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The Walls

The Walls

Compositeur: ASSAD Sergio

DO 1247


ISBN: 978-2-89796-024-7

Orchestre de guitares

110 p. + parties séparées


pour guitare solo (ou violoncelle) et orchestre de guitare
(solo, 5 guitares et basse électrique)
éditon and doigtés par William Kanengiser

Over an informal lunch in early 2017, Sergio Assad and I began discussing the tumultuous political events of the recent past, and the increasing drumbeats of tribalism and nationalism echoing across the world. Both of us, feeling rather helpless to do anything to stem the rising tides of fear and hatred, wondered what we as humble musicians could do in the face of such powerful forces. We decided that, as artists, our only positive act must be a creative one, and I asked Sergio to write a piece for me that would express our shared sentiments. We spoke about how music can be particularly well-suited to represent different cultural influences, and we wanted the work to somehow reflect the migrant/refugee experience. Our discussion ultimately gave birth not only to this piece, but to a whole series of new compositions for guitar in The Diaspora Project. It was Sergio’s brilliant wife Angela who suggested the idea of The Walls, conjuring up images of infamous historical barriers to migration and cultural assimilation. The work that finally emerged, scored for solo guitar and guitar orchestra, presents musical representations of four of the most recognizable walls in human history: The Great Wall of China (Chinese Wall), Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, and the West Bank Wall in Jerusalem. And an epilogue, No More Walls, comments on the current debate about the existential need for such physical barriers.

Performance notes
The piece is scored for solo guitar (or cello), five guitar orchestra parts, and bass. A minimum of three players per part is required, but more are welcome. Ideally, a single electric bass would be used, but it also could be played by multiple acoustic contrabass guitars. The difficulty level of the parts is designed to be appropriate for intermediate ability players, although Part V is designed to be playable by less experience performers. Overall, however, the most important aspect to achieve in realization of the composer’s intent is to capture the unique world-music essence of each of the styles represented. Therefore, the composer encourages the use of pitch-bending, exaggerated tone-color effect, clear articulation contrasts, wide range of dynamics, etc., to make the exotic nature of each Wall clear and evident to the listener.

“The Diaspora Project”
Throughout human history, people have been uprooted from their homelands, either by force or by choice. A common thread of this experience is the prejudice, if not outright persecution, that they frequently encounter in their adopted countries. After fleeing to unfamiliar lands and societies, immigrants have often used their indigenous music as a vital means of retaining some measure of cultural identity. Music can then be viewed as an important marker for defining one’s sense of home; for displaced people, it can serve as a visceral connection to an ancestral source even as they attempt to assimilate. Thus it is the ideal means of expressing the untethered feeling of being neither here nor there. With the current urgent focus on refugees and migrants across the globe, these issues of musical identity are especially poignant.
As a way of encouraging focus on the historical and contemporary issues surrounding the immigrant experience, I have embarked on a personal journey to create new works for guitar that reflect this theme. In addition to The Walls, I have so far commissioned six other composers to contribute works that somehow address their perspective on the Diaspora theme. Bryan Johanson composed The Bootlegger’s Tale, relating his grandfather’s experience as an Irish-American keeping one step ahead of the law during Prohibition. Dusan Bogdanovic wrote Castle in the Cloudland a set of Balkan blues variations on a melody from his childhood in Serbia. Iranian composer Golfam Khayam penned Lost Land, a monodic mediation on an ancient Persian mode and the feelings of cultural inderterminacy. Forthcoming projects include Carlos Rafael Rivera focusing on ancient Mayan themes from his maternal homeland Guatemala, Matte Dunne exploring the Cuban émigré experience, and Tibetan music expert Andrea Clearfield adapting the dramyin music of the Tibetan court for guitar.
William Kanengiser, Los Angeles, January 2019


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