2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 1 percussion, solo e. guitar, strings
Violet Bond: Concert-Overture for Electric Guitar and Orchestra is written in memory of my great-grandmother, Violet Bond. Nanny, as we called her, had a piano in her living room (on Dogwood Lane in Woodlawn , MD) and would sing and play from a hymnal. One of my family members describes such events in a letter to Violet:
“You played the piano and I, at age 12, stood beside you and sung the songs as you played. I was a quiet kid and normally not subject to such outburst of verbalness song or no song, but for some reason I felt free as a bird to sing in your presence. You just struck me as a kind caring soul and thus it felt like the natural thing to do at the time. My mom, your daughter, a witness to this moment, has mentioned to me over the years how out of character that outburst was for me. That piano playing is perhaps a forgotten moment in your protracted life, but a very important one in my lengthening life.
Across the room was a television, and my favorite show to watch at Nanny’s house was He-Haw. I would stand in front of the television and pretend to play guitar with a broom. Mimicking the moves of Roy Clark and Buck Owens. Perhaps she needed her broom back, but for my fourth birthday, Nanny gave me a ukulele. From this moment on, I was hooked as a “plucked string player” and began guitar lessons a year later which continued through to my graduate studies. This is the butterfly effect which led me to a life as a musician, which I treasure. For this reason, I have always wanted to write a composition titled “Violet Bond.”
The composition of this piece is not directly related to any of these memories and does not tell a story in a linear fashion. It is more just the “feeling” of all of this which inspired me to write (hopefully) the most beautiful electric guitar concerto yet written. The guitar is presented with a clear tone, but uses electronic effects including delay, pitch shifting, tremolo, and looping effects. These augment the nature of a clean-sounding guitar by enhancing its sonic capabilities without “distorting” the natural sound of the instrument. (I don’t think Nanny would enjoy the idea of me on stage with a heavy-metal guitar blasting everyone’s ears off! )
The piece begins with the guitar and orchestra in consort. Arpeggio figures in the guitar are accompanied by col legno battuto strings (“hit with the wood” as in Holst’s The Planets: Mars). This gives way to one of the main themes of the piece, in which a simple melody on the guitar is “sustained” throughout the orchestra. On this theme, the guitar notes fade away while the orchestral instruments “fade-in.”
Improvisation is natural to the electric guitar player. In this work there are a few sections where the performer has a chance to create his own cadenzas. What one will find is a little different is that these Cadenzas are accompanied by repeated measures in the orchestra. The guitar player and conductor then cue the orchestra to continue with swells, leading to another cadenza.
A new feature of electronic instruments is the ability to create a “loop effect.” The performer switches a button on a pedal on the floor which records what the instrument plays. At the end of the phrase, the button is hit again and the pedal will repeat this section ad infinitum. In the middle section of this work, I create a loop which accompanies the orchestra, and the orchestra joins in over the loop with the live guitar player performing a melody.
Score and Perusal Materials Available upon request