We start with several singer-songwriters showing their deep understanding of the instrument. Michelle Nelson’s Summer rain highlights the soft and deployed textures of the guitar against a soothing thunderstorm background. Loop Sonata by Ken Murray takes moments of crystalline color and lets them fit into a beautiful trellis. Kim Cannan’s Renegade Immediately showcases the versatility of the instrument’s palette before backing it up with layers of other instruments and effects. And finally, the work of Meredith Connie, They of the half-light, uses the subtle resonance of the guitar to assemble the ebb and flow of its melodic lines.
In terms of larger ensemble works, we really get to the way the instruments blend together and interact with each other, the soft glow of Fandago by Ann Carr-Boyd written for Sydney Mandolins looks at flow to build interest and momentum. One of my old favorites, Flying fish by Nigel Westlake, was one of the first works to open my eyes to the incredible possibility of a guitar quartet (I really should write one, someday) and I love the recording of Saffire featured in the playlist. work by Richard Charlton for Guitar Trek, Guitar Quartet No 8, 5 cold-blooded tails, also presents the whole in another more homophonic light than Westlake’s polyphony, the melodic writing elegantly leads the listener through the group in an eminently pleasant way.
The most recent release here is that of Natalie Nicolas Ray of sun, which is part of his ABC commissioned for guitarist Matt Withers, the piece is about a good collaborative relationship with the free speech given to the Withers to make the most of Nicolas’ composing ideas. The oldest recording is a magnificent mandolin work by Caroline Szeto for Paul Hooper, Mandolin dance, a joyful and lively work filled with energy to the brim and giving the solo mandolin a solid training. It made me think about what the mandolin is capable of, much more deeply than before.
On a very different axis, the words of Cathy Milliken Want to fly? shamelessly opens with the raw sounds of attack and acoustic distortion – a noticeable and welcome difference from many other tracks featured this month. While that of Edward Grigoryan Day dreams uses the space to create a distinct opening allowing the duo to ring between phrases simultaneously creating calm and anticipation. Another very intentional track in its use of space is To my left is the lake by Franklin | Gill, Franklin’s bass notes are scattered but effectively placed and form a beautiful web of silence and inhabiting sound.
Hope you enjoyed the range of guitar sounds on the Aussie Art Music playlist this month – It was wonderful exploring new composers for me and revisiting some of my old favorites. If you are looking more to listen, the entirety Australian Art Music Archives has also been updated on Spotify (now with over 80 hours of music!).