Symphony No.1 “The Six String”
The Six String is an orchestral imagining of my experience with various genres of guitar music. Like any good jam session, in the first movement, “A Study in Tuning,” the orchestra plays the tuning notes of the guitar’s open strings (E, A, D, G, B, E). However, a “wrong” note in the piano results in the orchestra tuning to E flat instead of E, a conundrum which isn’t resolved until the second movement.
The second movement, “Sonatina,” is in the classical (18th-century) guitar style, but there is a catch: it is in A flat (a difficult key for the classical guitar).The orchestration, particularly the strings’, highlights this struggle between A flat and A natural. Their arrivals in A, which create a lifting sensation as they set right the built-in tuning issues of the previous movement, are signaled by the percussion section.
The third movement, “Campfire Songs,” features a collage of folk guitar melodies, played by a string quartet and harmonica, which support a rhapsodic clarinet solo. As the melodies come to rest like lingering embers, the orchestra “joins hands” by playing “Kumbaya” in canon.
The fourth movement, “Dance!” is a trope on the traditional scherzo form: instead of a scherzo or minuet and trio, I have written a waltz, tango, and milonga—stylized dance traditions that are idiomatic to the guitar.
It was rock guitar that brought me to music, so I can think of no more fitting end to this piece than an homage to my guitar heroes. The finale, “Passacaglia,” is a repeating twelve- bar blues chord progression which I’ve constructed by layering hundreds of guitar riffs taken from the last sixty years of popular music. Listen close and you’ll hear melodies you’ve grooved to.