Tim posted on Thursday, 29 December, 2005 - 01:11 am
Sorry for posting in the wrong place, this isn't an e-bay alert at all. (I hope no-one thinks SG is selling his soul by me posting this is in the wrong part of the forum).
Tricky posted on Thursday, 29 December, 2005 - 09:37 am
Must be the Christmas Booze...
Tim posted on Thursday, 29 December, 2005 - 05:14 pm
...more likely the withdrawal, I've developed a fine tremor that means I hit the keys unpredictably.
Anyway the SG interview is well worth the read.
Chris posted on Thursday, 29 December, 2005 - 09:59 pm
Thanks for drawing this interview to our attention, Tim. A very entertaining and informative read; some great anecdotes and memories. Nice to see the likes of Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw and Dave Richmond (all former Shadows) getting good mentions here and there. I had no idea that Steve accompanied Olivia Newton-John on her 1974 Eurovision appearance, for example.
I noticed that there are also interviews elsewhere on the site with the likes of Hawkshaw and John Gregory. I've got a John Gregory LP called 'The Detectives', which consists of really jazzy versions of detective themes such as Kojak, Harry O, SWAT, Macmillan & Wife, etc... Always loved it and will read these interviews later. There's also one with Francis Monkman, which I think I've already read.
So, yeah, a very worthwhile and revealing read. Thanks.
Tim posted on Sunday, 01 January, 2006 - 04:36 pm
An worthwhile read too I thought - when Steve says he was playing 40 hours a week in studios I wonder just what else he played on. Interesting that he arranged and played on the Walker Brothers 'No Regrets' album - hope he did the title track which has always been one of my favourite records.
SG talks about his classical influences - I'd listened to his Guitar Concerto again recently and thought I heard some Stravinsky influence (Petrushka particularly came to mind), though he doesn't mention that in the CD notes.
Steve Gray posted on Tuesday, 03 January, 2006 - 01:08 pm
Yes Tim, I did the whole album. Scott Walker was great to work with - easy-going, relaxed and very clear about what he wanted, but still willing to let you try things.
Interesting what you say about the guitar piece. I don't think any orchestral composer of the 20th century could escape Stravinsky - he was just so damn big. But looking back I have to say the main influence, apart from Hollywood B-movies in the slow movement, was Charles Koechlin.
I first came across him when I arranged an album for Bruce Forsyth (another pleasure; he's a very musical and musically-aware man). Brian Bennett played drums on it and when he heard a chord that I'd voiced in an unusual way he said "That sounds like Bandar-Log". I didn't know 'Les Bandar-Log' but I did know that Brian knew more about 20th century orchestral music than most people, so I checked it out. It's part of the 'Jungle Book' suite; an unexpected subject for a French composer and one that took him 40 years to write.
And it's wonderful, and writing about it reminds me that I haven't heard it in a few years. I'll rectify that right now.
Bill D posted on Tuesday, 03 January, 2006 - 08:43 pm
"Bandar-log" is Hindi for "monkey people". In "The Jungle Book", it refers to the rhesus monkeys that gave Mowgli so much trouble.
Sorry. I know, get a life! :-)
Tim posted on Wednesday, 04 January, 2006 - 12:14 am
Koechlin's only a name to me so I ought to track some down to have a listen ("I'm looking for a CD of the Jungle Book without I'm the King of the Swingers").
What I put about a Stravinsky influence - it's a bit like a late 20th century painter who'd escaped Picasso (those who call themselves 'painters and decorators' excepted). I felt I could hear that influence rather than Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, all of whom Steve mentions in the same interview.
Steve Gray posted on Wednesday, 04 January, 2006 - 11:37 am
Point taken Tim. In fact I was using orchestral techniques, or variants of them, developed by all the composers mentioned here. How it all comes out sounding is another story and one that, in a sense, is out of my hands. I've never met a composer who knows exactly what he or she has written before it's been played.
Tim posted on Wednesday, 04 January, 2006 - 12:18 pm
There's a myth amongst people who've never tried playing any music that musical notation is so precise all a performer (or player in that line of thinking) does is do what's written down - a bit like building Ikea furniture.
Ravel had all sorts of disagreements about the the playing of his music, famously declaring 'performers are slaves' and I'm told covering his scores with all sorts of instructions. Though of course when he played piano at the premiere of his violin sonata he played a different rhythm than he'd written (and rehearsed) for the third movement, expecting the fiddle player to follow.
PS I don't think this story was the origin of Roxy's 'Slave to the Rhythm';-)
Bill D posted on Wednesday, 04 January, 2006 - 09:52 pm
When I first got 'into' classical music, I didn't see the point of having more than one version of a piece. (Here, I mean 'straight' classical versions, as opposed to the very different versions that Sky or a jazz band or even B. Bumble and the Stingers might do.)
As time went on and as my collection expanded, I began to appreciate different performers' interpretations. I didn't always like them. Being a bit of a stick in the mud, I usually preferred the first version I heard first. But not always.
A good example of this is Domeniconi's 'Koyunbaba'. I had JW's version (on 'The Guitarist') but a guitarist friend recommended Antigoni Goni's recital for Naxos. I wrote back to him raving about this great piece. He told me that I already had it. Somehow, JW's hadn't made the same impression on me.
Steve: Don't tell him I said that. Maybe I hadn't listened to his properly. :-) Goni's was the first track on the album. Nowadays, I don't get the chance to play much music in the house. (Blame Sky+! If it wasn't the name of a TV system that would be a good name for a band.) My first listening of a CD is in the car, on the way home after buying it.
One reviewer said that Goni's version made JW sound like a schoolboy playing. Harsh and unfair. Anyway, he can't be the 'the world's greatest classical guitarist' for ever and subsequent generations are reaping the benefits of pioneers like JW and Julian Bream.
It's like Bruce Lee. He had fantastic skills but martial arts have evolved since his day and other people now do things that he only imagined. (Trust me on this. I can barely hold down a chord** but this is my area!)
**Pop Quiz: (easy one) Whose guitar tutor books were called "Hold Down A Chord"?**
Tim posted on Thursday, 05 January, 2006 - 01:46 pm
Answer: John Pearse. Once you could Hold Down A Chord the next step was Holding Down D Chord and G Chord - all that's needed to strum Blowin'in the Wind, Mr Tambourine Man and an interminable tranche of other Dylan songs.
In the interview that started this thread Steve joked about his musicality being recognised because he could play B flat on a recorder - to 'Hold Down B flat Chord' is a similar status, and the point at which many wannabe Donovans/Baezes gave up.
Getting back to music which is harmonically and rhythmically interesting. Steve, about the same time as the Guitar Concerto, JW also recorded your arrangement of parts of Iberia (I know the recordings were released some years apart). Were you consciously influenced by any particular composers, styles or works when you made that arrangement? It would be fascinating to know some more of the background to that work. I imagine it could have been tempting to use the orchestra just as accompaniment to a guitar virtuoso, only giving the orchestra the tune when power was needed. Listening to JWs recording I love the interplay between guitar and orchestra, and the sections where the strings or wind play without the soloist.
Steve Gray posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 04:32 pm
Thanks, Tim for the nice words. I've just bought an iPAQ with a portable keyboard and I'm having a lot of fun trying it out so I'm sorry if this answer is over-long! Actually JW and I worked very closely on the guitar part; where and what he would play and how it would fit into the structure. He had a very strong idea of what the guitar should play and apart from the odd alteration for technical reasons that's how it came out. His ideas were totally musical and inspirational and I incorporated them into the arrangements enthusiastically. As to the rest, it was pretty straightforward. The Suite Iberia, as you no doubt know, is a suite of 12 piano pieces written early last century by Isaac Albéniz. (Actually there was a 13th, completed posthumously by Déodat de Séverac, world-famous in his home village of St Félix Lauragais though nowhere else.) Although they were written for piano they look like orchestral transcriptions and they're ferociously difficult to play. The story goes that Ravel, looking for a project for the summer, approached Albéniz's publisher with a view to orchestrating them. He was told that the publisher had signed a contract with the violinist/composer Enrique Arbós (who later became the lead violinist at the Glasgow Empire) to do the job. Ravel, feeling in a Spanish mood anyway, went off and wrote a bolero - not a bad move as it turned out. I really didn't like Arbós's orchestrations; I found them over-fussy and fastidious. (In one of the movements there's a beautiful cadential chord on top of which Arbós stuck a triangle trill; in the concert hall it sounds as though the interval bell has gone off early). So if I had any "artistic" motivation at all, it was to try and keep out the clutter. Other than that, it was simply a matter of transcribing what Albéniz wrote for orchestra. In the whole 25 minutes or so of the three movements I changed the harmony on one semiquaver; otherwise every melody, counter-melody and harmony was provided by Albéniz. Obviously the orchestral language was the vernacular of early 20th Century Spanish orchestral music, and I used a slightly unconventional orchestra, with a saxophone in the woodwind section, no trombones but a tuba, and celesta and piano. This non-standard line-up makes it difficult to programme live, though John did give one of the movements (before it was recorded) with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Litton as part of the Melbourne Concert Hall's Red Series of concerts, prompting one reviewer to write that it was the worst arrangement he'd ever heard at a Red Series concert. Slightly off-topic for an e-Bay alert indeed!
Tim posted on Sunday, 08 January, 2006 - 11:23 pm
Only one work for guitar and orchestra has become part of the core classical repertoire and I guess concert promoters, record labels and critics are all hoping for the new Concierto de Aranjuez. Even with those hopes, the reviewer who was so disparaging of Steve's arrangement really ought to stay awake more.
Over this weekend I've also listened to the arrangement of three movements from Iberia that Leo Brouwer did for Julian Bream. Like Rodrigo's arrangement of Sanz for Segovia, the guitarist plays almost continuously in Brouwer's Iberia and the feeling is much more of a concertante work. As I said before one of the things I love about Steve's arrangement is that the orchestra is used for the music, not just to add colour, counterpoint and power.
As Steve's guitar concerto and Iberia arrangements were recorded at the same sessions I've always assumed that the aim was to release them together, but that Sony Classical didn't like the idea. I'm sure there's some sort of tale (though maybe not for the telling!) about the seven years it took to release the guitar concerto.
Many thanks Steve for all these insights - I very much appreciate them. Thanks again (and sorry for starting this in the eBay alerts).