Through the Digital Door: Guitar works in the CMC Library

This week, Through the Digital Door focuses on works for solo guitar. CMC's library houses a large number of works for guitar, with over 100 works for either solo guitar or guitar and tape. Several CMC composers are also guitarists, which partly contributes to the large volume of works available in the library. Library co-ordinator Susan Brodigan looks at a small selection of these works below.

Though CMC's library in Fishamble Street is still closed to the public, remote research and resource facilities are still available online. Visit the library section of our site to explore our full collection and email with any enquiries.

Brian Boydell: Three Pieces for Guitar (1973) 10'

Written in 1973, this work was first premiered in 1974 at the Dublin Festival of Twentieth Century Music. The programme note for the work reveals that the composer found the guitar a challenging instrument to write for, somewhat similar to the concert harp or Irish harp.

This work was recorded by guitarist John Feeley on his album e-motion, released on the Black Box label.

Programme note from the premiere of this work at the 5th Dublin Festival of 20th Century Music, held in 1974

Frank Corcoran: Three Pieces for Guitar (1990) 8'

Written and premiered in 1990, this work was included on the second volume of CMC's promotional CD Contemporary Music from Ireland, Volume 2.

The sheen of so much 'beautiful' guitar music can be meretricious. I find so many Latin-American composers wasteful with their prodigality of lovely chords and figurations. What's behind the sheen? Or those virtuoso fingers? These three little pieces seek strict form: Preludio, L'Argomento, Postludio.

Jane O'Leary: Four Pieces for Guitar (1993) 8'

This work is included in the book Contemporary Irish Music for Classic Guitar Solo, compiled and edited by the guitarist John Feeley and published in 2012. This book also includes works by Eric Sweeney, Seoirse Bodley, Jerome de Bromhead, David Fennessy and Ciaran Farrell (as discussed below).

The composer describes this work as having an aspect of storytelling involved in the dialogue, a 'particularly Irish skill'.

I was attracted by the variety of sonorities possible on the guitar and attempted to create textures which exploit contrasting sounds and moods. There are echoes of the same motives and phrases throughout the four movements, yet each stands as an independent unit and may be played as an individual piece.

This work was recorded by guitarist John Feeley on his album e-motion, released on the Black Box label.

Benjamin Dwyer: Twelve Études for Guitar (2008) 41'

These twelve études are organised into four individual 'books'. The composer approached these works as true études:

I have tried to tackle (in the age-old tradition) the problems of writing works for the instrument which address specific technical problems and which are also concert works of value - that combination necessary to produce the true concert Étude.
I made a decision early on that I would not restrict my musical language to exclude any technical aspects regardless of whatever outside characteristics they may bring to the music. The result is a journey through various guitar genres ranging from jazz, Latin American, rock, classical, contemporary and any other types the fretboard would suggest.

Benjamin Dwyer: Twelve Études (for guitar)

Rhona Clarke: Drift - Knot (2002) 5'

These two short works were composed for Christoph Jäggin, and as outlined by the composer, inspired by a performance of contemporary works given by him at the Swiss Embassy in Dublin.

Drift is marked “freely - con rubato”. With its changing tempi and use of repeated patterns, this pieces explores some of the instrument’s timbral possibilities. By contrast, Knot has a very definite, fast tempo. It’s twisting lines punctuated at intervals by a single chord which is repeated at the end.

Dave Flynn: Three GymnO'Paddies (2000-2001) 9'

These three short works are an homage to French composer Erik Satie, and are published by Frisbee Publications.

These pieces remain true to the cubist principles of Satie's pieces in that they are three pieces in a very similar style, like looking at the same thing from three different angles. They are all in the same time signature (3/4) with similar harmonic material and in the case of my pieces each having subtle references to traditional Irish music.

Ciaran Farrell: The Shannon Suite (1996 rev. 2006) 14'

Composed in 1996 and revised in 2006, this work was written early in the composer's career for guitarist John Feeley, and published in Contemporary Irish Music for Classic Guitar Solo.

There are three movements in The Shannon Suite each of which represents the lakes Lough Allen, Lough Ree, and Lough Derg, found along the course of the river Shannon, Ireland’s longest river.

This work was later arranged for soprano saxophone and guitar by saxophone player Gerard McChrystal.

'Lough Allen' from 'The Shannon Suite' - Classical Guitar

Anna Murray: La Cathédrale Dissoute (guitar & tape) (2010) 8'

Premiered by and dedicated to guitarist Philip Lawson, this work is written for guitar and tape. This work was premiered in 2011 at the Great Hall in University of Ulster Magee Campus. It was written early in the composer's career, while she was a student.

Anselm McDonnell: Eyewitnesses of His Majesty (2016/2017) 30'

This suite of seven pieces describes some of Jesus's disciples. Movements I, III and part of movement IV were premiered by the composer in 2017, and Movement VI was premiered by guitarist Mitsuo Nagata in Kyoto, Japan as part of the Rosetta Contemporary Music Ensemble concert Crossing Voices. One of the movements, Judas is written for prepared guitar, where a small bulldog clip is attached to one string at the bridge. position. The intended result is that the clip vibrates and rattles against the bridge, as well as affecting the timbre of the plucked string.