Suite for Nia Andrea

Solo guitar composition for classical guitar in three movements:
“Lullaby for the Newborn” (bossa)
“Serenade” (tremolo a la Tárrega)
“Niahnie’s Dance” (samba with some improvised sections).

The score for this piece has just been published by Kithara editions. Both the first movement, “Lullaby for the Newborn,” and the third movement, “Niahnie’s Dance” (the subject of this writing) have been recorded as duos with percussion. The second movement, “Serenade” has been recorded in it’s original solo format and in an arrangement for jazz quintet as a Brazilian samba.

The duo version of “Niahnie’s Dance,” from my CD, “Brazilian Rosewood” features the playing of the great Israeli percussionist, Gilad. Once again (as with “Lullaby for the Newborn” where he plays the African Udu in a Bossa Nova style) Gilad uses instruments from outside the cultural tradition of the style. In this case he uses the Spanish cajon (from the flamenco tradition) in a Brazilian samba style. The cajon is a big, wooden box; the player sits on it and uses his hands to hit the side. Gilad attached a snare from a drum kit. This creates a high pitch buzzing which contrasts to the low boom of the cajon. There are sections of the piece which have a Spanish flavor–in particular a strumming section which alternates with fast scale passages in the middle and at the end of the piece.

Primarily the piece is a samba. It starts out with polyphonic writing and soon contrasts with a chordal and rhythmic approach to samba. Technically, this is the most difficult piece in the set. First of all the tempo is relatively fast. It also requires the utmost care to bring out the different voices in the polyphonic sections. I already mentioned the fast scale passages, but even more challenging (for those not familiar with Brazilian music) is the rhythmic syncopations that are necessary to make the samba “swing.” These syncopations are present from start to finish, but they add another dimension to the chordal passages; one must shift from chord to chord and keep the beat steady.

There are many different aspects that will challenge guitarists. Some jazz players will find the polyphonic writing and finger style prohibitively difficult. Some classical guitarists will feel the same way about the improvisation section. It is rare that a classical guitar piece has improvisation (and this is a “classical guitar piece” even though it sounds jazzy). I have written this piece with a classical approach to form: it is through-composed, it has themes and contrasting themes with development sections and recapitulations, etc. But what I am most proud of is this repeated, improvised section which can add the creative ideas of the player to the development of the piece. This adds something that jazz players take for granted; the piece will never be played the same way. This may overwhelm some classical musicians, but there is a similar tradition in the classical style…think of it as an extended cadenza from a concerto. Cadenzas have traditionally been written by the performer. It is also not necessary that the new part be written spontaneously on the spot (during the performance). If you are not an improviser I would urge you to compose a few repetitions at your leisure. And don’t worry, if this does not work, I have written the piece to sound complete without this section!

Whether you are playing these pieces or listening to them, I hope you enjoy the music. Stay well,