an element of aesthetic shock in the proceedings: after
all, the Theatro Municipal was an opera house, and the taste of the wealthy audience could not go much beyond Puccini or Saint-Sans; but there was also a tremendously conservative denial of the legitimacy of national folk or popular
elements as a basis for the elaboration of serious works of art. Academicism in
many ways meant the glorification of the white mans dominance. In that sense,
the complete success of Villa-Loboss music in France in the twenties and in the
mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

Villa-Lobos

15

whole world after the Second War (most notably in the usa), did the most for
the acknowledgement of the cultural role of aboriginal and black African elements. For the obtuse, once-aristocratic, coee and industrial elites of Rio de
Janeiro and So Paulo, the niche that this music gained in Paris was testimony
to its artistic value; the enormous curiosity for the way the lower classes lived
and entertained themselves overtook any aristocratic prurience.
Another important contribution made by Villa-Loboss astonishing intuition and creative power (and also by Mrio de Andrades thoroughness as a
musicologist) was a second discovery of Brazil, one that extended beyond the
urban realms of the major southern towns like Rio de Janeiro and So Paulo.
Precarious transport and means of communication meant that the vast extensions of land of the northern coast, Amazon and far south were a closed book.
Folklore in these regions was and is extraordinarily complex and unexpected,
but the artistic circles in the capital could only suspect that. Villa-Lobos and
Andrade mapped out, the former with his vast production, the latter in his musicological and literary writings, the vehement presence of Indian, Hispanic and
African elements in these local cultures, many of which could be traced back almost intact to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This proved to be a tremendous encouragement for the creation of not only a national literary culture,
but a regional one as well.
Curiously the generation of composers who most benefited from this wider
common ground came from immigrant families who had only recently arrived
in Brazil: Mignone, Guarnieri, Gnatalli and Santoro came from an Italian background, and Fernandez from a Spanish one.
Reception

Mrio de Andrade,
Ensaio sobre a msica brasileira
(So Paulo: Livraria Martins, 1928), p 19.

Critical and academic reception has undergone dramatic swings in the last
eighty years or so. A first reactionary generation of critics would simply dismiss
Villa-Lobos as savage and incompetent: Oscar Guanabarino, the implacable
critic in Rio de Janeiro, would go so far as to classify all folkloric culture as a corruption and simplification of classical models and unworthy of serious attention. Andrade, an active critic himself, and scores of other writers schooled
under his wing, would develop a school of criticism informed by a Marxist view
which would exclude any aesthetic possibilities outside the sphere of nationalism. Andrades own assessment synthesises this line of aesthetic thought:
If a Brazilian artist feels within himself the strength of a genius
like Beethoven or Dante, it is obvious he must write national music.
Because as a genius he will certainly know how to find the essential
elements of nationality. He will have, therefore, an enormous social
valueAnd if the artist belongs to the ninety-nine per cent recognised not to be a genius, then this is an even stronger reason to make
national art. Because attaching himself to the Italian or French
school he will be only another one in the oven, where in the beginners school he will be meritorious and necessaryThe one who
makes international or foreign art, if he is not a genius, is useless, nil.
This premise leads to the logical conclusion that composers like Nunes Garcia
or Carlos Gomes had prompted little repercussion at international level for the
simple reason that they had not imprinted national values in their music and

16

fabio zanon

would always be second-raters in a culture that had never belonged to them in


the first place, which is a scandalously unfair statement.
Great hope was deposited on the shoulders of the second generation of nationalist composers. Mignone, Fernandez and Guarnieri, as the leading lights of
this nationalistic upsurge, were frequently cast in the role of cultural ambassadors to Europe and North America. Their failure to find a niche in the international repertoire coincided with a second wave of European immigrants, who
arrived in Brazil around the time of the Second War. Among them was the intelligent and persuasive German composer and theorist H.J. Koellreutter, who
instructed generations of Brazilian composers, many of whom had at first embraced nationalist ideals, in the art of the Second Viennese School. The ensuing
discussion between those faithful to Andrades ideas and a new wave of international avant-garde was certainly beneficial to the aesthetic formation of composers, but it was at the same time harmful for the musical institutions which
were still in a formative period. Such an enormously popular essayist as the Argentine Juan Carlos Paz arms that
the formulation, in the Americas, of a concrete musical reality reveals
the delay that logically must exist[it is] manifested especially in
the diverse and limited localisms within which it has locked itself
A simple comparison of art music produced in Latin America with
the one developed under similar conditions in Europereveals the
causes of its retard spiritual, technical, speculative and aesthetic
and the lack of synchronicity.

Juan Carlos Paz, Introduccin a la msica


de nuestro tiempo (Buenos Aires: Editorial
Sudamericana, 1971); translated into Portuguese by Diva Ribeiro de Toledo Piza as
Introduco msica de nosso tempo (So
Paulo: Livraria Duas Cidades, 1977), p 314.

This statement, obviously aimed at the various nationalisms still in vogue in the
sixties, takes into account neither the abject lack of institutional interest and
technological and factual support, nor the precarious state of general and musical education in the continent as a whole, which latter also prevents the appearance of a consistent production of an avant-garde which is synchronically
attached to European and North American production.
The ensuing development of composition and of musical institutions in
Brazil has followed, in very general lines, that of other countries, especially the
United States. Nationalists and internationalists feuded for government subsidy
along with command of concert societies and newly created music departments
at major universities. General lack of public and critical interest in the more forbidding experiments, and failure to achieve any degree of international recognition, impelled younger composers towards a purely academic path, where they
could work under the protective shield of research grants and a monthly wage,
and remain oblivious to the reality of a professional composer who has to get
his works published and performed.
Political contingencies have also played an important part in the present configuration of musical life in Brazil and its perception abroad. The military coup
of 1964, followed by a considerable repression of public expression from 1968 to
1980, required a definite political position from all sectors of society, and classical composers were no exception. Composers of a governmentalist inclination
failed to persuade the military commanders of the need for a sustained development of classical music and were later punished by the opinion of the cultural

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

Music & Politics

17

establishment for their opportunistic attachment, while composers in the opposition tended to retreat to the relative security of university posts which are, in
eect, public servant jobs. Their participation in this turbulent period of struggle for the right of expression and a breach in the prevailing political attitude
was insignificant.
This dicult phase coincided with the gradual but ultimately all-powerful
ascension of pop music as the sole subject of interest for the mass media. From
a purely technical and aesthetic point of view, Brazilian popular music is of
a generally higher musical and literary interest than, say, rock-and-roll. Bossanova represented the current aspirations to a modern society, and the huge festivals in the sixties and seventies brought to the fore a generation of educated
upper-middle-class singer-songwriters, who could envelop their protest songs
in a subtle involocrum of contemporary poetry and eclectic nationalist music.
This led many of them to temporary exile, and their status as manipulators of
public opinion grew exponentially after their irrefutable role in the gradual political opening in the late seventies and early eighties. A whole generation of new
journalists, but also of academic researchers, displaced their focus of interest
from a classical music that was being composed just for itself to a cultural experience of major sociological relevance. mpb (Msica popular brasileira) became
an emblem of a puissant cultural and social movement with the capacity to engage vast numbers of people in social causes a role that had been fulfilled by
Villa-Lobos and his vast patriotic concerts fifty years earlier. In a short period
of twenty years, classical composers were excluded from the major cultural decisions and mpb, frequently marketed as Brazilian jazz, became the favoured
cultural export. It is no accident that singer-songwriter Gilberto Gil was chosen
for the Ministry of Culture at the beginning of 2003 even long established literary intellectuals were neglected in the choice of this important position.
Political events since 1964 have been of incalculable importance for the current development of Brazilian musical aairs and for its lack of inception in musical circles abroad. Composers of earlier nationalist schools, such as Mignone,
Guarnieri and Villa-Lobos himself, have been forgotten by major institutions
like symphony orchestras and opera houses for their excess of local colour and
assumed lack of relevance within an international cultural network. Progressive
composers who came to the fore from the 1960s onwards lack the logistic support to develop a language and to produce a corpus of works that might win
them entry into the international circuit of contemporary music. And possibly
above all, interest in the major composers of Latin America is generally perceived to be so tightly bound to sociological and political circumstances that the
European audiences would probably not be as sympathetic to a conflict of cultural identity that does not belong to them.
Future Prospects

18

Aesthetic judgement of music of a national character has its own problems. The
first wave of romantic nationalism was easily digested by the philharmonic public because the classical essence of its construction was never doubted: Dvork,
Grieg, Rimsky-Korsakov, Sibelius and many others were still composing coherent symphonic and operatic designs and national features acted almost exclusively as local colour. Whenever folkloric elements became determinant in the
elaboration of a musical language, as in Mussorgsky and Jancek, the acceptance
was much slower it requires a leap of faith on the listeners part, and a keenness to educate oneself to a culture that is not as central to the understanding

fabio zanon

of a continuous line of classical development as, say, Bruckner and Mahler are.
Colonised cultures, moreover, as has already been explained, keep the search for
a sharper musical fingerprint at the core of their psychological configuration, a
type of personal conflict that is not shared by most developed nations.
Nevertheless, a recent upsurge of international interest in the music of composers such as Villa-Lobos and Ginastera might mean that this state of aairs is
walking towards a turning point. International recording companies have kept
in their catalogues complete recordings of all the major cycles by Villa-Lobos,
and critical reception has been surprisingly good. Recent developments in the
musical life in Brazil stabilisation of several concert series in all major capitals,
renovation and general improvement of technical standards of the major symphonic orchestras, solidification of the international careers of performers on
various instruments, renewed interest in the research of three hundred years of
music history as a consequence of a general rise in academic standards at the
universities these have all made a contribution in prompting the public to take
pains to investigate the unknown heritage of national classical music.
An unbiased assessment of this heritage is bound, in my opinion, to lead to
a progressive increase in international standing for the operas of Carlos Gomes
and for the composers belonging to the second nationalist generation. Composers of such superlative interest as Guarnieri, Mignone and Fernandez cannot
remain forgotten when the ground is so favourable for a gradual enlargement
of the classical music canon in cultural centres which are now supposed to encourage multiculturalism.

fr ancisco mig none (18971986)


Mignone is possibly the most complete musician we have ever had. A brief description of the varied activities Mignone performed in the musical life of Brazil
is enough to support a statement that otherwise might seem rather facile. On
top of an extensive production of symphonic, chamber, vocal and piano music,
he excelled also as a conductor, pianist, writer and teacher. His numerous collections of waltzes for the piano, bassoon and guitar are possibly his best-loved
works in Brazil, but there are two areas where his reputation seems to rest more
firmly: art song, a genre in which his popularity amongst Brazilian composers
is unchallenged, and ballets and symphonic pieces, where the contribution of
African elements to Brazilian music is best expressed. This might seem rather
surprising, coming from a son of Italian immigrants who was born in a town of
a decidedly Italian character (So Paulo), and whose upbringing and technical
preparation were uncannily Italian and French. Influenced by his father, a professional flautist, Mignone learned both the flute and the piano. At the age of
twenty-three he went to Milan, where he completed his studies with Vincenzo
Ferroni, a student of Massenet who applied French methods of teaching. After
spending two years in Spain, he returned to Brazil for good in 1929 and lived in
Rio de Janeiro, where he became the director of the National Institute of Music
and was active in musical life at large until his death in 1986.
He first came to public attention in 1923, when Richard Strauss, touring
South America as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, included Congada, an
excerpt from Mignones opera O contratador de diamantes, in his programmes.
In the late twenties, when his technical training had already reached a mature

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

Vasco Mariz, Francisco Mignone, o homem


e a obra (Rio de Janeiro: funarteeduerj, 1997).

19

Francisco Mignone, A parte do anjo:


autocrtica de um cinqentenrio (So
Paulo: Editora Mangione, 1947).

Vasco Mariz, Histria da msica no Brasil


(Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 5th edn,
2000), p 240.

stage, he increased contact with Mrio de Andrade, and that led to a succession
of major orchestral works of Afro-Brazilian inspiration: Maracatu de chico rei,
Batucaj, Babalox, Quadros amaznicos, Iara and Festa das igrejas (of which
only the first and last have so far been recorded) consolidated his reputation and
won him regular invitations to conduct his works in Europe and North America. Arturo Toscanini conducted Festa das igrejas quite frequently and recorded
it with his nbc orchestra.
In the late forties Mignone underwent a long period of infirmity and of aesthetic crisis, vividly discussed in the book A parte do anjo. Very few composers
have managed to face criticism so lucidly and justify their aesthetic choices with
such honesty: Mignone admitted to a certain artificiality in his first nationalist
phase and the irresistible pull of Italian traces in his cultural upbringing, which
led him to study, practise and later discard atonality and twelve-tone technique.
He came out of this crisis with renewed vigour, and to his late period belong a
series of large works for piano, several concertos, three string quartets and most
of his guitar works, not to mention another three operas.
He had already made some attempts at writing for the guitar in the forties
and fifties some of them belonging to the realm of popular music and written
under a pseudonym but Mignones meeting with the young guitarist Carlos
Barbosa Lima in 1970 (when the composer was already seventy-three) seems to
have been the catalysing factor for his interest in the instrument. In that year he
composed two large series of solo works, the Twelve Waltzes in all minor keys,
dedicated to Isaas Savio, and the Twelve Studies, dedicated to Barbosa Lima. Six
years later he would write his Guitar Concerto, which was premiered in the usa
but has remained unpublished and little performed. In this essay we shall concentrate on the two major sets of solo works.
Any approach to Mignone has to come to terms with the fact that he is a tonal
composer living in a decidedly non-tonal period of the twentieth century. In a
letter written in 1980, he says that
at my respectable age I can assert that I am the master, by right and
fact, of all the processes of composition and decomposition in use
today and tomorrowI feel capable of writing without any trouble
a piece in C major, as well as of elaborating concepts of traditional,
impressionistic, expressionistic, dodecaphonic, serial, chromatic,
atonal, bitonal, polytonal music, and who knows? if it crosses my
mind, avant-garde with concrete and electronic touches. Anything
can be done in art, as long as the work can bring a message of beauty
and leave in the listener a desire to hear the work again.
Of course the tone of this letter is jocose, but it testifies to the fact that he had
come to terms with his strengths and limitations. Mignones work is strong in
craftsmanship, harmonic invention and instrumental colour; it is not music of
concept, it is music made by a professional craftsman. Many times I have compared him to Rimsky-Korsakov, a comparison which many people might find
derogatory in fact, it is an acknowledgement that a composer who nurtures
preoccupations of national identity, local colour and instrumental realisation is
also entitled to create work of real permanence, even though other aspects of
musical language might at first seem more crucial. In other words, if the work is
not profound or innovative that doesnt necessarily mean it is empty. In the case

20

fabio zanon

of Mignone, the psychological complexity of his works is considerable, despite


the fact that he chose not to embrace the conflicts inherent in the various kinds
of departure from tonality.
The Twelve Waltzes (valsas) of 1970 (published in Brazil in the same year by
Irmos Vitale), in all minor keys, explore one of Mignones passions. They are
music of nostalgia of longing for a lost youth, for the serenades he had played
with choro musicians in So Paulo during the 1910s, for a certain tenderness of
everyday life which had been lost during the ensuing decades. They are, for the
most part, waltzes of a dark, bitter and aicted tone, a character which is enhanced by the relative discomfort of certain keys like A b or E b minor.
As a cycle, variety might have been compromised by a certain sameness of
expression derived from the absence of major keys. Nevertheless, as one can already perceive in his Valsas de esquina for piano of 193842, Mignone works very
carefully on details of expression, richness of texture and harmonic ambiguity.
The formal plan, still derived from the regular a b a with coda of the traditional
urban waltz (where b is a contrasting section in major key), is frequently bent
for expressive purposes. Thus, one can find exceptions to the model already in
Valsa n 1 in C minor, where the first section is of a languid and nostalgic character, section b is also in C minor but much more volatile in expression, and the
coda is a spirited precipitato an ingenious scheme also employed in Valsa n 9
in A b minor. Valsa n 2 in C # minor is a long descending chromatic theme with
a variation, followed by a shorter coda with variation, and Valsa n 3 is a passacaglia. Valsas 4 in E b minor, 5 in E minor and 8 in G minor follow the traditional
plan, but 6 in F minor and 7 in F # minor are more concise a theme repeated
with a variation and a short coda, in accordance with the stark and exhausted
character of these pieces. Valsa n 10 in A minor is a prelude and toccata, where
an episode in A major has a strong feeling of the viola caipira, the Brazilian folk
instrument derived from the five-course Baroque guitar; Valsa n 11 in B b minor
follows the palindromic form of a b c b a, and the last, in B minor, utilises the
form of a Chopinesque study to highlight its cheerful and brilliant style.
One might think that the profusion of awkward flat keys would naturally
lend greater prominence to the pieces written in guitaristic keys such as E, A or
D minor. Quite the opposite: Mignones harmonic language, frequently exploring chromatic embellishments, chromatic descending sequences, diminished
chords in various textural situations and sighing suspensions, not to speak of a
very cunning control of part-writing within a restricted compass, manages to
avoid the disturbances provoked by the infrequent appearance of chords based
on open strings. Another characteristic feature of his harmonic style is the preference for tight chords and the free employment of inversions, maybe as a vestige of a chordal style suitable for bowed instruments.
One is tempted to say that a waltz is always a waltz, but dierent nations have
underlined some aspects of this flexible dance form and imprinted it with what
can be called national characteristics. While the Viennese waltz has kept the
bouncing and gentle flow of the earlier lndler, French waltzes tend to be more
fluid and spry, Russian waltzes brighter and more athletic. Brazilian waltzes are
essentially serenade music, not necessarily intended for dance; they have incorporated the Portuguese feeling of nostalgia and the wide leaps borrowed from
Italian bel canto arias. Ornamental elaboration has, moreover, a strong leaning
towards chromaticism, as we can hear in many waltzes by Ernesto Nazareth (the

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

12 Waltzes
Francisco Mignone, 12 valsas [1970]
(Irmos Vitale, 1970).

21

one called Confidncias is a remarkable example); descending sequences are a


constant, and the characteristic language of the flute, based upon short linking
passages of arpeggios and chromatic scales, is also a feature. This atmosphere, at
once tender, crisp and sorrowful, is perfectly conveyed by Mignone in all of his
twelve Valsas.
Written in a year when experimental music was at its height in Brazil the
New Music Festival was founded in So Paulo around that time these pieces,
with their decidedly conservative outlook and genuine longing for the past, were
overlooked by players. Professional Brazilian guitarists working in the seventies
were generally not attracted to this kind of latter-day appendix to nationalism,
and the works of Mignone and Guarnieri were already, at this time, being championed by only a handful of interpreters on any instrument. A complete performance of these waltzes was only carried out by Edelton Gloeden in 2002, as part
of his PhD dissertation on Francisco Mignone, and nowadays one can say that
they are in the process of finding a niche in the repertoire through the eorts of
Gloeden and several of his students who have included some of them in their
programmes.
12 Studies
Francisco Mignone, 12 Studies [1970]
(Columbia Music Company, 1973).

22

The Twelve Studies are also a late product of Mignones evident inclination for
a national language based on classic forms. Written in the space of a couple of
months, in the same year as the Valsas, they immediately entered the repertoire
of their dedicatee Carlos Barbosa Lima, who was by then already living in the
United States. They were published in 1973 (by the Columbia Music Company,
usa) and recorded on lp by the same guitarist a couple of years later. A complete public performance had to wait until 2003 (at the Purcell Room, London;
myself as the guitarist). Some of these studies have graced guitar programmes
over the years (nos 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 are the most popular), but they cannot remotely
be compared with Villa-Loboss set in terms of international penetration.
Barbosa Lima has told how he mentioned to Mignone that, apart from VillaLobos, he didnt have any portentous works by Brazilian composers (there was,
in fact, Guerra-Peixes Sonata, another work in serious need of a revival, and one
certainly not well known at the time). Mignones response, in the form of another set of twelve studies, makes a clear allusion, a tip of the hat, so to speak, to
the older composer whom he admired unconditionally. In compositional terms,
though, they are utterly dierent works, and in many ways Mignones are complementary to Villa-Loboss set. Where Villa-Lobos wrote a set of concert studies following Chopins model, in which the deployment of patterns, textures and
technical figurations is paramount and, with a few exceptions, thematic development tends to be relegated to a secondary level, Mignones collection is one of
transcendental studies in a Lisztian vein, better described as character pieces in
which a dramatic discourse is informed by a more complex motivic fabric and
only occasionally coloured by specific technical problems. Their harmonic language is also markedly diatonic in contrast to that of Villa-Lobos, who uses elements of chromaticism and bitonality according to the spirit of the time, techniques which can be placed alongside similar experiments of his contemporary
Prokofiev.
If innovation was certainly not one of Mignones preoccupations in the composition of these works, precise craft was at the core of his approach. Study n 1,
cantando, is emblematic of the procedures that are used in the following pieces.
It takes Allards Estudio brillante in the guitar version by Trrega as its closest

fabio zanon

model, in which a nocturnal melody emerges from the undercurrent of a diuse


cloud of arpeggios. Where Allards work, charming as it is, could hardly be called
a model of composition, since it does not manage to sustain thematic or harmonic interest, Mignone writes a long melody of nostalgic character, in which
the occasional appearance of repeated notes lends a speech-like and intimate
quality to the proceedings; the harmonic plan, with its evident orientation toward the tonal pillars of A minor, is imbued with considerable ambiguity by the
subtle deployment of secondary relations and chromatic movement in all parts.
The rate of harmonic change is guided with absolute control compressed at
the centre, progressively stretched at the ends of sections and episodes in several unrelated minor keys follow unselfconsciously in quick succession. The use
of the natural tuning of the guitar is most felicitous: the open basses E, A and D,
played simultaneously, are used as an aggregate alternately for chords of E, A or
D minor, or, now played individually, as minor second colouristic dissonances,
not unlike the wrong-note acciaccaturas heard in Rodrigos guitar works.
Another strong feature of this study, one found in nearly every piece of the
cycle, is the inventiveness of texture and detailed writing of expression. Mignone
commands with equal facility tight and wide chordal formations, with special
care for the transitions; arpeggios nearly always bring some kind of thematic implication through the inclusion of secondary part movements, usually o-beat
(a feature found frequently in the studies of Chopin and Liszt as well); despite
Mignones use of almost the entire compass of the guitar, one rarely feels strain
in the treatment of the upper register. Intelligent choices of register and texture,
combined with a careful notation of dynamic inflections, articulation, agogics
and tempo fluctuations, give to the discourse as a whole a certain naturalness of
flow, almost as though the interpreter could speak through the instrument.
The nationalistic features which nurture these twelve studies can be divided into
groups: Studies 1, 2, 5 and 7 belong to the realm of the modinhas and serestas or
serenades. Given that he had already composed or was about to compose a cycle
of twelve waltzes, Mignone naturally avoided any reference to waltz movement
in these studies, and these serenades refer to the older strophic quaternary metre
of the modinhas, in which intense climaxes are reached through a careful planning of melodic peaks, and leaps of sixths, sevenths and octaves are usually led
to a feminine ending. The bass line, reminiscent of the guitar style employed by
choros players, tends to be agile and convoluted. Form and atmosphere in these
studies can be incredibly varied: Study n 2 consists of two long melodies, one
placed in a straightforward way at either side of the other, which is varied and
rounded o with an arpeggiated bridge; n 5 employs a strange, almost palindromic, a b c c' b a' form, in which recurring motives are sometimes discarded
on behalf of what might be called stylistic assonance: although there are no recurring motives, the three sections have similarities in rhythmic configuration
and melodic and harmonic style. Study n 7, subtitled cantiga de ninar (cradle
song), is an incredibly rich monothematic piece whose only feature of contrast
is the alternation of chromatic elements and counterpoint of a modal nature;
that this piece should be written in the ungrateful key of F # minor, with a chromatic modulation to F minor as the most striking harmonic event, makes it all
the more interesting.
Studies 3, 6, 8 and 9 deploy Brazilian dance forms in a quite felicitous way.
Mignones watchmakers dexterity in finding the right voicing and subtlety of

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

23

inflection, in an otherwise plain texture, serves this dance style admirably well.
Study n 3, tempo de chorinho, is technically and psychologically the simplest of
all, but the inherently mischievous, playful character of the choro genre is conveyed through continuous and minute changes of tempo, inflection, articulation and expression that can be quite hard to control in performance. Studies
6 and 9 employ typical rhythmic figurations of the xaxado and embolada, two
dance forms of African origin, most popular in the northeast of Brazil. In this
type of music, the choreographic element is a determining factor, dicult to understand from the classical standpoint: our notation, strongly based on the alternation of strong and weak beats, tends to consider rests as absences of movement; in African music, an absence of sound very often signifies the presence of
a preparatory movement (for instance the raising of the arm of a drum player).
This tends to displace the centre of interest to the upbeats. Mignone manages to
convey such a feeling of displaced accent by highlighting staccato chords or by
accenting single bass notes within a basically continuous sequence of crisp and
convoluted semiquavers. In this way the natural swing comes out in performance quite eortlessly, creating a careless and engaging atmosphere. Study n 8,
allegro, is more of a farce, where the binary, rapid march rhythm of the northeastern frevo is crossed with a fast gigue in 12/8 to create a mutating metre and
an atmosphere at times childish and fidgety or aggressive and threatening.
Studies 4 and 12 belong to the traditional toccata-like style and derive most
of their interest from the technical juggling required, and Studies 10, lento e con
muito sentimento, with its desolate chromaticism and stark style of wide, sobbing leaps and 11, Spleen andante, with its dark, Amazonian severity of expression, form a dramatic interlude near the end of the set.

oscar lorenzo fer nandez (18971948)


At his untimely death at the age of fifty, in 1948, Lorenzo Fernandez was the
most often performed composer in Brazil, enjoying unprecedented prestige as a
composer, conductor and teacher. His sudden death, however, marked the beginning of a steady weakening of this popularity. His musical education was a
hundred per cent Brazilian. As a lifelong adept in the profound study of harmony, his musical style became more refined in comparison to Villa-Lobos, but
also more laboured; this deep knowledge led him to found and direct the Brazilian Conservatory of Music in Rio de Janeiro. He has often been described as a
well-behaved composer, especially in contrast to the enfant terrible nature of
Villa-Lobos. To a certain extent this is true: overall, his work lacks the enormous
originality of his more famous contemporaries Villa-Lobos and Guarnieri, and
the outgoing personality of Mignone. But the strong symphonic argument and
richness and fluency of his inspiration have been a basis for a strong revival in
the last ten years, and he unreservedly deserves a high position on the rostrum
of Brazilian nationalistic composers. His vocal works are particularly strong, but
his two Symphonies, his vast production of chamber music and a short showstopper, Batuque, one of Leonard Bernsteins favourite encores, also deserve
wide circulation.
Fernandezs early death did not allow him to enjoy the benefit of the first generation of Brazilian guitarists of international standing (Laurindo de Almeida
coming first in the fifties, followed in the sixties by Turbio Santos, Barbosa

24

fabio zanon

Lima, Maria Lvia So Marcos and the Abreu brothers), and his lack of direct
contact with the guitar prevented him from writing much for the instrument.
He has left only two pieces of a couple of pages each.
Prelude was published in 1942 by Irmos Vitale in Brazil (and later republished
by Peer in the United States) with a dedication to the Uruguayan guitarist Julio
Oyanguren. It is a modest piece, a simple and wistful melody whose notes alternate with a counterpoint on the bass. Its metrical ambiguity and pensive atmosphere are of some interest, and it certainly shows it has been composed by a professional hand, but it is hardly a candidate for a secure place in the repertoire.
Velha modinha (Old Song, published by Peer) on the other hand, in spite of
being also a piece of little ambition, is such a charming melody of nostalgic and
sweet eect that one would not be without it. It was extracted from a piano suite
and the arrangement was dedicated to Andrs Segovia, but the guitar version has
proved to be more popular than the original, and also more eective. Credit has
to be given to Fernandez for marrying so successfully a strict counterpoint to an
outpouring of lyrical expression, and guitarists have frequently used this piece
as a quiet and intimate encore.

Works for Guitar


Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez, Prelude
(Irmos Vitale, 1942).

Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez, Velha modinha


(Peer, 1942).

mozart camargo guar nier i (19071993)


Many composers of conservative outlook have suered an unjust treatment.
One thinks of J.S. Bach, whose work was neglected by his contemporaries and
immediate posterity; or of Mendelssohn, Spohr and Saint-Sans, who attracted
false assumptions of amateurishness or lack of creative vigour. I hope it is not an
exaggeration to add the name of Camargo Guarnieri to the list. I had the chance
to meet him briefly in the 1980s and witness his uncompromising personality
and evident bitterness for the total neglect of his works by interpreters outside
his sphere of influence. His professional activity at the time was limited to the
direction of the So Paulo University Symphony Orchestra, a second-rate group
in those days. There was a bizarre technical contingency, which kept the orchestra and the university music department as two independent organisms. Political opinions had kept them separated and students in the music course, where I
studied, were not encouraged to learn his music, both for that reason and because nationalism was not the order of the day. In fact we did not know his output at all, and later it was a big surprise to learn that his total production as a
composer can challenge even Villa-Loboss in size, although at least three quarters of it has not been published.
Other contingencies have contributed to his lack of popularity. He came from
Tiet, a small town in the countryside of So Paulo state; at that time, musical
life tended to be more vibrant in Rio de Janeiro and, as he worked in So Paulo
all his life, nobody cared to play his music in Rio. Moreover, the essence of his
art is a strong barrier to be traversed. While many other (and sometimes inferior) composers tended to charm with exoticism, Guarnieri was an implacable
technician for whom music was all emotion, who preserved the brasilidade of
his language in a purified and intimate form, and for whom the search for the
perfect final form was an obsession. His relation with folkloric sources was ascetic, and most of the material that he used as a basis came from direct experience he did not borrow from Indian or northeastern sources, and most of his

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

25

Vasco Mariz,
Histria da msica no Brasil, p 249.

Works for Guitar


Mozart Camargo Guarnieri,
Ponteio [1944] (Ricordi Brasileira, 1978).

26

works can truly be called paulistas. Not for him the easy success of some of VillaLoboss more extroverted pieces, Mignones Congada or Fernandezs Batuque,
and that has limited the appeal of his work for foreign players and orchestras.
There is a dierence in the nationalistic schooling of Guarnieri in relation to
that of Mignone. Whereas Mignone was already a fully formed composer when
Mrio de Andrade converted him into fully embracing nationalism, Guarnieri
had this inclination from the very beginning and, as a younger man, absorbed
from Andrade the strong intellectual background that his childhood in the
countryside lacked. He would often say that he had been educated at the Lopez
Chaves University, a reference to the weekly intellectual gatherings held at Andrades residence. When he was already thirty-five he was awarded a scholarship
to study in Paris with Charles Koechlin, Nadia Boulanger and Charles Munch,
studies which refined his technique and improved his command of orchestral
writing. Returning to Brazil in 1939, he embarked on a career as a teacher and
conductor, writing music every day as a matter of course, regardless of performance opportunities. His catalogue is immense, and includes large series of piano
and violin concertos, string quartets, symphonies and other orchestral works,
operas and a voluminous vocal and pianistic production. He enjoyed the profound admiration of his colleagues: Mignone said in 1972 that from the point
of view of balance and craftsmanship, Guarnieri is the greatest musician of the
Americas today. Andrade held him in the greatest esteem, in spite of their enormous political divergences: there is at least one Brazilian composer who knows
how to develop. Musicologist Luiz Heitor Corra de Azevedo praised his use of
an extreme chromaticism where each sound is freely employed, and said that
he wrote the most tender pages of Brazilian music, and those most profoundly
marked by loves disease. Recent recordings of his piano works by Caio Pagano
and of his Symphonies 2 and 3 by John Neschling and the So Paulo Symphony
Orchestra can only hint at the exceptional qualities of his work, and it is hoped
they will herald a well-deserved revival at international level.
Unfortunately he had little inclination towards the guitar. When asked for
more pieces for the guitar, he replied: I dont dislike its sound, but it is a very
awkward instrument to handle; it always feels like I am composing for piano left
hand alone. Perhaps this is not the best point of departure, however: all six short
pieces he composed for the guitar suggest a piano left-hand approach in their
thick textures and laboured eect.
His first work is called Ponteio (1944, published by Ricordi Brasileira in 1978),
dedicated to Abel Carlevaro. Ponteio, strictly speaking, is a performance feature
of street-market minstrels in the Brazilian countryside: when the voice is halted
between improvised strophes, there is usually a purely instrumental interlude
ponteio means plucking to give the singer some time in order to collect his
thoughts before singing the next verses. The term was borrowed by Guarnieri to
designate his own Preludes; he composed a series of fifty of them for the piano,
possibly his magnum opus for the instrument, standing right at the centre of
Brazilian repertoire. His single Ponteio for guitar is an abstract piece, in which
motivic relations of ascending fourths are treated in the faux-counterpoint style
of Bachs solo cello pieces. The harmonic plan relies heavily on relations of thirds
and chromatic alterations, and the work is divided into two halves, coming to a
climax in a tremolo passage. Carlevaro recorded this piece.

fabio zanon

His next piece, Valsa choro [n 1] (1954, published by Ricordi Brasileira in


1978), dedicated to his son Mrio, is closely related to Mignones Twelve Valsas.
The same atmosphere of longing and regret pervades the piece, as well as a preference for the lower register and a tight texture. The style is not as ornamental
and flamboyant as Mignones, but there are many moments of metrical ambiguity and rich counterpoint, and the long melody of the central section is minutely
calculated in chromatic steps to a dramatic climax. It is a lyrical and captivating
piece, and the only guitar work by Guarnieri to have entered the regular repertoire of Brazilian guitarists, in spite of the lack of recordings with an international distribution.
His most profound and certainly most intriguing guitar pieces are the Three
Studies. Ricordi Italiana published Study n 1 (1958, dedicated to Isaas Savio) in
a collection of contemporary guitar music in 1961. Despite the absence of a key
signature, it is written as an uncompromising two-part invention in F minor.
It is certainly not an extroverted piece, but one that displays the best characteristics of Guarnieri: an absolute command of harmonic development, achieved
through a cunning handling of enharmonic possibilities that would challenge
any student of harmony; a superior power of contrapuntal writing; and a general atmosphere of desolation and deeply hurt sensibility. Studies 2 and 3 were
published by Brben in Italy in 1984 and dedicated to his grandson Mrio. The
former shows qualities similar to those of Ponteio, but the expression is not so
elusive, motivic development is more straightforward and the level of harmonic
activity is higher, with a strong preference for chromatic modulations and altered chords. Study n 3 is less emphatic and more soothing, and its harmonic
language suggests a kind of not-so-strict bitonality.
All in all, these three studies hardly fit the expected model of a technically
challenging piece. They are all slow, pensive, tortured, and they might be viewed
as a study in enharmonic modulations and the tonal possibilities of a harmonic
web that treats almost each sound and chord as an individual in itself, despite a
faint suggestion of E minor as the key for the second study and A minor for the
third. The melodic development is strict and laborious, but out of this complex
baroquism some entirely logical climaxes emerge at central points, thus creating
a perfectly symmetrical structure in each study.
Guarnieris last guitar piece was a Valsa choro n 2, written in 1986 and dedicated to Jodacil Damasceno. It is still unpublished. In general lines it follows the
same structure as the first Valsa choro, with a severe counterpoint suggesting the
movement of seven-string guitars in choro groups, and a melody whose most
visible feature is the long appoggiatura. As in Guarnieris other guitar works, one
can sense a unique power to create chromatically complex developments which
might be perceived at a certain point as impossibly bitter and outlandish, but
which are brought back to the point of departure in a most ingenious way, thus
enhancing the release of tension and fully rewarding the listeners engagement.
All this tends to make one keen to come back to them again and again.
This is hardly the type of extroverted, springy and exciting music that one
has been accustomed to associate with Latin America, but it is Brazilian to the
core and will certainly give much pleasure to so-called thinking performers.

Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, Valsa choro


[1954] (Ricordi Brasileira, 1978).

Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, Study n 1


[1958] (Ricordi Italiana, 1961); Studies 2
& 3 (Brben, 1984).

Mozart Camargo Guarnieri, Valsa choro


n 2 (1986, n.p.).

mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

27

s e l e c te d b r a z i l i a n mu s i c
Works by Mignone,
Guarnieri & Fernandez,

Francisco Mignone (18971986)


12 valsas [1970] (Irmos Vitale, 1970)
12 Studies [1970] (Columbia Music Company, 1973)
Concerto [1976] (n.p.)
Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez (18971948)
Prelude (Irmos Vitale, 1942)
Velha modinha (Peer, 1942)
Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (19071993)
Ponteio [1944] (Ricordi Brasileira, 1978)
Valsa choro [1954] (Ricordi Brasileira, 1978)
Study n 1 [1958] (Ricordi Italiana, 1961)
Studies 2 & 3 (Brben, 1984)
Valsa choro n 2 [1986] (n.p.)

Sadly, much of this music is hard to


obtain. Much of the music published in
Brazil can be bought on the internet
through www.musimed.com.br. Readers
interested in obtaining unpublished
works may contact the author by writing
to info@egtaguitarforum.org for more
information.

Composers of Nationalist
or Post-Nationalist Inclination

*
The following is a very personal selection of Brazilian classical music composed
after 1950. In a country where the practice of popular music sometimes is not
so clearly separated from the classical sphere, especially when the guitar is the
subject, it might seem dicult to draw a line, but excellent guitarist-composers
such as Baden Powell, Paulo Bellinati or Marco Pereira, whose career is based on
the show-business circuit rather than the classical concert or academic circles,
are not included. Most of the composers listed were or are active in the fields of
chamber, symphonic or experimental music, and it must be said that the list of
younger composers is the most incomplete of all.
Srgio Assad (b. 1952)
Aquarelle (Henri Lemoine)
Crculo mgico for flute & guitar (Henri Lemoine)
Jobiniana n 1 for 2 guitars (Henri Lemoine)
Pinote for 2 guitars (Henri Lemoine)
Recife dos Corais for 2 guitars (Henri Lemoine)
Sonata (Gendai Guitar)
Vitria Rgia for 2 guitars (Henri Lemoine)
Jos Vieira Brando (19112002)
Mosaico (Editora Zahar)
Walter Burle-Marx (19021991)
Bach-Rex (n.p.)
Saudade do nosso amigo (Homenagem a Villa-Lobos) (n.p.)
Radams Gnatalli (19061988)
10 Studies (Chanterelle)
Brasiliana n 13 (Max Eschig)
Dana brasileira (Chanterelle)
Alma brasileira (Mel Bay)
3 Concert Studies (Chanterelle)
Suite (n.p.)
Csar Guerra-Peixe (19141993)
Sonata (Irmos Vitale)
5 Preludes (Irmos Vitale)

28

fabio zanon

6 breves (pieces for beginners) (Irmos Vitale)


10 ldicas (Irmos Vitale)
Osvaldo Lacerda (b. 1927)
Ponteio [1959] (n.p.)
Moda paulista (Ricordi)
Joo de Souza Lima (18981982)
Cortejo (Irmos Vitale)
Divertimento (Irmos Vitale)
Pea for flute & guitar (Irmos Vitale)
Ernst Mahle (b. 1929)
Suite (n.p.)
Theodoro Nogueira (19132002)
6 brasilianas (Ricordi)
5 valsa-choro (Ricordi)
4 serestas (Ricordi)
12 improvisos (Ricordi)
Concertino for guitar & orchestra (Ricordi)
Lina Pires de Campos (19182003)
4 Preludes (Musiclia/Ricordi)
Ponteio e toccatina (Irmos Vitale)
Paulo Porto Alegre (b. 1956)
Nheengar ayss (12 Studies in Brazilian Popular Style) (n.p.)
5 peas (Novas Metas)
Mini-Suite (Novas Metas)
Suite brasileira (n.p.)
10 Easy Studies (Novas Metas)
Isaas Savio (19001977)
Cenas brasileiras (Ricordi)
Preldios pitorescos (Ricordi)
Suite descritiva (Ricordi)
Esther Scliar (19261978)
Study n 1 (mec-funarte)
Edmundo Villani-Cortes (b. 1930)
Trptico (n.p.)
Choro pattico for flute, oboe, bassoon & guitar (n.p.)
Pretencioso for cello & guitar or guitar solo (n.p.)
4 Songs (n.p.)
*
Jos Antnio Almeida Prado (b. 1943)
Sonata (Tonos)
Portrait [19721975] (Tonos)
Livre pour six cordes [1975] (Max Eschig)

Composers of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd


Independent Generations

Pedro Cameron (b. 1939)


Repentes (Irmos Vitale)
Nestor Hollanda Cavalcanti (b. 1949)
Suite quadrada (Irmos Vitale)
Mrcio Crtes
Verdades (Irmos Vitale)
mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

29

Egberto Gismonti (b. 1944)


Central Guitar (Max Eschig)
Variations: hommage Webern [1970] (Max Eschig)
Jos Alberto Kaplan (b. 1935)
Sonatina (Chanterelle)
Edino Krieger (b. 1928)
Ritmata (Max Eschig)
Prelude (Jorge Zahar)
Passacaglia in memoriam Fred Schneiter (n.p.)
Concerto for 2 guitars & strings (n.p.)
Ronaldo Miranda (b. 1948)
Appassionata [1984] (Orphe)
Marlos Nobre (b. 1939)
Momentos iiv (Max Eschig)
Reminiscncias (Henri Lemoine)
Rememrias (Henri Lemoine)
Hommage Villa-Lobos (Max Eschig)
Prologue e toccata (Max Eschig)
Entrada e tango (Henri Lemoine)
Concerto for 2 guitars & orchestra (n.p.)
Cludio Santoro (19191989)
Study (Savart)
2 Preludes (Savart)
Ricardo Tacuchian (b. 1939)
Srie Rio de Janeiro (uerj)
Ldica i (Max Eschig)
Ldica ii [1986] (Brasiliana)
Pprica (n.p.)
Impulsos i & ii for 2 guitars (n.p.)
Imagem carioca for 4 guitars (n.p.)
Srgio de Vasconcellos Corra (b. 1934)
Sonatina (Ricordi Brasileira)
Desafio for flute & guitar (Novas Metas)
Concerto (n.p.)
Amaral Vieira (b. 1952)
Divagaes poticas (Irmos Vitale)
Ernest Widmer (19271990)
5 Pieces (n.p.)
Experimental Composers

*
Jorge Antunes (b. 1942)
Sighs (Salabert)
Rodolfo Coelho de Souza (b. 1952)
Study n 1 for guitar & narrator (Novas Metas)
Willy Correia de Oliveira (b. 1938)
Que trata de Espaa (n.p.)
Mikhail Malt (b. 1957)
[Lambda] 3.99 for guitar & computer-generated sounds (n.p.)

30

fabio zanon

Chico Mello (b. 1957)


Entre cadeiras (n.p.)
Dana (n.p.)
*
Harry Crowl (b. 1958)
Assimetrias (n.p.)

Young Independent Composers

Alexandre Eisenberg (b. 1966)


Preldio, coral e fuga (Orphe)
Pentalogia (n.p.)
Sonata for flute & guitar (n.p.)
Alexandre de Faria (b. 1972)
Entoada (emec)
Prelude n 1, Olhos de uma lembrana (n.p.)
Prelude n 2, Death of Desire (n.p.)
Prelude n 3, Capablanca (n.p.)
Concerto n 1 (n.p.)
Concerto n 2 for guitar & strings, Mikulov (n.p.)
Arthur Kampela (b. 1960)
Danas percussivas (n.p.)
Maurcio Orosco (b. 1976)
Sonatina russa (n.p.)
Preldio e toccata (n.p.)
Arabesca i & ii (n.p.)
Prelude & Fugue (n.p.)
Study n 1 (n.p.)
Acchile Picchi (b. 1956)
Preldio, valsa e finale (n.p.)
3 momentos poticos for guitar & orchestra (n.p.)
Antnio Ribeiro (b. 1969)
Desalento (n.p.)
Joo Guilherme Ripper (b. 1959)
Preldio e tocatina (n.p.)
Fred Schneiter (19612001)
Onde andar o nicanor? (Goldberg)
Suite sinuosa (n.p.)
Marcus Siqueira (b. 1974)
Elegia e vivo (n.p.)
Impromptu fragile Impromptu mobile (n.p.)
Hoquetus, ecos, espelhos for guitar, harp, celeste & almost 2 chamber
orchestras (n.p.)
Tato Taborda (b. 1960)
Organismo for 4 guitars (n.p.)
Roberto Victorio (b. 1959)
Concerto flute, guitar & chamber ensemble (n.p.)
Tetraktis (n.p.)
Daniel Wol (b. 1967)
Scordatura (n.p.)
mignone, fernandez, guarnieri

31

biblio g r aphy
Almeida, Renato. Histria da msica brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, F. Briguiet, 2nd
edn, 1942
Andrade, Mrio de. Msica, doce msica, So Paulo, Livraria Martins, 1963
. Ensaio sobre a msica brasileira, So Paulo, Livraria Martins, 1928
Azevedo, Luiz Heitor Corra de. 150 anos de msica no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro,
Jos Olympio, 1956
Bhague, Grard. Music in Latin America: an introduction, Englewoods Clis
(nj), Prentice Hall, 1979
Corra, Srgio Nepomuceno Alvim. Catlogo geral de Lorenzo Fernandez, Rio
de Janeiro, Rio-Arte, 1992
Duprat, Rgis. A msica no Brasil colonial, So Paulo, edusp, 1999
Enciclopdia da msica brasileira, So Paulo, Art Editora, 2nd edn, 1998
Franca, Eurico Nogueira. Lorenzo Fernandez, compositor brasileiro, Rio de
Janeiro, 1950
Kiefer, Bruno. Histria da msica no Brasil, vol. 1, Porto Alegre, Editora
Movimento/sec-rs/mec, 1976
. Villa-Lobos e o modernismo na msica brasileira, So Paulo, Editora
Movimento, 1981
. Francisco Mignone, vida e obra, Porto Alegre, Editora Movimento, 1983
Mariz, Vasco. Histria da msica no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 5th
edn, 2000
(coord.). Francisco Mignone, o homem e a obra, Rio de Janeiro, funarteeduerj, 1997
Mignone, Francisco. A parte do anjo: autocrtica de um cinqentenrio, So
Paulo, Editora Mangione, 1947
Neves, Jos Maria. Msica brasileira contempornea, So Paulo, Editora
Ricordi, 1981
Nbrega, Ademar. As bachianas brasileiras, Rio de Janeiro, Museu Villa-Lobos,
1971
Paz, Juan Carlos. Introduccin a la msica de nuestro tiempo, Buenos Aires,
Editorial Sudamericana, 1971; translated into Portuguese by Diva Ribeiro de
Toledo Piza as Introduco msica de nosso tempo, So Paulo, Livraria Duas
Cidades, 1977
Penalva, Jos. Carlos Gomes, o compositor, Campinas, Editora Papirus, 1986
Peppercorn, Lisa. Villa-Lobos: the music, London, Khan & Averill, 1990
Santos, Turbio. Heitor Villa-Lobos e o violo, Rio de Janeiro, Museu VillaLobos, 1975
Schic, Anna Stella. Villa-Lobos: souvenirs de lindien blanc, Paris, Actes du Sud,
1987
Siqueira, Jos Baptista. Ernesto Nazareth na msica brasileira, Rio de Janeiro,
Editora Aurora, 1966
Tarasti, Eero. Heitor Villa-Lobos: the life and works, London, McFarland, 1995
Toni, Flvia. Mrio de Andrade e Villa-Lobos, So Paulo, Centro Cultural So
Paulo, 1987
Verhaalen, Marion. Camargo Guarnieri: expresses de uma vida, So Paulo,
edusp, 2001
Wright, Simon. Villa-Lobos, New York, Oxford University Press, 1991

32

fabio zanon

A Lesson with Ida:


an imaginary interview with Ida Prei
sarn dyer

The legacy of Ida Presti (19231967) presents a strange dichotomy. On the one hand,
Presti is regarded by many as the greatest guitarist of the twentieth century; on the
other, her approach to the guitar is often regarded by teachers as sui generis, a model
dicult and even dangerous to follow. But Prestis example continues to hold up a
mirror to the limitations of our present pedagogy and the limitations of some present expectations of the guitar. In this imaginary and largely speculative encounter,
Ida Presti explains the development of her unique approach to the guitar.

ida p rest i Ah, Monsieur le Mthodologiste, I believe. Alexandre tells me


that you have a special interest in understanding the playing of other guitarists
and that when you were studying with him, you often questioned him about my
playing.
sar n dyer Thats true. In the relatively short history of the modern guitar,
our great players have collectively revealed its character to us and I believe that
we should try to benefit as much as possible from their examples. As to whether
I can call myself a methodologist, well your playing has undermined many of
my preconceptions.

When Ida Presti met Alexandre Lagoya


(19291999) in 1950 he had already
corresponded with her from Egypt she
declared him to be the best guitarist she
had ever heard. Two years later they
married and founded their illustrious duo,
achieving a success universally compared
to Andrs Segovias popularisation of the
solo medium.

ip Surely not! Does my playing appear so strange?


sd It certainly doesnt seem so when you are playing in fact, it is almost
impossible to imagine anything appearing more natural.
ip How mysterious! But you know, I am not the right person to ask about
matters of technique: I have never really thought about it. Whatever abilities I
have, these have developed from playing music, not from theorising. The challenge to me has always been to play music on the guitar as I hear it in my head
and technique has developed naturally from this. As you know, my father was
my first teacher. Although he was a pianist, he made a study of the guitar to be
able to help me. When he listened to me, he had certain musical expectations
and, in trying to fulfil these, I was obliged to find my own way from the start. So,
from the very beginning, there was no separation between musical expression
and technique. I do not mean to say that the study of technique is not valuable:
musicality does not develop in the same way and at the same speed in everyone.

Copyright 2003 by Sarn Dyer

Presti also had lessons with Emilio


Pujol (18861980), a student of Francisco
Trrega (18541909), and with Mario
Maccaferri (19001993), a student of Luigi
Mozzani (18691943). Later, she was to use
Pujols Escuela razonada de la guitarra
(Buenos Aires: Ricordi Americana, 1971)
in her teaching. The similarity between
these teachers right-hand positions and
Prestis is superficial, but certain of the
Escuelas precepts the involvement of
the entire arm from the shoulder to the
fingertips, for example may have been
significant in Prestis formation if they
were not merely fortuitous.

33

In teaching, Presti tended to leave all


matters of technique to Lagoya, concentrating her own attention entirely on
expression. For her, there was no poor
music, only poor players.

Alexandre, on the other hand, is very interested in this subject and is always looking for new ideas, so really it would be much better if you were to ask him
sd Lagoya certainly understands the technical aspect very well, but, in
spite of the balance you achieve in performance, arent your techniques rather
dierent in certain important aspects?
ip Yes, they are not quite the same, but the dierences are not so great. As
you know, we both play on the right side of the nail.
sd But do you both do so in the same way and for the same reasons? In both
your cases, the nail does not grip the string at the point of contact and is always
mobile, but your nail crosses the string from right to left, releasing at the centre.
Lagoya also releases the string at the centre, but because he uses his nails with a
longer right-hand side, there is less movement along the length of the string, although the nail travels approximately the same distance. What do you think?

pat

ho

Presti

Lagoya

(rh: index)

(rh: index)

irection
of of
free
stroke
direction
free
stroke

f st

ring

pa

th

of

direction of free stroke

st

rin

path of string
greater angle
release point

path of string
release point

ip I dont know. Let me see


[Presti picks up her guitar and begins to warm up by playing arpeggios over the
entire span of the fingerboard, often using remarkably fluent left-hand extensions.
Her right hand is very mobile, free and expressive, and her sound strong and immediate, with an extraordinary vibrancy: a very physical way of playing, and yet
seemingly relaxed. Owing to the flexibility of her left hand, before changing position on the fourth finger, Presti is able partially to cover the distance by separating
it from the third finger by almost a right angle. In vibrato, the finger is held almost
upright on the fingerboard, displacing the string equally in both directions. Her
right-hand thumb begins its action slightly extended and does not span the strings
from one position; instead, the arm makes subtle adjustments to place it on the required string]
well, perhaps you are right.

These comments on the position of


Lagoyas hand refer principally to the
period of his duo with Presti.

34

sd The positioning and set of the fingers also seems to play a part. For example, it appears that, in free stroke, you move the string primarily with the
middle joint of the finger, whereas Lagoya uses both the knuckle and the middle joint. His fingers are also a little straighter than yours. In playing position,
your middle finger is at an approximate right angle to the strings, the index
leans leftwards and the ring finger leans rightwards. In Lagoyas case, it is the
index that is approximately at a right angle, while the middle and ring finger
both lean towards the right. Did you begin playing on the right side of the nail
to improve tone?
sarn dyer

ip Not exactly probably the position came first and then I tried many different ways to make a strong sonority.

Lagoya, by comparison, always associated


the use of the right side of the nail with an
improved and more powerful tone.

sd How did your position come about? Was it as a result of playing a fullsize guitar from a very early age?
ip Yes, that is almost certainly the reason. Because of this, it was necessary
to place my arm halfway between the bridge and the waist of the guitar, and
therefore my fingers attacked the strings parallel to the bridge. I used mostly the
middle joint in pinc (free stroke) because otherwise, in this position, my childs
hand would not have been able to span the strings
sd so, by not flexing the fingers at the knuckle joints, in fact slightly extending them, you were able to increase the span between the thumb and fingers. How is the guitar positioned to use the right hand in your way?
ip I try to position the guitar well to my right, separating the right leg by
turning my right foot a little to the right. I like to feel that I am in the centre of
the activity of my arms and hands...
sd and that position also allows you to place the right arm as you did as
a child. This also causes the right hand to be presented perpendicular to the
strings without any rightwards (ulnar) deviation of the wrist, but you also sometimes slightly deviate the hand in two dierent ways: first, by a small articulation of the wrist as you play the string, and second, by actually maintaining the
hand in a more ulnar-deviated position. Why is this necessary?
ip There is more than one reason, but mainly it is to reduce the resistance
of the nails and to allow the arm and wrist to respond to the movements of the
fingers. I began to do this as a child, before I used my nails, to reduce the resistance of the fingertip and to add strength. My nails were never strong and their
exposed parts begin quite low on the finger. If they broke, they took a long time
to grow back. Consequently I had to find a way of using them when they were
short. I would use the wrist with the action of the finger to turn the finger on the
string in a little clockwise movement. Later, I found that some of this deliberate
movement could also happen by itself, in sympathy with the movements of the
fingers and thumb. But in but (rest stroke) I maintain the hand in a more
turned position. This happens naturally when I use my fingers vigorously, and
also reduces the resistance of the nail, adding to the sonority. I like to feel that I
am using the nail like a violinists bow.
sd It appears fundamental to your technique that the side of the nail
doesnt grip the string but is always in movement. Any gripping by the side of
the nail would be likely to damage it. Could you be more specific about these
sympathetic movements? The freedom of your right hand is a striking aspect of
your technique.
ip Well, for example, particularly when the thumb plays, the forearm makes
a small anti-clockwise rotation. Sometimes I add strength to this rotation to
play louder. If the movements of the fingers are small, this rotation is also small
and sometimes quite dicult to see. If I play an arpeggio in this direction [Presti
plays some very fast p a m i arpeggios], there is also a slight sideways movement
in the hand at the wrist. In this direction [now p i m a], the rotation of the forearm is more marked. Every sequence of fingers has a dierent result in the arm
and wrist.
a lesson with ida

Both Marie Lvesque and Alice Artzt


observed that Presti was sometimes
obliged to give concerts with broken nails
or almost no available nail at all.
The clockwise movement is an arc resulting from the ordinary flexion of the finger
in combination with a slight movement of
the wrist towards the bridge; the finger
may well join in with a small movement
towards the bridge as well as the ordinary
flexion. But these movements are all integrated. This use of the wrist can be seen in
Prestis playing in La petite chose (1938),
a film based on Robert Destezs novel,
directed by Maurice Cloche, with original
music by Germaine Tailleferre. Presti, aged
fifteen and already a fully formed artist,
plays Las dos hermanitas by Trrega. In
private correspondence with the author,
Alice Artzt noted that Presti was well
aware of the need to find means to compensate for any extra strength available to
male players.
The mobility of Prestis hand presupposes
that she always used her nails rather short.
Yves Chatelaine, who, as a child, studied
with Presti, confirmed that the nails
should be filed as if they were to be used
with the fingertip; but in practice only the
nails were used.

35

sd What is the secret of playing on very short nails?


ip Well, I eventually solved the problem with false nails, but when I had
very little nail to play on, my method was to use the wrist as I described and to
play in such a way that the string stayed in contact with the flesh as it rolled first
over the fingertip and then down onto whatever nail was available. Whatever
the state of my nails, the movement of my finger is directly downwards onto the
string, towards the soundboard, as if I am playing a piano key.
sd Do you play using only the nail or with flesh and nail together?

In his book, Guitar Travels (1977,


published privately), John Roberts quotes
Emilio Pujol as saying that when Presti
played for him at a young age, she gave
this as her reason for not being able to follow his example in playing without nails.
According to Alice Artzt, Presti began
using gel-type artificial nails almost as
soon as these became available (Ongles
Villard, Taylor, etc) c. 1965. Ms. Artzt
provided the quoted remark: I bless
the man
Examples are to be found in the
duos playing of the Prelude from
J.S. Bachs English Suite n 3.

ip The fingertip touches the string but only incidentally: the work of moving the string is done with the nail. As a child, my fingers used to perspire so
much that playing with the fingertips was dicult. Later, I used a little fine
grease on my fingertips. Also, I found that if the fingertip is used with the nail,
there are two resistances to be overcome, making it more dicult to control the
loudness and softness. I often had problems with my nails and had to adapt my
playing accordingly.
sd So your technique changed when you began using artificial nails?
ip I was able to be consistent in the length and use of my nails so that they
could find the strings more easily. In general, artificial nails simply made life
simpler. I bless the man who invented this product!
sd With your primary use of the middle joints in free stroke, you are able to
play at astonishing speed. Your cross-string trills, played, I believe, i a i m, are
sometimes ten to a metronome beat of eighty!
ip Im thankful that I never counted!
sd How crucial is the positioning of the hand to achieve such rapidity? For
example, if I adjust your hand by rotating your forearm a little one way or the
other, are you still able to achieve this speed?

In masterclass, Lagoya, by comparison,


said that he did not consider a slight
supination or pronation to be significant.

ip [trying] Well, that surprises me it is much more dicult, in fact impossible for me. My fingers seem blocked and I am unable to use the same energy.
sd Perhaps we should look at your position more carefully. If you extend
your fingers in playing position and lower your hand directly down onto the
strings without turning your forearm, does the whole palm make contact with
the strings?
ip [pressing her palm to the strings and then looking at the marks on her
palm] No, I think the strings only touch the palm below the index and almost to
the palm below the middle finger. The right side of the palm is raised a little
above the strings.
sd So it would appear that the exact amount of rotation of the forearm is
significant: it is neither pronated nor supinated but as it would be if the arm
hung loosely to the side.
ip I think this position and use of my forearm and hand is quite similar to
that of a pianist. As you know, the piano was the instrument I played first.
sd Do you use any ballistic or throwing force in the action of your fingers? That is to say, do you fully expend the energy of a stroke before making another stroke?

36

sarn dyer

ip Im not aware of this at all. My fingers return as soon as possible to play


again. [playing with great rapidity] At speed, there would be no time to expend
all the energy.
sd So the follow-through of the finger after playing the string is quite minimal. Is there any exercise that can help in establishing your position?
ip Practising but (rest stroke) a m i in groups of four, six, eight and so on,
can be very useful for this and dicult to do if the hand is not more or less perpendicular to the strings.
[demonstrates, her wrist now losing much of its arch or flexion. The fingertips
are firm and have a curling action towards the adjacent string]

(a m i a | m i a m | i a m i | a m i a, etc.
(4 / mm = c. 168)

sd I have heard that you recommend to your students that they hold matchsticks between their fingers to achieve the right action, but surely if the fingers
are held together in this way, it will create tension in the hand?
ip No, no, the fingers must never be held together! This purpose of this little exercise is to remind the student not to separate the fingers.
sd Lagoya allows the fingertip to relax before flexing it to play the string. Do
you do the same?
ip Im not aware of doing this at all.
sd There are many aspects to your use of the right hand that might not find
favour with the teachers of today: the rightwards deviation of the wrist in rest
stroke, for example, and the degree of its arch or flexion. Surely this would tend
to restrict the movement of the fingers in any hand less flexible than yours?
ip [laughing] You make me sound so naughty! A pianist could not play
without turning or, as you say, deviating the hand sometimes, as in the case of
large intervals, to an extreme degree. As you will have noticed, my right hand is
quite mobile and it doesnt stay in any position for very long. The wrist is always
relaxed unless I am using it with the action of the fingers as I have described. As
for restriction of movement, I find none.
[Presti flexes, extends and deviates her wrist while moving her fingers & thumb]
sd [imitating her movements] I see. Because the action of the fingers is primarily from the middle joint and there is so little flexing at the knuckle or proximal joint, there is no restriction. But surely the movement from the middle joints
is harder to control than a movement from the knuckle joints? [I demonstrate]
ip [now imitating my movements] Well of course, but only if you make such
big movements! Try again with small movements of the middle joints and then
try to make the same small movements moving mostly from the knuckle joints.
sd I see what you mean: small movements are very dicult when the finger
moves primarily from the knuckle joint. Lagoya changes the fingernails angle of
attack to make a clearer sound on the wound strings. Do you achieve your remarkable clarity and sonority on those strings in the same way?
ip No, I dont find this necessary; my way of sounding the string is usually
the same for both bass and treble strings. I also try to give as much character or
resonance to the bass strings as possible to compensate for the closeness of the
bass and upper parts when Alexandre is playing an accompaniment to my
a lesson with ida

37

melody on the bass strings, I might play, for example, with a very deep rest
stroke, or just with the flesh, and so on.
Examples are to be found in the duos
playing of Domenico Scarlattis Sonata
in D minor (orig. B minor) k 173.

sd How is such a perfect staccato achieved even at tempos as high as four


notes to a metronome beat of one hundred?
ip There is no special method, although there are a number of ways in
which staccato may be improved. For example, the finger must be able to return
very quickly to the string. Small finger movements are very helpful, but I do not
mean by this a restriction of movement, but a movement that is small by its own
nature. Also, of course, the faster the string is released, the better the staccato will
be. I have never had to think about this very much: my technique seems simply
to make this easy for me.
sd But then, an equally striking aspect of your playing is your ability to play
legato. Is there a secret to this?
ip First of all, legato must be heard in the head. It is like the ability to play
fast: it is not just a question of trying to play fast for its own sake but of responding to the needs of the music; not simply legato, but the feeling and the effect of legato. Legato is mainly a question of finding a way of fingering that feels
legato to me, and of keeping the right hand, wrist and arm as relaxed as possible:
tension and legato playing do not go well together! Sometimes, I like to make the
notes overlap as if I am using the pianists pedal.

Such campanella fingerings were often


demonstrated by Lagoya and are also
mentioned by Alice Artzt in her memoir
of Presti published in Guitar Review 31.

[she plays the Allemande from Bachs Suite bwv 996 using ingenious campanella fingerings in the scalic passages]
sd I know that you and Alexandre have always put great emphasis on relaxation and, in particular, on the importance of playing with a relaxed right wrist.
ip That is true. My own intention is that all movement begins, as much as
possible, from a state of rest, or my hands will not respond well to me. I am also
very conscious of the weight of the hand and of any eort of the wrist to hold it
in position. Tension in the wrist obstructs the fingers when they are more energetic, but that is something you should ask Alexan
sd But does a little tension in the wrist matter so greatly?
ip For me, yes. I am uncomfortable if my wrist and forearm are unable to
respond sympathetically to the movements of my fingers and thumb. And, of
course, if there is tension in the arm or wrist, it will not feel natural to let the
hand fall slightly from the wrist, or, as you say, to flex. I have always found it uncomfortable to hold my hand and arm in position by anything other than the
smallest exertion; and, of course, the more my forearm is pointing towards the
floor, the less eort is needed by the elbow to hold it in place.
sd I would guess that very small flexions of your wrist play a part in the actions of your fingers and that this element does have a ballistic quality, like tiny
flicks. We havent spoken about the left hand, but yours is extraordinarily flexible. I remember seeing you playing a chord, in some Beethoven Variations, with
E b on the sixth string (tuned in D), G on the fourth, B b on the third and D b on
the second!
ip I remember.

38

sarn dyer

[Idas left-hand fingers appear to open eortlessly on the frets as she plays the
seemingly impossible chord]
Yes, I am lucky to have been born with supple hands [she separates the tips of
her second and third fingers against the edge of a table to make a right angle], but
not, I think, so much for my right hand. Alexandre says that he would like to
have my curly thumb but, really, its not essential!
sd Ida, since 1967, guitarists have made enormous progress in their technical development. What are your thoughts about this?
ip It has been extraordinary, and now there are many players who play
beautifully with wonderful sonority; but I do not, for example, hear a control of
dynamic and articulation from legato to staccato very often: for me, these are the
lifeblood of music. If expression is not sought from the beginning of study, it
may be very hard to develop later.
sd And how much less can we excuse ourselves in the light of the example
you set for us. One last question. On some of your recordings with Lagoya, your
usual seating protocol is changed, is that not so?
ip [smiling] Are you quite sure?
sd Quite sure. For example, on your second recording of Sors Lencouragement?
ip Well, you are right, Monsieur le Dtective! In fact, our seating positions
are reversed for the whole of the recording that included Lencouragement.
When we realised this, we decided to leave it like that. It was as if to say that the
duo mattered more to us than our individual identities. Alexandre was Ida and
Ida was Alexandre. We hoped that those who listened not only with their ears,
but with their hearts also, would hear that in our playing.

The recordings to which Presti refers


are those of June 1963. Stereo channel
positions also appear to have been
reversed for the last sessions of February
1966, although seemingly not (?) for the
Carulli Serenade in G. On other recordings, Presti is placed on the right as she
was in performance.

additional remar ks
1 The accurate observation of another player requires the observer first to know
the limits of that observation. In a great technique, an exceptional element is
often contained in the invisible and can only be confirmed by its close duplication. However, there is often one particular factor on which an entire approach
is, consciously or unconsciously, predicated and, once this is defined, observation becomes easier. In Ida Prestis case, this factor was almost certainly that of
relaxation combined with strategies to compensate for her lesser strength as a
woman. On this subject, Alexandre Lagoya once remarked that it is precisely
this lack of strength that might lead a woman player to discover certain secrets
of playing more easily than in the case of a man. The male tendency, he felt, was
often to pit his strength against the instrument.
2 Although it is not the intention of this article either to recommend following
Prestis example particularly to the letter or to advise against it, the author
nevertheless believes that there are lessons of great value in her approach.

a lesson with ida

39

a
b
c
d

Broadly, these are:


The ability to present the right hand at a right angle to the strings without deviation of the hand at the wrist, allowing a faster release of the string.
The ease and comfort with which the hand may maintain its position.
The freedom from tension in the hand and forearm, allowing a sympathetic response to the movements of the fingers.
The advantages to variations of articulation aorded by the inherent economy
of movement.
If there is a general disadvantage to her approach, it is in the diculty experienced by some players in maintaining a relaxed wrist. A tendency to tension is
better accommodated by other approaches. It would be most inadvisable to
combine Prestis rest-stroke position with tension in the wrist or elsewhere.

3 Both Presti and Lagoya made sophisticated use of a relatively unsophisticated


and symmetrically rounded nail shape, creating a single curve from the point of
contact to the release point at the centre of the nail as shown in the illustrations.
Had Presti used a different approach (essentially creating a larger area of nail at
the release point) the extra deviation of the hand at the wrist for rest stroke
might not have been necessary.

Alternative
(rh: index)
path of string

direction of free stroke

path of string
release point

4 Following his book celebrating Segovias playing style, Vladimir Bobri had
planned a similar profile of Ida Presti. She died very shortly before the date of
the photographic session for the book.
5 Under the editorship of Angelo Gilardino, Edizioni Brben will publish both
the works composed by Ida Presti for solo guitar and the transcriptions for two
guitars by Alexandre Lagoya. A solo guitar work, Segovia, will appear in the series The Andrs Segovia Archive.
6 Edizioni Brben will also publish a biography of Ida Presti, written by Anne
Marillia with the cooperation of Prestis daughter, Elizabeth. The text will be in
both French and English.
7 Paul Balmers film about Ida Presti, Ma devise (Music on Earth, London; see
www.musiconearth.co.uk) a true labour of love is currently due for release
within a year or two as a dvd. The film tells the story of Prestis life and will include all known archive film of PrestiLagoya, personal memoirs from those
who knew her and performances from Alice Artzt, Evangelos & Lisa, and Duo
ItoDorigny. The commentary will be spoken by Ms Artzt.

40

sarn dyer

8 Alexandre Lagoya estimated that, including broadcast performances, over


fifteen hours of PrestiLagoyas recordings remain unreleased. These include
several concertos and works by Schubert and Beethoven. (Archive recordings of
concertos by Pierre Petit and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco have recently been
broadcast in France.)
9 My thanks to Alice Artzt (usa) and Marie Lvesque (Canada), friends and students of Ida Presti, for their generous correspondence prior to the writing of this
article. My observations are not necessarily the same as theirs, nor are they responsible for any errors on my part. Additional thanks also to Paul Magnussen
for alerting me to a later compilation of PrestiLagoya recordings on rca.

a tentat ive disco g r aphy of ida presti


Ida Presti & Luise Walker: les grandes dames de la guitare (Pearl gemm cd 9133,
Pavilion Records Ltd, Sparrows Green, Wadhurst, East Sussex, England)
Ida Presti (recorded 1938)
Robert de Vise: 4 movements from Suite in D minor [1]
Johann Sebastian Bach: Courante from Cello Suite n 3, bwv 1009 [2]
Niccol Paganini: Romance from Grand Sonata (ms3) [3]
Isaac Albniz: Rumores de la Caleta, op. 71/8 [4]
Joaqun Malats: Serenata espaola [5]
Daniel Fortea: Andaluza [6]
Federico Moreno Torroba: Allegro (1st movement of Sonatina in A) [8]

Mat ola 1677-1; Fr. hmv k 7910


Mat ola 1678-1; Fr. hmv k 7910
Mat ola 2177-1; Fr. hmv k 8114
Mat ola 2177-1; Fr. hmv k 7957
Mat ola 1852-1; Fr. hmv k 7957
Mat ola 2326-1/27-1; Fr. hmv k 8087
Mat ola 2272-3; Fr. hmv k 8114

Presti & Lagoya: 1956 solos. ge 13 (Fine Fretted String Instruments, 16455
South Bascom Avenue, 1-b Campbell, ca 95008-0631, www.finefretted.com)
Ida Presti
Fernando Sor: Andante largo op. 5/5 [1]
Emilio Pujol: Evocation cubaine (Guajira) from 3 morceaux espagnoles [2]
Alexandre Lagoya: Rverie [3]
Alexandre Lagoya: Caprice [4]
Johann Sebastian Bach: Andante from Violin Sonata n 2, bwv 1003 [5]
Ida Presti & Alexandre Lagoya (includes solos by Presti and Lagoya)
(rca Victor 74321258662; deleted)
Ida Presti
Emilio Pujol: Evocation Cubaine (Guajira) from 3 morceaux espagnoles [1]
Fernando Sor: Andante largo, op. 5/5 [3]
Johann Sebastian Bach: Andante from Violin Sonata n 2, bwv 1003 [5]
Alexandre Lagoya: Rverie & Caprice [7]
PrestiLagoya
Manuel de Falla: Spanish Dance n 1 from La vida breve [10]
Johann Sebastian Bach: Musette & Gavotte from English Suite n 3,
bwv 808 [1112]

a lesson with ida

41

Manuel de Falla: Fishermans Tale [13]


Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude & Fugue n 17 [14]
Enrique Granados: Intermezzo from Goyescas [15]
Fernando Sor: Fantaisie in E, op. 34 (Lencouragement) [16]
Enrique Granados: Danza espaola, op. 37/4 (Villanesca) [17]
Andr Jolivet: Serenade [18]
Isaac Albniz: Tango [19]
Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur: Elegy [20]
Ferdinando Carulli: Largo & Rondo, op. 34 [21]
Simonot: Suite of Royal Dances (from the film Marie Antoinette) [22]
Ferdinando Carulli: Serenade in C, n 3 [23]
Ida Presti: La hongroise [24]
Anton Diabelli: Serenade in D, op. 83 [25]
John Dowland: The King of Denmarks Galliard [26]
John Dowland: Mrs Nichols Almaine [27]
John Dowland: The Frog Galliard [28]
Phaedra (1962, directed by Jules Dassin): soundtrack, composed & conducted
by Mikis Theodorakis, with uncredited performances by PrestiLagoya
(United Artists ulp 1016; deleted)
Love theme from Phaedra [1]
Londons Fog [3]
Agapimou [6]
Rodostimo [9]
Ida Presti & Alexandre Lagoya: duo extraordinaire: the complete Philips
recordings (Philips 446 213-2)
cd 1 (446 214-2)
Recorded 6/1962
Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in E, k 380 [1]
Johann Sebastian Bach: Courante, Allemande & Prelude from English Suite
n 3, bwv 808 [24]
Jean Baptiste Marella: Suite n 1 in A (Andante Minuetto Rondo Gigue)
[58]
Enrique Granados: Danza espaola, op. 37/2 (Orientale) [9]
Isaac Albniz: Danza [10]
Antonio Soler: Sonata in D [11]
Recorded 5/1963
Jos Galles: Sonata in B minor [12]
Antonio Soler: Sonata in D minor [13]
Fernando Sor: Fantaisie in E, op. 34 (Lencouragement) [1415]
Manuel de Falla: Spanish Dance n 1 from La vida breve [16]
Enrique Granados: Intermezzo from Goyescas [17]
Isaac Albniz: Tango, op. 164/2 [18]
Joaqun Rodrigo: Tonadilla (Allegro non troppo Minueto pomposo
Allegro vivace) [1921]

42

sarn dyer

cd 2 (446 215-2)
Recorded 6/1963
Joseph Haydn: Concerto in G, Hob. viih: 2 (Vivace assai Adagio ma non
troppo Rondo presto) [13]
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in C, rv 425 (Allegro Largo Allegro) [46]
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in G, rv 532 (Allegro Andante Allegro) [79]
Alessandro Marcello: Concerto in D minor (Allegro moderato Adagio
Allegro) [1012]

An earlier recording by PrestiLagoya of


the Vivaldi Concerto in G (rv 532) on a
small 33 rpm record (rca 230 001) does
not appear on this rca compilation.

Recorded 6/1965
George Frederick Handel: Chaconne in G [13]
George Frederick Handel: Fugue in G [14]
George Frederick Handel: Allegro in D minor [15]
cd 3 (446 216-2)
Recorded 2/1966
Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in D minor, k 173 (orig. B minor) [1]
Tomaso Albinoni/Remo Giazotto: Adagio in G minor [2]
Bernardo Pasquini: Canzone in E minor [3]
Alessandro Marcello: Andante from Concerto in D minor [4]
Recorded 6/1962
Claude Debussy: Clair de lune from Suite bergamasque [5]
Pierre Petit: Toccata [6]
Francis Poulenc: Improvisation n 12 [7]
Recorded 2 /1966
Manuel de Falla: Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo [8]
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Prelude & Fugue in E from Les guitares bien
temperes, op. 199 [9]
Ida Presti: tude fantasque [10]
Pierre Petit: Tarantella [11]
Ferdinando Carulli: Serenade in G, op. 96/3 (LargoAllegro moderato
Andante sostenuto con variazioni Finale: PrestoLarghettoPresto) [1214]
Niccol Paganini: Sonata concertata (ms2) (Allegro spiritoso Adagio assai
ed espressivo Rondo) [1517]
Missing from the above collection (Duo extraordinaire) and included on Nonesuch h-71161 duplication (deleted):
Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata, k 87 (l 33)

a lesson with ida

43

Mauro Giulianis Guitar Technique


 Early Nineteenth-Century Pedagogy
lorenzo micheli

i int ro duc t ion


Studying the guitar has always been my favourite occupation, and to
reach perfection my chief aim.
Anxious to find the best and most direct path leading to this goal, I
was obliged to follow an untrodden path to approach the ideal which
was fixed in my mind.
Finding myself somewhat advanced, by dint of zeal and perseverance, and not without a certain success, there arose in me the desire
to share the fruits of my researches with those following the same
career, and to preserve them from misdirection, by putting in order
my ideas on this subject and by providing them with a guide which is
short, certain and new something which, as far as I know, has been
sought until now, but in vain.
These studies, which I now present to the public, are the result of
lengthy and extensive labours, borne out by experience and practice;
and I am convinced that lovers of the guitar will, with assiduous
practice, in a short time be in a position to command with expression
anything which has been written in a correct style for the instrument.
ith this laconic foreword, more in keeping with the rhetorical canons of an
exordium, perhaps, than with a genuinely informative intent, the Italian guitarist and composer Mauro Giuliani opens his Studio per la chitarra (Study for
the Guitar), op. 1. While certainly not Giulianis sole didactic work, it nonetheless represents the only attempt by him to define some of the fundamental issues in guitar studies, and lend them a theoretical framework.
Let us clear aside all possible misunderstanding and explain at the outset that
this opus 1 is not a method, nor does it pretend to be. Only to a limited extent,
indeed, does it display the salient features of a musical method: a systematic
unfolding of the material at hand, a strictly graded approach (or at least one
that does not assume prior knowledge of other concepts) and the coordinated

Original Italian version copyright 2003 by Lorenzo Micheli


English translation copyright 2003 by Jonathan Leathwood. The translator would
like to thank Philip Weller and Stanley Yates for their many helpful comments.

Lo studio della chitarra f [sic] sempre la


mia occupazione preferita, ed arrivarci alla
perfezione lo scopo mio principale.
Ansioso di ritrovare il pi giusto ed il pi
dritto sentiero, che conduce a questa meta,
mi f duopo aprire una strada non
battuta, per avvicinarmi allideale che fisso
mi stava nella mente. Vedendomi poi
inoltrato a forza di zelo e di costanza, e
non senza qualche successo, nacque in me
il desiderio di render partecipi del frutto
delle mie veglie quelli che corrono listessa
carriera, e di preservargli [sic] dagli
sviamenti, mettendo in ordine le mie idee
su tale assunto, e somministrando loro
una guida corta, sicura e nuova, quale, a
mio sapere, fino adesso si desider, ma
invano. Questi studj, che vengo a presentare al pubblico, sono il risultato delle
lunghe e moltissime mie fatiche, confirmate dallesperienza e dalla pratica, e sono
persuaso che gli amatori della chitarra,
con un assiduo esercizio, in breve tempo
saranno in grado di acquisire con espressione quanto stato composto in un
genere pi corretto per questo
istrumento. Mauro Giuliani, Studio per la
chitarra, op. 1, The Complete Works in
Facsimiles of the Original Editions, ed.
Brian Jeery (London: Tecla, 1984), vol. 1,
Preface. Translations of all quoted material
in this article are by the translator.
The Studio was published in Vienna under
the imprint of Domenico Artaria with the
plate number 2246, and advertised in relevant specialised publications in April, 1812.

45

Gli esercizi seguenti sono adunque


destinati per quelli che, possedendo di gi
i primi elementi, desiderassero vieppi
perfezionarsi senza lajuto di un maestro.
Giuliani, Studio, op. 1, Preface.

use of musical examples and theoretical sections. The explanatory excursus are
limited to a few interventions in Part iii and in the key to fingering indications:
it is the author himself who explains in the Preface that the following examples
are, then, intended for those who, already possessing the first elements, wish to
perfect themselves without the assistance of a teacher.
Rather than a systematic treatment, therefore, Giuliani prefers to present in
juxtaposition, without any claims to completeness, four sections:
1 the right hand (Part i, containing the famous 120 arpeggios)
2 the left hand (Part ii, focusing in sixteen lessons on thirds, sixths, octaves and
tenths, laid out in four major keys)
3 other important aspects of technique (Part iii: articulation, ornaments,
slurs, slides)
4 an overview of everything covered in the previous parts (the twelve lessons
of Part iv)
The economy of means which allowed Giuliani to realise one of the most eectively idiomatic writings and styles in the history of the guitar seems aptly reflected in the terse and succinct manual of exercises ( prontuario di esercizi ) of
opus 1. Pauses for reflection, in which the teacher methodically retraces the steps
that led him to mastery of the instrument, are reduced to a minimum, giving
way to snapshots of some of the authors most notable attainments. In essence,
then, the Studio per la chitarra, op. 1 despite its opus number it was preceded
by dozens of other published works is not so dierent from the many other
collections of studi and lezioni in which, little by little, Giuliani presents and singles out some key stages in his discovery of the six strings.
A quite dierent discussion emerges if we look to the methods of the three
other great guitarists of the early nineteenth century: the Italian Ferdinando
Carulli and the Spaniards Dionisio Aguado and Fernando Sor.

ii ferdinand o carul li

For details of modern facsimile reprints,


see the Bibliography.

46

Ferdinando Carullis didactic output is of exceptional breadth and significance


(not least in terms of commercial success): the Mthode complte pour guitare,
op. 27 (Complete Method for Guitar), running to four editions in a few years,
makes up the core of Carullis teaching, one that was to be enriched through
years of additions and subsequent enhancements. In this way were born the Premire suite la mthode de guitare ou Mthode pour apprendre accompagner le
chant, op. 61 (First Sequel to the Guitar Method: method for learning song accompaniment, complete with a collection of fourteen arias and romances for voice
and guitar), the Seconde suite la mthode de guitare, op. 71 (Second Sequel to the
Guitar Method) and the Supplment la mthode ou La premire anne dtude
de guitare, op. 192 (Supplement to the Method: the first year of guitar study), as well
as Harmonie applique la guitare (Harmony Applied to the Guitar), the Antimthode ou Llve guid par le matre (Anti-method: the pupil guided by the master), the Mthode pour le dcacorde ou nouvelle guitare, op. 293 (Method for the
Ten-String or New Guitar), and the Mthode complte pour parvenir pincer de
la guitare, op. 241 (Complete Method for Learning to Play the Guitar).

lorenzo micheli

A brief look at the list of topics covered by the Mthode complte, op. 27, allows
us to readily confirm the more traditional, more systematic nature of Carullis
teaching. Divided into three parts, the Method opens with some preliminary instructions on how to hold the instrument, the positioning of the hands and tuning. One is struck by Carullis immediate stance in favour of using the left thumb
for fretting notes, a technique roundly discouraged by other pedagogues:
In some Methods, the Authors explicitly prohibit their pupils from
using the left-hand thumb to stop the sixth string, and sometimes
the fifth, on the opposite side of the neck to the fingers. The richer
music is in harmony, the more pleasing it is; and since four fingers
are not enough to realise, at the same time, a melody along with basses in various keys, one must necessarily use the thumb; thus I invite
all those who want to play with greater ease to avail themselves of it.
The first step in learning the guitar, according to Carulli, is scale practice: on the
basis of this principle, Part i of the Method is presented as a succession of scales
in first position, around which are built little exercises and easy pieces to help
the student gain confidence in the most common keys. As far as the right hand
is concerned, the beginner is recommended to observe a strict partitioning of
the strings: the thumb plucks the three bass strings (except when the accompaniment ventures into the low register, when one may resort to the index as far as
the fifth string), the index plucks the second and third strings and the middle
the first, while the ring finger comes into play only in arpeggios. Although, as we
shall see, his three great contemporaries thought it indispensable to practise alternation of the fingers from the very start, Carulli considers it the domain of
the advanced student, and so reserves it for Part ii.
A few more aspects of harmony playing round out the first part: a succinct
description of the barr ( petit barr, in cases where the index stops two or three
strings, and grand barr, when five or six strings are stopped); a paragraph on
chords and arpeggios, in which the player is enjoined to play chords together,
taking care not to break them (for chords of five notes this is made possible by a
rapid sweep of the thumb on the two lowest strings); and an interesting passage
on how to obtain fluency in performance while letting fretted bass notes ring as
long as possible:
To play a piece of music well on the guitar, one must ensure that on
encountering bass notes that are not open strings, one leaves the finger on the string until it must be lifted for another note: good care is
needed to sustain the sound of this note and to avoid sounding the
open string at the moment that the finger stops pressing down.
Part ii turns around the fundamental question of articulation. Carulli now addresses himself to the practice of staccato (Manire de dtacher avec facilit,How
to play detached notes with ease, pp 31) by which is meant no more than separate notes; that is to say, sequences of notes without left-hand slurs. To this end,
he invites the pupil to abandon the transitional phase in which a single finger
is assigned to each string, inadequate in rapid passagework or when the dynamics approach forte:

mauro giulianis guitar technique

Dans quelques Mthodes, les Auteurs


dfendent absolument aux lves de se
servir du pouce de la main gauche, par
le ct oppos aux autres doigts, sur la
sixime corde, et quelquefois sur la
cinquime. La Musique est dautant plus
agrable quelle est plus riche dharmonie,
et quatre doigts ne susant pas pour
excuter, en mme temps, un chant et des
basses raisonnes en dirents tons, il faut
ncessairement employer le pouce; ainsi
jinvite tous ceux qui veulent jouer avec
plus de facilit sen servir. Ferdinando
Carulli, Mthode complte pour guitare,
op. 27 (Paris, c. 1809), pp 34.

Pour bien rendre sur la guitare un


morceau de musique, il faut lorsquon
rencontre des notes de basse qui ne sont
pas vide, laisser le doigt sur la corde
jusqu ce quune autre note oblige de le
lever: cette attention est ncessaire pour
soutenir le son de cette note et viter celui
qui rendrait la vibration de la corde vide
au moment o le doigt cesserait de la
comprimer. Ibid. p 10.

47

En pinant avec un seul doigt sur chaque


corde, comme jai dit dans la premire
partie de cette Mthode, lorsquil y a
beaucoup de doubles croches dans un
morceau de musique Allegretto ou Allegro,
ce seul doigt ne peut pas sure pour faire
en mesure toutes les notes qui sont places
sur une corde; ainsi, aprs avoir parcouru
les premires leons de cet ouvrage, il faut
prendre lhabitude de dtacher de la
manire suivante Ibid. p 31.

Il se rencontre encore bien souvent en


montant de la sixime corde la cinquime, et de la cinquime la quatrime,
quaprs avoir pinc une note sur une
corde, elle doit tre lie avec la note
vide qui est sur la corde suivante; alors
il faut glisser le pouce de la main droite
dune corde lautre sans le relever, ce qui
produira leet du coul. Ibid. p 34.

La Guitare na que cinq positions sur le


manche, et elles sont aux cinq notes qui se
trouvent sur la chanterelle, sans compter
le mi videJai remarqu que plusieurs
auteurs dans leurs Mthodes comptent
chaque touche une position, cest dire
chaque demi-ton; je ne puis pas approuver
cette manire, car sur tous les instruments
qui ont un manche, tels que le Violon,
lAlto, la Basse, la Mandoline, le Luth, on

48

Playing with a single finger on each string, as I recommended in


the first part of this Method, is not enough when there are a lot of
semiquavers in a piece of music marked Allegretto or Allegro, for this
single finger cannot play in time all the notes lying on one string;
therefore, once one has covered the early lessons in this work, one
should get into the habit of plucking in the following way
Staccato (articulation without left-hand slurs) is obtained by alternating index
and middle on the first three strings; for the bass strings, Carulli continues to
maintain that the thumb alone is enough. Once again the ring finger has a marginal role, limited to the occasional arpeggio figure. The opposite of staccato, the
slur liaison or coul ascending or descending, is treated in the succeeding
paragraph: it functions especially to make the passage more doux et agrable
(sweet and pleasant).
Contrary to the practice of Sor and Giuliani (who, as we shall see, slur a quite
variable number of notes in uneven groupings, often joining all the notes on the
same string with a single slur), Carulli, in passagework, slurs notes almost always in pairs, with extreme regularity. Such a schematic approach entails frequent recourse to the so-called cho (echo) slur that is, a slur descending from
an open string to the string below, obtained by hammering on to the string.
Carulli even advises the reader to imitate the eect of the slur with the right
hand, by sliding the thumb through two adjacent bass strings. This last expedient, a sort of cho in reverse (in that the eect is produced by the right hand, ascending, rather than the left, descending), is described in the following way:
It often happens that, when ascending from the sixth string to the
fifth, and from the fifth to the fourth, after plucking a note on one
string, it has to be slurred to the note played open on the next string;
in that case one slides the right thumb from one string to the other
without lifting it o, which will produce the eect of a slur.
Next is a brief look at the most common ornaments, in which Carulli suggests
among other things three possible realisations of a trill: plucking the initial note
once only, and slurring all the rest; plucking the principal note each time and
slurring the upper note; or playing all the notes on two strings with index and
middle. And now Carulli goes more deeply into knowledge of the fingerboard.
He proposes, in the paragraph On positions, an original and very personal notation, based not on the number of the fret but on that of the position. The positions, in the system elaborated by Carulli, are five only, and correspond to the
five natural notes obtainable from the E string: F (i), G (ii), A (iii), B (iv) and
C (v). These, corresponding with five key areas, do not have a fixed fret, inasmuch as they may move up or down a fret, according to changes in key:
The Guitar has but five positions on the neck, and they are at the five
notes found on the chanterelle [the top string], not counting the
open EI have noticed that several writers, in their Methods, assign
a position to each fret, that is to each semitone; I cannot endorse this
method, for on all instruments with a fingerboard such as the
violin, viola, bass, mandolin, lute one assigns a position to each

lorenzo micheli

whole tone, and one could not do otherwise, because all the notes
are subject to sharps or flats, and to move the hand up or down by
a semitone owing to the eect of sharps or flats is not to change
position, since the notes themselves are not changed.
In fact, Carulli is not alone in his dissatisfaction with the practice of indicating
positions simply by the fret number: the sophisticated system of equsonos devised by Dionisio Aguado addresses a similar issue.
A brief nod at scales in double notes, chords and natural harmonics, together with a good number of studies and musical examples, closes Part ii; as
for Part iii, it consists of twenty-four lessons for two guitars and the long
Grande tude dans tous les tons et dans toutes les positions (Grand study in all the
keys and all the positions).
Carullis work comprises all the elements to be expected of a didactic instrumental method. The manual-like layout, ecient and rational, is aimed at exact
results and immediate need. Only rarely, though, does it venture to deal with
topics of greater scope (sound, timbre, parts and variations of the instrument)
still less to debate the whys and wherefores of the authors own solutions.

compte chaque ton entier une position,


et on ne le pourrait pas autrement, parce
que toutes les notes sont susceptibles
davoir des dises ou des bmols, et
avancer ou reculer la main dun demi-ton
par leet des dises ou des bmols ce nest
pas changer de position puisquon ne
change pas des notes. Ibid. p 40.
For Aguados equsonos see p 51 below.

iii dionisio agua d o


A rather greater abundance of thoughts on the instrument may be found in the
major works of Dionisio Aguado: the Coleccin de estudios (Collection of Studies),
Madrid, 1820; the Escuela de guitarra (Guitar School), Madrid, 1825; the Nouvelle
mthode de guitare (New Guitar Method), op. 6, Paris (translated into Spanish
and printed in Madrid in 1840); and the apex of Aguados didactic work the
Nuevo mtodo para guitarra (New Method for Guitar), Madrid, 1843 (French edition for the presses of Schonenberger in Paris, 1844), followed by an Apndice al
nuevo mtodo (Appendix to the New Method), Madrid, 18491850.
The work in progress character of these texts invites some comparison with
Carullis work, itself a building site of second thoughts and alterations, and the
object of continual rewritings and updates. Compared with Carulli, however,
Aguado is more speculative, more given to theoretical reflection.
The Coleccin de estudios presents a neatly bipartite structure which is, naturally enough, meant to focus attention on to the forty-six studies of the second
part. In the words of the author:
This treatise contains two main partsThe first is devoted to the
description of the Guitar and its special features. I briefly describe
the instrument with the particular purpose of defining terminology,
so that the teaching I go on to expound may be understood with
precision. The second part is concerned only with the practice of the
studies contained in this collection.
The Nuevo mtodo, op. 6, opens with a long introduction dedicated to the tripodison (or reglamanos), a metal support on three feet, equipped with a mechanism to hold up the instrument, invented by Aguado with the aim of improving
the players posture:

mauro giulianis guitar technique

All these works except for the Escuela


de guitarra are reproduced in Dionisio
Aguado, The Complete Works for Guitar:
in reprints of the original editions with
prefaces by Brian Jeery (Heidelberg:
Chanterelle, 1994). See Bibliography for
details.
nb In the quotations to follow from
Aguados works, the first page number is
that of the original publication, and the
number in brackets is that of the Chanterelle facsimile. The spelling and use of
accents of the original publications has
been retained.

Este tratado contiene dos partes principalesLa primera est destinada para la
descripcion de la Guitarra y sus particulares propiedades. Describo sucintamente
el instrumento con el nico objeto de fijar
los trminos del lenguage, para que pueda
entenderse con exactitud toda la doctrina
que sucesivamente establezco. La segunda
division es solo relativa la prctica de los
estudios contenidos en esa coleccion.
Aguado, Coleccin de estudios (Madrid,
1820), p 1 [33].

49

Creo que una de las dificultadeses, el


no tener una postura determinada. Para
remediar este inconveniente discurr buscar mdio, y despues de varios ensayos, h
incontrado uno, que al mismo tiempo que
fija hasta cierto punto el instrumento, le
pone disposicion del que le toca, quedandole libre el uso de sus facultades fsicas.
Aguado, Nuevo mtodo, op. 6 (Madrid,
1840), p 2 [84].

las observaciones que he deducido de


mi prctica en la egecucion de los pasages
de agilidad. Ibid.

Parte primera: terico-prctica:


literally, Part i: Theoretico-Practical.

reduciendo la teora y ampliando la


prctica. Aguado, Nuevo mtodo para
guitarra (Madrid, 1843), p [11]
(unnumbered in the original).

Consideraciones generales acerca del modo


di dar sentido a la msica. Ibid. pp 7071
[144145].

In the following quotation the advice to


move only the last joint (ltima falange)
must, of course, refer to the middle joint
of the fingers, since it is not possible to
move a finger from the tip joint alone.
Indeed, immediately following the quotation Aguado uses the plural (las ltimas
falanges), perhaps to indicate the middle
and tip joints. Pictures 5 and 6 in table
n 2 seem to confirm this idea: not to
move from the base joint, but from the
middle one. As for the thumb, Aguados
terminology can presumably be taken

50

I believe that one of the dicultiesis the lack of an agreed way to


hold the guitar. In order to remedy this inconvenience I pondered on
how to find a way, and after various attempts, I have come upon one,
which, while fixing the instrument up to a certain point, puts it at the
players disposal, leaving free the use of his physical faculties.
The Mtodo proper falls into two sections: the first contains twenty-eight chapters (lecciones), each one focusing on a particular aspect of technique, and accompanied by one or more observations (observaciones) illustrating how to execute (come se ha de egecutar) the diculty in question. The second section
presents three groups of estudios, dedicated in turn to the right hand, the left
hand and the coordination of the two hands. To end with, Aguado expounds
the observations which I have derived from my practice in the performance of
passagework, with annotations on fingering.
The Nuevo mtodo para guitarra (1843) represents a high point in nineteenthcentury thinking about the guitar; it bears witness to the extensive journey of
a musician who has devoted a good part of his existence to teaching. Here too,
Aguado divides his work into Part i: Theoretical & Practical (containing the customary chapters dedicated to parts and variations of the instrument, terminology, the tripod and even a short theory of acoustics suitable for playing) and
Part ii: Practical. In the Preface, Aguado claims to have changed the layout in
comparison with his preceding methods, reducing the theory and expanding
the practical aspects. It is really in Part ii that Aguado goes deeper than before
to lay bare every aspect of learning and to provide the student with as complete
a picture as possible of the problems ahead: in the five sections which comprise this part are analysed all or nearly all the fundamental points of technique, from fingering to harmonics, from campanelas to the imitation of other
instruments. Hundreds of musical examples exercises of a few bars or finished
pieces of considerable musical value complete the second part. There are even
the beginnings of a theory of interpretation (General remarks on how to give
feeling to the music) and a short outline of harmony applied to the guitar.
Practically impossible as it is to revisit and summarise every one of Aguados
technical and didactic principles, given the striking richness of detail and the
highly analytical layout, here we shall at least try to sketch the more significant
ideas in broad outline. What emerges so forcefully is a new and, at least for the
entire nineteenth century, unsurpassed attention to posture, to movement, to
the reactions of the body; an awareness that learning about music cannot set
aside the physiological processes that permit the act of playing. In this regard
Aguado dwells at great length on movements which to the reader may seem
trivial, even at the risk of redundancy. Total control and perfect simultaneity of
the action of the two hands are the outcome of a carefully targeted practice,
which dissects the students body into a chain of microunities (of which only
the final link, the phalange alone, physically produces the sound). All this aims
to reduce expenditure of energy to the minimum, thanks to a stability and an
immobility which no guitarist before him had ever laid out so lucidly:
Each time [the thumb] plays, [the pupil] should bend the last joint
in such a way that the rest of the thumb hardly movesThe training
of the right-hand thumb is highly important, for by becoming used
to moving no more than its last joint, it helps to ensure on its part

lorenzo micheli

that the hand does not move. The index and middle fingers must in
turn play the same way. It is on this condition that the fingers
plucking do so, if possible, without moving anything more than the
last joints that a secure and energetic stroke depends.
If in the initial lecciones (lessons) Aguado seems to favour, for the right hand, the
training of three fingers (p, i, m), without scorning repetitions of the same finger on consecutive notes, then it is not long before the ejercicios (exercises) and
still more the estudios (studies) start to involve the ring finger, which seems to
be developing towards a complete freedom of use, above all where it is used to
sing a melody. Some bold right-hand patterns (for example, the groups of four
repeated notes a a m a, m a m a in Estudio n 23) leave one with the feeling that
the ring finger has achieved the same mobility as the other fingers, for all that it
sets out at a definite disadvantage:
This [ring] finger is weak by nature, and for this very reason one
must pay special attention to it, though not so much that the strings
played by the other fingers cease to be clearly heard.
The right-hand thumb is just as highly developed. Specific exercises are given to
it, and it plays the leading role in virtuosic passages of great instrumental eect.
Exercise 89, for example, presents a tone colour often encountered in Aguado:
This exercise is to be performed only on the bass strings, and played with the
thumb alone. The same eect is found in variation 4 of Le menuet aandangado,
op. 15 (This variation on the wound strings).
On the subject of left-hand fingering, it is worth recalling the invention of
equsonos (equivalent sounds). Setting out from the principle that sounds of
identical pitch can be obtained on the guitar from dierent strings, Aguado suggests a type of notation in which the number indicated designates not the
string, but, indeed, the equsono. Thus,
These particular places at which the same pitch can be obtained,
I call equsonosFor example, high F has four equsonos on the
guitar: (1) on the first string on the first fret; (2) on the second string
on the 6th fret(3) on the third at the 10th fretand (4) on the
fourth at the 15th
The notation of the equsonos, or rather the discovery of the possibilities oered
by the lower strings for sounds which until then would have been played on the
highest available string, with the consequent increase in variety of timbre, represents in embryo an intuition which will find rich application in the music of
Francisco Trrega and Miguel Llobet.
Also notable is the propensity for unusual stretches of the left hand; indeed,
Aguado devotes some ninety exercises to the left hand and its associated technical diculties: from simple and double slurs (illustrated by a lavish selection of
patterns) to shifts; from scales in thirds to octaves. In particular, the discussion
of slurs (ascending and descending, of two, three or four notes) is allotted much
space in the text, above all in the section of exercises; as in Carullis method, the
treatment of ornaments is incorporated into this section. Aguados music makes
a good deal of use of the glissando, or arrastre, indicated by a horizontal line or

mauro giulianis guitar technique

literally, but the qualifying hardly


(apenas) implies that the rest of the
thumb will move a little, in any case:
Cada vez que [el pulgar] pulse, [el
discipulo] ha de doblar su ltima falange
de manera que apenas se mueva el resto
del dedoLa educacion del dedo pulgar
de la mano derecha es sumamente importante, porque acostumbrado no mover
ms que su ltima falange, contribuye por
su parte que no se mueva la mano. Lo
mismo deben ejecutar despues el ndice y
medio a su vez. En esta circunstancia, esto
es, en que los dedos que pulsen lo hagan,
si es posible, no moviendo ms que sus
ltimas falanges, consiste lograr una
pulsacion segura y enrgica.
Ibid. p 12 [30].
Este dedo [anular] es dbil por naturaleza,
y por lo mismo se ha de aplicar la atencion
especialmente l, sin que por eso dejen
de oirse bien las cuerdas pulsadas por los
otros. Ibid. p 52 [126].

Este ejercicio se ejecuta solamente en los


bordones, y se pulsa con solo el dedo
pulgar. Ibid. p 44 [118].
Cette variation sur les cordes files.

A estas distintas localidades en donde se


puede ejecutar un mismo sonido, llamo
equsonosv. gr. fa agudotiene en la
guitarra cuatro equisonos: 1 en la prima
pisada en el primer traste; 2 en la segunda
pisada en 6 traste3 en la tercera en 10
trastey 4 en la cuarta en 15
Ibid. p 23 [43].

51

with an acciaccatura (this last type of notation for glissando survives into the era
of Trrega and Llobet).
Two brief chapters Wealth of the Guitar and Imitations bring out yet more
valuable details for the assessment of Aguados contribution. The harmonics described in Lesson 43, like those described by Carulli in his opus 27, are natural:
Unas de las gracias de la guitarra
consiste en los sonidos armnicos. Estos
se producen pisando armnicamente una
cuerda, es decir, tocndola con la yema
de un dedo (sin apretarla) encima de las
divisiones de su longitud, que algunas corresponden con las de los trastes (del 7,
por ejemplo); en este estado se pulsa,
inmediatamente despus de concluido el
acto de pulsar, se levanta el dedo de la
izquierda dejando de estar en contacto
con la cuerda, y sta queda sonando
armnicamente. Ibid. p 47 [67].

En esta srie faltan muchas notas de la


escala cromtica, que se pueden hacer en
sonidos armnicos valindose de un
medio publicado por mi amigo el Sr. Fossa
en un artculo puesto al principio de la
pieza titulada Ouverture du jeune Henri,
arrange pour deux guitares. Partiendo del
principio que la cuerda al aire da su 8a
armnica encima de la 12a division de
trastes que la divide en dos partes iguales,
saca por consecuencia forzosa que la
misma cuerda pisada en primer traste
tendr su 8a armnica encima de la 12a divisiony como en este caso los dedos de
la izquierda estn ocupados en pisar del
modo acostumbrado, es necesario que los
de la derecha hagan dos funciones, la de
pisar armonicamente, y la de pulsar.
Ibid. p 48 [68].
Este invento tiene la ventaja de producir sonidos claros y de buena calidad, y
tambien de dar todas las notas de la escala
cromtica. Es verdad que para cada armnico se han de mover ambas manos, escepcion de los que se hacen en cuerdas al
aire, que se ejecutan con sola la derecha;
pero esta dificultad se vence pronto, pues
los armnicos, de cualquiera manera que
se hagan, no son para pasages de mucha
agilidad. Ibid. p 49 [69].

52

One of the guitars most charming aspects lies in its harmonics.


These are produced by stopping the string harmonically that is to
say, touching it with the flesh of a finger (without pressing down)
over various fractions of its length, some of which correspond to
the fretbars (e.g. the 7th); at this point one strikes the string, and
immediately after finishing the stroke, lifts up the left-hand finger so
that it is no longer in contact with the string; the string will then
keep ringing with the sound of the harmonic.
But then, a little further on, Aguado regrets the incompleteness of the series of
natural harmonics, and in order to make up for this lack reports a solution proposed by his friend Franois de Fossa (dedicatee of Aguados Trois rondo brillants, op. 2):
In this series many notes of the chromatic scale are missing, which
can nevertheless be made into harmonics by availing oneself of a
means published by my friend Mr Fossa, in a note placed at the
beginning of the piece entitled Ouverture du jeune Henri, arrange
pour deux guitares.
Starting out from the principle that the open string gives its octave
harmonic over the 12th fret, dividing it into two equal parts, it necessarily follows that the same string stopped at the first fret will have
its octave harmonic above the 12th fretand since in this case the
fingers of the left hand are occupied with pressing down in the usual
way, it is necessary that those of the right hand fulfil two functions,
one of stopping the harmonic, the other of striking the string.
These are the artificial harmonics, or octavados. In contrast with what we shall
find in Sors Method, Aguado does not argue against their use; on the contrary:
This invention has the advantage of producing sounds that are clear
and of good quality, and also of giving all the notes of the chromatic
scale. It is true that for each harmonic both hands have to move,
apart from those falling on open strings and played with the right
hand alone; but this diculty is readily overcome, for harmonics,
however performed, are not meant for passagework of much agility.
Among the guitars imitative eects, the tambora is obtained in two ways: one
is to tap the strings making up the chord with a quick movement of the middle
finger or even better of the thumb close to the bridge; the other is to strike
the bridge with the straightened index and middle fingers, while the left hand
makes the chord (it was this latter kind of tambora which nineteenth-century
composers favoured: Andrs Segovia uses them both, as his edition and record-

lorenzo micheli

ing of Joaqun Turinas Fandanguillo show). An imitation of trumpets can be


eected by stopping the strings with the left hand immediately over the fret, so
as to get a rattling sound, dirty and metallic. The harp, lastly, in a description
analogous to Sors, can be imitated by digging in between the strings with the
right hand, over the twelfth fret (or, as Sor says, halfway between the twelfth fret
and the bridge), seeking out a fuller sound; and indeed it is an example drawn
from Sors Morceau de concert which illustrates this technique. On the whole,
though, if in Aguado it is dierence in timbre which suggests the various sonorities, in Sor, imitation of other instruments (horns, trumpets, oboe, harp) comes
about mostly by imitating the writing and use made of these instruments in the
orchestra:
Imitation of various other instruments is never an eect of tone
colour alone; it is necessary that the passage be voiced as it would be
in a score for the instruments that I wish to imitate.
Other characteristic eects of the instrument, such as vibrato (trmulo, or prolongation of the sound, sustained by the left hand), campanelas and sounds
made by the left hand alone, are each the subject of a separate paragraph.
Two lecciones, to conclude with, seem to deserve special attention. Lesson 46,
on sonidos apagados (damped sounds), distinguishes four ways to damp the
sounds produced by the plucked string:
1 raising the finger of the left hand stopping the string;
2 after sounding an open string, bringing a left-hand finger to rest against it;
3 interrupting the vibration with the same finger of the right hand which has just
plucked the string;
4 combining the action of the right and left hand (the sounds resulting from this
dual action are said to be cortados, or cut o).
These four ways of damping notes allow the interpreter to realise an extended
range of shades of articulation, which goes from simple non-legato to pizzicato
(tou), passing through conventional (musical) staccato. Aguados thinking
on the mechanisms necessary for accurate control of the duration of sound is so
exhaustive that apart from having no equivalent in the treatment of the great
pedagogues of the time it strikes one as still relevant and provocative for the
modern interpreter.
Lesson 48 returns to the question of timbre already implicitly addressed in
the section on equsonos. Aguado draws attention to the extraordinary resource
of varying the quality of sound by plucking at dierent points along the string:
The guitars chief wealth, it seems to me, lies in the unique tone colours produced by plucking at various points along the string.
In sum, Aguados Mtodo is a sincere act of love towards the guitar, the result
of decades of thought on pedagogy in the working life of a great musician. In it
may be found some intuitions that were to have a profound influence on guitar
technique for more than a hundred years. In the face of such a raft of theoretical and practical information, and such punctilious notations as characterise
the Nuevo mtodo of 1843, it is a surprise to discover that Aguados published
works especially the concert works are very poor in ancillary markings, limited to sporadic fingerings and a few equsonos: the one work of significance to

mauro giulianis guitar technique

Limitation de quelques autres instruments nest jamais leet exclusif de la


qualit de son; il faut que le passage soit
dispos comme il le serait dans une partition pour les instruments que je veux
imiter. Fernando Sor, Mthode pour la
guitare (Paris, 1830), modern facsimile edn
(Geneva: Minko, 1981), p 20.

See Aguado, Nuevo mtodo, p 51 [71].


Note, however, that point 2 reflects the
correction given by Aguado in his Errata
for the book, given on p [16] (unnumbered in the original).

La principal riqueza de la guitarra


consiste, mi parecer, en la diferente calidad de sonido que produce cada cuerda
pulsada en distinto parage. Ibid. p 52 [72].

53

be decked out with numerous indications of dynamics, timbre and articulation


is not an original work, but the Gran solo, op. 14, by Sor:
Esta composicin de sorme ha parecido proposito para dar entender en la
guitarra ciertos efectos de la orquesta. H
hecho en ella algunas adiciones, que, sin
tocar lo esencial, juzgo la darn mas
brillantez. Dionisio Aguado, Gran solo de
Sor, escrito para el uso de Agustn Campo
por su Maestro D. Aguado (Madrid, 1849).

This composition by sorhas always seemed to me to have been


written expressly to convey certain orchestral eects. I have made
some additions to it, which I judge will lend it greater brilliance
without aecting the essential content.

iv fer nand o sor


1830 saw the publication in Paris of the Mthode pour la guitare, par Ferdinand
Sor (Method for the Guitar, by Fernando Sor) the most famous, perhaps, of all
nineteenth-century guitar methods. An in-depth examination of it would take
us too far afield, at too great a length; still, a few observations may help us to
glean something of both its importance and its peculiarities.
Leafing through the pages of Sors book, one is struck first by the scarcity of
musical examples, especially in comparison with the writings of Aguado. All the
illustrative material the examples and the few exercises, together with a limited number of studies for the practice of thirds and sixths is collected into a
slight appendix. Sor himself justifies this arrangement in the Conclusion:

Je nai jamais pu concevoir comment on


pouvait faire une Mthode avec beaucoup
plus dexemples que de texteLes exemples en musique me disent bien ce que je
dois faire; mais le texte doit me dire comment je dois le faireJai suppos que
celui qui achte une mthode veut apprendre; jai cru de mon devoir de lui faire
connatre toutes les raisons que jai eues
pour tablir les principes fondamentaux
de la mienne. Sor, Mthode, pp 8182.

[Translators note: In medias res (in the]


middle of things) refers to the practice of]
beginning a narrative by plunging into a]
crucial situation or action.]

Je ne dirai jamais au lecteur: Voil ce quil


faut faire, mais voil ce quil ma fallu faire.
Ibid. p 7.

54

I have never been able to understand how one could write a Method
with a much greater quantity of examples than textMusical examples will certainly tell me what I must do; but the text shall tell me
how I must do itI have assumed that anyone who buys a method
wishes to learn; I thought it my duty to acquaint the reader with all
my reasons for establishing these fundamental principles of mine.
Hard to miss, too, are the frequent asides, allusions and personal anecdotes,
vividly rendered with all the necessary dialogue and drama; a far cry, certainly,
from the expected objectivity real or apparent usually thought proper to this
genre of writing. The heavy-handed interjections of Sor the performer and pedagogue,victim of the reign of the free market, often give the impression of a certain rigidity, polemical and defensive of an obtrusively self-regarding attitude
marked by a tendency to present his own ideas in opposition to those of others.
None of this can fail to make the reader the modern reader, at least smile.
Yet a third trait stands out: the almost complete absence of a graded approach. There is little sense of the guided course that we normally expect from
a musical method. To borrow a term from literary studies, Sor begins his description of the learning process in medias res to such an extent that, where a
traditional method might spell out the simple but indispensable mechanical
principles, to be assimilated through constant repetition until they become automatic, Sor instead launches into subtle disquisitions on harmony. I shall
never say to the reader, This is what is necessary to be done, but This is what I
found it necessary to do, he hastens to write in the first lines, almost as though he
were anxious to account for the peculiarity of what he is about to publish.
How to characterise this work, then? A possible, provocative key to its reading was suggested twenty years ago by Matanya Ophee:

lorenzo micheli

The true nature of Sors Method has not been understood by many
scholars. The reason lies in the fact that it is simply not a method
from which one can learn to play the guitar. The book does not, in
the last analysis, turn out to be an accurate description of the
authors actual ideas on technique. The attempt to institute an
orderly and analytical discussion of technical and musical questions
is often obstructed by obvious shows of temper and outbursts of
bitter feelingI am convinced of the impossibility of undertaking
any analysis at all of Fernando Sors didactic conceptions without
taking into account the artists psychology, his paranoia and the
defensive arguments which abound in his writings.
A method from which one cannot learn to play almost an oxymoron. One way
out of the theoretical impasse caused by the anomalies of the Mthode is to contradict Sor and go so far as to rethink the genre to which it belongs; or perhaps
we might invoke the semantically broader term treatise that is, a theoretical
work which systematically unfolds a definite line of argument.
Having said so much, it remains true that in the main, Sor expounds his
ideas, born of years of experience in performing and teaching, with clarity. In
Part i there are chapters dedicated in turn to the instrument, posture, and placement and use of the hands. The right hand is to rely almost exclusively on thumb,
index and middle; the ring finger is brought into use to perform chords with
four notes, in the event that the two lowest voices do not lie on adjacent strings
and cannot be struck together with the thumb. As for the left hand, Sor takes
harsh exception to the widespread practice of bringing the thumb from behind
the neck to fret the sixth string as needed (a polemic already advanced by many
pedagogues, not least Francesco Molino in his Grande mthode, Paris 1824): on
the contrary, being the shortest digit, the thumb can more usefully confine itself
to oering a point of support and balancing the force exercised by the fingers
(which fall at a right angle to the fingerboard), acting as a pivot around which
the whole hand can easily change position. Two centuries on, Sors conviction
has carried the day.
Next to be discussed, among other topics, are the attack of the fingers on the
strings, timbre (and the imitation of other instruments) and use of the nails:
Never in my life have I heard a guitarist whose playing was endurable if he played with nailsit is necessary that Mr Aguados
playing should have so many excellent qualities as it has, that he
should be excused his use of the nails.

Matanya Ophee, Il tocco appoggiato:


precisazioni e argomenti storici,
Il Fronimo n 43 (April 1983), p 10.
[Translators note: These comments of
Matanya Ophee are in fact a retranslation
from the printed Italian: they were submitted to Il Fronimo in an English version
that is no longer available.]

The more restricted term of method


denotes by common consent a practical,
progressive manual characterised by the
presence of exercises which allow the student to go beyond () the way ()
of learning. I propose this distinction even
though Sor provides his own definition
of method as a treatise of the established
principles on which the rules are founded,
which ought to guide the operations, as
opposed to exercise, lesson and study (Sor,
Mthode, p 46n).

Je nai entendu de ma vie un guitariste


dont le jeu ft supportable sil jouait
avec les onglesIl faut que le jeu de M.
Aguado ait autant dexcellentes qualits
quil en a pour lui faire pardonner lemploi des ongles. Ibid. pp 2122.

Sors position towards the damping of notes is of great interest. Damped sounds
are divided into sons tous and son secs. tou (mued) and sec (dry)
corresponding respectively to pizzicato and staccato are distinguished on the
basis of the moment at which the sound is damped: staccato is a sound interrupted after the vibration of the string has been set in motion, while in pizzicato
the sound is mued in the very act of sounding the string:
These [staccato] sounds are stopped only in their sustain, while the
former [tou] are stopped in the act of plucking the strings.

mauro giulianis guitar technique

Ceux-ci [les sons secs] nont dtou que


la continuation, au lieu que les premiers
[les touffs] le sont dans lacte dattaquer
les cordes. Ibid. p 23.

55

Jai toujours trop regrett quil ny ait pas


un moyen de donner plus de son linstrument, pour moccuper des moyens de
lui en ter. Ibid.

Je ne fais que cesser de presser le manche


avec la main gauche, sans abandonner la
corde ds que la note a t attaque; je
nimpose pas mme cette tche toute la
main, le pouce seul remplit le but par un
petit eort presque imperceptible. Ibid.

The pizzicato, on account of its weak sonority, is rarely employed in Sors music
I have always been too unhappy that there is no way of giving the instrument
more sound to busy myself with ways of taking it away, he says: his most famous
example is perhaps the fifth variation of the Fantaisie, op. 7. Its realisation is entrusted entirely to the left hand, which presses the strings with less energy than
usual (but not so little as to make a harmonic). In staccato, too, the right hand
plays no role; this time the left hand presses the strings with customary power,
but then the pressure of the thumb on the neck is relaxed:
I merely stop pressing onto the fingerboard with my left hand, without leaving the strings as soon as the note has been plucked; I do not
even impose this task on the whole hand, the thumb alone answering
the purpose by a small, almost imperceptible eort.
In the performance of damped sounds, Aguado opts for various combinations
of the left and right hand; Sor on the other hand, in an utterly coherent way, recommends a clear-cut exclusion of right-hand resources in favour of the left (just
as evident, as we shall shortly see, in the realisation of scales and harmonics).
Part ii, apart from a section dedicated to practical knowledge of the fingerboard, oers valuable evidence on the subject of scales:

Quant la main droite, je nai jamais vis


faire des gammes dtaches, ni avec une
grande vitesse, parceque jai cru que la
guitare ne pourrait jamais me rendre
dune manire satisfaisante les traits du
violon, tandis quen profitant de la facilit
quelle prsente pour lier les sons, je
pourrais imiter un peu mieux les traits de
chant. Par cette raison je nattaque que la
note qui commence chacun des groupes
dont le trait est compos. Ibid. p 31.

En employant le doigt des guitaristes


ma main se trouvait tout--fait hors
de la porte des cordesJe ne pouvais
prendre cette position quen deplaant le
bras (et par l augmentant la dicult de
reprendre justement celle qui me convenait), ou en courbant le poignetSi le
lecteur dsire apprendre dtacher avec
vitesse les notes dun trait dexcution, je
ne puis mieux faire que de le renvoyer la
Mthode de M. Aguado. Ibid. p 32.

56

As for the right hand, I have never aimed to play scales with separate
notes, or with great speed, because I thought that the guitar would
never be able to render satisfactorily the characteristics of the violin,
while by profiting from the ease which it [the guitar] oers for
slurring notes, I could somewhat better imitate the characteristics of
the voice. For this reason I only pluck the note beginning each one of
the groups of which the passage is composed.
The performance of scales slurred, plucking only the first note on each string
with the immediately adjacent finger, allows Sor to avoid the fatiguing alternation of index and middle, and not to disturb the stability of the hand by plucking every note and shifting from string to string:
Using the fingering of guitarists [to play scales detached]my
hand would find itself quite out of the usual range of the strings
I could only take up this position by displacing the arm (and in so
doing making it more dicult to return reliably to my preferred
position), or by bending the wristIf the reader desires to learn to
play the notes of a passage fast and detached, I can do no better than
to refer him to the Method of Mr Aguado.
On occasion, quick repeated notes are integral to the music, as with the triplets
in the first movement of the Grande sonata, op. 22, the triplets in the last variation of the Fantaisie, op. 16, or the repeated notes in the Allegro non troppo of the
Deuxime grande sonata, op. 25. In these cases, Sor always keeps to a minimum
the number of repetitions of i and m on a single string never going beyond the
second string, in any event. In the examples just cited, the accented notes are always played with the thumb, which then has often to play chords of three or four
notes with a rapid sweep:

lorenzo micheli

# . . # .
.
.
.
V .

141

. .
..
# ..

..
bb .. # # #
.

Part iii contains an explanation of the theory of thirds and sixths: chains of
these intervals, which in other methods are presented as one resource among
many, are in Sor elevated into the founding principle of his own technique. The
entire key to mastery of the guitar (as a harmony instrument) lies in the knowledge of thirds and sixths, he states without equivocation; and again, I have no
doubt that this exercise will fully convince the reader that, with knowledge of
thirds and sixths, it is possible to finger all the most dicult guitar music.
In essence, the entire gamut of possibilities for left-hand fingering (including shifts) can be assimilated automatically through study of the fixed models
of scales in double notes fixed because the intervals are fixed. Sors conception, even when he gives us some extra detail on the use of the left hand in a
melody, is always inspired by the criterion of utmost economy of movement. It
is this same criterion which inspires one of the twelve general maxims listed in
the conclusion: not to lift right away the finger just used (in the performance of
notes ascending on the same string), and to prepare on the same string as many
fingers as possible (in the case of descending notes). It is a rule as simple as it is
fundamental, and even today many players do not pay it sucient attention:
When two or three notes fall consecutively on the same string of
the guitar, then if they lie in an ascending direction the second note
will damp and stop the sound of the first, and the third that of the
second. If, while lowering a finger to press down the second note, I
at the same lift the finger holding down the first, I make two movements instead of one, and I even run the risk of lifting the finger a
moment too soon and sounding the open string making my playing less clean rather than more. If the notes descend, then rather
than waiting for the moment when the note is to be stopped, I put
the finger down in advance, so that I have no movement to make
other than to lift the finger which was holding down the upper note.
This procedure spares me another movement, and in particular a
display which I have never liked.
A considerable space, within Part iii, is allotted to the treatment of harmonics,
or flute-notes (harmonics, which in Spain are called flute-notes). Sor recounts
his investigations into the best way to produce clean and strong harmonics, and
gives the rules he finally established:
1 not to press the string at the required place too lightly, but in such a
way that I could feel it securely under my finger;
2 that the action of plucking the string with the right hand should be
followed right away by that of letting it ring freely by lifting the lefthand finger;
3 that in so far as the sounds to be produced required a position closer
to the nut, the act of plucking the string should be more forceful, and
the pressure of the left-hand finger stronger without, however, compelling the string to come close to the fret.

mauro giulianis guitar technique

Fernando Sor, Second Sonata, op. 25,


first movement (Allegro non troppo),
bars 141145.
Toute la clef de la possession de la guitare
(comme instrument dharmonie) consiste
en la connaissance des tierces et des sixtes.
Sor, Mthode, p 45.
Je ne puis nullement douter que cet exercice ne convainque pleinement le lecteur
quavec la connaissance des tierces et des
sixtes, on peut doigter toute la musique de
guitare la plus dicile. Ibid. p 43.

Deux ou trois notes conscutives tant


faites sur une mme corde de la guitare, si
leur marche est ascendante, la seconde
toue et dtruit le son de la premire, et
la troisime celui de la seconde. Si en
laissant tomber le doigt qui fait la seconde,
je lve en mme temps celui qui tenait la
premire, je fais deux actions au lieu
dune, et je mexpose mme lever le doigt
un instant trop tt et faire entendre la
corde vide, ce qui, au lieu de rendre mon
jeu plus pur, lui donnerait moins de
puret. Si elles sont descendantes; au lieu
dattendre le moment o la note doit tre
produite pour la presser, jy ai dj le
doigt, et je nai dautre action faire que
celle de lever celui qui tenait la plus haute;
ce qui mpargne encore un mouvement,
et surtout un talage que je nai jamais
aim. Ibid. pp 8687.
1 De ne point presser trop lgrement
la corde au point dtermin, mais dune
manire qui me la ft bien sentir sous
mon doigt; 2 que lacte de lattaquer avec
le doigt de la main droite devait
tre immdiatement suivi de celui de la
laisser vibrer en libert en levant celui
de la main gauche; 3 qu mesure que
les sons produire exigeraient une position plus rapproche du sillet, lacte dattaquer la corde devait tre plus violent,
et la pression du doigt de la main gauche
plus forte, sans obliger cependant la corde
de se rapprocher de la touche. Ibid. p 58.

57

Sor explicitly declares his aversion to artificial harmonics, for which this time
suering from a lack of prescience he sees little future, on account of the excessive expenditure of energy involved; if it is true, indeed, that octave harmonics allow the entire gamut of notes, it is also true that in playing them,
Outre la double tche qui mtait impose
en mobligeant de mesurer des distances
bien exactes pour les deux mains, jy
trouvai linconvnient (pour moi) dtre
forc demployer toute la main droite pour
attaquer une seule note, et que
chacune de celles que je voulais produire,
non seulement me cotait un mouvement
du poignet, mais de tout le bras, et que,
nayant pas un point dappui, il mtait
presque impossible de diriger avec assurance le doigt pour dterminer exactement
la moiti de chaque distance. Ibid. p 58.

Comme il y en a qui sont presque


inapprciables, je les ai retranchs autant
que possible dans mes compositions.
Ibid. pp 5960.

[Translators note: Captatio benevolentiae]


is the rhetorical strategy of securing the]
addressees goodwill.]

Devant jouer avec MM. Hertz et Lafont


le trio de Hummel sur la Sentinelle, jai
t oblig de me faire la variation de guitare Ex. 88, parceque celle qui sy trouve
morait des dicults bien plus grandes
que la mienne. Daprs cet aveu, on peut
voir que si le genre pculier la guitare
est celui de la variation en question, je ne
suis pas si fort sur cet instrument que
celui qui la crite. Je pourrais lexcuter,
mais ce serait aux dpens des principes
dont je ne voudrais me dpartir jamais.
Sor, Mthode, p 85.

58

apart from the dual task imposed on me of having to calculate quite


exact distances for both hands, I found in it the inconvenience (for
me) of being forced to use the whole of the right hand to pluck a
single note. I found also that each note I wanted to produce cost me
a movement not only of the wrist, but of the entire arm, and that,
not having a point of support, it was almost impossible to direct the
finger with confidence to determine exactly half of each distance.
Sor, then, rules out the use of artificial harmonics not least because of their
weaker sonority. By the same token, he also excludes the possibility of producing all the notes of the chromatic scale. The table of natural harmonics that he
proposes, bringing together all the harmonics obtainable from the six strings as
far as the second fret, is clearly utopian; there is no choice, then, but to make a
prior selection of natural harmonics, and to reduce drastically the range of keys
in which they can be deployed: Since there are some here that are almost imperceptible, I have excluded them as much as possible from my compositions.
But there is at least one exception to the wholesale rejection of artificial harmonics: the practice, originating in violin technique, of sounding the double
octave by touching the string with the little finger of the left hand five frets away
from the note fretted (Sor himself provides a prominent example in the Fantaisie, op. 16, variation 4).
At this point, according to the author we are about halfway through the
Method the reader possesses all the instrumental theory needed to learn to
play: the subsequent chapters go more deeply into the question of fingering as
it relates to performance and phrasing of a melody, and the realisation of guitar
accompaniments (with examples drawn from Mozart, Paisiello, Cherubini and
Sor himself, plus an ambitious analysis of a fragment of Haydns Creation in
transcription). Finally, in the long Conclusion, Sor recapitulates the principles
to which he has held true in conceiving his works, drawing up a list of twelve
golden rules for the student.
Not even in these last pages does the writer manage to give up polemics and
digs against his colleagues: the art of captatio benevolentiae is utterly unknown
to him. Only here in the Conclusion, his tone wavering between irony and admiration, do we find a single explicit reference to Mauro Giuliani (though its
target is named only in the accompanying example):
Having to play Hummels trio on La sentinelle with Messrs Herz
and Lafont, I had to write my own guitar variation example 88,
because the one that was there posed far greater diculties than
my own. In the light of such a confession, one can see that if the
style proper to the guitar is that of the variation in question, I am
not as skilled on the instrument as the one who wrote it. Indeed, I
could perform it, but only at the expense of principles from which I
would never willingly depart.

lorenzo micheli

Sor

###

r
# n

. 3

..

c R

Giuliani

##
V # c

###

..

# n #

# n

# n

# n # #

#
##
# n n

V #

1

2

### .

.
V
j
j

n
###

.
n

..
V

Example 88 in Sors Method, comparing


two versions of the guitar variation of
Hummels La sentinelle as originally
written by Giuliani (lower stave) and as
rewritten by Sor (upper stave). Giulianis
version is given as it appears in the
facsimile published by Tecla, diering
slightly from how it appears in Sors
Method. The repeat of the first part is
notated in Sors example but is not present
in the complete work from which
Giulianis version is taken.
All examples from Giulianis works have
been prepared from the Complete Works
in facsimile, published by Tecla and edited
by Brian Jeery (see bibliography). We are
very grateful to Tecla (www.tecla.com) for
granting permission to use its editions.


# n

r 3 U # n
###
#
j
V

12


###

###

16

r


### n

19

###

# n



##
#

V #

mauro giulianis guitar technique

59

v mauro g iuliani
Giulianis slurs have been restored in our
example on the previous page.

En gnral, tout ce que lon appelle


batterie, si elle ne reprsente quelque
autre chose quelle-mme, ma toujours
produit leet dun roulement continuel
dont la monotonie est insupportable.
Sor, Mthode, p 30.
Je ne prsente ici que les moyens qui
conduisent jouer comme moides
combinaisons comme celles de lexemple
vingt-troisime en loignent au lieu
den approcher. La raison en est que non
seulement il maurait fallu employer
le quatrime doigt, mais trs souvent il
aurait t oblig (lui tant le plus faible)
de marquer les parties accentues. Ibid.

60

Although Sor, in reproducing the variation written by Giuliani for Hummels


opus 71, omits a good many of the original slurs, the comparison between these
two versions of the same piece between two approaches to the same musical
problem marks a unique case in guitar history. Once again it becomes apparent that the spirit of rivalry between one school and another, which we have seen
threaded throughout Sors Mthode, cannot be resolved by formal proofs of one
or the others superiority; rather, it carries profound implications for our understanding of technique (taken always as adjunct to the musical idea). What is
so striking is that the two variations, unmistakably dierent as they are, both appear utterly idiomatic. For Sor, nevertheless, they express two starkly opposed
notions of technique, so much so that he holds one of them to be more or less
unplayable.
What, then, are those principles from which Sor would never willingly depart? In the light of all we have seen, we might begin by trying to understand
why Sor should have removed all of the bass notes in Giulianis version. This is
surely due to Sors avowed preference for playing this kind of triplet figuration
not with i, m and a (as the presence of bass notes would generally require), but
with p, i and m, the thumb playing the first note of each triplet. Sors reworking,
moreover, tries to minimise the need for i m alternations through an extensive
use of slurs. To enable these slurs, there is a clear tendency to invent figuration
that is, as much as possible, playable on a single string.
In Giuliani, arpeggio formulas, whether in fixed position (especially seventh
and ninth positions) or with shifts incorporated, are used liberally. Sor, on the
other hand, replaces almost all of the arpeggios with slurred steps or, at most,
thirds (reducing in this way the range of the melodic line). More than this, while
Giuliani freely enjoys frequent and rapid shifts between positions and registers,
thanks to a heightened left-hand mobility, to Sor these shifts, where not strictly
indispensable, cause a sort of vertigo (only with some diculty can we imagine
in Sor writing such as that of the solo part in Giulianis Third Concerto, op. 70,
even in those pages in where he uses the fingerboard to the full, such as the variations of the Fantaisie, op. 7).
Returning to the Sentinelle, Sors clear preference for stepwise passagework,
performed probably by slurring the first two notes in each triplet, points up his
two chief dislikes of the i m alternation and of arpeggio figuration. His lack of
sympathy for the latter is manifest in the second part of the Method:
As a rule, everything known as batteries or broken chords, if they
stand for nothing other than themselves, has always produced the
eect on me of a continuous rolling of an unbearable monotony.
A few paragraphs earlier, Sor has said clearly that he wishes to limit the formulas of fingering used to the few necessary to his own music; and this because
I present here only the methods which will lead to playing like
mineformulas such as those of example 23 move away from these
methods, rather than towards them, for the following reason: not
only would they require me to use the fourth finger, but very often
this finger would be obliged (although it is the weakest) to mark the
accented parts.
lorenzo micheli

Example 23 in Sors Method, p v.

Glancing at this notorious example, one sees that not only does it show two arpeggio formulas used by practically all guitarist-composers of the 1800s, it even
corresponds exactly to arpeggios 31 and 83 of Giulianis opus 1:
p imam i pi m a mi

p i ma mi p i mam i

..
V ..


3
2
0
010

i m i

0 41

i m i

i m i

0
1
0
2
3

ww
ww
w

i m i

0w

0
0 1
0 4 1


V .. .. 01 www

2w

2
3
3
2
0
3
p

Giuliani, Studio, p 4 (Giulianis fingerings).

Ibid. p 9.

Now, having pointed out some of Sors idiosyncrasies, we shall try to establish
whether Giulianis playing is equally defined in principle, or perhaps more empirical in its basis. As we have seen, the Studio per la chitarra oers a catalogue,
so to speak, of technical solutions presented by Giuliani in their finished form;
it may be that a concise examination of various other works might provide further useful indications.
The Right Hand
Like Carulli in the Mthode complte, Giulianis opus 1 notates right-hand fingering with a sort of caret ( ) for the thumb, and one, two or three dots for i, m
and a (index, middle and ring fingers). The ring finger comes into use in arpeggios on four strings and sometimes, apart from arpeggio formulas, on the first
string, as demanded by the texture or just by common sense. Scales and unslurred notes in general are played by alternating index and middle; we shall
soon see how, in order to articulate scales of a certain length, Giuliani makes use
of an adroit mixture of plucked notes and technical slurs.
Much of Giulianis music can be played with just three fingers (p, i, m). Nevertheless, it is clear that Giulianis assured use of the ring finger looks ahead to
its total emancipation, foreshadowing the important advances that were to be
made by Aguado and, later, Coste. On this view, the 120 arpeggio formulas of
opus 1 stand squarely at the forefront of the development of four-finger technique (p, i, m and a). As far as the thumb is concerned, Giuliani often indicates
its use by turning the stem of the note towards the bass; this is made clear in
opus 1 at the beginning of Part ii:

In all these examples in Part ii the bass, that is the notes with downward stems, are played with the thumb, and the others above with
the index of the right hand.

In tutti questi esempj della seconda parte


i bassi, cio quelle note che hanno la coda
al di sotto, si toccano col pollice, e le altre
di sopra collindice della mano destra.
Ibid. p 13.

Scales and passages in broken thirds, sixths, octaves and tenths are performed by
alternating thumb and index.
Like most of his contemporaries, Giuliani seems to have taken the use of the
right hand rather for granted: throughout his work one is hard put to find relevant markings, even where the performer might be expected to need them. Such
mauro giulianis guitar technique

61

is the case with the sforzato chords in the third movement of the Sonata, op. 15,
possibly to be played with the thumb, or with the triplets that appear with such
striking orchestral eect in the sextet Siete voi? in Rossiniana n 5: here, even
though exceptional agility of the thumb is required in many places in Giulianis
work, one cannot help wondering if in fact strings six and five are to be plucked
with p and i, while m and a play the sixths and thirds of the tune:
217

Giuliani, Rossiniana n 5, op. 123,


bars 217220.




V #
n
n
n
n

# # # # # #

La main doit sappuyer lgrement sur le


petit doigt qui doit se poser presque ct
de la chanterelle, et prcisement au milieu
de la distance du chevalet la rosette.
Carulli, Mthode complte, p 4.

La mano derecha caer junto la boca


siguiendo la misma direccion del brazo,
no apoyando de manera alguna ninguno
de sus dedos sobre la tapa, fin de que
sus movimientos sean mas libres.
Aguado, Coleccin de estudios, p 3 [35].

Le petit doigt me sert quelquefois en lappuyant perpendiculairement sur la table


dharmonie au-dessous de la chanterelle,
mais jai grand soin de le lever ds quil ne
mest point ncessaire. La ncessit de cet
appui vient de ce que dans les passages qui
exigent une grande vlocit du pouce
pour passer des notes de la basse celles
dune partie intermdiaire, tandis que le

62

As to the extremely widespread practice of resting the little finger on the top of
the guitar, we have no way of knowing if Giuliani counted himself as one of its
supporters surely the majority of writers of the first guitar methods or its detractors. Jean-Baptiste Phillis, in his Nouvelle mthode pour la lyre ou guitarre
six cordes (undated) recommends resting the right hand on the soundboard,
supported by the little finger five centimetres from the bridge. Carulli, too, declares himself in favour of giving the right hand a point of support (the right
hand should rest lightly on the little finger, which must be placed almost immediately next to the first string, and exactly halfway between the bridge and
the rosette). Sor takes up an intermediate position, assigning the decision to the
needs of the moment, and describing the advantages that resting the little finger
might bring in many situations. But new currents in pedagogy were flowing in
the opposite direction: already, in his Coleccin de estudios (1820), Aguado, setting the trend for nearly all guitarists after him, adopts a stance in favour of (real
or supposed) freedom of movement for the hand:
The right hand should fall close to the soundhole in line with the
arm, not resting any finger on the soundboard in any way, so that
its movements may be freer.
Giuliani is never explicit on the matter. Certainly, many of his most virtuosic
pages, with their frequent shifts of register, preclude the resting of the little finger on the soundboard. But there are just as many examples in which one cannot help wondering if in fact he might have resorted to this expedient. One hypothesis might be of a flexible attitude not unlike Sors in which, whenever
the fingers have to play consistently on the three highest strings, the right hand
profits from the control which only an external point of rest can give. It seems
natural to imagine a position of this kind in many of Giulianis variation sets, or
to cite a well-known passage in the triplets of the Grande ouverture, op. 61;
here, for a time, Giulianis writing for guitar corresponds perfectly with the advice of Sor:
Sometimes I make use of the little finger by resting it at a right
angle to the soundboard beneath the top string, but I take great care
to take it o whenever it is not necessary. The need for this support
arises in those passages which require great rapidity from the thumb
in passing from bass notes to intermediate ones, while the first and

lorenzo micheli

second fingers are busy with making up the remainder of the bar in
tripletsin this case the little finger keeps my entire hand in position, and I have to attend only to the use of the thumb; but as soon
as my hand can comfortably keep its position without this support,
I stop using it.
# # n # # #

V #
n #

66

premier et le second doigt sont occups


complter la fraction de la mesure en
trioletsalors le petit doigt me tient toute
la main en position, et je nai moccuper
que de la marche du pouce; mais ds que
ma main peut conserver la position
convenable sans cet appui, je cesse de
lemployer. Sor, Mthode, p 56.
Giuliani, Grande ouverture, op. 61,
bars 6668.

We have no evidence, either, regarding the use of nails. As has frequently been
pointed out, at the beginning of the nineteenth century (but already in the Baroque era) there are many attestations of musicians who played with them, and
of others who censured them. Yet chamber practice and a vast output of ensemble music not to mention concertos! formed a considerable part of Giulianis
activity, and the guitar parts would surely have been dicult to hear if played
with flesh alone. From this underestimated but, until it can be refuted, relevant observation, one may reasonably infer that his technique may well have
relied on the use of nails.
The Left Hand & Shifts
If for the right hand we must be content with a general paucity of indications,
the sources yield a little more material on the left. In general (with exceptions
that we shall see), in printed editions of Giulianis works, the richness of performance markings grows smaller with the increase in opus number and with
each advance in the year of composition. The odd case of editorial carelessness
aside, no doubt owing to haste in selling the manuscript (on Giulianis part) or
in bringing the new publication on to the market (on the part of the publisher),
we may assume that with the passing of time the composer no longer felt himself bound to provide technical data that by now must have been well known: in
this regard we need only examine the early sets of themes and variations, such
as opp. 2, 4 and 6 (published between 1807 and 1810) and compare them with
later publications of analogous works, in order to remark how fingering, dynamics and agogic indications become ever fewer and farther between.
A particularly striking feature is Giulianis conservative use of the left-hand
thumb to fret the sixth string. In the second part of opus 1 this occurs in any
number of instances (indicated in the music by an asterisk), and it is possible to
find traces of it in other works for example, in variation 8 of opus 6, where a
B on the sixth string is accompanied by the direction 7th fret with the thumb,
and in the first of the four Variations, op. 128, which are preceded by a legend explaining: The roman numerals indicate the positions or frets. The arabic numerals indicate the fingers of the left hand. p refers to the left-hand thumb.

# # # #

V #


J 7mo tasto
S col pollice

137

J
S

The preface to Giulianis op. 128 quoted


here is taken from R. Chiesa, La
diteggiatura, from E. Allorto, R. Chiesa,
M. DellAra & A. Gilardino, La chitarra
(Turin: edt, 1990). There are two editions
of op. 128, published by Ricordi (1827) and
Diabelli (1828). The latter lacks the
preface, and is the one chosen for Teclas
facsimile edition.

Giuliani, Variations, op. 6, bar 137.

mauro giulianis guitar technique

63

In fact, the Variations, op. 128, represent a fascinating source for the study of
Giulianis conception of the left hand: a surprising and perhaps unique example
not counting the collections of studies of a work fingered by Giuliani in its
entirety. (I assume that the fingering is indeed his.) Dealing as we are with an
easy work, we may suppose that it was the editor, hoping to attract the greatest
number of potential buyers, who expressly commissioned the meticulous fingering. Two interesting points emerge (apart from the use of the left thumb already mentioned): the first, in variation 4, is perhaps the only case in Giulianis
work in which the composer appears to demand with a specific fingering a socalled echo slur (legatura a eco). The second observation concerns two atypical barrs (apparent from the finger numbers; Giuliani never notates barrs in
his scores, although he often presupposes them, mostly partial and limited to
the upper strings): one is made by the middle finger on two strings in the second variation, and the other on three strings, made by the little finger towards
the end of the first variation (this latter case might lead us, a posteriori, to refinger the identical arpeggiated chord at the end of Rossiniana n 1, op. 119).

. .
3 2 0 3 1 0 3 1 0. 2.
#

n
#
V

3 2 0

92

Three extracts from Giulianis


Variations, op. 128.

41

3
4 1 4 3 1

2 1 4 2 1 0
58

# 4 4 4

1
1
J

A mere boutade, almost a joke, seems to be the only interpretation of bar 10 of


Exercise n 24, op. 48: in the presence of an extension of the least agile fingers in
position xii, the left thumb is brought on to the fingerboard this time from
below! to press down the first string and so act, in the manner of a cellist, as a
movable capotasto:
XII

#
#
V #

col dito pollice


f [with the thumb]
F

10

Giuliani, Exercise n 24, op. 48, bars 1011.

This episode apart, opus 48 contains a wealth of examples showing Giulianis


left-hand use. Many of the exercises, indeed, are nothing other than recapitulations, more or less literal, of material already deployed in previous works, in
particular of the Concertos, opp. 30 and 36, filled out with a mass of indications
of left-hand position. In a certain sense, it is as though one were in front of autograph notes for the fingering of the concertos (which are lacking in them). The
roman numerals, allowing us to visualise left-hand shifts right away, emphasise
Giulianis predilection for writing in the extended register, with jumps of very
wide intervals, and his own total confidence in the high part of the fingerboard
(above all the ninth position, reflected in the abundance of pieces in his favoured

64

lorenzo micheli

key of A major). When the leaps of position are especially wide, the shifting of
the hand usually takes place over an open string, which takes on the function
of a pivot, allowing one to negotiate the whole passage thanks to its resonance.
Prominent examples among hundreds can be found in Exercises 8 and 18 in
opus 48; or, again, in the third movement of the Concerto, op. 30, and at the end
of the Variations, op. 128. This last example has a shift from the seventh to the
first fret, resolved by the composer through a pivotal open B. In short, the use
of an open string for leaps of eight or nine frets applies to the great majority of
cases, to the point of being raised to a real rule (to be used, like all rules, with
discretion) for the fingering of Giulianis music.
VIII
0

a V

31

I
0

Four examples showing the use of open


strings to facilitate left-hand shifting in
Giulianis music:

Con brio

.
.

I XIV II

###
b V C

f S

IX

.
.

IX

#. # n #
9

j
##

n.

c V #

n.

f
[VII]

# 211
d V
111

4 1 1
I
2 2 1 2 1 3 1 0 0

4 0 0

2
1
3

a) from Exercise n 8, op. 48


b) from Exercise n 18, op. 48
c) from Concerto, op. 30, 3rd movement
d) from Variations, op. 128
The fingering in examples (a), (b) & (d)
is from contemporary editions and surely
Giulianis own; (c) is given for comparison
an open E may be used to smooth over
the descending and ascending shifts in the
first two bars of the example.

Harmonics, Glissando, Timbre


Rather rarely, in Giulianis work as a whole, are the guitars more idiomatic effects brought into play. Giulianis use of harmonics, especially in comparison to
other guitarists of the time, is extremely sparing. The seventh of the Eight Variations, op. 6, is composed entirely of natural harmonics, and preceded by an exhaustive explanation of the notation:
In order to produce the harmonics or flageolets well, it is necessary
to rest the fingers lightly on the strings in line with the frets, which
are indicated with numbers above the notes; note that the numbers
below the notes show the strings of the guitar.
In the Pastorale of the Gran duo concertant for guitar and fortepiano (written
four-handedly with Ignaz Moscheles) the harmonics are likewise natural (flaggioletti). To Giuliani, the use of this more resonant kind of harmonic must have
seemed almost obligatory in a concertante piece with fortepiano.

mauro giulianis guitar technique

Per bene esprimere li armonici,


flaggioletti, bisogna appoggiare leggiermente le dita sulle corde a misura dei tasti,
i quali verranno indicati con numeri al di
sopra delle note; si previene che i numeri
che sono al di sotto delle note mostrano le
corde della chitarra.
Giuliani, Otto variazioni, op. 6.

65

Con suoni armonici, ossiano flautati.


Thomas Heck maintains that flautati
means with vibrato (Mauro Giuliani:
virtuoso guitarist & composer [Columbus,
oh: Orphe, 1995], p 155); this conjecture,
however, besides making ossiano illogical
grammatically ossiano indicating a
synonym seems not to agree with the
etymology of flagioletto, which, deriving
from the Latin flabeolum (a pu of air),
through Old French flageol, refers to a
small flute. Flagioletto and flautato must
therefore be equivalent terms.
Col medesimo dito della mano sinistra
che forma il tuono della piccola nota, dopo
di averlo vibrato, si striscia fino alla nota
di melodia, facendo risuonare tutti glintervalli, a guisa dellabbellimento che nel
canto si chiama portamento di voce.
Giuliani, Studio, p 39.

Con la mano destra vicino allo sca[n]nello


per imitare il suono de corni.

Within the more balanced sonorities of two guitars in the Variazioni Concertanti, op. 130, on the other hand, the harmonics are artificial (variation 5: With
harmonics, or flute-notes). Both types of harmonics occur in the Rossiniane (a
well-known instance is the recitative in artificial harmonics in the Introduction
to Rossiniana n 1).
Intermittent, too, is the use of glissando, called strisciato (sliding) by Giuliani: in opus 1, Part iii, it is the subject of a study and a specific chapter. In his
brief instruction Giuliani describes how the eect is achieved, and invokes its
vocal origin in the portamento della voce:
With the same finger of the left-hand that stopped the small
note, which has just been sounded, one slides up to the melody
note, sounding all the intervals on the way, in the same way as
in the portamento in singing.
Examples of strisciato occur in the minor-mode variation of opus 4, and also in
the Rossiniane.
In the last resort, the attempt to unearth in Giulianis work as often one is
tempted to do the traces of a thoroughgoing research into colour and timbre
turns out to be a rather forced aair. His fingering, always attentive to musical
coherence, does not seem to be adapted to this kind of application (excepting a
few brush-strokes of instrumental colour, found above all in the early works).
Episodes such as the imitation of horns in opus 6 (with the right hand close to
the bridge so as to imitate the sound of horns) are not so much rare as unique.
However this may be, there is no denying Giulianis uncommon sensibility and
his extraordinary capacity to recreate on six strings the breadth and impact of
great operatic and symphonic frescoes, as can be seen both in the Ouvertures for
two guitars and in the Rossiniane.
Articulation, Slurs, Phrasing
Right-hand articulation depends above all on the distinction between notes that
are joined by a technical slur (a hammer-on or pull-o) and notes that are articulated (plucked) separately. This distinction is notated with direct clarity and
coherence in all of Giulianis works. The graphic sign indicating that the note is
to be plucked with the right hand is, for the vast majority of nineteenth-century
guitarists, a dot placed above or below the notehead. (This has often brought
about a certain confusion between a true staccato and, as in this repertoire, the
mere absence of a slur.) Such a meticulous and fine distinction between slurred
and unslurred notes provokes a fundamental question: do there exist basic criteria governing the way in which Giuliani assigns his slurs?
In light of some of his more significant works, two chief points emerge. The
first is that often and this is deliberately emphasised for didactic purposes in
many of the Exercises, op. 48 Giuliani adopts the principle of a single slur for
all the notes lying on a single string. The right hand, in this case, limits itself to
plucking the first note of each group of slurred notes:

j
# # # j

V
J
J

49

Giuliani, Variations, op. 38, variation 3,


bars 4950.

66

lorenzo micheli

As a second principle, Giuliani systematically avoids the practice of echo slurs


(legature a eco); to this end, in cases in which the player might be tempted to use
the open string, he precisely marks which notes are to be slurred and which are
to be plucked:
49
. .
. .
.
.
. .
.

###

#

V

Giuliani, Variations, op. 2, variation 3,


bars 4950.

The consequence of these two principles, which together go to explain the great
variety of slurring patterns in Giuliani, is a striking asymmetry of articulation:
groups of two, three, or four slurred notes may fall at almost any point in the bar,
and not necessarily on the accented beat. In this way the metre of the music and
the internal metre of the groups frequently come into conflict.
By disallowing echo slurs, Giuliani adopts a position diametrically opposed
to Carulli, who, by contrast, makes liberal use of them to achieve where possible a completely regular accentuation, aided by the avoidance of multiple slurs
(i.e. groups of more than two slurred notes). The former principle, on the other
hand, recalls the practice of Sor and indeed of lutenists and Baroque guitarists:
Giuliani sometimes performs scales of a certain length by plucking the first note
of each group of notes lying on a single string (like a stroke of the bow) and slurring the remaining ones. The eect is rather like a diatonic glissando. Perhaps
the most celebrated case is that of the first movement of the Sonata, op. 15:


. . .

176

Giuliani, Sonata, op. 15, first movement,


bars 176177.

When performing passages of this kind, one must avoid marking the plucked
notes with too much emphasis: in this way the scale will sound fluent, but without losing that restless dynamic quality (achievable only on plucked-string instruments) conferred upon it by the unequal sonority of slurred and unslurred
notes. Of course, irregularity and naturalness cannot coexist unless the tempo
chosen by the performer is fast enough: how often is an eective performance of
this Sonata compromised by being noticeably under tempo!
Phrase markings in Giuliani are, in the end, more or less non-existent. True
musical staccato is left to the judgement of the interpreter, and, saving exceptional cases such as that of variation 6 in opus 9 (in which a semiquaver scale
with points underneath, and therefore articulated, is accompanied by the indication staccato) or cases in which long articulated passages are marked with a
point (as, again, in the first movement of the Sonata, op. 15), must be construed
from the shape of the musical discourse. Phrasing slurs, following the expected
practice of guitar music of the period, are not written, an absence which makes
indispensable once again the recourse to the practice, stylistic knowledge and
taste of the player. The precision with which Giuliani indicates articulation and
left-hand slurs can often be of great help:

. .
. .
. .
. .
.
n

n . . . .

#

###

mauro giulianis guitar technique

It is of course possible that these indications still refer only to notes plucked with
the right hand rather than slurred with
the left. But I am strongly convinced that
in both op. 9 and op. 15 Giuliani may well
intend a pianistic staccato to create a
strong contrast with nearby slurred
groups of notes. Quick passages where
legato and staccato are alternated, as here,
abound in the sonatas of Mozart (see, for
instance, k 279/i, bars 3335, or k 281/i,
bars 8285); in Giuliani, then, the eect to
aim for is a pianistic with pedal /without
pedal contrast.
Giuliani, Concerto, op. 30, 3rd movement,
bars 34.

67

. .
. .
.
.
.

# # # j

#
n

V #

21

Giuliani, Grande ouverture, op. 61,


bars 2122, and beneath for comparison,
the 3rd movement of Beethovens Piano
Sonata, op. 10/2, bars 2023.

# # n n

f
S

?

b n J

20

&b

p.


. . .




f
dol:

Giuliani, Sonata, op. 15, first movement,


bars 176177. In the parallel passage in the
exposition of this movement, bars 5152,
the slurred groups do not quite correspond with the strings, but it is hard to
believe in a musical intention more than
a typographical slip Giulianis, or more
likely the printers. This is perhaps one
instance in which literal precision is not
essential: Antoine de lHoyer, for example,
tends to notate long slurred passages, in
which the slurs must evidently be grouped
by string, using a kind of shorthand in
which notes are slurred, let us say, in
groups of four (although this slurring
is not literally possible). If de lHoyer did
not feel the necessity for precision, nor,
perhaps, did Giulianis publisher Steiner,
whose engraver was likely copying
the musical text from the first edition
(Imprimerie Chimique, a poor and barely
legible edition).

176

68

lorenzo micheli

The imaginative unevenness of Giulianis slurring has aroused in interpreters


at all levels and in modern editors more than a little perplexity: often it drives
them to work on the text a drastic normalisation, thinking to make it more consonant with the musical squareness often associated with music of the Classical
period. Still, it must be borne in mind that this freedom of inflection does not
play a mechanical role alone, though that is undeniably a factor. Rather, it may
be turned into an element functional to the musical discourse, invoking a poetic
of subtle variatio one which we may perhaps struggle to appreciate, but which,
in the last resort, and notwithstanding all the dierences, can be compared to
the taste for notes ingales in the music of the French Baroque.


biblio g r aphy
Aguado, Dionisio. The Complete Works for Guitar: in reprints of the original
editions with prefaces by Brian Jeery, Heidelberg, Chanterelle, 1994. Four
volumes: vol. 1 includes the Coleccin de estudios (1820) and the Nuevo
mtodo de guitarra, op. 6; vol. 2 comprises the Nuevo mtodo para guitarra
(Madrid, 1843) and the Apndice al nuevo mtodo para guitarra (1849/50);
the Escuela de guitarra (Madrid, 1825) is not included
. New Guitar Method, ed. Brian Jeery, London, Tecla, 1981; translated by
Louise Bigwood from Nuevo mtodo para guitarra (Madrid, 1843)
Allorto, E., R. Chiesa, M. DellAra & A. Gilardino. La chitarra, Turin, edt, 1990
Carulli, Ferdinando. Mthode complte pour parvenir pincer de la guitare par
les moyens les plus simples et les plus faciles, op. 241 (Paris, 5th edn, 1825),
modern facsimile edition, Geneva, Minko, 1987
. Mthode complte pour guitare, op. 27 (Paris, c. 1809), modern facsimile
edition, Florence, Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1981
. Mthode pour apprendre accompagner le chant, op. 61 (Paris, c. 1810),
modern facsimile edition, Florence, Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1981
. Seconde suite la mthode de guitare ou lyre, op. 71 (Paris, c. 1810), modern
facsimile edition, Florence, Studio per Edizioni Scelte, 1981
. Supplment la mthode ou La premire anne dtude de guitare, op. 192
(Paris, c. 1822), modern facsimile edition, Florence, Studio per Edizioni
Scelte, 1981
Giuliani, Mauro. The Complete Works in Facsimiles of the Original Editions,
edited by Brian Jeery [39 volumes], London, Tecla, 1984
Heck, Thomas. Mauro Giuliani: virtuoso guitarist and composer, Columbus
(oh), Editions Orphe, 1995
Sor, Fernando. Mthode pour la guitare (Paris, 1830), modern facsimile edition,
Geneva, Minko, 1981
. Method for the Spanish Guitar (London, R. Cocks & Co, 1832), modern
facsimile edition, London, Tecla, 1995; translated by A. Merrick from
Mthode pour la guitare.

mauro giulianis guitar technique

69

OnTeaching the Unteachable


luis zea

int ro duc t ion


nasmuch as what and how we teach is a reflection of what and how we learn,
this article is about both teaching and learning the unteachable.Although written with the guitar in mind, it mostly addresses issues of relevance to musical
performance and teaching in general. What I mean by unteachable will I hope
become clear as readers go through the article. Tempting though it was at first,
I soon gave up the idea of providing a definition because I could think of none
which does not assume that the reader already knows what it is, or which does
not falsify by leaving out much more than it can include.
mile Jacques-Dalcroze (18651950) once formulated the principle that

real teaching begins when the student has a problem all else is
simply instruction.
Certainly, genuine teaching involves a lot more than providing unequivocal explanations and instructions. It may reasonably be argued that objective knowledge is teachable and subjective knowledge is not. This notion, however, is
simplistic and deceptive, for while it is evident that music-making skills dier
widely in nature and degree of complexity, they often straddle an elusive borderline between what seems and doesnt seem discernible to the intellect or perceptible to the senses and hence between what seems and doesnt seem teachable. In other words, teaching and instruction cannot so easily be separated.
Besides, eective teaching obviously depends on the recipients cognitive capacity, too, quite apart from what is being taught. Added to this that the more taxing problems are usually the most interesting and stimulating ones (even if coping with them is not always as rewarding as it is challenging), I would prefer a
slightly more focused yet less radical formulation of Dalcrozes principle:

It was for these reasons that T.S. Eliot


avoided the attempt to define poetry.
See The Use of Poetry and the Use of
Criticism (1933), in Selected Prose of T.S.
Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode (London: Faber,
1975), p 95.
Lois Chosky, Robert Abramson, Avon
Gillespie & David Woods, Teaching Music
in the Twentieth Century (Englewoods
Clis, nj: Prentice Hall, 1986), p 33.

real teaching begins when the teacher faces the seemingly


unteachable often all else is simply instruction.
The inescapable question now arises: how can we teach the seemingly unteachable if indeed we can? By and large, I try to hint at rather than assert answers,
Copyright 2003 by Luis Zea

71

and I endeavour to do this mostly by invoking ideas derived from the pianist
and teacher Artur Schnabel (18821951), the thinker Karl Popper (19021994),
and in particular from various age-old Eastern teaching traditions. My emphasis on the expression hint at stems from the premise (inherited from these
traditions) that the role of the teacher can be no more than to point the way.
For in music as in every art the more unteachable the knowledge appears to
be, the less likely it is that it can be encapsulated in discursive language and
consequently, the less likely that the student will find it in an outside source.
To pretend otherwise is perniciously misleading and amounts to ending up like
Rowan Atkinsons blind man, in the dark room, looking for the black catthat
isnt there!
I would thus reformulate Dalcrozes principle again by saying that
real teaching is inducing the student to learn from within himself
rarely can mere instruction be expected to accomplish that.

Aaron Shearer, On Primary Intent, egta


Guitar Journal n 7 (1996), p 7. This is a
valuable article which also addresses the
crucial role of aims and visualisation.
Kassner made this remark at the
1996 August International Guitar
Festival in Caracas.

This paragraph encapsulates, in a


nutshell, Karl Poppers seminal idea
of problem-solving about the growth of
human knowledge, to which I largely
adhere. See Karl Popper, Conjectures
and Refutations: the growth of scientific
knowledge (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1963; 5th edn, 1989),
pp viiiix (preface).

72

Teachers have a big responsibility if they are willing to take up this task (particularly with younger beginners), all the more so if we realise, as Aaron Shearer
points out, that habits of thought and movement are unavoidably being formed
during every moment we play our instrument making it easier or more difficult to learn. Shearers idea reminds me of an insightful lecture by Eli Kassner
in which he stated that you learn best with whom you first learn, clearly implying that habits good and bad are more easily acquired at the beginning of
study than at any other time along the learning path. While much of what follows will seem relevant to so-called remedial teaching at advanced levels (especially on an individual basis), I like to think that the essential concepts are pertinent to learners at all levels and ages even children, who, after all, are not as
trouble-free as we might like or expect them to be.
A healthy optimism is always welcome, but regardless of how challenging
a teaching situation appears to be, the success of our eorts remains unpredictable and at times even indiscernible. Of course, we cannot teach without
departing from certain aims and assumptions. In other words, all teaching
involves empirical predictions within a horizon of expectations: we want to
achieve x, so we should do y; if we do a, b will follow. The reality is, though, that
any teaching approach is likely to produce unintended results, some of which
might turn out be undesirable, too. It is in this way that new problems as well
as new aims emerge and we find ourselves in need of making successive adjustments by trial and error. Such a process should be a good reminder of the
fallible nature of our attempts. And yet, it also indicates that we can gradually
approach a solution by way of approximations, even if we are never certain that
we will actually reach it. Thus, the teachers role has meaning and purpose and
the students knowledge can grow for the plain reason that we can learn from
our mistakes. Far from being static, then, as if following rigid rules, the best kind
of teaching and learning is dynamic and creative.
I would kindly ask those readers who might expect a comprehensive method for Teaching the Unteachable to bear in mind that my main aim is far less
formidable though more realistic than that; namely, to encourage teachers
and learners, regardless of their outlook, to trust that inborn childlike curiosity
which instinctively compels us to explore the world around us in quest of ever

luis zea

more personal and imaginative solutions to perplexing problems. For I envisage


teaching not as a compartmentalised parcel but as a boundless and humbling
field to be pioneered. Indeed, should you find in this article any inspiration to
rely more on your innate poetic wisdom and less on pre-packaged, industrial
answers, I shall be gratefully rewarded.

i musical intang ibles

I do not know how I may appear to the


world; but to myself I seem to have been
only like a boy, playing on the seashore,
and diverting myself, in now and then
finding another pebble or prettier shell
than ordinary, while the great ocean of
truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Isaac Newtons words quoted in Denis
Donoghue, Yeats (Glasgow: Collins, 1971;
Fontana Modern Masters), p 50.

The Spirit behind the Letter


No matter how scrupulously a piece of music be notated, no
matter how carefully it may be insured against every possible
ambiguity through the indications of tempo, shading, phrasing,
accentuation, and so on, it always contains hidden elements that
defy definition, because verbal dialectic is powerless to define
musical dialectic in its totality. The realisation of these elements
is thus a matter of experience and intuition.

Igor Stravinsky, The Performance of


Music, in Poetics of Music in the Form of
Six Lessons, tr. Arthur Knodel & Ingolf
Dahl (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University
Press, 1942), p 123.

Its dicult to think of a musician who would dissent from Stravinsky as he distinguishes between the letter and the spirit of notated music. Surely, the score
can tell the truth but not all the truth, and we shouldnt indeed we cannot
limit our questions to merely those having unequivocal correct answers. So it is
only natural that the teaching of musical interpretation should aim at an appreciation of all those elusive, yet vividly present, elements which lie somewhere
beyond the written score and appear to exist outside the realm of discursive language. That they are related to theoretical concepts such as musical characterisation, musical structure and proportions, phrasing and articulation, timing,
texture, colour and dynamics is undeniable. Not as evident, perhaps, is that the
grasping of such complex and interconnected concepts cannot be the outcome
of intellectual inquiry alone. Moreover, whatever we may find in them that is in
fact susceptible to rational explanation is likely to be only a fraction or even
a misrepresentation of their full significance, which ultimately derives from a
direct experience of the music. But assuming that a teacher has grasped those
hidden elements, and that he realises that such knowledge is not amenable to
unambiguous verbal description, what can he reply when a student asks him an
admittedly unanswerable question like
How exactly can I play this phrase marked ironic in the score so that it
conveys a musical identity of its own?
Often, the student doesnt formulate the question in the way he actually means
it, or simply doesnt ask anything at all. All the same, the perceptive teacher
might detect a tacitly expressed concern and he would then ask himself:
How can I help this student so that he understands and conveys the
musical character of that phrase?
The same situation can arise with many other questions:

on teaching the unteachable

73

What is the right tempo and character for this piece?


How much rubato is appropriate here, and how much agogic there?
My teacher tells me to play Bach with slurs, another teacher suggested to
avoid them, and yet another one says that you can do as you please. Who
is right?
How much separation is there between these two phrases?
How can I play this music so that I do justice to the composers intentions,
yet without compromising my own artistic vision?
These and similar questions are some of the daily puzzles faced by students and
professionals alike. The trouble is that our teaching and learning appear to gravitate around an almost primordial dependence upon words, to borrow Leonard
B. Meyers expression:
Leonard B. Meyer, Forgery and the
Anthropology of Art, in Music, the Arts &
Ideas (University of Chicago Press, 1967),
pp 6263. In my opinion, Meyers quotation points to the root of all positivism in
the sense that we instinctively tend to look
for certainty in a world full of uncertainty
hence our general proclivity to believe in
only what we can formulate in words and
verify by logical argument and positive
sensory experience.

The enlightening click that accompanies the arrival of an answer to a


perplexing problem seems similar to the
experience of creating poetry as described
by T.S. Eliot: It seems to me that at these
moments, which are characterised by the
sudden lifting of the burden of anxiety
and fear which presses upon our daily life
so steadily that we are unaware of it, what
happens is something negative: that is to
say, not inspiration as we commonly
think of it, but the breaking down of
strong habitual barriersSome obstruction is momentarily whisked away. The
accompanying feeling is less like what we
know as positive pleasure, than a sudden
relief from an intolerable burden.
The Use of Poetry and the Use
of Criticism, p 90.

74

Without their magic we feel lost. We look at the stars at night and
ask their names. Why? If the night enchants, what dierence does it
make? And yet we tend to ask. The reason is, I think, that from earliest childhood we learn to understand and manipulate the world with
words. To know the name is to exercise some control, however small
to be a bit less insecure.
It would be most reassuring to begin our quest for truth by asking the right
question, but that is unlikely to be the first question we ask. In any case, the
world is like a river in constant flux, and eventually students can ask and teachers can answer what they will sometimes it will work, sometimes it wont. But
we may still ponder: is there a wiser way? A mere endorsement of Stravinskys
remarks, for instance (that it is just a matter of experience and intuition) is
likely to prove insucient for the student, even though he might intellectually
appreciate the point behind the advice, and realise too that he must be patient
and persevere before he can find a solution to such problems.
In the meantime, the issue stands that when dealing with unanswerable
questions the teacher is supposed to do something or more precisely, the student expects him to say something, the snag being that if and when the enlightening click finally happens, whatever did the clicking doesnt arrive nor can it
be understood like the typically didactic, unambiguous instructions given by,
say, a primary-school teacher (the guitar has six strings, for example). Instead, it
appears to behave like a metaphor which by its very nature can only connote,
that is, stand for something beyond what it literally says. In this sense, whatever
the student needs to ascertain seems far distant from the realm of logical reasoning and much closer to the world of poetry, emotion, myth or even magic.
What is more, the notion of connotation itself implies that the teacher is merely
acting as a catalyst. In other words, teaching the unteachable seems to depend
on the ability to activate the students awareness so that, instead of an actual
transmission of discernible knowledge, the understanding emerges from within
himself given certain conditions. Considering that teaching involves a perplexing mixture of verbal and non-verbal language a realisation which only
succeeds in making the challenge even more challenging how, then, can the
teacher handle the elusive task of connoting musical truth?
Its time to turn to Artur Schnabel, the pianist who was a master of the unteachable, both as teacher and performing artist, and I should point to the remarkable book Schnabels Interpretation of Piano Music by Konrad Wol (1907
luis zea

1989), who was an outstanding pupil of the legendary Viennese master. This
book, still regrettably unknown to many musicians (and apparently out of
print), is the finest writing I have come across on the subject of musical interpretation in general and about an artist whose legacy cannot be overestimated. Many broad areas of music making are illumined by Schnabels teachings, and I have chosen to discuss musical characterisation for the first section
of the article.

Konrad Wol, Schnabels Interpretation


of Piano Music (London: Faber, 1976; first
published 1972). I had the honour and
good fortune of meeting Wol in New
York and establishing a friendship with
him. His was that humane humbleness
bestowed upon the few by true wisdom.

Musical Meaning & Musical Characterisation


In whatever music Im learning, I always find the odd spots here and there
(sometimes a whole piece) whose meaning seems to elude me. When this happens, I take it for granted that approaching problems of musical meaning with
the hope of arriving at unequivocal answers is both unwise and unprofitable, for
the character of any piece of music can only be intuitively grasped. By this I
mean that there are musical truths inaccessible to conceptual thought whose
understanding is exclusively musical, although we can use language to hint at
or allude to them. If, for instance, I were asked why I hear that the following
phrases which open Brittens Nocturnal are meant to be played as if they were
casual thoughts placidly floating in gravity-free space, I could not honestly give
a conceptual explanation:
II Musingly
)
Musingly(q(q)
(Meditativo)
(Meditativo)
3

V .

.
# -

# # #

# -

Nor could I tell why I find the arrival of the dotted rhythms in the Passacaglia
premonitory:

Benjamin Britten, Nocturnal after John


Dowland, op. 70, Musingly, bars 14.
These extracts from Brittens Nocturnal
are copyright 1964, 1965 by Faber Music
Ltd, and reproduced by kind permission
of Faber Music Ltd, 3 Queen Square,
London wc1n 3au.

starting broadly (cominciando largamente)


29

r
b
b
naturale

b

R

r
b b

r
n n ...

Britten, Nocturnal, Passacaglia, bar 29.

marc.

nat.

In fact, I cant help associating this whole section of the Nocturnal with a mans
murky dream, in which he gradually ascertains a sign of approaching danger,
and with it comes his sombre realisation that someone is about to be tortured
and killed. As the dream unfolds, the man suddenly realises that in fact everything in it is real even though he is still dreaming and that the victim is himself. Then the climax of the Passacaglia arrives:
Britten, Nocturnal, Passacaglia, bars 3436.
with force (con forza)

r
n r
# # n #

V
n #
R
R

( )
V ( )
w

34

S
j
n

>
>
>
b
# n n b b # # # n # b

n # #
ff
# b
n
n b b
# # #

n
>
>
>
sempre

on teaching the unteachable

75

From this point on, I visualise that man uttering


This is Martin Esslins grisly description
of Antonin Artauds own voice recorded
for his radiophonic poem for four voices,
xylophone and percussion entitled Pour
en finir avec le jugement de Dieu (To have
done with Gods judgement), which he
wrote in 1948 for Radiodiusion Franaise, and which was banned by its general
director on the grounds that it was obscene and blasphemous. See Martin Esslin,
Artaud (Glasgow: Collins, 1976; Fontana
Modern Masters), p 9. (More about
Artaud in the second part of this article.)

Richard Taruskin, Text and Act: essays in


music and performance (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1995), p 54.

Perles quotation found in Taruskin,


Text and Act, p 98. In this paragraph and
elsewhere, I have borrowed the expression
poetic wisdom (sapienza poetica) from the
Italian thinker Giambattista Vico (The
New Science, 1725). One commentator has
described it as The one genuinely distinctive and permanent human characteristic
which manifests itself as the capacity and
the necessity to generate myths, and to use
language metaphorically: to deal with the
worldnot literally, but poetically.
Terence Hawkes, Structuralism and
Semiotics (London: Methuen, 1977), p 15.

Remarks by J.M. Keynes, de Morgan


and Bernstein, found in Bernstein,
Einstein (Glasgow: Collins, 1973;
Fontana Modern Masters), pp 1389.

weird and violent wordswild, piercing, inarticulate cries


outbursts of such deep intensity of anguish beyond speech that
they freeze the blood: it is as though all human suering, mankinds
sum-total of dammed-up, frustrated rage, torment and pain had
been compressed into these tortured, primal shrieks.
When I first read this passage it immediately stirred my imagination and for
some reason reminded me of the Britten. So part of my imagery is borrowed
but then I would like to think that images belong to anyone who needs them!
Isnt that what poetry is all about? If a student was uncertain about the musical
character of this section, I might try to stimulate a response by using my own
dream-related images mixed with a paraphrase of Esslins passage, or even a
reading of it (if by some chance I happened to have the book handy). Of course,
I can hardly expect every teacher to approach this student in the same way. I
could, for instance, be pressed for an answer as to why I am using these particular images (or using imagery at all); and the only reason I can think of is that
I feel the music that way hardly a convincing reason in itself, and certainly
one likely to be taken for that old performers standby, calculated to make any
musicologist see red. Useful though they are, Brittens indications musingly and
meditativo (in the first example above) as well as starting broadly and with force
(in the second and third examples) are mere hints with a relative value. So in the
absence of unequivocal instructions, what are Brittens intentions? If intuition
and imagination are the sine qua non of music making, one cannot but wonder
why do these precious resources the most powerful of the artists assets often
appear to be in a state of lethargy, and seldom put to good use? Is it just that little room exists for such fantastic creative faculties in our positivist and technocratic society, trained as it is to succeed by producing and consuming nicely prepackaged and easily digestible solutions to our needs?
Composer George Perles claim that the greatest single source of bad performance is literalismits what you expect nowadays is disquieting and calls
for reflection. It strikes me that we are often oblivious of what I tentatively call
the miracle of the metaphor; that is, the power of imagery to awaken our creativity and enliven our capacity to grope into the unknown in this case, the musical meaning of a composition. May it not be that all we need is to give the voice
of our poetic wisdom a chance to be heard? It is food for thought that accounts
of the achievements of great scientists so often indicate that, far from being insignificant or meaningless, intuitive knowledge is at the root of every scientific
discovery which is why the real scientist, just like the real artist, always knows
more than he can account for:
It was [Newtons] intuition which was pre-eminently extraordinary
so happy in his conjecturesas to seem to know more than he
could possibly have any means of proving. The proofs, for what they
are worth, weredressed up afterwards they were not the instrument of discovery[Einstein] found his results by a phenomenal
intuitive instinct as to what the results should be.
And Einstein himself speaks of

76

luis zea

the search for those highly universal lawsfrom which a picture of


the world can be obtained by pure deduction. There is no logical path
leading to theselaws. They can only be reached by intuition, based
upon something like an intellectual loveof the objects of experience.
So if intuition plays such a such a vital role in science, can we expect a lesser role
for it in the arts? Perhaps its time we reminded ourselves that it is possible
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Indeed, it is through the power of the metaphor that we surpass our hackneyed
meaning of equivalence to create the illusion of direct experience, be it sensory
perception or the corporealising of an idea or emotion, so that the notional is
transformed into the apprehensible, the impossible into the possible and the
unteachable into the teachable.
Schnabel was like every creative musician well aware of the power of imagery. The following verbal reactions to his students show this:
One speaks upward and forward, and therefore one must not play
downward and backward.
Play the dominant better than the tonic.
Play the eighth notes slow and the quarter notes fastplay slow
and sound fast!
Pass the third measure!
The question of form arises here only as one of the space to be
conquered in one impulse, as inner necessity, as emotion put
in motion, as something almost physical.
The conception materialises and the materialisation redissolves
into conception.
Rubato [is] severity without rigiditya permission, never an order!

Quoted in Karl Poppers The Logic of


Scientific Discovery (London: Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1934; tr. 1959), p 32. Popper,
the great critical rationalist, also underlined the indispensability of intuition in
scientific endeavours, and curiously, it
would seem that art and science have at
least this much in common: There is no
such thing as a logical method of having
new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of
this processevery discovery contains
an irrational element, or a creative
intuition, in Bergsons sense. Ibid.
William Blake, Auguries of Innocence,
in The Penguin Book of English Verse, ed.
John Hayward (London: Penguin, 1956),
p 243. I am grateful to my friend Brian
Arthur, who first introduced me to this
poem.

These remarks are quoted in Wol,


Schnabels Interpretation of Piano Music,
pp 19, 20, 2425, 28 & 7071.

I am reminded of the masterclasses by the cellist Frans Helmerson some of the


best and most inspiring teaching I have ever witnessed:
When you use the bow for this passage you have to feel as if youre
ironing a silk shirt and the iron is set on cotton mode!
You have to taste the note!
Dont close your mouth when you speakthe sound has to be
more open!
You dont have to think of what your feet do when you walk.
When using the bow it has to feel like ice-skating. When the contact
is made there is friction with the material but you also have to feel
that you can slide on it, if youre relaxed enough.
Dont push the accelerator and the brake at the same time!
let the car go!
When playing this concerto imagine yourself fifty years older.
You sound like youre walking on thin ice

on teaching the unteachable

Remarks such as these pervaded the yearly


series of masterclasses given by this great
Swedish cellist in Caracas between 1990
and 1994.

77

Wol, Schnabels Interpretation


of Piano Music, p 181.

Saying by the great Chinese master


Chuang Tzu (c. 300 bc). See Chung-Yuan
Chang, Creativity and Taoism: a study of
Chinese philosophy, art & poetry (London:
Wildwood House, 1963; 1975 edn), p 13.

Judging by the enlightening eect on the students, I was left in no doubt about
the miraculous power of these images to communicate those musical truths to
which I referred earlier. Of course, such images have a contextual significance,
and they are intended to connote, rather than denote, musical meaning in
other words, they are expedient method and little else. No wonder Schnabel
used to call out to his students: What I say here ought to be remembered not as
words, but as music. That the teaching of these musicians shares a common
ground is evident, but both were probably unaware that the notion of language
as a pointer rather than a repository of knowledge is essentially an age-old
idea, for it has been widely used for teaching purposes by Eastern masters since
ancient times. The following lines are most revealing:
The fishing net is used to catch fish; let us have the fish and forget the
net. The snare is used to catch rabbits; let us have the rabbit and
forget the snare. Words are used to convey ideas; let us have the ideas
and forget the words.
Indeed, let us have the music and forget the words! Equally illuminating is one
of my favourite Chinese stories, which tells about a seeker who approached the
Sixth Zen Patriarch Huineng for advice:

Chih Chung Tsai, Zen Speaks. Shouts of


Nothingness: collection of ancient Chinese
anecdotes (c. 300 bc), tr. Bryan Bruya
(London: Harper Collins, 1994), p 35.

Ive been studying the Nirvana Sutra for years and years, and there
are still some passages that I dont quite understand. Do you think
you could explain them to me?
Im sorry, but I cant read replied Huineng; If you can read the
passages out for me, Ill see if I can help you understand them.
But if you cant even read the words, how can you understand the
truth behind them?
The Zen Patriarch replied: The truth and words are unrelated. The
truth can be compared to the moon, and words can be compared to a
finger. I can use my finger to point out the moon, but my finger is not
the moon, and you dont need my finger to see the moon. Do you?

The Russian linguist Viktor Shklovsky


assigned to poetry the central use of what
he described as making strange. A commentator explains that such usage was
meant to counteract the process of habituation encouraged by routine everyday
modes of perception. We very readily
cease to see the world we live in, and
become anaesthetised to its distinctive
features. The aim of poetry is to reverse
that process, to defamiliarise that with
which we are overly familiar, to creatively
deform the usual, the normal, and so inculcate a new, childlike, non-jaded vision
in us. The poet thus aims to disrupt stock
responses, and to generate a heightened
awareness: to restructure our ordinary
perception of reality, so that we end by
seeing the world instead of numbly
recognising it. Hawkes, Structuralism
and Semiotics, p 62.

Whether in the mouth of Schnabel, Helmerson or a Zen Patriarch, what impresses me about such images is not only their power but their simplicity. Far from
encouraging us to fish in a sea of verbose explanations (as a great deal of teaching does), imagery then has an eminently practical purpose; namely, to awaken
us from an alienated perception of ourselves and the world a goal, as I see
it, akin to that of all great art. What matters is not the teachers actual words,
but the fact that relative truth (whatever he says) becomes a metaphor for absolute truth (unteachable knowledge). This idea does not mean that an informed
awareness of conventional teachings (literature on music history, theory, analysis, technique, etc) can be dispensed with, for the eectiveness of a metaphor
depends on a close familiarity with such knowledge left tacit, just as the laugh
or jolt in a joke is triggered when the punch line collides with that unstated, but
nevertheless common, knowledge.
Along these lines, it is through what might be called the metaphorical path
that the more creative musician moves outside the immediate, jaded context of
his own medium (vocal or instrumental) into that of another (and away from
what at first he might have thought to be the range of all possible solutions to a

78

luis zea

given problem), so that a wider and fresher scope of alternatives emerges. I cannot think of a more lucid explanation of the general meaning of this idea than
Karl Poppers:
What characterises creative thinkingseems to me often the
ability to break through the limits of the range or to vary the
range from which a less creative thinker selects his trials. This
ability, which clearly is a critical ability, may be described as critical
imagination. It is often the result of culture clash, that is, a clash
between ideas, or frameworks of ideas. Such a clash may help us to
break through the ordinary bounds of our imagination.
Thus what is comfortable or idiomatic in one medium can stand as a metaphor
for what was originally arduous or unnatural in another, and our imagination is
roused by the magical click that results from the clash between dierent musical mediums. The classic example is the idea of singing an instrumental line
as opposed to literally playing it. We guitarists sometimes like to imagine the
sound of the cello when dealing with a melody in the lower register of the instrument (as in Regino Sainz de la Mazas Petenera or Villa-Loboss Prelude n 1,
for example). Indeed, musicians in general establish all sorts of conceivable associations. Violinist Emmanuel Hurwitz, for instance, is reported as saying that
string players should phrase more like pianists with awareness of notes having
a decay, [instead of trying] to produce a constantly big sound, as if to bore into
a line and every part of the texture. And pianist Alfred Brendel asserted that he
has learnt more from conductors, singers, string players and wind players than
from the mere pianiston the whole a good flexible conductor with a good orchestra will be the model for what the pianist should also do. Exactly how, when
or why the right metaphor performs the miracle is likely to remain a mystery
but we dont need all the answers. Regardless of which metaphor works for
whom, the point stands: metaphors are powerful, and as Schnabel taught us, it
is within ourselves that we find the fertile soil in which our musical understanding can grow, and our intuition can grasp the spirit behind the letter of a work:
Nothing in the world has ever grown from the exterior to the
interior. The interior is the basis for understanding. There is the
desire, the force, the giftLove has to be the starting point love of
music. It is one of my firmest convictions that love always produces
some knowledge, while knowledge only rarely produces something
similar to love.

Karl Popper, Unended Quest: an intellectual


autobiography (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1974), p 47.

Both Hurwitzs and Brendels comments


are taken from Stephen Plaistow, Alfred
Brendel at 70, Gramophone, June 2001, p 11.
to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day; night, night; and time is
time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and
time.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ii.ii

Artur Schnabel, My Life and Music


(Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1970),
pp 13233.

ii physical intang ibles


Music & Technique: inseparable companions
In moments of great intensity, the spiritual and physical aspects of
making music can become so completely unified that it is no longer
possible to tell where one stops and the other begins. But these two
aspects may also sometimes disintegrate to a point where the creative
potential of a performer cannot be realised at all. This is mostly due

on teaching the unteachable

Wol, Schnabels Interpretation of Piano


Music, p 22.

79

to the fact that music and technique are to a large degree separately
trained and developedTheir balance and coordination therefore
remains a principal pedagogical problem.

Richard Wrights recent eorts come to


mind. His First Pieces, First Principles (still
unpublished) were written as carefully
graded pupil and teacher duets. From the
very first piece, the high musical quality of
the material immediately gives the student
the chance to partake of a genuine musical
experience at the same time as he learns
the basic elements of technique and music
notation, alongside the often neglected
areas of phrasing, articulation and musical
characterisation. See his Articulation and
the Myth of Diculty, Guitar Forum 1
(egta uk, 2001), pp 7785.

If the wrong person preaches a


right teaching, even the right teaching
becomes wrong. If the right person expounds a wrong teaching, even the wrong
teaching becomes right. Muso Kokushi
(12751351), Dream Conversations (On
Buddhism and Zen), tr. & ed. Thomas
Cleary (Boston: Shambala, 1994), p 76.

Even though Artur Schnabels prime concern to integrate music and technique,
summed up by his pupil Konrad Wol, may still resonate in the consciousness
of todays music-teaching establishment, I nevertheless feel that the guitar world
has reason to be optimistic, for there are a growing number of teachers willing
to face this challenge from the onset of learning. It is fair to say that optimum
eciency with minimum eort is the venerable maxim which has guided many
a sensible musician in pursuit of technical mastery. Anchored in it, there has
emerged the familiar conception of technical training as the gradual refinement
of physical motion in terms of certain parameters like speed, volume, accuracy,
stamina, versatility of tone colour, etc. Since this process is experienced through
the most concrete means imaginable namely, our body and instrument (as
opposed to musical knowledge, whose nature seems far less tangible) it has
understandably been argued that technical and musical skills can and should
be developed separately (and in this respect it is assumed, I think rightly, that
valuable knowledge can be borrowed from disciplines such as physiology or kinesiology). I believe here we have that peculiar case of a useful and creditable
idea (i.e. optimum eciency with minimum eort) being interpreted in a way
that turns it into a dangerous one. That music making involves a highly developed technique is self-evident; one must even admit that this whole conception
of physical training is quite persuasive. It breaks down, however, as soon as it is
alleged that such a process of refinement is susceptible to definitive rational
analysis and conscious control as also when, sooner or later, we find ourselves
facing questions which indicate that the borderline between the technical and
musical sides of playing may not be as distinct as is commonly believed. And I
am not referring to clichd, though valid, concerns such as how can I play fast
and even scales or arpeggios? how can I get a good, big sound? etc; I am thinking
of questions more like the following:
How can I achieve coordination of both hands so that the phrasing and
tempo of this long scale passage stand unaected?
What can I do to produce the sound that will match the mystical character
of this sarabande?
How can I play the slurs in that phrase without distorting its rhythmic and
melodic identity?
What is a good fingering for this intensely lyrical melody?
How can I clarify the voicings that connect these accented staccato chords?
How can I handle such a dicult shift in the middle of this phrase?

See the note on p 74.

80

It seems to me that these are more profitable questions to ask, for they might
lead us to realise that any technical problem worth considering is at the same
time a musical problem, to the extent of it being possible to solve the one if
and when you solve the other. I use the word solve quite literally, for the feeling
of certainty is final and unmistakable (rather like Eliots sudden relief from an
intolerable burden), though admittedly not the kind that you can reconstruct,
prove or plan in advance. True, we might find that we had solved the one and
not the other, but, at least in my experience, this tends to happen if I was still

luis zea

seeing them as separate problems. Even though understandable, such separation is deceitful, for what allows you to kill two birds with one stone is precisely
the simple realisation that there werent two problems to begin with but one.
A good technique can of course stimulate the imagination of a creative musician, but by and large, what he wants to say dictates how he says it. So when we
do find ourselves isolating the technical problem it is ideally because were
trying to solve the musical problem which gave birth to it. It is in this light that
the relevance of Alfred Brendels dictum comes forth: Technique can never
reach a point where problems cease to exist, precisely because the real problems
are not technical but musical. And yet I would go even further and say that it is
irrelevant whether you start from one end or the other; for if we agree that both
are like the two sides of the same coin, then either route is legitimate in so far as
it leads to a solution of the one and only problem.
Training the body to perform abstract physical motions no matter how
perfect and beautiful they may seem to afterwards press the music-making
button is in fact a delusive notion. For such an approach is often more successful in forging a gymnast rather than a musician and in creating an apparent
borderline where in reality there is none. I admit that some highly talented and
motivated people may succeed in integrating their physical and musical faculties in spite of the artificial divide, but to me they represent the exception rather
than the rule. Doesnt the true musician discern a more direct route and envision technique as the capacity to connect the music inwardly heard with its materialisation on the instrument? I suspect that Bach gave his keyboard students
all the technical advice they needed, but I find it hard to think that the solutions
he oered (say, when teaching his Inventions, the Anna Magdalena pieces or the
Well-Tempered Clavier) were devoid of any relation to musical goals and merely
intended to aid manual dexterity. Indeed, far from being an isolated process of
training the fingers according to abstract rules about physical motion, both our
teaching and learning of technique become a more worthwhile and rewarding
experience inasmuch as we aim to establish fluent channels that connect muscular movement and a myriad of sensory perceptions at one end, with intuitions, emotions and musical meaning at the other. And I mean two-way channels, for the solution to the questions I posed above can be triggered o by
travelling along multiple routes, as I try to illustrate below:

Alfred Brendel, Musical Thoughts and


Afterthoughts (London: Robson Press,
1976), p 110.

world of
sounds

HEARING

M USI C A L
MEANING
world of intuitions
and emotions

touch
sight
world of
visual images

world of tactile
sensations
and bodily
movement

on teaching the unteachable

81

Schnabel knew that when these subtle


connections are established, technique
goes beyond the mere control of the body,
which ceases to be the recipient of orders
from the inner ear: technique rather
becomes itself a bodily activity which,
in turn, is able to stimulate the creative
imagination. Ruth Gillen, ed., The Writings and Letters of Konrad Wol (Westport,
ct: Greenwood Press, 2000), pp 1215.

In my diagram I have only referred to


hearing, sight and touch, since they are
the senses directly involved in guitar
playing. It is evident, however, that taste
and smell cannot be excluded, for they are
capable of evoking powerful associations
with our emotions and other senses, too.
(Think of the extraordinary cases of
blind deafmute persons such as Laura
Bridgman and Helen Keller.)

Bronowski is cited in Karl Popper & John


Eccles, The Self and Its Brain (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977), p 286.

Morihei Ueshiba (18831969), the great


master and founder of Aikido, urged his
students to study how water flows in a
valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rockseverything even
mountains, rivers, plants and trees
should be your teacher. Morihei Ueshiba,
The Art of Peace: teachings of the founder of
Aikido (Boston: Shambala, 1992), p 26.

Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of


Archery (London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1953), p 44.

82

This diagram is intended to represent how the realms of hearing, sight, touch
and musical meaning can become a source of metaphor for each other. For example, the more refined our inner hearing gets, the more spontaneously and
eciently our fingers tend to materialise what we hear. This explains the common experience of being able to find an appropriate fingering for a certain passage as well as the manual dexterity it requires at the same time as you discover a natural phrasing for it, or capture its musical character. Thus, refined
hearing induces refined physical motion. Another example is the notation of,
say, a familiar chord progression which evokes the mental image of the corresponding chord shapes on the fingerboard, as well as the tactile sensations associated with them, or the actual sound and musical meaning of that progression.
In this way, channels are established whereby a visual image (score) can stand
as a metaphor for another visual image (chord shapes described on the fingerboard), a tactile image (fingers sensing those shapes on the fingerboard), an
aural image (the sound of the chord progression) and even its emotional content (musical meaning). Likewise, our awareness of certain bodily sensations
can easily evoke visual images of the notation in the score or our fingers on the
fingerboard, just as it might suddenly spur our imagination to unveil unsuspected ways of phrasing a melody, or to create a new instrumental colour for a
certain passage. There are, for example, the tactile perceptions associated with
the swiftness, accuracy or flexibility of the left hand as it measures distances,
senses string pressure or discerns finger patterns on the fingerboard; or with the
texture, thickness and resistance of the strings as the right hand produces a
sound. Such associations might even establish a link with our emotions and the
meaning of the music were playing. This is how refined physical motion and refined tactile perceptions can trigger o distinct visual and aural images, as well
as creative musical responses.
When we realise that these channels can in fact be established from any end
and in any direction, the above examples will suce to suggest the vast though
certainly elusive universe of possibilities waiting to be activated. I guess a good
starting point for establishing these channels is quite simply to become more
sensitive to ones own body and mind. As we develop visualisation, whatever
images we operate with can be extremely powerful because as J. Bronowski
elucidates they are manipulated in ways which are indistinguishable from
those we would require if the images were real objects or experiences. Just as an
example, I always felt that a squirrels movements were a fantastic metaphor for
a good left-hand technique, which is why I am fond of using the visual image
of this friendly little fellow as a means of inducing a students left hand (or my
own) to move with the same naturalness, precision, swiftness and lightness of
such a wondrous creatureso why not leave the practice room and go out to
watch squirrels? Along these lines, some of my favourite visualisations for refining certain aspects of right-hand technique are borrowed from Master Awas
teaching tips in Eugen Herrigels classic book, Zen in the Art of Archery. To induce freedom of thumb action, for example, one can suggest to a student that he
is an expert archer about to shoot an arrow, and remind him that
The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by
surprise. It must be as if the bowstring suddenly cut through the
thumb that held it.

luis zea

Or to bring about openness and presence of sound, along with ease of physical
motion, the student can imagine that the rapport between a string and the finger preparing to pluck it, as well as the quality of the ensuing movement at the
moment of release, will be similar to that of
a little child holding the proered finger. It grips it so firmly that
one marvels at the strength of the tiny fist. And when it lets the
finger go, there is not the slightest jerk. Do you know why? Because
the child doesnt think: It will now let go of the finger in order to
grasp this other thing. Completely unselfconsciously, without
purpose, it turns from one to the other, and we would say that it
was playing with the things, were it not equally true that the things
are playing with the child.

Ibid. p 45.

When in fact metaphors seem appropriate, I may use my own words to convey
these (or similar) images, or suggest reading something like Herrigels book. I
believe that a technical training which aims at developing visualisation acquires
a refreshing perspective, for the creative teacher can easily lead the student to a
much broader dimension, one in which he can grow with ears that see (both the
page and fingerboard) and eyes that hear; ears that touch and fingers that hear;
and eyes that touch and fingers that see. Pursued as an end it itself, though, visualisation can become a mere utilitarian tool or trick of the trade, unnourished
by any spiritual rapport with the music. Indeed, we need fingers which not only
can touch, hear and see, but also feel the music; and we want our other senses to
act accordingly. It was this idea that prompted me to place musical meaning and
the world of our intuitions and emotions at the centre of the diagram above.
After all, we want to make music, and this only happens for myself, certainly
when the music, the musician and the instrument dissolve into one.
To elucidate this idea a little, I would like to turn our attention to one of the
oldest and most formidable of the Chinese martial arts: hsing-i, which evolved,
in fact, by creating human metaphors for the movements of certain animals.
Even though removed from the immediate context of my discussion, perhaps
there is a thing or two we can learn from martial artists, especially in the light of
their astonishing feats of bodymind coordination. Hsing denotes form, meaning the external being or manifestation of a person or an action, and i means intention or mind that is, the immaterial driving force behind that external
form. So students of hsing-i seek to capture the fundamental meaning of an animals movements, rather than merely trying to imitate them literally. Thus,
they learn to grasp by observing a bear, to swoop swiftly down from above by
watching a swallow, to strike with the hand by focusing on the pecking motion
of a chicken, and so on. An untrained student has neither hsing nor i; that is, no
knowledge of form or of meaning. But even after he attains mastery of both,
there remain the highest stages of development still to be conquered. For hes
expected to come back full circle to a condition of possessing no hsing and no i,
only that now both blend as a natural part of the martial artists being. In this
way he can move and react with supreme confidence and freedom according to
the demands of each moment, instead of following rigid rules. The paradox is
that at such advanced levels the fighter bears a surprising resemblance to a totally untrained person, and yet is inconspicuously in complete harmony with

Speaking of Aikido, Ueshiba pointed out:


The techniqueschange constantly; every
encounter is unique, and the appropriate
response should emerge naturally. Todays
techniques will be dierent tomorrow.
The Art of Peace, p 113.

on teaching the unteachable

83

Jazz musicians often develop these skills


to an extraordinary degree; the benefits
for sight-reading, memorisation and improvisation are evident.
All right doing is accomplished only in
a state of true selflessness, in which the
doer cannot be present any longer as
himself . Only the spirit is present, a kind
of awareness which shows no trace of egohood and for that reason ranges without
limit through all the distances and depths,
with eyes that hear and ears that see.
Ibid. p 64.

See Howard Reid & Michael Croucher,


The Fighting Arts (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1983), p 97; published originally
as The Way of the Warrior by Century
Publishing, England.

nature: he is nature and nature is him. I believe it is precisely the same kind of
freedom and egolessness which allows martial artists to react spontaneously and
eectively to the here-and-now of a combat situation that every creative musician hopes to capture while engaged in music making. Such freedom lies beyond the faculty of visualisation itself and the mere adherence to fixed patterns.
This idea leads me to take a closer look at the positivist conception of technique
as the strictly rational compliance with rules and natural laws.
Pseudoscience & the Myth of Scientific Truth
That technique cannot be reduced to the observance of set rules about physical
motion is argued by Busoni, among others:
Busonis remarks found in Brendel,
Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts, p 111.

Routine means the acquiring of a little experience and a few tricks


of the trade, and the unvarying application of them to any given
context. Accordingly, the number of related contexts must be remarkably high. To my mind, however, music is so constituted that
every context is a new context and should be treated as an exception.
The solution of a problem, once found, cannot be reapplied to a
dierent context. Our art is a theatre of surprise and invention, and
of the seemingly unprepared.
Similarly, Konrad Wol refers to Schnabels mistrust for dogmas and taboos in
playing:

Wol, Schnabels Interpretation of Piano


Music, p 171.

In ordinary conservatory training certain ways of playing are sometimes considered illegal tricks. In reality, there is no such thing.
Musical masterpieces are distinguished from academic compositions
by not adhering to all the rules all the time. It is impossible to
anticipate and solve all the problems including all the technical
ones arising in the interpretation of these great works in advance by
following technical school rules. There is no fingering which a pianist
must regard as taboo; no hand or finger position which must never
be assumed; no method of touch that may not be used. There are
only fingerings which are less usual; hand and finger positions which
are seldom necessary; methods of touch only exceptionally called for
in music. If they are unusual, the reason is that in the great majority
of cases they do not serve the musical purpose.
As I reflect on Busonis and Schnabels ideas I ask myself: can we really talk
about rules? Are there universal criteria to establish what kind of movements,
fingerings, methods of tone production, etc, do or do not qualify as grammatically correct? A common answer is that the criteria result from ones lifelong
experience as well as from the rational understanding of natural laws for
example, the laws that regulate the motion of physical objects, including our
hands, fingers, and so on. This is convincing enough but to whose experience
are we referring? What about Django Reinhardts? Was his technique in fact
questionable, just because it didnt follow the rules? It may be argued that hes
really an exception to the rules, because of his handicap and unusual talent. And
after all, he played jazz, not classical. As opposed to this, Id say that hes the rule
to follow inasmuch as he evinced a phenomenal capacity to connect his inner

84

luis zea

hearing and emotions with their physical materialisation on the instrument


regardless of there being a handicap or not in the first place. In fact, this capacity is the epitome of great technique (whose presence or absence, incidentally,
is not determined by the instrument or style you play). And if you ask what
Django might have accomplished without his handicap, my answer is: perhaps
a lot more, and yet perhaps not. For maybe it was his handicap that spurred and
even induced the refinement of his ability who can tell?
The martial artists ideal of blending with nature is certainly far removed
from Western rationalism, which rather aims at dissecting it. We stigmatise intuitive knowledge as mysticism, but for salvation we turn to what is actually a
distorted idea of science. For many people, in fact, science equals truth. This is
still a very popular notion in our modern culture: indeed, it is bandied about or
tacitly assumed in the classroom and every conceivable kind of media. Perhaps
the most glaring example is the tv commercial which boasts the phrase scientifically tested as a seal of final approval and absolute guarantee of the products
quality. Whether we are aware of it or not, this idea has exerted an enormous
influence on the way we relate to the world and try to solve our problems. Even
if we are not scientifically minded, I would imagine that most, if not all, of us
have at some point posed questions like how should I (clearly implying what
is the correct way to) hold the guitar? produce a good sound? play scales? make a
left-hand shift? and what not. Understandable though they are, the trouble with
such questions is their begging for a dogmatic answer: we ask them in the hope
(knowingly or unknowingly) of reaching ultimate explanations.
That science leads to secure and incorrigible knowledge through our critical observation of natures workings is a myth largely due to Francis Bacon
(15611626), the great philosopher who systematically prescribed induction as
the true method which elevated science over pseudoscience. His intepretatio
naturae is based on the premise that only by accumulating experimental data
resulting from our allegedly pure observation of the facts of nature, untainted
by prejudice (anticipatio mentis) are we capable of unveiling its laws. Observation thus becomes nothing less than the vehicle for the spelling out of the book
of Nature, as Popper puts it. I am myself an ardent believer in natural laws but
I very much doubt that our intellect will ever be able to grasp them. Nor does
genuine science seek to explain and verify them once and for all. In fact, any
scientist whose goal is to arrive at irrevocably true knowledge is actually practising pseudoscience.
On the other hand, for the reasoning mind there can be no such thing as an
unprejudiced observation. If we agree that our observations are necessarily selective, prompted as they are by the task at hand, a chosen object, or a particular
interest or point of view, then the strength of Poppers argument is imposing:
Conjecture or hypothesis must come before observation or perception: we have inborn expectations; we have latent inborn knowledge,
in the form of latent expectations, to be activated by stimuli to which
we react as a rule while engaged in active exploration. All learning is
a modification (it may be a refutation) of some prior knowledge and
thus, in the last analysis, of some inborn knowledge.

Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, p 14.


The wrong view of science betrays itself in
the craving to be right (Popper, The Logic
of Scientific Discovery, p 280). Even after
Einstein, many people still take the alleged
irrefutability of Newtons laws for granted,
and regard with disdain or even feel
shocked by anyone who would dare to
suggest that they are not natural laws, or
that they are in any way untrue. The reality
is that far from being given by Nature,
these laws were invented by Newton, and
after two centuries of spectacular success
they were found wanting in some respects
(though surely they stand as an astonishing creation of the human imagination,
comparable to any great work of art).
Popper, Unended Quest, p 52. Poppers
theory of knowledge merges with a theory
of evolution.

It then seems reasonable to think that in any learning process, a critical phase is
necessarily preceded by an intuitive or irrational one, in which an expectation
or a regularity of some kind emerges, inviting us to create our dogmas. These
on teaching the unteachable

85

Poppers famous schema which underlies


his theory about the growth of knowledge
in all living organisms is:
p1 initial problem
ts trial solution(s)
e e process of error elimination
applied to the attempted solution(s)
p2 and resulting problem(s)
Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, p 49.

Bryan Magee, Popper (Glasgow: Collins,


1973; Fontana Modern Masters), p 20.
It is said that one of Poppers greatest
achievements was to oer an acceptable
solution to this problem. Strikingly, some
of Poppers seminal ideas (such as those
about dogmatic and critical thinking)
were an outgrowth of his interest in
music. His bold Speculations about
the Rise of Polyphonic Music are remarkable, regardless of whether or not they are
historically correct. For him, polyphony
is possibly the most unprecedented,
original, indeed miraculous achievement
of Western civilisation, not excluding
science. Unended Quest, pp 5560.

The same could be said about practically


any other aspect of musical interpretation,
so long as we approach it from a strictly
rational standpoint, that is.

Bryan Magee, Popper, p 43.

86

very dogmas, though, can in some cases be critically put to the test by looking
out creatively for circumstances in which they might let us down. Actually, the
tendency to stick to our beliefs and dogmas is quite legitimate and even necessary, to some extent, for these beliefs allow us to learn in gradual stages, by way
of approximations (the typical case being the search for a solution to a problem); and surely, without them we cannot even begin to grope into the unknown
by at least having a good guess. Moreover, we should not give up too easily in
our attempts to test them, because, as Popper points out, we may prevent ourselves from finding that we were very nearly right.
What may not at first be evident is that once a rule or regularity is seen to operate no matter how many times it cannot thereby be regarded as a natural
law. Bryan Magee explains the so-called problem of induction or Humes problem,
after David Hume (17111776), who first posed it:
The whole of science assumes that the future will be like the past
in all those respects in which natural laws are seen to operate yet
there is no way in which this assumption can be secured. It cannot be
established by observation, since we cannot observe future events.
And it cannot be established by logical argument, since from the fact
that all past futures have resembled past pasts it does not follow that
all future futures will resemble future pasts.
To put it another way, induction at best succeeds in making our conjectures
probable, rather than certain, and the scientific knowledge we possess at any
one time about the world is nothing but our tentative interpretation of the facts
we observe hence it stems primarily from hypotheses that we create.
I would now invite the reader to do a little exercise of rationalism: let us place
ourselves in a musical context and see how far we can get in a specific area of
performance, say, fingering. If we wanted to be soberly rational about our fingerings (especially when dealing with complex works), wed have to admit that
it is always we who ask nature is this a good fingering? and again it is we (coloured by all our concepts and prejudices) who answer by interpreting the deeds
of an unyielding nature who is ever ready to meet our trials with an unequivocal no or with an imperceptible yes. So it is unreasonable to expect to find irrefutable solutions just because we believe were following some rules or natural laws that presumably predict and account for everything that could possibly
happen (that is how we end up practising pseudoscience while claiming to be
scientific). On the contrary (and just as Magee said about genuine scientific theories), our logical fingerings are based on conjectures that rule out most of what
could possibly happen, and are themselves ruled out if what they rule out happens. Thus, the usefulness of being rational is to be able to restrict the choice
among logically possible solutions, and this is as far as our critical faculty alone
can take us. But even though we cannot rationally establish that a fingering is
irrefutable, we can assert that it is unserviceable until by trial and error we
might perhaps find otherwise. Our rules, then, are hypotheses which tentatively
forbid certain fingerings and thereby become merely provisional predictions of
the seemingly impossible. The beauty of it all, however, is that we can learn that
there are bold solutions utterly dierent from what we ever suspected, and that
our imagination is fired whenever we find that what we thought to be impossible was in fact possible. An example from personal experience is the opening of
the fourth variation in Brittens Nocturnal:
luis zea

IV Uneasy (slow q )
4

b b
V
4

Britten, Nocturnal, Uneasy, bar 1.

cresc.

b b
V
3

Even after trying many ideas (including imagery), I still found the first burst of
fast notes (and the ensuing analogous one) next to impossible with the printed
fingering (upper stave), until a somewhat unusual option (the delayed action
of a left-hand slur along the fourth string, with 3 on the C slurring down to produce the B b) crossed my mind and surprisingly turned out to be a highly effective and reliable alternative (lower stave).
In the light of such experiences, in which we find ourselves refuting our own
conjectures or breaking the rules (by using an atypical slur, for example), Poppers path-breaking idea of falsifiability instead of verifiability clearly sets itself as the only logical criterion of demarcation between science and non-science:
Once we realise that all scientific statements areconjectures, and
that the vast majority of these conjectures (including Bacons own)
have turned out to be false, the Baconian myth becomes irrelevantwe question natureand try to elicit from her negative answers concerning the truth of our theories: we do not try to prove or
verify them, but we test them by trying to disprove or to falsify them,
to refute themNature very often resists quite successfully, forcing
us to discard our laws as refuted; but if we live we may try again.
Now while natures unequivocal no is discernible to the intellect, only our intuition can hear its imperceptible yes. Indeed, as creative musicians we sometimes
reach a point where it is no longer possible to say about our fingerings that they
are mere approximations to truth. Nor could anyone claim (as Popper so fittingly did about our positivist beliefs in natural laws) that they cannot have a
safer basis than our unsuccessful critical attempts to refute them. The reason is
that an artists best doings stem from the surest basis imaginable, namely, his poetic wisdom, which allows no room for uncertainty. Popper himself admitted the
possibility of arriving at absolute knowledge, even if he regards such certainty as
metaphysical, hence untestable and non-scientific, but not necessarily untrue,
meaningless or useless, as positivists would contend. So what real musicians are
after is creative (rather than unquestionable) fingerings and by extension, creative hand movements, creative methods of tone production, creative phrasings:
in short, creative musical interpretations.

This example is a good instance of the


point I tried to make earlier about solving
musical and technical problems together.
Indeed, it is irrelevant whether you start
from one end or the other, as long as we
solve the one and only problem. In this
case, it was a fingering that triggered the
solution.

Popper, Conjectures and Refutations,


pp 138, 192 & 48.

Ibid. p 57.

Only in our subjective experiences of conviction, in our subjective faith, can we be


absolutely certain. Popper, The Logic of
Scientific Discovery, p 280.

Explaining the Inexplicable


When beginners are first introduced to the basic notions about source, quality
and quantity of physical motion, or when they come to refine that knowledge at
any later stage, it becomes evident, as F.E. Sparshott points out, that if we merely
show the appropriate movements and say, Do it like this, they must grasp whatever it is about our movements that makes them like this. And in the vast ma-

F.E. Sparshott, Education in Music,


section vii, in The New Grove Dictionary of
Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie
(London: Macmillan, 6th edn, 1980),
vol. 6, p 55.

on teaching the unteachable

87

Popper recalls the case of his friend,


the violinist Adolph Busch (member of
the famous Busch Quartet): He told me
that he once played Beethovens Violin
Concerto in Zurich, and afterwards the
violinist Huberman came and asked him
how he played a certain passage. Busch
said it was quite simple and then found
he could no longer play the passage. Karl
Popper, Knowledge and the BodyMind
Problem: in defence of interaction (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1994), p 116.

jority of cases, students will require a minimum of explanation. But can we actually rationalise and elucidate what it is that makes our movements like this
especially if they have taken several decades of playing to become what they are?
Of course, there can be little point in trying to explain more than a problem demands, and the attempt may even end up in a paralysis of analysis. On the other
hand, the reality of how we play is always richer than the ideas we have about
it. What is more, we can so easily mistake what we do for what we think we do,
or falsify by contaminating our hands with the self-conscious look of movements that are being looked at. But lets imagine we are dealing with an eager,
advanced, and highly rational student who demands an unequivocal account of,
say, how left-hand shifting works. Perhaps we could try yet another exercise of
rationalism and see how far we get. In the sequence below, a is a cause that leads
to an eect b, and the arrow represents their physical and tangible connection
in time and space:
A
cause

Heinrich Neuhaus, The Art of Piano


Playing (London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1973),
p 113. Neuhaus was the legendary Russian teacher of such artists as Sviatoslav
Richter, Emil Gilels and Radu Lupu.

Ibid. p 87. Neuhaus lists eight basic


elements of technique (i.e. the playing
of one note, trills, scales, arpeggios,
two-note intervals, chords, shifts and
polyphony) of which he believes the
great edifice of piano playing as a whole
is made up (see pp 114).

Albert Einstein, The Meaning of Relativity


(London: Methuen, 1922), p 2.

88

B
eect

For example, if you have a billiard ball and you want it to hit another ball, the
trajectory of the first ball and the eect of hitting a second ball is an observable
and, to a considerable degree, predictable event, because the motion of a can
be accounted for in terms of Newtons mechanical laws and our ordinary sensory experience. And when it comes to shifting, the situation might be seen as
essentially the same: ones left hand is in one place, and it has to move to another. As long as we observe what we believe are natures laws, all that is
needed is a straight command sent from the mind instructing the hand to
move. Heinrich Neuhaus thought that all the technical problems in the piano
repertoire had a common denominator which he described as the fundamental
nucleus. Neuhaus explained it by borrowing concepts from physics (F = force;
m = mass; v = velocity and h = height) in a manner that seems clear and persuasive, yet guarding his back by saying that The mystery of art remains unfathomed, retaining all its force and scopebut one should not see the unfathomable where common sense, against whichall of us sin so much, can perfectly
well understand all there is to understand.
It seems to me that this kind of appeal to common sense epitomises a generalised symptom of pseudoscience, for it implies that our reasonableness should
be capable of arriving at ultimate explanations, that it can unequivocally distinguish the fathomable from the unfathomable, and that everybodys common
sense can grasp and agree about all there is to understand. If that were so,
then further explanation would not only be unnecessary but impossible, and
one would justifiably wonder how is it that everyone else could have failed to realise the simple truth. The fact is, for all we know, that such fathomable knowledge is pretty hard to come by. What is common sense, anyway? I believe it is a
hazy and fleeting thing; namely, the often satisfactory and true, but just as often
inadequate and mistaken, intuitions or opinions of many though never all
men; which is why it seems more sensible to think like Einstein did:
The only justification for our concepts and system of concepts is that
they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this
they have no legitimacy.

luis zea

I should clarify that my criticism is not aimed so much at Neuhaus as towards


the positivist teaching itself, for I believe that he was a great teacher and that this
is the case of a dubious idea becoming profitable in the hands of a master teaching talented students. Before the relativity theory, many peoples common sense
assumed that time and space were absolute, measurable constants. If I follow
Einsteins common sense I may no longer take it for granted that my perception
of gravity, speed, time and space is necessarily the same as yours and everybody
elses. Doesnt it then seem odd to represent a left-hand shift by reducing it to
the concept of a body with a certain weight which has to follow a predictable
and desirable trajectory within ascertainable intervals of time and space, when
our experience tells us mine, for sure that every successful shift takes place
in the realm of weightlessness, timelessness, spacelessness and purposelessness?
If anything, such a notion seems ideal to warrant unsuccessful shifts. Besides, can
we treat our hand as if it were an inanimate object, rather than an organic part
of a living human being? The plain fact is that shifting, like every aspect of technique, involves a task of mind and body coordination. Considering that a is a
left hand to be activated by a thought say, I now want my hand to shift from
here to there and b is the eect of arriving there, the above sequence (a leads
to b) is inadequate to trace a logical connection between something as intangible as a thought and the motion of a concrete object such as ones hand. Research tells us that the mind makes an amazing use of certain chemicals called
neuro-transmitters. As the name implies, they transmit nerve impulses:
Mind, by any definition, is nonmaterial, yet it has devised a way to
work in close partnership with these complicated communicator
molecules. Their association is so closethat mind cannot be projected into the body without such chemicals. Yet these chemicals are
not mind. Or are they?
This turns our attention to the so called bodymind problem: how can we rationally explain the relation between the states and processes of our bodies and
those of our minds? In the case of left-hand shifting, this connection may be
represented by means of the following diagram, in which the horizontal line
separates the physical and metaphysical worlds:

Ifteachers are enlightened, their teaching may eectively take any form. If they
are not enlightened, whatever form their
teaching may take, it will actually blind
their students. Muso Kokushi, Dream
Conversations, pp 5051.

See Albert Einstein, Relativity, the Special


and the General Theory: a popular
exposition (London: Methuen, 1920),
especially sections iii, viii, ix and x (Space
and Time in Classical Mechanics, On the
Idea of Time in Physics, The Relativity of
Simultaneity and On the Relativity of the
Conception of Distance, respectively).

Deepak Chopra, Quantum Healing:


exploring the frontiers of mind/body
medicine (New York: Bantam Books,
1989), pp 6465.

This problem occupied much of Poppers


attention and he published two fascinating books on the subject: The Self and Its
Brain (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
1977; with neurologist John Eccles), and
Knowledge and the BodyMind Problem
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1994 ).

physical
This diagram has been borrowed from
Chopras Quantum Healing, p 97.
metaphysical

The u-shaped detour suggests that an unobserved and probably unobservable


process must take place which transforms our thoughts into physical movement, and that such a process is not accountable by, say, Newtons rational laws,

on teaching the unteachable

89

because it takes place in a hidden zone, below the line. The neuro-transmitters
behave like messengers running to and from the brain telling the whole body of
our desires, emotions, memories, concepts, images, etc, and generating a myriad of physiological changes and physical responses:
Part of an explanation given by
neurologist and Nobel Prize winner
Sir John Eccles at a conference of
parapsychologists. See Chopra,
Quantum Healing, p 65.

Edelman is a Nobel Prize-winning


neuro-scientist (ibid. p 153).

Only when he no longer knows what he is


doing does the painter do good things a
remark from Edgar Degass notebooks.

See J. OConnor & J. Seymour, Introducing


Neuro-Linguistic Programming (London:
Harper Collins, 1990), p 8.

Chopra, Quantum Healing, pp 152153.

Lao-Tzu (c. 300 bc), Tao Te Ching, 56.

90

It is quite astonishing that with every thought, the mind manages to


move the atoms of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, and the other particles
in the brain cells. It would appear that nothing is further apart than
an insubstantial thought and the solid grey matter of the brain.
Miraculous as this fact indeed is, I wonder why are we not as impressed by it as
by watching someone like David Blaine perform his feats of psychokinesis. So
what happens in the ? zone? What is it? Surely not a place we can visit in the
realms of time and space, but one which stands for wherever it is we arrive when
our thoughts turn into physical motion. It seems to be nowhere and yet
everywhere. This whole issue boils down to a vindication of how complex our
ordinary experience of life actually is, and how incomplete a thought-adventure
of the kind we call science is when it tries to explain it. Rather than a thing, as
Gerald Edelman explains, our brain is more like an ever-evolving process. And
considering that every brain has unique neuronal connections and is unendingly growing new ones from the moment of our birth (thereby creating all the
memories that give each one of us a sense of personal identity), is it reasonable
to prescribe universally valid rules about physical motion, and to pretend to be
in conscious control of everything we do when we make music?
It often seems to me that our predicament is a much too wilful will coupled
with the mistaken belief that what we do not purposefully do ourselves cannot
happen. The point can be made that we are not meant to deliberately control
everything while we play, but that we nevertheless need purposeful, conscious
programming when we practise, so that our mechanical skills can become second nature. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (nlp), for example, envisions four
stages of learning: (1) unconscious incompetence, (2) conscious incompetence,
(3) conscious competence and (4) unconscious competence. While this seems a
valid idea, it is doubtful that real-life learning takes place in as clear cut a way as
that. One is inclined to share Chopras argument that a computer can be taught
to perform specific tasks, like adding 2 + 2, for example, and it will invariably
yield the right answer unless a computer error occurs. A young child asked to
do the same operation may answer correctly; but he might just as well say I
want to go to the park. Are we entitled to consider the childs answer wrong?
Perhaps we should interpret it simply as a disclosure of our inability to predict
and rationalise all the possible ways in which we respond to the world as we interact with it. Even when we recall or play a very familiar piece of music, something will seem dierent about it for remembering is a creative activity. Our
mind is constantly generating new images, new brain, and unlike a computer,
we forget and recall, we like and dislike, we reconsider and change our minds. In
fact, we are recreating ourselves every time we think. It then looks like our inquiry didnt take us very far; nor does it seem to lead to any explanation that
may satisfy our rational student which is why Lao-Tzus aphorism remains as
enlightening as ever:
He who knows it, tells it not. He who tells it, knows it not.

luis zea

The Limits of Language


That everything which makes our movements like this can be spelt out is definitely a naive pretence, especially when one considers that the most complex of
human movements are possibly those used in the performance of instrumental
music. But leaving aside how much we can and need to explain, I would think
that what makes the teachers task particularly demanding apart from the inherent complexity and elusiveness of the knowledge involved is its stubborn
resistance to being rationally formulated in language. Of course, the prevailing
conception of teaching is based on the premise that training cannot be achieved
and is not attempted without a lot of explaining why one does what one is
doing. Thus, the challenge of having to explain what appears to be inexplicable
remains, and in order to explore this idea further I would like to touch on some
provocative issues raised by Martin Esslin in his fascinating book about Antonin
Artaud (18961948), that most enigmatic and heroic cult-figure of twentiethcentury theatre:
All thoughtit could be argued, is verbal, is language; a thought that
is incapable of being formulated in words, therefore, by definition
would not be a thought, would not exist at all.

See Ott Szende & Mihly Nemessuri,


The Physiology of Violin Playing (London:
Collets, 1971), p 13.

F.E. Sparshott, Education in Music, p 55.

Indeed, Antonin Artaud has been regarded


as a mixture of prophet, highly inspired
theatrical innovator, alchemist, gnostic
teacher, martyr, mad hero and even the
founder of a new religion.
Esslin, Artaud, p 65.

Nevertheless, Esslin asks:


To what extent can thought exist that is not formulated in words,
that stubbornly resists being put into words at all? Are thought and
language necessarily co-terminous?
Artaud knew himself to be suering from a mental disease to which he partly
attributed his extreme diculty in expressing his innermost feelings and emotions by means of words. In his desperate attempts to bridge the gap between
his inner world which he envisioned as thought in a pre-verbal, unformulated
state and its expression in language, Artaud became increasingly contemptuous of other artists (particularly writers) who seemed to be free of his predicament, for he felt rightly or wrongly that they indulged in a facile and insincere use of language based on the arrogant observance of rules of grammar and
of elegance of literary style, as well as on the ideals of rationality, self-control,
moderation and biensance. In any case, you dont have to be mentally ill to experience diculty in converting such an intangible thing as an image or emotion into verbal language, for even great writers have to wrestle with words and
meanings. And of course, teachers also experience the same diculty, as weve
seen. What I do find especially significant for my discussion about the teaching
of physical skills is that Artauds problem embraced the diculty of converting
into words not only images, ideas or feelings, but even something so tangible
and unmistakable as our sensory experience of physical states. The following extract from a letter to one of his doctors is particularly revealing:
If it is cold, I am still able to say that it is cold; but it may also happen
that I am incapable of saying it: that is a fact, for there is inside me
something wrong from the aective point of view, and if I am asked
why I cannot say it, I shall reply that my internal feeling on this

on teaching the unteachable

Ibid.

The grandiose vision behind Artauds


so-called Theatre of Cruelty emerged
as a result of his deep-seated need to
transform and redeem mankind from
alienation and suering. Abandoning
all restraint, Esslin writes, all intention
of pleasing, of giving shape or formal
perfection to his utterance and letting
his wild fantasies, his fury and anguish,
his pain and torment roar out, Artaud
succeeded in evoking that very physical
impact, that gut-reaction which had been
the objective of his theatrical endeavours.
Esslin, Artaud, p 74.
Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the
burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in
place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them.
T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, in Four Quartets
(London: Faber, 1944), v, 149.

91

Esslin, Artaud, p 67.

fragmentary and insignificant matter simply does not correspond to


the three little words which I should then have to utter.
This statement made an impact on me as I became aware of its implications:
was it really Artauds deficiency that accounted for his inability to express his
feelings and turn them into language? Could it not be that language itself was
incapable of conveying them adequately? Esslins compelling description of one
of Artauds fundamental tenets leads to the heart of the matter and encapsulates
the lesson we can perhaps learn from the French master:

Ibid. pp 68 & 70.

Ibid. p 70.

It is a profound mistake to equate all human consciousness with that


part of it capable of verbal expression. Our consciousness is part of
a multitude of elements only a small part of which is capable of being
directly formulated in wordsThe formula I am cold which abstracts
all the body sensation, all the actual and complex feelings connected
with one individuals experience of such a physical state, exemplified
for Artaud the manner in which too glib a use of language desiccates
experience and eventually makes people who rely on such modes of
communication and thought lose contact with life itself.
No wonder Artaud felt that he had to smash language in order to touch life. As
I ponder Artauds ideas a rather disturbing question arises: may it not be that
we unknowingly tend to desiccate our own experience of teaching and learning
to play an instrument by making too glib a use of language? Even though somewhat predictable, there is nothing intrinsically wrong or harmful about the following teaching tips:
your sound is too harsh
practise slowly
you have to find a better fingering
relax your fingers
develop a good sound
the hand is too tense to make that shift properly
you have to control the movements

It is by no means necessary that a concept


must be connected with a sensorily cognisable and reproducible sign (word)
our thinking goes on for the most part
without the use of [such] signsand
beyond that to a considerable degree
unconsciously. Albert Einsteins remarks
quoted in Bernstein, Einstein, pp 13940.
Esslin, Artaud, p 67.

92

At face value, in fact, they seem sensible advice, and if at some point thats what
we want to say, by all means let us say it. It appears, however, that when we formulate our ideas in language it is all too easy to assume that their full meaning
has been grasped and conveyed. It is as if the only requisite for understanding
them is that they be encapsulated in words. Once done, we close them as it
were and keep them in artificial compartments of knowledge. Now as Esslin
suggests (and Artaud might have argued), are we not thus turning words into
little more than complacent, pre-fabricated formulas to be used like a chequebook without backing as jaded tokens that have lost all rapport with the reality
they once emerged from and are still deemed to stand for? Be that as it may, the
thought often crosses my mind that when trying to explain, say, how to play a
scale, make a proper shift, or produce a good sound, our awareness tends to
confine itself to the purely discursive use of concepts and to what we can formulate in words, at the cost of disregarding the myriad of bodily sensations
which pervade our consciousness as performing musicians and despite the

luis zea

fact that they must play a primary role in determining, or at least colouring,
much of what is required of our fingers, our hands, indeed our whole being, to
play that scale, make that shift or produce that sound. Think, for instance, of the
tactile sensations induced by or associated with the temperature of the skin
of our fingertips; the presence or absence of oiliness or perspiration (relative
softness or dryness); the temperature and degree of humidity of the place; the
thickness, resistance and texture of the strings; the shape, length and consistency of our nails; the use of flesh and nail in caressing, gliding, piercing or
picking the strings as we play apoyando or tirando, and the corresponding fullness or thinness of the sound; the width and thickness of the fingerboard; the
weight of our hands and arms as we play; the sheer sense of physical displacement
as the hands move along and across the fingerboard or strings, and the corresponding feeling of security or insecurity; the degree of tension or relaxation of
our muscles; the comfort or discomfort as we hold the guitar the list is endless. Surely, hardly ever do we find ourselves able or willing to convert such bodily sensations into verbal form just as the innumerable stimuli that constantly
impinge upon us, drifting through our consciousness as powerful memories,
images, inner wish-fulfilments or daydreams, are rarely put into words or
thought about verbally (for example, the sound of a nearby river or cars passing
by, the movement of the evening breeze, the pressure and weight of the clothes
we wear, and many other external stimuli; as well as those emanating from
within ourselves, such as the taste of the food we eat, the sensation of swallowing it, the fullness or emptiness of our stomachs, the rhythm of our breathing,
the beating of our hearts, the movement of our tongue muscles as we speak, and
so on and on).
Thus, the need to be intuitively aware of, and spontaneously responsive to
such stimuli is hampered, on the one hand, by the proclivity to identify ourselves merely with that part of our consciousness which can be spoken about
that stream of words which tracs our minds as an unending internal monologue. On the other hand, language itself appears inadequate to describe our
bodily sensations, even though we are innate verbal labellers. Not unreasonably,
then, it can be argued that teachers and learners are justified in ignoring that
non-verbal aspect of consciousness. If it only exists outside the rational appeal
of the verbal plane (on which most teaching heavily relies), why bother? After
all, arent those non-verbal elements trivial in the extreme? Yet arent precisely
those body sensations very similar to, and experienced in the same dimension
as the ones aroused by our emotions? And isnt human emotion part and parcel of the very substance of music itself? What is this thing we call emotion,
anyway? As Esslin explains, words can evoke it, our consciousness is often overwhelmed by it, but emotion is not itself verbal. If we really look into their
essence, we shall find that, however intense or sublime, emotions are ultimately
experienced as bodily sensations (an increase or decrease in blood pressure, the
quickening or slowing down of the pulse or heartbeat, the sudden release of
sex hormones or perspiration, etc). The inescapable conclusion seems to be that
the tangible (our bodies and sensory perceptions) and intangible (our thoughts
and emotions) straddle what is merely a delusive divide and interact in ways
impervious to discursive language. I am also tempted to ask: doesnt the challenge of teaching and learning the unteachable involve the ability to re-establish
contact with life itself or should I not say with ourselves? The last section of my
article explores this question.

on teaching the unteachable

Ibid. p 69.

Illusion works impenetrable,


Weaving webs innumerable;
Her gay pictures never fail,
Crowd each other, veil on veil;
Charmer who will be believed
By man who thirsts to be deceived.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Maia.

93

By now it may be clear that the division of


my discussion into apparently isolated
areas (musical, physical and extra-musical
intangibles) belies the fact that in reality
they are interfused. Their separation is
certainly artificial, though inevitable, for I
am using discursive language to refer to
them. Many of the issues addressed in this
article have also been discussed in my
series The Works for Solo Guitar by
Antonio Lauro, published in Classical
Guitar magazine since 1995.

iii ext r a-musical intang ibles


Freedom: the ultimate quest
If we now turn our attention from the musical and physical skills to those truly
indispensable and unteachable ones closely associated with the notions of spontaneity, self-confidence, unaectedness, presence of mind, etc, I am reminded of
any musicians concerns as he prepares to perform for an audience and faces the
moment of truth:
When I practice at home I play perfectly, but when I go on stage I fall
apart. How can I prevent my nerves from aecting my performance?
When I try really hard to do the scale the way my teacher told me, I
flop it every time.
I am usually my own worst enemy. How can I stop working against myself?
When I concentrate on one thing Im supposed to be doing, I neglect
another.
How can I keep my attention on the music without drifting away into
distracting thoughts of failure or success, or anything outside the main
task at hand that is, to make music?
Indeed, how can I stop thinking?

When a man is living, he is soft and


supple. When he is dead, he becomes hard
and rigid. Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 76.
Samuel Becketts bleak vision of the fate of
the artist, quoted in A. Alvarez, Beckett
(Glasgow: Collins, 1973; Fontana Modern
Masters), p 17.

So shalt Thou feed on Death, that


feeds on men,
And Death once dead, theres no more
dying then.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 146.

Extract from the Kena Upanishad quoted


in The Upanishads, ed. Juan Mascar
(London: Penguin, 1965; Penguin
Classics), p 51.

94

And so, once again we end up in the same corner: how can we teach what is essential and yet appears to be so elusive and neednt, indeed cant, be taught? As
I reflect on all the musical, technical and extra-musical problems posed in this
article it seems clear to me that the common thread which underlies them is our
primeval quest for freedom, something I envision as nothing more but nothing less than the naturalness and spontaneity of things. When we feel nervous
while performing, the fiercest battle takes place within ourselves, that is, between
our temporary identity (the thinking ego) and our essential nature (eortless
being). While the latter simply is, knows and does, the former calculates, longs for
success, shudders at the sight of failure and easily makes us feel as sti as a rock.
Indeed, we might experience a kind of death compelling us to resign to the expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing
from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the
obligation to express. Not exactly an exciting prospect, this, so either we kill death,
or else it kills us! Surely, the cherished freedom cannot be captured by intellection;
but once attained, it endows our playing and whole being with an ineable and
overpowering simplicity that disguises its own depth to the eyes of the beholder.
Paradoxically, then, the path to mastery begins when you stop trying to reach it,
and ends with the master ignoring he is one for true mastery passes unnoticed.
In the East, spiritual practices such as meditation are considered essential
for the attainment of freedom. Both teacher and student gravitate around this
all-embracing goal which entails contacting a reality beyond all credos, philosophies, indeed all isms (including Buddhism) and even deeper than our sensory
perceptions, thoughts and emotions. In India masters referred to it as
What cannot be spoken with words, but that whereby words are spoken
What cannot be thought with the mind, but that whereby the mind can think
What cannot be seen with the eye, but that whereby the eye can see
What cannot be heard with the ear, but that whereby the ear can hear.
luis zea

May it not be that hidden zone we talked about earlier? Coloured as it is by the
filters we put on our perceptions, such a reality seems outside our ordinary experience of the world and anything the reasoning mind can conceive of. Kant
argued persuasively that the thing in itself is unknowable. Contrary to this,
though, Eastern masters hold that ascertaining it is possible, if only we are prepared to move from thinking to being, knowing and doing: The sun never
thinks,How can I be luminous? it is! Nor does the squirrel ever wonder, How
can I move freely? it knows!or the wind ever ask, How can I blow? it does!
In Zen circles there is a story about a man who is galloping on a horse and
seems to be going somewhere important. When someone standing along the
pathway asks him, Where are you going? the man replies: I dont know! Ask
the horse! Whether we realise it or not, this is also the story of most of us. For
we are ceaselessly thinking without knowing where our thinking will take us
and on top of that we cant stop. If anything, we take pride in being rational and
worship logic, believing that the knowledge about ourselves and the world can
only be unlocked by thinking.. Or at best we may realise, like Popper did, that
even though our thinking is fallible and can never attain truth, it can nevertheless take us gradually closer to the truth. Yet this is still not good enough for an
artist, since he knows that at the end of his quest there is nothing left to be uncertain about, no more room for approximations to truth. Instead, he becomes
the embodiment of truth itself:
This something will come about which cannot be taught, that
grace of the quiet hour when the spirit of the composer speaks to
us, that unconscious moment of ecstasyof self-detachment, call
it intuition, grace when all fetters, all inhibitions vanish. You feel
yourself floating. One no longer feels: I am playing, but it is playing,
and behold, everything is right.
That science, of all things, is destined to stay within the bounds of uncertainty
while art ends in certainty should be salutary. Contrary to Bacons old-fashioned
doctrine of induction (that true knowledge only results from our rational and
allegedly unprejudiced observation of nature), Einstein once stated that it is the
theory [i.e. our filters] which decides what we can observe. While it then seems
reasonable to assume that you can change your world if you change your filters,
I like to think that by removing your filters you can know yourself and the world.
It is extraordinary that the great physicists idea is already contained in a verse
from the ageless Vedas: What you see you become. This aphorism suggests that
we and the world are metaphors for each other. To put it another way, knowledge
diers according to the knowers state of consciousness. In fact, Vedic masters
hold that the world is to be grasped in terms of what they call samhita, a concept embracing three interconnected elements: the knowing subject (observer
or rishi), the known object (the observed or chandas) and the process of knowing (observation or devata). According to the Vedic tradition, complete knowledge is only possible when these three elements blend together into one. What
I find most revealing here is the indispensability of self-awareness for the attainment of truth, which suggests that Einsteins knowledge was incomplete in so far
as he may have excluded himself from the undertaking. If this is so, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that the laws of nature can be fathomed when, instead
of analysing them, we unite with them. In other words, the essence of things is
perhaps revealed when they no longer have the look of things that are being
on teaching the unteachable

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason


(1787), tr. Norman Kemp Smith (London:
Macmillan, 1929), pp 27, 74, 84 & 149. Kant
tried to establish that the limits of our
sensory experience are the limits of our
logical reasoning. (See Popper, Conjectures
and Refutations, pp 17980.)
See Thch Nht Hanh, The Heart of the
Buddhas Teaching (Berkeley: Parallax
Press, 1998), p 23.

Testimony from the great pianist Edwin


Fischer, found in Gillen, The Writings and
Letters of Konrad Wol, p 125.

Jeremy Bernstein, Einstein, p 155.

Quoted in Chopra, Quantum Healing,


p 223.

95

knower
(observer)

RISHI

A representation of the Vedic notion of


samhita, according to which complete
knowledge stems from the fusion of
knowing subject, known object and the
process of knowing. See Tony Nader,
Human Physiology: expression of Veda and
the Vedic literature (Vlodrop: Maharishi
Vedic University, 1995), p 17.

Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge: an


evolutionary approach (Oxford University
Press, 1972) chapters 1 & 3.

KNOWL EDGE

devata

chandas

process of
knowing
(observation)

known object
(the observed)

looked at, or the meaning of things that are being thought about. For only thus
could our perceptions and our thinking be truly unprejudiced.
On the other hand, the concept of samhita also suggests that the teaching
of knowledge without a knowing subject (i.e. knowledge in the sense described
by Popper as objective and conjectural) is simply instruction. This idea now
takes me back full circle to Dalcrozes principle and prompts me to reformulate
it yet again:
real teaching is inducing the student to know himself rarely can
mere instruction be expected to accomplish that.
Certainly, as our self-awareness grows so does our freedom to speak what cannot
be spoken, think what cannot be thought, see what cannot be seen, hear what
cannot be heardand indeed learn what cannot be learnt and teach what cannot be taught. Have we not paid too high a price by focusing on the object of
knowledge and the process of knowing at the expense of not knowing ourselves?
For it may well be that what we are, what we apprehend and how we teach and
learn the unteachable are but one thing and nobodys choice except ours.

T.S. Eliot, The Naming of Cats, in


Old Possums Book of Practical Cats
(London: Faber, 1939), pp 1112.

But above and beyond theres still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover
But the cat himself knows, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineable, eable
Eanineable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.


96

luis zea

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Blake, William. Auguries of Innocence, in The Penguin Book of English Verse,
ed. John Hayward, London, Penguin, 1956, p 243
Brendel, Alfred. Musical Thoughts & Afterthoughts, London, Robson Press, 1976
Chang, Chung-Yuan. Creativity and Taoism: a study of Chinese philosophy, art
and poetry, London, Wildwood House, 1963; 1975 edn
Chopra, Deepak. Quantum Healing: exploring the frontiers of mind/body
medicine, New York, Bantam Books, 1989
Chosky, Lois, Robert Abramson, Avon Gillespie & David Woods. Teaching
Music in the Twentieth Century, Englewoods Cliffs (nj), Prentice Hall, 1986
Croucher, Michael & Howard Reid. The Fighting Arts, New York, Simon &
Schuster, 1983; published originally as The Way of the Warrior by Century
Publishing, uk
Degas, Edgard. Notebooks (1856), in Artists on Art, ed. Robert Goldwater &
Marco Treves, New York, Pantheon Books, 1945
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. Relativity, the Special and the General Theory: a popular exposition, London,
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Gillen, Ruth, ed. The Writings and Letters of Konrad Wol, Westport (ct),
Greenwood Press, 2000
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London, Macmillan, 1929
Kokushi, Muso (12751351). Dream Conversations (On Buddhism and Zen), tr.
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Neuhaus, Heinrich. The Art of Piano Playing, London, Barrie & Jenkins, 1973
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on teaching the unteachable

97

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98

luis zea

contributors

julian bream was born in 1933. His many performances, recordings and
commissions have established him as one of the most significant figures in
the guitars history. His 1957 article,How to Write for the Guitar, is reprinted
in Guitar Forum as a tribute to him on his seventieth birthday, with our gratitude and congratulations.
sarn dyer is a composer, arranger and librettist with a special interest in
guitar methodology. He studied the guitar with Alexandre Lagoya and Jos
Toms, and composition with Patric Stanford. His compositions, transcriptions, arrangements, studies and teaching materials will be published at the
end of this year by Guitar Master Editions (www.guitareditions.com). These
include a course for learning the guitar fingerboard from the earliest stages
of study using the folk music of Spain.
lorenzo micheli came to international prominence in 1999 as the winner
of the Guitar Foundation of America competition in the usa, having already
gained several first prizes in Europe. He has since toured throughout the
world and released recordings of Aguado and Castelnuovo-Tedesco, with further recordings of Llobet and de Fossa in preparation. His principal teachers
were Paola Coppi, Frdric Zigante and Oscar Ghiglia.
fabio zanon (MMus, ARAM) was born in Brazil and had his education as
a guitarist, conductor and musicologist at the University of So Paulo and at
the Royal Academy of Music in London. Since winning the first prizes at the
Trrega and Guitar Foundation of America competitions in 1996, he has developed a solid international career both as a performer and as a recording
artist with a vast repertoire, one in which neglected masterworks occupy a
central position.
luis zea is a performing and recording artist who studied with the legendary composer Antonio Lauro. He earned degrees from London (Kings
College) and Reading Universities, and also studied privately with John
Duarte and Leopoldo Igarza. He has toured and given masterclasses worldwide, and served as full-time Visiting Professor at Indiana Universitys
School of Music. He is also a composer, arranger and author. His articles
have been published in Guitar International, Guitar Player, Gitarre und Laute
and Classical Guitar, notably a long series devoted to the music of Lauro. He
teaches in Caracas at iudem (Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales).

99

E G T AIU K

I encourage all
guitarists to take an
interest and join.
John Williams, obe
Honorary President

european guitar teachers association (uk) founded 1990


Aims
egta uk aims to improve the standard of guitar teaching in the uk, to raise
the status of the instrument within the musical mainstream and to widen
general interest in guitar playing

Annual Conference

Masterclasses

Visiting Artists

Regional Meetings
nyge

egta Series

Guitar Forum

Newsletter
Library

esta Aliation
Discounts

Standard
Associate
Ailiate
Student

Honorary Members

Information

Activities
an annual summer event covering a wide range of musical and educational
topics presented by members and guest speakers
opportunities for members pupils to receive guidance from internationally
celebrated musicians
past artists have included Paul Galbraith, Sharon Isbin, Ricardo Iznaola, Los
Angeles Guitar Quartet, David Russell, David Starobin, David Tannenbaum,
the late Jos Toms, John Williams, Fabio Zanon, Zagreb Guitar Trio
to promote local interest in the guitar
National Youth Guitar Ensemble, a major new project sponsored and
organised by egta uk (see opposite)
Publications
published by Chanterelle and Mel Bay. The egta Series with its parallel
use of solo and accompanied piecesrepresents a major contribution to the
changing needs of guitar teaching. John Williams
articles on pedagogy, repertory and technique by leading players, teachers and
scholars
latest news and views from members
a central pool of unpublished teaching repertoire available only to members
Other Benefits
access to events organised by the European String Teachers Association
instrument insurance with British Reserve
egta series publications purchased from the Spanish Guitar Centres in
London and Bristol, and Guitar Notes in Nottingham
Guitar Forum is currently free to egta members
Membership
for guitar teachers 25
for interested individuals 20
for interested organisations 50
for students in full-time education 5
Only full membership carries full voting rights. Annual subscription is
payable on January 1; half-year subscription applies to new members
joining after 1 June
John Williams, obe (Honorary President), Stephen Dodgson, Ricardo
Iznaola, David Russell, David Starobin, Gareth Walters
Secretary, Sarah Clarke, 29 Longfield Road, Tring, Herts, hp23 4dg, uk
email: GinetteDiffley@aol.com

N AT I O N A L

youth I G U I T A R IE N S E M B L E I( U K )

T H E N AT I O N A L Y O U T H G U I TA R E N S E M B L E
was formed in 1999 to provide talented young guitarists
from across the country with the opportunity to play
together under the guidance of leading guitar ensemble
specialists. Its first public performance was in July 2000 at
the 3rd International egta Congress at Girton College,
Cambridge, in the presence of Leo Brouwer.
In 2002, under its current musical director Richard Wright,
the nyge played to a capacity audience at the Bath
Guildhall as part of the Bath International Guitar Festival.
The concert included the first performance of Stephen
Dodgsons Watersmeet for solo guitar and guitar ensemble,
in which the soloist was the legendary John Williams (see
picture). In 2003 nyge appeared at the Dundee Guitar
Festival in July.
Interest in the NGYE has grown to the extent that there is
now a second ensemble for younger and less advanced
players known as the nyge Academy. They gave their
debut under the baton of Gerald Garcia, their Musical
Director, at the 2003 egta conference in Cambridge.

John Williams with nyge and musical director Richard Wright at the 2002
International Guitar Festival in Bath.

AUDITIONS for both groups are held annually: the next


auditions will be held late 2003 or early 2004. Successful
candidates will take part in two courses and concerts per
year, usually during the Easter and Summer holidays.
NYGE: Age 16 & over. Minimum standard Grade 8.
NYGE Academy: Age 1318. Grade 58. Players who
excel have the chance to graduate to nyge.

Contact Chris Susans, Wavertree, 26 Burton Road, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leics, LE65 2LL 01530 416564 chrissusans@euphony.net

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Classic Guitar DVD Anthology


This classic guitar DVD features performances by some of the worlds best players: Carlos Barbosa-Lima, The
Castellani-Andriaccio Duo, Nikita Koshkin, Ronn McFarlane, Lorenzo Micheli, Jorge Morel, The Newman &
Oltman Guitar Duo, Judical Perroy, Andrew York, and Fabio Zanon. 2-hour DVD (20382DVD) $19.95.

Retail prices are


shown in U.S. dollars

Martha Masters
GFA Winner 2000
Performed by Martha Masters. This DVD video features Martha
Masters, the winner of the 2000 GFA competition, performing
in an intimate studio setting for your enjoyment. Marthas program includes a diverse and interesting array of music
from many time periods and ethnic traditions.
48-min. DVD (99786DVD) $19.95.

Paulo Bellinati Plays


Antonio Carlos Jobim
Performed by Paulo Bellinati. Paulo Bellinati is one of
Brazils most accomplished contemporary guitarists.
In this video he performs 12 pieces by Antonio Carlos
Jobim, one of Latin jazzs best known composers, accompanied by Cristina Azuma. 46-min. DVD (99725DVD)
$24.95. 46-min. Video (99725VX) $24.95.
Diners Club
International

Complete Sor Studies


for Guitar

By David Grimes. The guitar studies of Fernando Sor


(1778-1839) address an impressive array of technical and musical topics. A careful study of these pieces will lay the
groundwork for a solid technique and allow the guitarist to build the control necessary for the expression of his or her
musical concepts. 160 pages. Book (95110) $17.95.

Francisco Trrega: Collected Guitar Works


By Francisco Trrega. Volume I contains all of the 48 works which the composer had published in Spain up until the time
of his death. Volume II contains all 63 of the works published after the composers death. They are presented here as
unamended preprints of these historical editions. In standard notation only. Vol. 1 160-page book (97475) $31.95.
Vol. 2 192-page book (98104) $29.95.

The Classical Book


Edited by Richard Wright. Contains progressively-arranged classic
guitar solos from the early 19th Century, including works by
Aguado, Carcassi, Carulli, Coste, Diabelli, Giuliani, Molino,
and Sor. Overall, this anthology provides great sight reading
practice at an intermediate level, along with ample historical
and biographical notes. 36 pages. Book (98100) $11.99.

The Baroque Book


Compiled and arranged by Richard Wright. In this series of books, the EGTA consolidates and develops a methodic and imaginative process of guitar teaching. The pieces are more of less progressive in difficulty throughout and are grouped into
three distinct technical categories. 36 pages. Book (97479) $14.95.

Etudes Mcaniques: 12 Easy-Intermediate Studies for Guitar


By Stanley Yates. These 12 mechanical studies for guitar are intended as an atmospheric modern counterpart to the classical arpeggio study, a fundamental aspect of right-hand training. The left hand is kept relatively in the background while
the right hand explores a particular pattern, texture, or technique. 24 pages. Book (20007) $7.95. CD (20009CD) $9.98.
Graded Repertoire for Guitar, Book One
By Stanley Yates. This volume provides students with the most stylistically comprehensive music available, while at the
same time realistically meeting the pedagogical needs of teachers. Book (99630) $14.95. CD (99630CD) $9.98.

En Mode: 22 Easy Character Pieces for Guitar


By Stanley Yates. A set of 22 easy character pieces for guitar with a light contemporary flavor, in the style of..., that provide early students with a wider range of musical genres than is usually possible with traditional accessible repertoire. Written in standard notation only. 24 pages. Book (20008) $7.95. CD (20009CD) $9.98.
Publishing the finest in music for over 50 years!

Please add shipping


and handling:
$6.00 for 1 item.
$1.00 each additional item.

Distribution in the UK
by Kevin Mayhew Ltd.

MEL BAY
PUBLICATIONS, INC.
P.O. Box 66 Pacific, MO 63069 PHONE (1) 636-257-3970
TOLL FREE 1-800-8-MEL BAY (1-800-863-5229) FAX (1) 636-257-5062

ONLINE ORDERING: www.baysidepress.com ONLINE CATALOG: www.melbay.com

Telephone 01449 737978


FAX 01449 737834

S Y C A M O R E

S E R I E S

35 hithercroft road downley high wycombe bucks hp13 5lt

 Scenes & Themes 


by john compton

scenes & themes provides the absolute beginner with additional material in the form of teacherstudent
duets to reinforce the learning of basic musicianship, literacy and specific guitar skills.
The pieces are tremendously effective because of the skill that has gone into writing the teachers part: all of
them are great little pieces of music, and the children I tried them on all loved them and have been asking to
do them again. I think these books will become some of the most widely used: I would strongly recommend
every teacher to look at them. Classical Guitar
teachers book 6.00 students book with cd 9.50

 Sycamore Series Ensemble Music 


a wealth of over 50 titles of trios and quartets, including both original compositions by John and
arrangements of favourite music. Standards range from absolute beginner to concert platform but the bulk of
this series has been written for the early to mid-grade student ensemble, of which John has immense experience. Original compositions from this series won the composers prizes at the 1994 and 1995 Guitar Orchestra Competition of Great Britain. All the titles come with score and one set of parts. Extra parts are available
and all music is fingered and phrased as appropriate.
for complete details, catalogue & order form, please visit

www.sycamore-series.ndirect.co.uk

GuitarrasideiEspaa
www.gdespana.co.uk

sole uk distributors for

Paulino Bernab

Available by special order

Amalio Burguet

Model 3, French polished 5 4 9


Model 3m, all solid 7 3 9
Model 1a, French polished 1 7 9 5
Model Noguera, Spanish walnut & double top 1 2 0 0
Much more, including bass, requinto, tercio, 8 string, 10 string

Prudencio Saez

Extensive range of models from 2 3 5


Cedar or spruce tops, plus mahogany, walnut, rosewood, sycamore

Azahar

Prices from 1 9 9
Rosewood & ebony fingerboards from 2 7 5
Flamenco, cypress & ebony fingerboards 2 7 5
Rio rosewood 3 9 9
All solid 6 4 9

Santiago

Solid top Spanish guitar, sweet tone and easy action, ideal for beginners prices from 1 4 9

Jonathan Baker (director) 18 Royal York Crescent, Clifton, Bristol, bs8 4jy, uk
Contact us for literature and full details of ranges, stockists and special offers

info@gdespana.co.uk tel/fax +44 (0) 117 973 3214

ENGLISH
g u i ta r m u s i c
S o n ata v i i
Thomas Arn

arranged for two guitars


2 scores provided 5.95

English Music
for two guitars

duets from the 16th century


to the present day
2 scores provided 9.95

A i r s  Da n c e s

from ngland, Ireland,


cotland &ales
solo guitar 4.95

Te n E n g l i s h
Pieces

music by enkins,obinson,
larke & others
16th20th century
solo guitar 5.95

CAPRIOL
Anthony Dodds lram
75 East Street, Bridport, Dorset dt6 3lb

We are proud to announce a series of


compositions and arrangements of

Latin- American music by

LUIS ZEA
Already published:

- Trptico Venezolano (solo guitar)


- Variaciones Lricas (solo guitar)

Please check our regularly updated WEB site at

www.dobermaneditions.com

c. p. 2021 Saint-Nicolas QC G7A 4X5 Canada


Phone: (418) 831- 1304 Fax: (418) 836- 3645
e- mail: doberman.yppan@ videotron.ca

www.capriol.com

$ENVER
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Guitars International
by arrangement with Armin Kelly
Exceptional New Individually Handcrafted
Classical Guitars from Around the World
ENGLAND
Ambridge
Aram
Barton
Dean
Fischer
Gee
Rodgers (tuners)
Southwell

SWEDEN
Fredholm

FRANCE
Fanton d'Andon

U.S.A.
Byers
Concepcion
Elliott
Gutmeier
Hill
Ioannou
Milburn
Monrad
Ruck
Vazquez Rubio
Velazquez
White

GERMANY
Nowak
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Scharbatke
Wagner
ITALY
Bottelli
Galli Strings
Tacchi

SPAIN
Baarslag
Eichinger
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Raya Pardo

Cleveland, Ohio U.S.A.


By Appointment 216.752.7502

www.guitarsint.com

info@guitarsint.com

london guitar studio


The uks n1 Guitar Shop
plus one entire floor devoted to Flamenco

strings
music
books
cases
casettes
cds
videos
and more
open seven days
a week:
mon sat
96
sun
10 5

from students to professionals


london guitar studio
62 Duke Street, London w1k 6jt
tel 020 7493 1157
fax 020 7495 4610
www.londonguitarstudio.com
info@londonguitarstudio.com

Tel 0121 429 7446


Fax 0121 429 4211
International
Tel +44 121 429 7446
Fax +44 121 429 4211

51A St. Marys Road Bearwood


West Midlands B67 5DH England
E-mail: info@classicalguitar.co.uk
Website: www.classicalguitar.co.uk

A warm and friendly welcome

HAVE YOU VISITED THE CENTRE?


We have the UKs largest stock of instruments at all prices from 40 to 10,000.
A wonderful selection of concert guitars
includes the full Jos Ramirez range

awaits you at our specialist Centre in the


heart of the country. Visit at a time to suit
yourself and enjoy the quiet and relaxed atmosphere where instruments
may be played at your leisure in individual studios. We hold one of Europes
largest stocks of classical instruments together with an excellent selection of
CDs, music and accessories.
Always on display are the complete
ranges of guitars by Jose Ramirez,
Raimundo, Asturias and Almansa. Also
available are new and second hand instruments by: Dieter Hopf, Tezanos Perez,
Manuel Contreras, Manuel Cacares,
Arturo, Sanzano, Paco de Lucia, Masaru
Kohno, Masaki Sakurai, Ignacio Rozas,
Conde Hermanos, Jos Romero, Miguel
Malo, Juan Gonzalez, Miguel Senovilla,
Domingo Ortega, Tsuji, H. Makino, Aria,
Aranjuez, Alastair McNeill, Prudencio
Saez, Manuel Rodriguez, Admira

HAVE YOU VISITED THE WEBSITE?


www.classicalguitar.co.uk
There is advice on buying, detailed information regarding instruments with
many photographs, stock and price lists
Opening Times: Weekdays 10.00 3.30
Saturdays 10.00 5.00 & any other time
by prior arrangement
If you are unable to visit the Centre we offer a
guaranteed next day delivery service for all our
instruments within the UK. Overseas deliveries
are not a problem these usually take three to
five days for anywhere in the world.
All consignments are fully insured.
Part exchanges are welcome.
We accept all major credit cards and credit
terms can also be arranged if required.

with many thanks for your excellent


service and consideration,
Best wishes Carlos Bonell
International Concert Artiste
& Professor of Guitar,
Royal College of Music, London