As a non-guitarist, how have you approached composing music for the guitar? Randall Davidson

As a non-guitarist, how have you approached composing music for the guitar? Randall Davidson

I play in a band called the Galore Brothers that seldom performs and never rehearses. The members consist of an accordion, cello, Ghanian drums and guitar. We perform show tunes from “Pillow Talk,” “Guys & Dolls,” “South Pacific” and the like. It was a matter of necessity for me to learn how to compose and arrange for the guitar more effectively. I had typically written chord charts and left the rest to the guitarist. My guitar days began when I started asking questions. I was lucky that my guitarist band-mate was Chris Kachian who is an enthusiastic champion of new guitar works.

Chris has commissioned more than two dozen concertos and is a die-hard new music junkie. Chris took my superficial and utilitarian curiosity as an indication that I would want to become expert at composing for guitar. He quickly found the resources to commission a solo guitar work that eventually became Stimme (1988) and, eventually, the Concerto for Guitar and Big Band Orchestra (1989). Since then, we have collaborated on a theater piece, The Fifth Part of the World, two scores for television, Anniversary Sonata (1992) and a multi-media concert called “The Chris Kachian Xperience.”

In other words, we like working together.

I wrote Stimme on Chris’s dining room table with blank staff paper on my left and a manuscript of his book, The Composers’ Desk Reference for Guitar, on my right. I would sketch a musical idea and he would then read it; I would then take the sketches and compose my thoughts for our next working session. We continued this way for a few weeks until I was ready to suggest that the work was done. It stands out in my catalogue for its ferocity and virtuosity—I don’t know if I will ever again be able to find a collaborator of such courage and generosity.

Dr. Kachian’s important book, The Composers’ Desk Reference for Guitar, will be published in November 2004 by Mel Bay.

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