Geometric Designs (version 1)

1991

For: Solo guitar
Duration: 9 minutes

This piece was commissioned by the Argentinian guitarist, Fernando Maglia. The idea of writing a piece for guitar was one that, because of a number of paradoxes, initially worried me: the instrument, in terms of timbre, dynamic and playing technique, is intimate, even introverted in nature while the act of performing is extrovert. The classical guitar has only limited sustaining power and this, together with a number of other technical problems, make the sort of sustained melodic writing that had become a feature of my compositional language, impractical. The instrument, with its ability to strum chords, seemed ideally suited to accompany a voice, yet the commission was for a solo work.

Faced with these contradictions, I began searching for a type of music that I could write which would avoid the pitfalls I had identified. I wanted a music that had some continuity, a rhythmic life that could project it to an audience and yet retain the possibility of melodic interest. I found my inspiration in the repetitive and kaleidoscopic patterns of African mbira (thumb piano) music. I found that I could combine and vary rhythmic patterns and textures in a manner that was both technically feasible and aurally stimulating. The result is only distantly related to the African music, my formal and developmental thinking being thoroughly European. I hope the resulting melange is both stimulating and enjoyable.