Composing for the guitar is a challenging and difficult process, even with myself being a guitarist by default. I tend to approach my composing process as I imagine a painter would approach his work; using all the nuances, subtleties, and techniques of my craft to create an immortal snapshot of an idea, person, feeling, event, or story that will live forever. I view each of my compositions as such a musical painting. Here are the stories behind those that you hear on this album.
Alegrias is a flamenco song form whose title is derived from the Spanish word for “happiness,” which is reflected in its major key, moderately paced tempo, and usually uplifting lyrics. I wanted to begin the album with this piece, the title of which translates to “dawn” or “rise,” in contrast to the later composition on the album, “Anochecer (Nightfall),” which directly contrasts the nature of this Alegrias.
“Piropo” is a colloquial Spanish term for a very flattering, especially flirtatious compliment, and can also be used as a term of endearment. Solea is typically a very dark and brooding flamenco song form, and I decided to experiment with it by giving this Solea a love theme, putting it in an entirely different key than is typical and basing the falsetas (guitar parts) on consonant, warm-sounding harmonies to evoke the fuzzy, nostalgic feeling of love.
The title of this piece translates to “friendship,” and once again I took it upon myself to explore using open voicings on the guitar, without a capo, to create lush and warm harmonies evocative of a friendship.
This tangos was initially a solo piece I composed after my second inspiring trip to Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. For the album, I collaborated with my friend and Iran-born flamenco singer Pirouz Ebadypour, who contributed letras (verses) to the song. This includes an original final verse by Pirouz, written in Persian. I named this song “Soñador” in honor of the album’s title, because I feel that this piece is most exemplary of my vision for contemporary flamenco – especially with the collaboration with Pirouz.
Barrio del Morao (Bulerías)
This upbeat bulería, a palo (song form) from Jerez de la Frontera, is a piece I composed and dedicated to my friend Diego del Morao. Diego is the son of the late great flamenco guitarist Moraito Chico, and as such, this piece features many musical idiosyncrasies that make the Morao family’s style of guitar so unique – my acknowledgement to their prominence in the flamenco tradition, and especially Diego’s distinctive Soniquete, or groove, of his playing style.
Soleá de los Maestros (Soleá)
This piece consists almost entirely of falsetas written by flamenco guitarists who I consider, in some way or another, mentors to me. The basic structure of the piece that I worked with comes from a Soleá composed by my first and only flamenco teacher, Jason McGuire, and from there I built the piece around other falsetas by Moraito Chico and Vicente Amigo. This piece may not be original, but I consider it to be a homage to the flamenco inspirations and mentors who brought me to where I am now.
¡Que Disparate, el Amor! (Bulerías)
One of my favorite things to do when composing for solo flamenco guitar is to mess with traditional aspects of each song form’s structure – whether it be experimenting outside of the palo’s standard tonal center, composition structure, or soniquete. For this piece, I did all of these things, and more – I set the piece in a major key with a recurring theme, and a contrasting minor section in the middle, that mirrors the beginning of the piece. This contrast between major (happy) and minor (sad) is meant to evoke, in a tongue-in-cheek way, the duplicity of love – seemingly idyllic and joyous from the outside, but often uglier and darker on the inside.
The idea to compose a Bulerías in the key of Taranta was initially a challenge assigned to me by my flamenco teacher when I was about twelve years old. Fast-forward about five years, and I discovered that I was not the first to compose a Bulerías in the key of Taranta, as Diego del Morao had already recorded one on his album “Orate.” I compiled some of the main themes and falsetas he taught me from his piece with mine, and somewhat jokingly began referring to the resulting piece as “Tarantarías” – an amalgamation of “Taranta” and “Bulerías.” However, the name stuck, and the result of this musical experiment can be heard on my album!
Anochecer (Soleá por Bulerías)
This piece, whose title means “nightfall,” serves as the flipside companion to the album’s opening track, “Amanecer (Dawn).” I intentionally paired these two pieces together, given that they have polarized moods – “Amanecer” being happy, and “Anochecer” being slower and gloomier – and the two respective palos of each piece, Alegrías and Soleá por Bulerías, also share a fundamentally identical rhythmic pattern.
Al Andalús (Bulerías)
The title of this piece is a homage to the party-style Bulerías that is often performed in a tonality referred to as por medio, and is most common in Jerez de la Frontera, where the style originated. Jerez is located in what is modern-day Andalucía, in Southern Spain, and previously was referred to as Al-Andalus in Medieval Spain. This piece’s title is a homage to Andalucía, the birthplace of Flamenco, and its strong tradition in the music and culture that still persists to this day.
Notas de Mi Corazón (Taranta)
Taranta is one of the darkest palos in flamenco, usually performed at a slow, heavy tempo, in a very dissonant tonality with heartfelt and pain-filled lyrics. This is, to date, the only Taranta I have composed for solo guitar, and its title, which translates to “notes from my heart,” evokes the emotionally raw and soulful nature of the palos.
- Roberto Granados (November, 2017)