A recording of an original composition: ‘Variations on a Pentatonic Theme’, for classical guitar.

Far from a perfect performance, but the best I can do for now…

This is probably my first composition that I’m still proud of by time of completion. You may need to turn your volume up—it’s not a great recording; we’re still figuring out how to use our new recording device.

This piece took several months to write, and many more to learn. It featured a composition process that was far more organic, and as a result far more enjoyable, than for previous projects I’ve worked on. Most of the variations came about as a result of improvising and experimenting on my guitar, rather than composing directly onto music software.

The structure of the piece is ‘theme & variations’, though it might not sound like it at first, as there’s quite a lot of variation. It starts off with a short introduction which uses melodic motives from the main theme. There is then the main theme, which has a pentatonic melody and jazz-influenced harmony. The 1st variation is a series of arpeggios based around the harmony of the theme, but with added pedal notes. The 2nd’s melody is an inversion of that of the main theme, but the variation is in the style of Villa-Lobos, with a melody in the bass and an off-beat accompaniment in higher parts. The 3rd and 4th take various harmonic and melodic motives from the main theme and splice them about everywhere. The last variation treats the main theme’s melody fugally. There’s then a bridge section, which takes some prominent motives from the main theme round the cycle of fifths. A Neapolitan 6th then brings the piece back into the tonic key (A major) for the coda, which develops ideas from the introduction. All sections contrast texturally and stylistically.

Influences come from just about everywhere, but include Villa-Lobos (Prelude no.1), Roland Dyens (Tango en Skai), Leo Brouwer (Danza Del Altiplano), Jorge Morel (Danza Brasilera), J.S. Bach (Goldberg Variations), Britten, and Chopin.

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