Classical Guitar Salon Recital
Saturday 1 June 2019
Saturday 8 June 2019
Prelude, Andante, Ronde
Suite for Unaccompanied Cello
Prelude, Sarabande, Courante
R. de Visee
Petite Suite en Re Mineur
Prelude, Allemande, Bourree, Sarabande, Gavotte, Gigue
Catalan Folk Songs
Song of the Birds, Plany
Campo, Copla, Fiesta
Preludio No 1, Preludio No 3
Photos at this Concert By Akinobu Matsuda (86-years old)
Photo by Reiko Matsuda
Following artIcle is a simple report contributed by a listener of the conerts
Having Been to this Recital Given by Maestro Matsuda (2019/7/3)
Nobuhiko Kinbara =
Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture
Maestro Matsuda is, as far as I know, the one and only guitarist people who ever tried who can handle the Torres Guitar very skillfully. He is an adept fiddler who makes us forget that the instrument is more than a hundred and twenty years old, because he produces from the old instrument the multihued tonality with deep and intense sound. (Not to mention it owes to the incomparable technique of the Maestro.)
Actually, a few days after I heard the Maestro's recital I saw on YouTube a lecture about the history of Torres instrument with sample performances. Contrary to my expectations, the sound was so thin and brittle that I couldn't even make out the variations of tonality. This type of video can be misleading to the people who listen to the sound of Torres Guitar for the first time, because it may give an impression of Torres instrument to be utterly mediocre.
A masterpiece chooses a master, only by a master a masterpiece instrument sings.
Courante of J.S. Bach
The accentuation is majestic! I'm just baffled by the way he interpretes the music and accentuates like that! An ordinary person like me would never think in that way! I ｗas so moved that I felt an electric shock run through my spine.
Song of the Birds, Catalan Folk Song
When I heard this music on his album, I thought the music suits better with the guitar rather than with the cello. His live performance was very excellent, especially the part of the bird's warble. With cello it may be difficult to express it like that, so I thought.
Pavana of Francisco Ta´rrega
I 'saw' an orchestra in his performance, even though the piece was a small one. I clearly recognised the sounds of each instrument as accompaiments to the melody.
This piece struck me the hardest this evening with great excitement and impression. I wanted it for an encore.
Maestro Matsuda writes in his book "Heaven & Hell" that an 'encore' is to play a piece that the audiences want to listen to it once again, or again and again without being bored by the performance. I totally agreed with him on this point this evening, and I thought that there is no need to introduce a new number for an encore.
Manuel Mari´a Ponce
Astonishing pizzicato! It was clearly audible from afar, sounded completely different from pizzicato I'd ever heard. It was the first time for me to hear such powerful pizzicato.
Maestro played this for an encore saying, ' I can play the second movement much better than I played in the programme.' After he played it thrillingly, he went on to the next movement without stopping, saying 'I'll carry on to the third movement !'.
I'm absolutely amazed by his skill and ability to express colourful tonality, rythm, twist and leap with only one guitar. I recognise the greatness of Ponce as the composer of the piece, but Maestro's interpretation adds extra artistry to it. If Ponce would listen to this performance he might question himself if he had composed this music with such profound imagination. In the first movement he used different rasgueado pattern to that of Flamenco 'golf strokes'. Maestro's 'hold strokes' gave power to the flow of the music and produced significant effect.
I take the liberty of mentioning that nobody of his age has the ability to control such an unordinary use of finger muscles. People who tried the rasgueado technique may understand what I mean.
Sevilla of Isaac Albniz
Forgive me repeating but considering his age, 85 years old? and play this piece in the closing programme is utterly astounding!
There may be people who fall in love with this music and aspire to play it, nevertheless the complexity of the intro surely puts them off achieving their dream. Not to mention if you don't have sturdy left hand muscles (also those of the right hand), you will never achieve it.
I rarely heard this played, even by some European guitarists, with Spanish flavour. This evening, however, I tasted Spanish rhythm, air and wind. Why with Maestro Matsuda?
(These are the comments I scribbled on the programme while I was attending the recital. The texts are not emended and I ask your forgiveness for randomness.)
After the Recital
It was a classical guitar recital, but I had an impression that Maestro was giving us a lecture on what he has been trying to achieve throughout his long career. It was as if he showed us what an ultimate artistic expression should be, guitar as its means in his case, and he himself still is on the way to achieving it.
Off the track, after the recital on the 1st of June, I attended another recital by a young Spanish-French guitarist on the 16th of June in Hyogo Performing Arts Center. My guitar teacher, who is a Maestro
Matsuda's diciple, always recommends me to listen to guitar music played only by Andre´s Segovia and Akinobu Matsuda, and by nobody else. I was so silly that I went against his advise. Matsuda comments : If your hearing gets used to the music without its fundamental quality, you will never achieve progress even though you practice hard.
The brochure of the recital read that the artist was a gifted guitarist with series of awards and accolades since his teens, and this hightened my expectations. The venue was full, even some extra seats had been laid to accommodate further audiences. (The regular seats count 417 but that evening some extra seats had been added.) I skip his repertoirs but I cannot help mentioning the insipid sound he produced. His right hand went on travelling from the bridge to the19th fret in his intent for differentiate the tonalities, however, his basic tone being flat and dull that against his effort I could not capture any difference throughout the recital. Matsuda comments : When I was in London in 1960 to 1962, very famous French Duo of the time Presti-Lagoya did this. My mentor Segovia could modify the tone qualities without busying his right hand from right to left, I thought the Duo was a sham and started to despise them.
His left fingers moved dexterously on the fretboard and they never faltered even in the quick passages, but his music didn't touch me at all. I didn't get any goosebumps, no groaning for excitement. Just nothing.
Bach's Chaconne was programmed for the closing number for the part one, and I was looking forward to it before I went to the recital. My expectations were quickly shattered when he finished the first number. And the result was..., you already know.
Few Days Later
My guitar teacher runs a cafee during the day and teaches guitar in the evening, and Mr. and Mrs. Matsuda are frequent visitors to his cafe. When they visit the cafe the Maestro always plays some pieces in private.
The last time he was in, I told him about the aforementioned Spanish-French guitarist and his Chaconne. Then the Maestro played the first few chords with a subtle pause in between, and suddenly the music started to glint with life. I learnt that the genuine artist is who can give life to a sound.
Now I'm even more convinced of the greatness of the Maestro. (Somewhere in my head I heard my guitar teacher's reproach saying, 'So I told you not to do anything not worth doing it!'. I know that I cannot help doing unworthy things to be sure of what is genuine and what is fake, because of my poor musicality.
Going back to the Spanish-French guitarist's recital, as I felt it very awkward even to produce a sound of swallowing saliva in a silent space with no musical colourfulness, I suffered from severe nervous exhaustion. When the intermission started, the whole venue seemed to be freed from tension. I thought almost all of them suffered from the same nervous exhaustion because I couldn't hear any lively comment from the audience.
The Maestro's recital, however, the audience was drawn into the art of extensive variations of tonality. We were focusing our attention on what we were listening, but we felt comfortable with the difference in the tones and never felt nervous. His music as a whole was pleasant, and some bright tones in narrative passages gave us goosebumps. You never get bored even though you don't know the piece you're listening, because you will be captivated by the glowing tones and constantly changing phrasings.
Lastly, I want to mention that his recent book Classical Guitar, "Heaven and Hell", Mystery of Sound, is a must-read book for all who play the classical guitar. The book is replete with episodes from his interaction with his mentor Andree´ Segovia, his friendship with people from many circles, his life philosophy, and technical illustration about guitar playing! But, reading the book doesn't make your guitar skill suddenly polished up. Having said this, the book is so powerful that your attitude towards the classical guitar surely will change. If you have a chance to attend his recital after reading the book, you will clearly recognise that he himself exercises what is written in the book. Matsuda comments : Unfortunately, this book is not published in English.
Well, I'm still amazed by the way the muscles of the back of his hands swell when he plays the guitar...
I've never seen anyone with hefty muscles on the back of the hand in the first place. Sorry to remind you of his advanced age again. I conclude that he deserves the title of 'superhuman artist', and nothing else.
(Translated by Yoshiko Nakamura)
Songs of Darwin's finches.(2017/6/5)
from the Japanese version uploaded 10 February 2012 as No71
I may have been evolving quite differently to other people. I feel I am in a different island to the other guitarists, music critics and guitar teachers. I am not sure when this happened.
Take the first note A from the Prelude of Bach's Cello Suite No. 3 as an example. If I carry on producing the first note A with a certain determination, the technique surely evolves. And the evolution becomes distinctive when being isolated on a desert island, free from outside influence.
I think of the volume, and whether to use vibrato or not. If with vibrato, how much? accelerating or slowing down? The volume turning up or down? or moving to the next note when the vibration returns to the initial sound? I think about the subtle distinction of the sound produced by the way the string is plucked, the length of the vibration between the A and the next note G#, and a muted moment should be left or not. The note be played on the first string or on the second? by which finger? and the speed of the right hand finger? metallic or mellow sound? Then finally I think nothing and the sound A goes off with the complexity of everything I was thinking about before. It is hard to produce a sound as a fruit of your careful thinking, but living in a desert island helps me develop specific skills in this area.
I am trying to say that the musical sounds evolve differently, assimilating the position each note is placed. And they fly like birds of the differently evolved countless species.
Do you think Galapagos evolution is full of fun? Or a great fun as a result of a painful effort? Evolution is a path to an unknown destination. One day I realised that there is no one else but me at the end of the evolution. And I cannot go back because evolution is irreversible.
What I am trying to say is the development project of the guitar music is like Galapagos evolution. But it is the place where no one has ever been before, and it is a great fun to be there. I feel as if I were Charles Darwin.
Well, I've been describing my imaginary musical output hoping that you can understand how a guitar music is played or a guitarist produces the music. Perhaps it is my wish if I could do as I have described just now. The future of the guitar performances should be taken the lead by some intuitive people. The destination Andre´s Segovia discovered, or created, is the Eden of music where Darwin's finches sing and travel in the air. This destination is far, far away, but it can be used as an arms depot guitarists and guitar lovers can feel the superiority of the guitar to the other instruments.
Maestro Andre´s Segovia is said to be one of the three great Bach players. It had once been said that everyone who studied Bach, no matter what instrument, must listen to Segovia playing Bach. These words offer great encouragement to me, and to someone like me who has decided to live with the guitar as a lifelong friend, or a lifelong search. These words have been the basso continuo to me all my life.
They have been basso continuo, maybe because Segovia had never sought publicity about his achievement or about his exceptional talent. His musical world is godlike creation. And I fearlessly plunged into this incredible world. I started to pursue the musical expressions only the guitar can achieve, and maestro Segovia taught me only by showing him play, not by explaining in words. If you cannot submit to do like this, there is no need you continue playing the guitar. I may sound very harsh, however, my intention is not to despair the guitar students, but to give an incentive to study the guitar.
No.10-Flowers along the wayside. Guitar music. (2016/4/3)
from the Japanese version uploaded on 16 Jan. 2016 as No.162
I have long been supporting the idea of playing the etudes, the practice pieces as a grand original composition. I fully acknowledge how unsophisticated they may sound when the practice pieces for the guitar are played on piano. But when I play them on guitar pretending that it is a magnificent concert composition, they suddenly sound very sophisticated. What makes this happen? And why?
The practice pieces are the flowers along the wayside. Petty they may seem to be, but when they are photographed by a high resolution camera and enlarged, you will see an image of a flower with very complicated composition. The same thing can be applied to guitar music. With a single glance it looks insignificant. But when every single sound is played as if it were a petal, stamen and carpel of a flower, the listener will get surprised to find out the complexity of a simple piece of music. I believe the guitar is the ultimate polyphonic instrument regarding the capability of producing several notes with different timbres. A first class orchestra with its members playing their own parts with utmost care (such an orchestra rarely exists, however) can entrance the audience with the enormous power of musical vibration. The audience in the hall may be knocked down by this staggering beauty of music.
It is impossible to produce such music with human power. It is the realm of god, the realm of Orpheus. Yes, Orpheus did it on his own.
I think the types of music do not matter. For example, let us think of a simple Spanish folksong which is made out of a melody with single tones. If it is played by god, the listener will be transfixed by its perfection. I am trying to get closer to this realm, and I am making every effort to convey this idea to my pupils.
If a petty piece of music is played in this way, it should take the composer's breath away. It is just in the same way a flower along the wayside is photographed and amplified, then suddenly an insignificant flower starts looking something extraordinary. Perhaps the flower may blush at the unexpected attention. This is the realm I am dreaming to open up.
Guitar music used to be quite simple. Many pieces are often not for solo performance, but for accompaniment. Except for some grand compositions written by Sor or Giuliani, the two distinguished guitarists and composer of the Classical era, études and small pieces have not been treated seriously. They have been regarded as unimportant or unsubstantial. The guitar teachers' attitudes towards those small music caused this tendency.
I say it again.
There are many short and simple pieces for guitar lessons. They are called 'practice pieces', they haven't even got proper titles, and nobody noticed the importance of playing them or listening to them carefully because they look plain and undeveloped. The people who have been in guitar related business, guitarists and their teachers are responsible for this.
People who worked for or lived by the guitar paid no attention to those etudes, because they are small, insignificant and not elaborated. Instead, those musical gems were replaced by vulgar music. They are so small that they cannot be put in a vase to adorn a room, and they are taken over by tasteless trashy music.
I dream for a day when all the small practice pieces which have been crushed by some inconsiderate feet will bloom like the flowers in the wilderness, the flowers proudly in blossom without being disturbed.
I am very much convinced that this is the correct direction the classical guitar must follow, that someday this will be applied as a general principle of learning not other things with 'guitar' on its name but 'the classical guitar'. The scientific advance allows us to know the microscopic world, at the same time we can get information about things happening on the opposite side of the world as if it is happening just next door. Nonetheless, what is happening around us is the unpleasant fact that we do not even have a quick look at the tiny flowers at the edge of a street.
What will happen to the future of the guitar music?
Translator's comment :
Refer to the music "Wayside Flower" in 'Platero and I' (Op. 190) by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
No.9-My confession and Self-introduction by the translator (2016/3/24)
I've been thinking, these essays in English can make the readers believe that I have a good command of the language, that a simple guitarist is quite something. With these naughty thought I was tempted not to disclose the name of the translator. The first English essay 'La Guitarra' uploaded 21/05/2005 was my work, however, it involved an extremely time-consuming process and I feared for losing my time to practice and perform the guitar, so that I gave up working on it during past ten years. After a string of coincidences, I came to know Mrs Nakamura, who could translate my essays in my fashion. She tried the passage about Otto Klemperer to start with (Japanese version uploaded 10/07/2014), then finally I decided to have her as my translator to keep on uploading more English versions, and in this way I can present my view about guitar music to the guitar lovers all over the world.
It was by pure accident I had come across Mrs Nakamura, but our encounter somehow reminds me of the words of Dogen-Zenji. I hope this sheer accident be the trigger to attract the eyes of guitar lovers outside Japan to read my humble essays.
It is a great privilege if I can pass on my love and passion for guitar music to people who cannot read my essays in Japanese. If you share my enthusiasm and give me encouragement, I will be more than happy.
The guitar is an instrument with a remarkable expressive ability. Andrés Segovia (1893-1987) always highlighted this outstanding ability of the guitar, however, there are very few people from his followers who keep on drawing attention to this exceptional character of the instrument. I am determined to face up to take on this mission, and I do not stop insisting that Andrés Segovia is a unique character and musician in the history of music. He was given a nobility title of Marquis of Salobrena (Marqués de Salobrena) from the former Spanish King regarding the notable contribution he made to music history. The reason why I transmit my ideas through my essays is to win back the recognition about the guitar and its music to the highest Segovia had made in his career, by encouraging the guitarists of this day, and to retain the dignity of guitar music.
I believe there is no other guitarist in the world who was given the title of Marquis other than Segovia.
The title of his marquisate was bestowed when Segovia was staying in The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. I ran an errand to send a telegraph of accepting the title on his behalf from the local post office in Japan. The marquisate name Salobrena was chosen among many options by Segovia himself.
Self-introduction by the translator:
Hello dear readers. My name is Nakamura, I am the translator of the essays of Mr Matsuda originally written in Japanese. I was born in Tokyo, Japan, but had lived in ten different cities around the world since the age of four, and I am currently living in Me´xico. My interest in guitar music started when I was a teenager. Ta´rrega's 'Lagrima' played at the Municipal Theatre in Sao Paulo, Brazil fascinated me and soon I got a guitar for myself and started to fiddle with it by self-learning. It was in 2004 that I decided to learn the guitar seriously and I started lessons in La Academia de Mu´sica in Santiago de Chile. During my temporary visit to Japan in 2013 I accidentally met Mr I, a passionate guitar music lover and a pupil of Mr Matsuda. His style was completely different from what I had been learning until then, but Mr I insisted that he wouldn't teach any other style than Andre´s Segovia's, that is to say the style of Mr Matsuda. Thanks to the modern technology I still enjoy learning from Mr I via Skype. Having Mr I as my guitar teacher led me to know Mr Matsuda, and a few events happened by chance led me to participate in Mr Matsuda's project to get his ideas across around the world. I hope my tiny contribution can bring about changes in today's guitar music scene as Mr Matsuda wishes to happen.
No.8-Shaping the eternal, perfect forms (2016/3/21)
from the Japanese version uploaded on 11 Set. 2015 as No.154
It was soon after the Second World War had been over and I was thirteen or fourteen years old when I stayed some days on the island of Awaji as my family used to go every summer. We were on the beach of Sumoto where my father's business friend lived. He said to me as a young boy, 'I've been to a national swimming competition, you see, so I'm gonna show you how to swim as a competitive swimmer.' Then he started to swim very slowly from left to right, and again from right to left in the shallows of Sumoto. The way he swam was utterly beautiful that it was engraved in my memory. He showed me the stroke called freestyle (or the front crawl), the type of stroke you breathe through your half-opened mouth by turning your head to the side.
Thirty years had past and I was in a swimming pool of a hotel where I was giving the intensive lessons to my pupils. It was just after I returned from Granada, where a film about Segovia had been shot in Alhambra. I tried to display my freestyle strokes to my students, although I was not so sure of my ability because I had never come back to try it again since my boyhood experience in Sumoto. To my surprise, however, I did swim the front crawl, and I did it very beautifully.
I had another experience. As I listen to a musical performance and being profoundly moved by it, but do nothing about it for a while, then it shapes a complete solid form in my mind.
This is the essence of what I wanted to say in my previous essay No 153. What psychologists say about shaping of the correct form, I tried to explain it using my experience of swimming the front crawl after thirty years of my learning it. Shaping the absolute good forms, in my opinion, is a concept of becoming a perfect template of anything you had seen or heard at one point, but let it mature for hours, days or years until finally it shapes the correct form of its being.
If you are utterly moved by the music played by Segovia, that music ( his interpretation, the musical sound ) shapes the perfect form of its existence, which will be kept in your mind as a solid pattern of true music or perfect musical sound, and you will be able to produce transcendent music played by the guitar. It may be necessary not to play the music for a while if you are dazzled by Segovia's music, because you need to have some time to let it mature until it gets its perfect form. Usually, people readily try to play the music when they are amazed by the performance of Segovia, and this can be the reason why their music does not match up to his music. They may have needed some time to make it shape the good forms.
If you already have well-trained fingers for the guitar, you can perform the music that can live up to the expectations of the audience who are being used to listening to the masterpieces. You will convince your audience as a legitimate performer, not as an imitator. At the point you get the absolute form of the music you want to play, then you are on your own, no longer overshadowed by anyone.
If you want to make a wish, do not miss an opportunity when you see a shooting star in the sky. Your wish will certainly come true. But it is a matter of a second or two and you must make your wish within this short period of time. It means you always have to have your wish ready to make it in your mind, but if you have your wish ready in your mind, then your wish will be granted for sure.
In Plato's Theory of Forms, the Greek philosopher introduced the two entities for reality. One is the realm of perfect forms or ideas of reality, but it exists in some other dimension. Another is the realm of the physical reality that we can see, but it is the imperfect representation of the perfect forms. What Mr Matsuda is trying to say in this passage is, someone who starts imitating someone else's guitar performance eventually comes to project his own personality in the course of time, and his music becomes his own representation of the perfect form of music. Mr Matsuda must have experienced himself the process the imitaion turning into the personality of the performer, and that led him to use the words 'shaping the eternal, perfect forms (HOUSEIKA)'. Perhaps the insipid personality only makes music displeasing?
No.7-The music of Andrés Segovia (and about Dogen-Zenji)(2016/3/10)
from the Japanese version uploaded on 31 Aug. 2009 as No.31
There are a lot of people who have been fascinated by guitar music after listening to the Andrés Segovia’s performance. Then, what about the end of those people who had been inspired to become a professional guitarist? They hear his music, hanker to be like him, but gradually come to terms with the difficulty of getting closer to his music, then give up the effort while inventing their own way, and pretend to have become a fully fledged professional by demonising the Segovia’s techniques. The idea of anti-Segovia is born.
Or, they hear the sound created by Segovia, crave for it, but realise the difficulty of producing the sound similar to that of Segovia, then give up trying and become a rebel inventing their own way, and pretend to have become a fully fledged professional. Again, the rise of anti-Segovian.
Segovia is a master in the music scene and a national heritage. Professional guitarists like me consider him as a pioneer, an awe-inspiring saint, our goal, and the god.
Music scores are the musical version of architectural design. Having said this, it is impossible to draw a design diagram of the music created by Segovia.
He showed the public a new aspect of music only the guitar could create by playing the instrument himself. I said ‘a new aspect of music only the guitar could create’, but I must reiterate that there is no other instrument able to be on a par with the guitar if we talk about the quality of music Segovia had created.
So, what makes the guitar so distinctive from the other instruments? It is because the guitar is an orchestra.
Segovia once said, ’When I receive a new music composition from a composer, I orchestrate the music. I cannot stand the way the composer or anybody else do it for me. It is not properly done, it is not how I want to interpret the music.’ This is because those who had orchestrated the music didn’t know the nature of the guitar, and what’s more, they didn’t know how to draw the design diagrams of the guitar music. If by any chance there would be someone who could draw it, it is impossible to find someone who could show it with sound. Because they don’t know how to do it, or their fingers are not made for it, or of many other reasons. Segovia also said, ‘I myself was a guitar pupil as well as a teacher. Therefore, the teacher and the pupil have never had a disagreement.’ In other words, the conductor and the members of an orchestra are made from one individual, and because of this the two are never opposed to one another. Even when the conductor asks something near to being impossible, the members carry it out without complaint.
The world of music Segovia intended to create was the world of beauty, the world the ordinary people cannot see. (In other words, the ordinary people can read the music scores, but they are unable to make the mental picture of them embodied in the form of real sound.)
Many people decide to get into the world of guitar music pioneered by Segovia, but soon they leave the place. The musical Garden of Eden is now very sparsely populated. It is on the brink of turning into a forsaken realm.
I want to challenge to this despairing situation. Let’s think of someone extraordinarily gifted, and he can easily build up a clear image of sublime performances of a certain piece of music. If he tries to make his image into real sound, he needs to have an adequate technique, well-trained fingers and a good instrument, that is to say he needs to have a good orchestra.
The aspiring guitarists, in order to become a musical poet, must start their training based on a fundamental introductory book, and the teachers should help them. If both learners and teachers hang on to this practice, the Segovia’s Garden of Eden will be populated again.
Do not think Segovia is in a different league from us. He had built up an astounding work of art out from a mere score, and we should thank for this privilege that we are allowed to have an opportunity to admire it.
To finish this essay, I want to mention something I’ve found it very subtle if I talk about the relation between Segovia and me.
It is the word of Dogen-Zenji, a Zen monk of the13th century. He said:
’To encounter with your guiding teacher does not happen accidentally, it is not a natural episode taking place in the course of your life. It is a response to your pursuit. In Zen philosophy, a man looking for enlightenment someday experiences the sense of beyond selfness, which is the teaching of their mentor Buddha. This is the response to your quest.’
The encounter of a pupil with his teacher cannot be explained as a haphazard, or an event by chance. A pupil yearning to learn meet a teacher determined to impart his knowledge or skill, then the two go hand in hand by meeting each other’s wishes, and this encounter finally bears fruit.
I found this article about Dogen-Zenji in a passage written by Eriko Hayashi under the title of
‘A Hundred Japanese Youths, No 26’, in a magazine WEDGE 2009 September edition, the magazine I found on my trip in bullet train. I was so impressed that I couldn’t help quoting from it. Feeling a bit awkward to refer this teacher-pupil relation to that of Segovia and me, but I sincerely believe my relation to my mentor Segovia was like this one the Zen monk described.
I believe you will get much more inspiring ideas if you read the whole passage of Eriko Hayashi in WEDGE magazine.
For the reference, Dogen-Zenji lived from AD1200 to 1253. My CD 'The Sound of the Guitar' 3 and 4 were recorded in an ancient church built about 800 years ago in France. When I played in this old church I couldn't help feeling something overwhelming, and knowing the fact that the church was constructed when Dogen-Zenji was alive, it explained my mysterious perception.
No.6-Something precious left on the street(2016/3/3)
from the Japanese version uploaded on 25 Nov. 2014 as No.129
As you walk on the street you will find one penny coin on the floor. A devil or an angel has planted it there, and you notice that there is one in every ten metres. You will lose the chance to pick them up if you don't do so within five-minute period.
If this happens to you, what would you do? Do you try picking them up all your life? How long can you carry on doing so? Until you die?
While you struggle in pursuit of a successful way of improving playing the guitar, someone, who may be a devil, God or an angel whisper a formula, which is said to be very efficient in helping you improve. And that through practicing very hard this formula you may possibly get a glimpse of the music domain you or nobody else have never known. That practice requires a persistent endeavour and firm commitment, and once you give up exercising it, you stop making progress. You will lose everything you have been working hard for at the moment you give up working.
The glimmer of hope the formula has brought you is not at all reliable, and the progress is conditioned if you follow the devil's (or the angel's) method day and night without rest. Knowing all this, would you agree to follow this formula?
The conclusion is;
To pick up the one penny coins on the street, you need a bag to save them. If the bag is not large enough, you cannot carry on collecting them and your hope will soon vanish.
If there is such a thing an efficient method to improve your guitar skill, there is also something indispensable to go with it.
What do you think it is?
It is just like the bag to collect the coins on the floor, and the size of it is very crucial; it is your 'poetic sensibility'. You must not forget that you need to practice day and night without rest apart from having a nice bag. Your poetic bag might be the one of infinite size, or maybe the bottomless one that can hold nothing in it.
No.5 Loud noise, the countryside of Onta and the sound of stone mill (2016/2/26)
from the Japanese version uploaded on 27 Oct. 2009 as No.36
It was some time ago that John Williams came to Japan with a band called SKY or something, and he rang me to meet him at the venue in Osaka where he and his band were giving a concert. After the show he found me in the foyer and laughed, saying, ‘ You must’ve been here all the while covering your ears.’ (To be honest, I sought refuge outside the hall because I couldn’t stand the deafening cacophony.) Recently, however, I came to understand that what amuses the audience in a concert is the loudness of the sound. In other words, the loud noise beyond human imagination is something supernatural, and it excites people. You don't get killed by the loud noise of a concert hall, so it becomes an entertainment.
From time to time I travel from Himeji to Tokyo to give lessons. (NB Himeji is located at the geographical navel of the Japanese archipelago.) Nozomi, the bullet train bound for Tokyo stops at Himeji every hour and thanks to this train service I can get to Tokyo within three hours. While I wait my train on a platform, on the opposite track passes the one from Tokyo which do not stop at Himeji. The way something so heavy and massive goes past me at incredibly high speed with relentless thunderous noise gives me an ecstasy.
By the way, I know that an orchestra can also produce such noise as this. The tutti passages sometimes give me the same impression as the hurtling of this hellish train. My guitarist’s eardrums, however, do not get amused by this type of loud noise.
I did a concert in Hita City in Kyushu this spring, after the ones I put on in Tokyo and Kobe. Hita City is just as far from Himeji to Tokyo, but to the west. This concert was arranged by one of my hard-working pupils living in the city. The size of the venue was pretty much suited for a guitar concert and people came all the way from Oita, Miyazaki and Omuta, not to mention some are from further Kansai area or from other regions.
The following day of the concert, he took me to a village on the outskirts of Hita City, the village known for producing pottery called Ontayaki. There were several workshops facing a river, and the workshop I was shown had an open space along the river, where three giant waterwheel-driven pounders were grinding down the clay inside huge mills. The repetitive, dull thuds were no less scary to the relentless howling gales. For extra information, these heavy thuds were chosen as one of The Hundred Sound of Japan, representing the sound of stone mill in the village of Onta.
My wife and I are usually not so keen on factory made porcelains, but handmade pottery pieces in this village somehow attracted us. The soft geometric design on the crockery of Ontayaki charmed us and we decided to buy some for ourselves. The pieces of crockery we bought in Onta are so convenient to use that we see them every day at our dining table and at the same time we reminisce about the scary thuds and the rustic surroundings of the village where my pupil lives.
If you are interested in watching this rural village, visit www.keiseikan.net and you’ll find the charming images of Ontayaki as well as the bucolic atmosphere my fellow pupil Mr Umehara lives. Pity you don’t get to know the tremendous sound of pounding, but I’m sure you will feel the beauty of this countryside.
These tremendously loud noises thrill me, a person who lives on a different planet because I persist in saying ‘The guitar is an orchestra on a small planet.’ In a way I enjoy the scary sound of relentless nature, the supernatural shivering experience the human kind have wielded, because I know I won’t get hurt and this feeling of safeness even makes me be blown away.
The extreme loud noise a bullet train produces when it dashes away is as worth listening to as the sound of a giant pounder crushes the stone mill in Ontayaki workshop. You might as well get blown away.
No.4 The eye opening moment (Guitar is an orchestra)(2016/2/15)
from the Japanese version uploaded on 21 Nov. 2014 as No.128
I suppose there are many people who know that Andrés Segovia used to say that he had to put musical scores into orchestrated forms(1) every time he received one for the guitar.
But there are very few guitarists who know the real meaning of this: there is a trap in this story.
It is a common mistake to believe that the all the musical scores published or directed by Segovia have already been orchestrated. The truth is, musical scores printed for guitar performances are not being orchestrated. It is the guitarist's responsibility to play the music after he himself has orchestrated the written score. And he has to dedicate himself in doing it as if it is the job for life.
In order to make the guitar be an orchestra, as Segovia used to say, it is the guitar player's duty to orches-trate the musical score he is about to play.
Segovia wanted to imply that he always played in public after he had orchestrated the pieces. In other words, he first orchestrated the musical score, then studied for the interpretation, and finally performed in public.
I am bewildered to listen to a guitar performance not being orchestrated, because it sounds totally different music to me. Even the musical scores directed by Segovia are not being orchestrated but many people have a wrong perception in this reality.
In one hand, conductors of orchestra need not orchestrate because they have full score. All they need to do is to wave the baton in front of an orchestra and it rarely leads to make a mistake of orchestration. On the other hand, guitarist needs to elaborate a full score with detailed interpretation for performance and store it in his brain. This is what we must not forget.
Isn't it an eye opening moment?
Guitar players (generally called guitarist) seem to believe that if they get hold of the musical scores of Andrés Segovia (a true guitarist and musician), the notation itself guides them to play a good music. As a consequence of this, guitar players of today are becoming the music reproducing device who only uses their fingers but not their brain.
They just believe that once they learnt the right fingerings(2), the printed scores will help them make a good music. How silly are they, the guitar players of no matter where they are from. They mistakenly believe that learning the fingerings suggested by Segovia is the ultimate goal and that the helpful fingerings are the result of orchestration.
Apart from the hard work of orchestration which requires talent and intelligence, guitar players must work on the dynamics and tempo. For someone blessed with a brain and sensibility that he can deal with the hard work of orchestration, the repetitive practice of playing pieces does not seem to be a big task. But it is not so easy as it seems. There is a big job left to be dealt with.
To become the conductor of your own performance is the last conclusive work of a guitarist.
The guitar cannot be an orchestra if there is no conductor. It is this conductor's job to play the orchestrated music by waving a baton in front of a true guitarist, although this conductor remains invisible.
(1)Orchestration is the work of a composer writing the music in piano scores, then this musical composition is given the parts for several instruments on separate staves. For example, the composer decides to give one phrase for violins, another phrase for flutes, and another for wind instruments, etc. In case of playing on the guitar the orchestration can be more specific and meticulous. For example, a guitarist can construct one phrase starting with violin and switch it to brass horn, or putting a successive gradual change from one instrument to another.
It requires systematic training to learn this skill, on top of this it is a massive task to play the guitar like this. Because of this dispiriting hard work many guitar players give up becoming a professional guitarist. It is essential to have a control of tone colour, and sensibility and technique to produce the infinite shades of sound from the fingers. There are a lot of so called 'classical guitarist' who cannot be bothered to go through this hard work, but willing to indulge on the praise the audience lavishly give them. Some people just insist saying 'Segovia is different from us'. Or some people adopt a complacent attitude of just enjoy playing the guitar. Maybe sometime in their life there will be a moment to feel empty in the way they look at their guitar playing.
Those who have this epiphany may give up being a professional guitar player and look for other means of life. Having a decent job while enjoying playing the guitar as an amateur is another way of having a happy life. The great maestro Segovia closed his guitar classes with these words; 'There will be some among you who is not going to become a performing guitarist but to become a teacher.'
(2)Fingering is an inventive musical notation adopted by Francisco Tarrega, who is best known by the piece 'El recuerdo de la Alhambra'. It suggests the use of index, middle, ring and little fingers on the left hand respectively as 1, 2, 3, 4, and for the right hand the signs of p, i, m, a, are applied to the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. The six strings are called by numbers (1),(2),(3),(4),(5),(6) from the thinnest string to the thickest string respectively. For some notes which can be played on several strings, these numbers are used to indicate the specific string to produce a certain note.
No.3The Song of The Bush Warbler and The Song of My Lament (2016/1/22)
from the Japanese version uploaded on 2009/8/8 as No.36
Almost every morning I walk out into a brick-laid patio to appreciate the nature, and to do some exercises. There is a medium sized pond that I can look out from my patio, and I enjoy observing what goes on out there.
One day I was watching the daily activities of some water birds in the pond. A little grebe was giving high yelps as if to let out its sentiment. Swamp chickens were dipping their bills in search of food, so did the ducks with a flock of chirping ducklings at their tails.
Then I heard a bush wabler's song from a hill behind my house. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the awful warbling. I still remember how beautifully the Japanese bush warbler used to sing, and its warble has been highly admired in the poetry and literature.
I had a wonderful experience once in Siena, Italy. I was lying on the bed late at night, then I heard a singing of a troubadour from a distance. The singing accompanied with a mandolin played by himself came closer and closer while I tried to stay motionless. I did so because I didn’t want to disturb my emotion. The troubadour had passed below my window, then the sound tapered off. I felt as if I'd just seen the waves of sound rippling over the cobbles of old Italy.
The warble of the old songbird was very similar to the sound of the troubadour. It was unheard at the beginning, then ppppppp pianissimo to a gradual crescendo, then the highlight of the cry at the top of its voice. This is what the aesthetes throughout the history used to glorify, the sequence of the sound to lead into its climax. That stupid warble I heard in that morning had ten times less preamble before the song reached its culmination. The old songbirds must have practiced vigorously to achieve this art.
It seems to me that today's warblers sing without enthusiasm. They sing so badly that I'm appalled. I wonder if they have never heard the real warble of the true songbird. If that's the case, they cannot be blamed. Is it how it works, if a songbird has never heard the beautifully sung warble, it cannot sing well?
Then I realised the same thing can be applied to the guitar sound I hear these days.
The young guitar players who have never heard Andrés Segovia's performance cannot play like him! Definitely they cannot be blamed. Definitely the today's bush warblers haven't got the model to imitate.
Where have the warblers left their pride in singing? In the good old days the bush warblers were the queen of the singing birds. I've heard that the best songbirds of the time were even rewarded with acres of terrain by the landlord.
In 1961, the US president candidate of the time Mr. Stevenson visited Andrés Segovia in Siena where he was giving guitar lessons, to pay tribute to the guitar maestro.
The bush warblers! Is there no one left who are worthy of being paid tribute like Segovia had been done so? That noble warblers, who perched in a lacquered singing bowl and mesmerised the audience in a dimly lit room with the paper walls, no longer exist?
Perhaps the warblers I see today is warning me that the things are becoming less and less glorious. But another voice tells me that the today's warblers are the birds of a feather flocking together because they are attracted by the poorly performed birdsongs. The voice hisses into my ear, “ it's the people who are to be blamed, because they like it.”
The Bush Warblers II
I came to realise one very important thing after this argument. That is, the pursuit of beauty by the artist. The glorious warblers of old days were trying to pursue the beauty of singing. They were the true artists. They didn't sing to court a mate, even they had no notion of being rewarded with something valuable.
They knew what was pleasure in life. They knew it. They knew it was the creation of beauty. The condition to be happy is to know the taste of pleasure. Please don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say, I'm not referring to the carnal pleasure. What I mean here is the pleasure in art, something undiscribable. The pleasure that gives us a powerful stimulus can excite us. I’ve reached to the conclusion that the warblers wouldn't sing the mesmerising tune without knowing this. I feel as if the penny has finally dropped.
That lacquered singing bowl placed in a poorly lit room, from that singing bowl comes the enigmatic birdsong as if the tune has oozed from a distant valley.
The warblers! Who became complacent about the poor quality of your singing, you would never resolve to learn from the old glorious songbirds. Your sense of beauty is decayed, your throat became dry, and your soul you have sent to the devil will never shiver from the joy of finding the true beauty.
The warblers! Do you also have the evil journalism that corrupts the unstained young learners with prejudice? Do you have the leaders who distort the true quality of beauty and numb your sensitivity?
No. 2 Otto Klemperer (2016/2/2)
from the Japanese version uploaded on10 July 2012 as No.112
It was in 1961 that Mr Charles Regnier, the father of my German pupil Anatol Regnier strongly urged me to go to London's Royal Festival Hall saying that Otto Klemperer would conduct that same night. It was the time I had already got used to move around in London, so I immediately left home towards the venue.
Naturally the day-of-performance tickets were sold out, on top of that it was said that Otto Klemperer would conduct only the first part of Beethoven's Leonore Overture No3. Anyway I queued up for the standby ticket. After a while there was a call for the most expensive ticket for that night from the top of the queue, and luckily I was the first one who said yes to the offer.
That night, the orchestra was playing their usual performance. Then, the house conductor was replaced by Otto Klemperer who climbed up to the podium with a help of a walking stick. It was when he lowered the baton that the orchestra began to produce the totally different sound. Today, I make my point that a guitar is an orchestra, and if I contrast my experience of that night with playing the guitar, Otto Klemperer was the brain of a guitar player and the orchestra was the guitar. And the fingers of the guitar player were the members of the orchestra. I was flabbergasted that night when I learnt that it was the brain of a guitar player (conductor of an orchestra) that produced the sound out from the instrument (orchestra).
Of course, I don't need any further explanation.
Few years ago I had a chance to visit a guitar shop of Ramirez in Madrid. When I picked up a guitar in the shop and fiddled around with it, the shop owner came to me and said, “I'm gonna show you the better one.” What he handed me was the great Andrés Segovia's guitar. I started to pluck it idly, then suddenly I was astounded to hear the same tone only Segovia could have produced. I remained speechless.
Among the three elements of brain, instrument and fingers, any types of fingers can produce wonderful sound to give you goose bumps on any petty guitar. When you continue to use the same guitar for several days, the sound of the guitar becomes the sound of the player. Your determination to produce amazing sound when you put your guitar on your lap is the key to create the beautiful sound. Imagine the sound you are going to make. Your imagination to the composer's shoes (or ears) and determination to reproduce the same sound that the composer meant to make will allow you to create it. Most eminent solo players of any instrument have their own sound with the variations of the tone colour, and such variations go very well with the composer's intention. And obviously that sound is the product of the virtuosos' brains.
You need to steer clear of bad, incomplete sound, in other words you'd better not to associate with people whose musical development is callow. Do not listen to the vulgar music. It spoils your mind.
Music is sacred. Music conveys the sublimity of one's mind. Music can move people in the same way the poetry of great poets does. It gives you intensive and pure uplifting. It soothes the troubled mind and devastated heart. Music elevates your soul just like something beautiful can thrill you. The guitar music can also give the same effect when the player concentrates his mind. Music learners should never try to be an entertainer. An entertainer is someone who offers recreational amusement.
Edgar Allan Poe writes in his work "The Poetic Principle" that the ultimate goal of art is aesthetic. If you're interested in art and wish to live with it, I strongly recommend that you read it. You'll learn about his knowledge better reading it than listening to my second-hand information.
I don't feel confident enough to convey my understanding of music in the same way Otto Klemperer did to the members of his orchestra. I can do it to some extent when I play music with my guitar. Sometimes I play my pupils' guitar to show them that I can share the same orchestra with them. Some teacher once said that it was natural a teacher could not surpass his pupil. He was not a guitar teacher and I think he was a modest man. But I don't think my guitar playing is worse than that of my pupils. I can show them better performance conducting their orchestra. I can give them the example of an artistic, spiritual piece of music. I take pride in making a small practice piece into a beautiful piece of music. I want my pupils not to take the practice pieces lightly. They are the adequate nourishment to grow. I believe that only with a guitar a simple practice piece can be made into a masterpiece, and this is something Otto Klemperer could not have achieved even if he wished to do so.
I received a following Mail message. I put it up under the
Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2006 16:08:19 EDT
Subject: Der Segen von Johann Sebastian Bach
Maestruda (he calls me like this)
I am in serious difficulty and on top of it Caroline(his wife) has fallen down the
stairs and injured her back so I must go as soon as possible to London.
I felt like giving up everything and so, seeking help from the eternal, I put on your Bach prelude and although I cannot say that all the troubles
of the world suddenly evaporated, I was grateful for a sense of temporary
I hear how much you have thought about this music and how much you want
the voice of Johann Sebastian to speak to your six strings.
Muchisimas gracias querido amigo.
Cristobalin (he calls himself like this - His name is Christopher Nupen,
a famous musical film producer)
No.1 La Guitarra（2005.5.21）
I can't remember since when and why, I was calling my guitar,
Torres, "La Guitarra". When I was going out to somewhere, putting
it in the car going out to travel putting it into the case, or holding
it in my arm, I used to call it "La Guitarra".
I could attend some times the concerts of Maestro Segovia in London, when
I was there, which was seldom to have the opportunity in Japan at the
time. When we were talking about Maestro Segovia at that time, we used
to call him "The Man". I thought that "The Man" meant
a man among men, the expert, master, or the mighty guitarist among guitarists.
Then, I realized now, by chance, that it was not without meaning that
I was calling my guitar "La Guitarra".
Jose Antonio de Torres, I play his guitar every day. I already knew the
name of "Torres" since I was a little boy (a boy born in Japan
far from western country, like a solitary island), and longed, at all
times, for this instrument. I had a chance to obtain it about 10 years
ago. This is the guitar among the guitar, LA GUITARRA!
Mr.Shiro Fujii, a Buddhist monk, is the name of my first teacher of the
guitar. I and him used to listen to the hand winding SP record of Miguel
Llobet, playing on Torres guitar. He used to say to me that "SHAANAINAA
SHAANAINAA" which means, "We can do nothing, we can do nothing".
He meant by this, I guess, that, we can't play like such beautiful tone,
because we don't have this Torres guitar like Miguel Llobet, and that
we will be able to play like this if we had this guitar. This is how we
listened to Miguel Llobet, of his most beautiful tone, at on the wide
corridor of large temple, facing out-side, where we could see stone tomb
yard with a lot of standing stone tomb.
Torres is a healthy musical instrument. My Torres (built in 1892) is beautiful,
although it is a work of his latest year (110 years or more have passed
since it was built), it has indescribable youthful tone. I give it a name
of "Phoenix" with resections and calling it La Guitarra. Immortal
Guitar, Torres, Phoenix. Immortal guitar and a guitar of invulnerability.
Like guitar music itself, which is immortal; I must emphasis, including
its music and its performance when it's played artistically guitar music
is immortal. I also want to keep playing the guitar myself youthfully
like this guitar, Phoenix, and wish to evolve in music indefinitely in
playing this guitar.
When I was in Spain as a judge for Segovia competition for Guitar, an
Italian, one of the judges, bowed deeply to me when he learned that I
had a Torres guitar. By the way, the judges at that time were Mr. Alirio
Diaz, Carlevaro from Montevideo - Uruguay, Narciso Yepes, and the Italian
guitarist mentioned above, and some others.