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This volume contains twenty four short study pieces for guitar ensemble. Having failed to figure out a better way of doing so, I have named them with opus numbers. Opus numbers are used to identify musical compositions written by a number of Classical composers, most notably Chopin. Despite the fact that it may appear otherwise, neither pretension nor presumption underlies my use of opus numbers. The simple truth of the matter is that "Opus #1" sounded better than "Piece #1" or "Thing #1", and far better than "Solemn Mood" or "A Day At The Fair". In any event, the opus numbers refer to the order in which the pieces were written. I cannot comment with certainty regarding the timing of the origin of this music, since I neglected to make a written record of it. My best recollection is that the entire collection was composed in about a week's time in February of 2002.
All but two of the guitar ensemble arrangements contained in this volume are in four parts. The music is characterized by varying degrees of difficulty. Some of it is quite simple, and therefore suitable for beginners. Some of it, however, is fairly challenging, and there are four pieces for which two note fretting techniques are required. Many of the pieces were composed as part of an experimental process in which my goal was to develop various sounds and types of music with the guitar ensemble format. That goal, at least in my view, has been achieved. This collection contains a wide variety of music, which is fashioned in a number of different styles (many of them not developed elsewhere in the Guitar Ensemble Core Catalog), and which conveys a number of different moods.
The second half of this volume (the 13th through the 24th selections) is comprised entirely of rounds. Since all the rounds are for four parts (or, put another way, for four players), each round melody consists of four sections (also called voices) of equal length (usually eight measures). As in Melody Guitar, the rounds are given in straight melodic notation, with letters placed above the line of tablature indicating the start of each of the four sections of the round. The .tef scores and the recordings for these rounds all conclude as soon as all four voices have been sounded. In performance, however, a round is normally extended well beyond that point, usually at least until the last part to enter plays the entire round melody. The recordings have been abbreviated in this fashion so as to allow you to jump the round for practice purposes.
You jump the round by starting at letter B (the second voice) as the score playback begins at letter A (the first voice, or the beginning of the round). In doing so, you are placing yourself one voice ahead of the round that is sounding on the recording. This means that in three of the four sections, you will be playing music not contained on the recording. This will allow you to enjoy a fuller and more enjoyable experience of playing "in the round". Rounds are also very conducive, at least in the guitar ensemble format, to quadraphonic performance. By dividing a guitar ensemble into four equally-sized groups, and placing those groups in the four corners of a room, the singular effect of a round literally chasing itself around the room can be created.
In Opus #9, all of the parts are very melodic, which creates a contrapuntal feel, and some of the harmonies are somewhat Medieval-sounding. Note the tendency for music in a minor key to have a highly expressive and emotive quality about it. Opus #10 is a rather formal sounding piece in which the use of simultaneous damped notes in all four parts has a somewhat heraldic effect (heraldic music is music which is used to accompany the entrance of royalty and other dignitaries at public functions). Opus #11 is a duet between the melody and upper interior parts, sounded above a simple bass line, with an interesting rhythmic effect created by repeating notes in the lower interior part. Opus #37 is very contrapuntal and very syncopated. The melody, which enjoys no privileged treatment in this style of arranging, is nevertheless relatively easy to pick out, since it is the highest-pitched part throughout most of this piece. Opus #38 is the blues, and includes a few hammered notes. A hammer-on is a two note fretting technique in which the first note is sounded in the usual manner, and then a second note is sounded on the same string by forcefully re-fretting the string at a higher fret. Opus #34, which also contains hammered notes, has a very Elizabethan (17th century) feel about it, and is a very fun piece to play.
Opus #40 is a five part arrangement in which two of the three interior parts play damped notes, and the third interior part plays the same notes in legato style. The interesting effect created in this fashion gives this music the sound and feel of music on a carousel. Opus #31 is a six part arrangement that may bore you to death if you're not into scary movie music. Four of the six parts play a simple ostinato figure alternating back and forth between two chords, and the other two parts are melodies, which are sounded alone and in various combinations.
Opus #39 sounds rather like traditional German beer hall music. The parts seem to be out of sync and working at cross-purposes throughout much of the second half of this piece, but then resolve neatly at the final cadence. In Opus #35, the delayed entrances of the interior parts at the beginning of most of the phrases has an interesting rhythmic effect. Note the dramatic effect of the cadence of the second phrase, in the fourth measure, which is preceded by a lot of motion in all the parts. In Opus #36, which has a romantic feel about it (with an appropriate lyric, it might make a nice wedding song), the melody is the highest-pitched part throughout. In Opus #41, a very simple melody is set to a busy accompaniment with an abundance of runs (quick sequences of notes).
The first six rounds (the 13th through the 18th selections) are hidden rounds, in which a familiar melody enters, as the last voice, at the end of the round. Because of the intended surprise nature of these pieces, nothing more will be said of them here.
Opus #21 is a highly syncopated piece, in a funky style, which makes particularly good use of the guitar ensemble format. The melody, which is the last of the four voices to enter, is very simple, but it completes the syncopated final cadence quite nicely. Two of the four eight-measure sections of this round employ pull-offs. A pull-off is a two note fretting technique in which a fretted note is sounded in the usual manner, and then a second note is sounded by removing the fretting finger and simultaneously plucking the string with that finger. In Opus #7, which recalls American Indian music, two of the four sections of the round again employ pull-offs. The melody enters last, is sounded in the guitar's middle register, and is the only section played in a legato fashion. In Opus #8, three independent and popular-sounding melodies get along, but only after a fashion, until the entrance of the fourth voice (the bass line) unifies them into a much more cohesive whole. In Opus #1, four independent and equally weighted melodies weave a contrapuntal texture. They are a strange fit at times, but that is part of the beauty of contrapuntal music. All four parts are also very melodic in nature in Opus #2, which makes good use of the rolling effect of compound meter. Notice that the parts end each eight-measure section in unison, even after all four voices have entered. In Opus #3, the melody is the second voice to enter, and a much fuller sound is achieved when the fourth voice (the bass line) enters. Notice the interesting effect of the final cadence, which concludes the piece with an inverted chord. An inverted chord is a chord in which the bass note (the lowest-pitched note) is not the root note of the chord.
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