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ProduitsPartitions pour guitare4 guitaresA Night at the Thirsty Ear

A Night at the Thirsty Ear

A Night at the Thirsty Ear

Compositeur: JOHANSON Bryan

DZ 3016


ISBN: 978-2-89737-933-9 

4 guitares

107 p. + parties séparées


In 1957 my grandmother took me to a coffeehouse in Yakima, Washington. This was the age of the beat generation and a coffeehouse was where one could go to see beatniks. My grandmother, dressed in her Sunday clothes, said we were going someplace to see interesting people. The shop had an espresso machine and was packed with people sitting around drinking from tiny cups and talking. Jazz was playing through a fancy hi-fi player in the corner. My grandmother started a conversation with some people at the next table and I heard for the first time the words man and cat used in the same sentence: “Man, that cat can blow.” One thing that impressed me was the civil way everyone treated my grandmother, who seemed to me to be out of place among the slouching casually dressed kids. Another was my grandmother’s open admiration for them. She thought they were beautiful, interesting people. The experience created a vivid, lasting memory of the time, the place and my grandmother.

A Night at the Thirsty Ear is a concert set for a guitar quartet playing in that remembered coffeehouse from my childhood. The playlist is intended to pay homage to Handel’s Water Music by referencing water in each of the titles. While Handel wrote for a very different occasion, I feel that the modern equivalent of listening to music on a barge while royally floating down the river is listening to classical guitar music in a coffee shop. 

The work opens with an overture titled What We Drink When We Talk About Drinking, a variant on the title of a short story by Raymond Carver “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. Carver was a northwest writer who spent some years in Yakima. He was also an avid fisherman. The next movement The Fisherman’s Farewell refers to Ray Carver’s poem “Late Fragment”, written shortly before his death in 1988. This opening pair is an homage to that great artist. A Mess o’Sea Shanties is a mini-suite of traditional and invented sailor work songs. Next up is the illustrative Man, I’m Thirsty, a pizzicato blues. Liquid Fugue explores the baroque guitar technique of string overlap called campanella. To me it expresses the liquid legato sound that fuels this movement. Following the fugue is Surf’s Up, an homage to surf guitar music from the early and middle 1960’s. Melville’s Lament is a straight forward meditation. Using a play on words, Water Canon is multi-part musical canon. Morning Boys, How’s the Water? is a reference to a pivotal line in a parable joke about fish and the meaning of water. This movement is in the form of a barcarole. The penultimate movement, The Haddock’s Hornpipe, is a reference to Handel, a reference made even more obvious by the use of a passacaglia as it foundation. The closing movement, Drinking Breakfast from a Jelly Jar, is a propulsive, irregular-metered, folk-inspired race to the double bar.

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