Blending traditional and modern, the Dublin Guitar Quartet is the first professional guitar quartet to come out of Ireland and the first classical guitar quartet entirely devoted to new music. Their exciting repertoire comprises adaptations and new commissions and has earned the group their worldwide reputation as a unique ensemble within the genre. Group member Brian Bolger took a few minutes to answer these questions for SUP! ahead of the quartet's performance tonight at the Walton Arts Center -- which includes a pre-show conversation with the artists and an after-party as part of the 10x10 Arts Series.
Q. Many quartets and smaller ensembles comprise varying instruments -- what makes the guitar quartet special? What can you accomplish with four guitars other ensembles may not be able to?
The Dublin Guitar Quartet
WHEN — 8 p.m. today
WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
COST — $10; limited tickets remain
INFO — 443-5600
A. The fact that we're all playing the same sounding instrument allows us to become one "super-instrument." Like a single guitar with 24 strings! (Or 28 if you include the extra strings from the eight-string guitars.) It also means we can all play each others' parts and are free to swap lines if we wish.
Q. What do you look for in the pieces you decide to transcribe for the guitar, and what inspirations do you find from the other instruments in the pieces you transcribe?
A. For transcriptions we tend to gravitate toward music that emphasizes pure melody, harmony and rhythm -- music that isn't defined by idiomatic features of the original instrument we're transcribing from. So we take very little from the original instrumentation -- because we don't need to. Although, in contrast to that, we are working on a transcription of Stravinisky's "Rite of Spring" for orchestra and will be trying to mimic some of the instrumental timbres where possible.
Q. The acoustic guitar can be a rather gentle instrument; is there anything you do during the performance to help it fill the space? What can we expect from the live performance?
A. We do like to amplify our classical guitars with pick-ups placed under the bridge. We bring our small "acoustic amps," which fit nicely into our bags. In terms of the music, there is a mix of works originally written for guitar quartet, including a piece by Marc Mellits we commissioned, and some of our transcriptions of works for choir, string quartet, piano and saxophone quartet.
Q. What are some judgments or preconceptions you feel people sometimes make about chamber or classical music that are untrue?
A. Well, with regard to contemporary music, the most common misconception is that the music is primarily dissonant or atonal. I think the DGQ is a good example of how contemporary music can have a healthy level of "accessibility" mixed in with some of the more exotic, experimental sounds. There's a cool Javanese influenced piece by Bill Kanengiser from the LA Guitar Quartet where we have to insert matchsticks and crocodile clips into our strings for gong-like effects.
-- Jocelyn Murphy
NAN What's Up on 03/09/2018
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