Interview with Paul Bowman, second part
Interview with Paul Bowman, third part
The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played?
I had a typical “American” childhood, as my interest at age 11 was rock music and the electric guitar. I learned jazz guitar in high school, and though I started classical guitar after hearing Segovia in concert at age 14, I enjoyed playing in the high school jazz big band. Around this time, a turn toward the serious life’s work on the guitar came after a swimming/diving accident and coming within one millimeter of being paralyzed. Not to mention, at that moment I saw my life pass before my eyes. This enlightened the conviction in my choice to study music. After High School, I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. But then, it got all blurred as I started to play the Renaissance Lute. I had taken master-classes with Paul O’Dette, which was a great experience. I remember going home one Thanksgiving and bringing on board the bus my lute, classical and jazz guitars. After 3 semesters as one of 700 or so guitar majors, I transferred to the Manhattan School of Music where I received my B.M and M.M. degrees and studying classical guitar with the three-headed guitar faculty there at that time. After living in Europe for 11 years, I returned to the U.S. in 2006 to get my Doctorate. I qualified for candidacy the D.M.A. in Contemporary Performance this past June at the University of California San Diego. The University is reputable as one of the leading institutions in the world for the research of New Music. There I did not study on my instrument with a guitar professor (there is not a guitar performance professor at U.C.S.D.). But rather, I brought my pieces in for lessons to professors who were composers, instrumentalists and conductors. The ideas from these musicians perspective were informative in that musical ideas were not bound by knowledge of the guitar’s technical limitations.
You have worked closely with composers of distinction such as Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Jason Eckardt, David del Tredici, Harvey Sollberger, Pierre Boulez, Roger Reynolds, Tristan Murail, Helmut Lachenmann, Matthias Spahlinger, Phillipe Manoury and Charles Wuorinen and you have also collaborated with esteemed conductors Stefan Asbury, Heinz Holliger, Steven Schick and Jeffrey Milarsky. How was it working with these people?
While performing and recording with Ensemble Sospeso New York, I worked with Elliott Carter. He was a young man then, maybe 91 years old or so! We performed his work, Syringa (1978) for mezzo, bass baritone, guitar and ten instruments and recorded it on the Mode Records label. Jeffrey Milarsky conducted. Mr. Carter had a stately presence as we worked together on the beginning of the work – a noble guitar solo imitating the Greek god Orpheus. George Crumb is a composer who is very friendly and easily approachable, kind of a “down-home” personality. I really enjoyed working together on his percussion/guitar duo Mundus Cantus. Jason Eckardt, and David del Tredici coached me before performances of their works. Helmut Lachenmann devises ways of playing for the guitar and other instruments in creating sounds and affects that follow his musical and textural ethos. So I learned extended techniques from him during rehearsals at U.C. San Diego for his chamber work, Zwei Gefühle. My work with flutist/composer/conductor Harvey Sollberger is an ongoing process, as we we’ll be giving workshops/performances this February at Duke University, U.N.C. Chapel Hill, and at N.C. State University. Harvey is important because of his approach to accuracy, especially in the areas of rhythmic precision and in the dogged adherence to playing what’s in the score. Charles Wuorinen is someone I know from his work as a conductor, as well as from his coaching’s I’ve had on several of his works. I also worked with Pierre Boulez in his Le Marteau sans Maître with Ensemble Sospeso and conductor Stefan Asbury in a birthday-tribute concert at Alice Tully Hall, New York. Percussionist/conductor Steven Schick worked with me in the performance and recording of Boulez’ important work as well. Heinz Holliger conducted myself and members of Ensemble notabu Düsseldorf in Elliott Carter’s – Luimen – a work containing not only the guitar solo Shard, but, some tricky ensemble playing as well. Composer Roger Reynolds is University Professor at the University of California San Diego. We worked together on his solo work, The Behaviour of Mirrors (1985) - a piece that explores the premise that a mirror can not only reflect moments of the present, but moments of the past and of the future as well. The work was recorded and is in my 12 C.D. box set as well as playing on YouTube. I just worked with Tristan Murail this past April on his work, Tellur (1977). To get inspired ideas from one of the founders of Spectralism on the performance of this work was immensely valuable.
You have played Changes by Elliott Carter, would like to talk us about this score and your experience playing it?
Changes (1983) is one of the pivotal works for guitar. As a classical guitar student at Manhattan School of Music, I got to hear Mr. Starobin perform Changes before its premiere. It’s a work that demands rigor and mercurial ways of change in your playing. The transmutation of dynamic and rhythmic contours are occurring all the time. It works well when the player sticks to a tempo, follows for example the sequencing patterns of the 16th – note quintuplets, and, uses very little rubato. Imagine you’re playing “ringing changes,” like the bell ringers there in Europe (and to a lesser extend here in the U.S.) do. So be ready to find the most sonorous and softest elements of your instrument and right hand attack – and then give the most contrasting performances of the textures and dynamics as possible. I like to play the ending like a Bach Chorale, reveling in the most sonorous musical elements.
Berio in his essay "A remembrance to the future," wrote: ".. A pianist who is a specialist about classical and romantic repertoire, and plays Beethoven and Chopin without knowing the music of the twentieth century, is also off as a pianist who is specialist about contemporary music and plays with hands and mind that have never been crossed in depth by Beethoven and Chopin. " You play both traditional classical and contemporary repertoire ... do you recognize yourself in these words?
That reference of Berio while speaking to the students at Harvard University truly resounds in my musical philosophy. The New-Music interpretive experience refreshes the guitarist’s “toolbar” and ready’s one’s performing outside of established interpretive contexts. This is more important wisdom than any guitar teacher helped me with, because all they did was to try to sell me a bag of “interpretive” goods – I am not interested in playing “this way” or like “this player” – I am only interested in playing what’s in the music, not whether I have had conversations with J.S. Bach through my dreams, etc. My model musician is the pianist Maurizio Pollini, because he plays all the styles incredibly well. He is never satisfied, always striving and puts music first. His recording of the second Boulez Piano Sonata is incredible! I have dual major influences in my musical development. On the one hand, there is the New York “Uptown” music tradition – composers Babbitt, Wuorinen, Sollberger – as well as the musicians I worked with while studying and living in New York such as those in “The Group for Contemporary Music”, the “New Music Consort”, “Musician’s Accord”, and other musicians such as percussionist/conductor Clare Heldrich, who have shaped my musical training and background at an early age. And on the other hand, I have a strong classical guitar background through the knowledge from my teachers, intimate listening of recordings of important guitarists such as Segovia, Williams, Bream, Diaz, and my participation in international classical guitar competitions. So my advice for the beginning classical guitarist is to develop the sound, the execution and concentration required for a performance. Then, the ability in playing for example, a Bach Suite with a fugue is important. This is mandatory in order to be prepared for contemporary works, like the quasi suite-form of the Britten Nocturnal, opus 70. Oscar Ghiglia used to teach that a first-year guitarist should learn and perform Bach’s Prelude, Fugue and Allegro BWV 998 – and for good reason! Further, if you learn and edit your own Bach Suite from the Neue Bach Ausgabe, and not an edited guitar version, then one has an idea what it would be like to learn a brand new work composed for the guitar – a clean slate, no fingerings, and - what do you do now?
end of first part
end of first part