Acoustic Guitar Magazine – July 2006 IssueCHORD ALCHEMIST Interview with ANDY SUMMERS by ANDREW DUBROCK ANDY SUMMERS changed the sound of rock when he added his jazz-inflected chord palette to the Police in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Having grown up playing the jazz of Mingus, Monk, and Miles, he pushes his own boundaries as a solo artist by collaborating with players from rock, classical, Brazilian, and avant-garde genres. In this exclusive lesson, Summers explains his approach to composition, demonstrates his unique chord voicings and suggests techniques for solo phrasing and effective accompaniment. Like the mystical sages of the past who explored the mysteries of philosophy, spirituality, and physics in search of new wonders, Andy Summers has spent a lifetime studying music in search of enlightened guitar expression. In his early teens, growing up in Bournemouth, England, Summers was already digesting the complex music and practicing the fluid lines of Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Miles Davis, and any other American jazz musicians whose recordings he could get his hands on. By the time he began six years of classical-guitar study at California State University, Northridge, he had already been a member of the Animals, Soft Machine, and Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band. After returning to England from Southern California, he traded licks in London clubs and studios with Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix and toured and recorded with the likes of Neil Sedaka, Joan Armatrading, David Essex, and Deep Purple's Jon Lord. And this was all before he joined a little trio called the Police. In 1984, after the Police peroxide had faded from his hair, Summers went back to the music he loved as a kid: jazz. Only this time, he was informing his music with modern tones, textures, and melodic lines. In the years since, he has recorded with progressive-rocker Robert Fripp, toured in an acoustic jazz duo with guitarist John Etheridge, infused creative guitaristic elements—like open strings and distorted electric tones—into his covers of compositions by Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, and reached for broader textures in his own jazz-oriented compositions. At 62, Summers shows no signs of slowing down or losing enthusiasm for his many creative endeavors. Within the past year, he penned an autobiography (due out this fall from St. Martin’s Press), helped design a gorgeous signature-model Martin guitar, and played Ingram Marshall’s Balinese gamelan¬–inspired Concerto for Classical and Electric Guitars and Orchestra at Carnegie Hall with classical virtuoso Ben Verdery and the American Composers Orchestra. I caught up with Summers on a cloudy, late-winter Friday afternoon at his beachfront studio in Venice, California, where we sipped tea and talked about his prolific career, his new signature Martin, and how he approaches playing and composing on the instrument by expanding chord voicings into complete pieces. Half a block from the studio, hip-hop artists worked the streets with CD players in hand, frantically trying to give away their music, slip headphones on unsuspecting passersby, and promote themselves toward superstardom—clearly oblivious to the fact that the guitarist from one of the biggest rock bands of the last century was woodshedding just around the corner. What is involved in coming up with a signature-model Martin? SUMMERS You go to the factory and they show you whatever style of guitar you want to start with. I told them, “I’ve done a lot of these acoustic concerts, and the amplification is always a problem, or the guitar is too light or too heavy, and I’d like to find something that deals with those problems.” We looked at the latest pickup stuff, the different qualities of spruce, the tuners. But what makes it into a signature model is how you change the decoration. At the time, I was going to take this trip to a mountain in Tibet called Mt. Kailash. Buddhists come from all over Asia to circumambulate the mountain. It’s supposed to cleanse the karma of one’s past lives. At one point I thought I would call this guitar the Kailash, so I came up with this idea of doing the position markers on the fretboard with the Buddhist mudras [hand gestures], all of which have meanings—“peace,” “concentration,” and so on—that relate to different aspects of Buddhist practice. What do the mudras mean to you as a musician? SUMMERS It’s basically the idea of being very focused and in a place where, if you’re improvising, you might be reaching for the spirit, and you’re going to get in touch with something else. Any musician worth his salt will hopefully experience those moments when he’s “in the zone” and everything else fades away. So the mudras represent the idea of reaching for that in music. You can’t be in that state every time you pick up the instrument. Some days are more prosaic than other days. But in your best moments, I do think playing guitar is, in a way, like meditation. From a playability standpoint, are there things that you couldn’t play on other acoustic guitars that you can on this guitar? SUMMERS You can almost play this like a jazz guitar, and jazz chords [Example 1] are much tougher on regular steel-string acoustic guitars. I wanted to be able to keep the acoustic quality but be able to really move around. You’re always struggling a little with a steel-string after playing an electric or nylon-string, because it’s a tougher instrument to play. “Now I’m Free” was actually written like this [Example 2] on a [Gibson] Steve Howe ES-175 that I had just acquired. I played purely because of the sound I was getting out of that 175—no chorus, nothing, just straight guitar. But on the Martin it’s too hard to do that, so I do it this way [Example 3]. Is your writing process based on improvisation? SUMMERS Yes. Sometimes I find a chord, then develop it out and see if I can turn it into a little progression [Example 4]. I tend to do chords first rather than single lines. That doesn’t surprise me. I think you’ve put your stamp on music first and foremost with your cool chord sounds and chord clusters. SUMMERS I’m very much into the cluster thing—that’s a good word to use for it. In the Police, I would do these kinds of chords [Example 5]. Dropping the third out of a chord makes it much hipper. For me, Cm is this [Example 6], not like this [Example 7]. [Example 7] sounds so 19th century—old fashioned—to me, while [Example 6] takes you to a much hipper place. It’s sort of ancient and modern at the same time. You tend to spread your left hand out quite a bit. Do you have any exercises that you practice to build up your agility for those stretches? SUMMERS I don’t know if these days I really assiduously practice. I probably got the most chops for the left hand when I studied classical for six years and had to play a bigger, heavier guitar and got into making those extended stretches. Then when I returned to the electric guitar, it was easy. You play something like “Every Breath You Take,” and it kills some guitarists. But to me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s almost classical the way I finger it, instead of playing it with barres [Example 8]. Some of your tunes, such as “The Diva Station,” use pretty chord clusters while also getting into fairly complex harmonic territory. SUMMERS It’s a nice sequence to play on, very Coltrane-like. And the head is cool because it starts in E minor but it ends on Bb minor, which I usually play as a suspension. So it’s a weird set of changes. The bridge ends on F minor, and the hip thing to do is to play the 13#11 chord a fourth above [Example 9]. That’s a harmonic trick. Do you play in alternate tunings? SUMMERS No, I don’t. My sort-of-insulting response to that is that I always thought all these alternate tunings were for people who don’t really know any chords. [Laughs.] I grew up being a real jazz aficionado. That was my basis for guitar playing. I find that a lot of the open-tuning stuff is very pretty, but my ear gets tired of it. Some of the tunings are interesting, but to me they’re not as significant as real harmonic knowledge and real chord progressions on standard tuning. Standard tuning is absolutely infinite. My language is standard tuning. It takes a lifetime to learn it, and then you get there and you don’t really want to give it up.’ You sometimes switch from flatpicking to fingerpicking, and hold your pick between your index and middle fingers. When you do that, can you still play with the two fingers that are hiding the pick? SUMMERS They’re still functioning. [To demonstrate, he wedges a pick between the first and second joints of his index and middle fingers.] I do it to pluck two-string groups, at least [Example 10]. I’m not doing arpeggios—that would be harder.
You also sometimes play solos with your thumb. Is there a reason you choose the thumb over the pick in those instances? SUMMERS When you play with the thumb, you get a warmer sound. And I think you can phrase better [Example 11]. Of course, Wes Montgomery is the shining example. It’s weird, but it’s something about how your body is connected right to the string—it’s one step closer to the brain, and you seem to connect better. I could end up like John Abercrombie, who only plays with his thumb now. In my steel-string acoustic concerts, we play Gypsy-jazz songs, and I always do the solos with my thumb. And you play the chords fingerstyle, rather than the “chunk-chunka” swing rhythm with a pick? SUMMERS Yeah, the accompaniment is often much nicer that way when somebody’s soloing. A lot of guitarists just go [plays hacking strums with no nuance]. It should be like a snare drum [plays soft, nuanced backup] [Example 12]. Some of the coolest soloing I’ve seen you do was when you were floating over the beat. Essentially, you have to first learn the rules—learn to play in time—before you can break those rules. Do you have any thoughts about getting to that space? SUMMERS Unquestionably, time is the be-all of music. It’s the most important thing. If you don’t get that, you’re never going to sound very good. And I’ve played with a lot of well-known guitar players whose time is not that bloody good. It kills me. The greatest players can take it all the way over the bar lines, but they always come back in at the right place. I also think it’s got to be born in you. I don’t know if you can learn it. You can, to an extent, by listening, but you’ve got to feel it pretty naturally. You should be able to float all over everything and then just come out in the right place. The playing I probably like the most is where the time is abstracted more rather than that dotted-quarter-note, ’30s-style rhythm. Miles is the great master. The horn players are the ones to really listen to. When you perform music that was originally played on horns or other instruments, as you did on your Monk and Mingus albums, how do you adapt it to the guitar? SUMMERS Taking these monster pieces by these absolutely giant musicians and having the audacity to try and play them on the guitar, I was confronted with this problem of being respectful yet putting my own signature on them. I studied all this stuff for months at a time. I would change keys and get some open strings to see if I could make the pieces sound more guitar-like. I did “Remember Rockefeller at Attica” as an incredibly fast samba because it has amazing chords, and I thought that Mingus must have been listening to Antonio Carlos Jobim—when you start getting down to the chords, they’re very Brazilian. I did “Tonight at Noon” in E minor and almost like a Hendrix thing in a fast 6/8. “Reincarnation of a Lovebird” was very difficult. I tried every different key, but I ended up doing it in F# minor, which I think is the key that Mingus does it in [Example 13]. These things really help you grow as a musician—not just as a guitarist. You’ve obviously influenced other players. Are there any current guitarists that influence you? SUMMERS People say, “You must be listening to music all day long.” No, I can’t stand listening to music. Do you know why? Because I’ve heard it all. And that’s not being jaded, it’s just that your taste becomes finer. My taste is very esoteric. If I were to listen to music, it’d be some jazz, but it might be the Bulgarian Women’s Choir or Indian music or African music or Brazilian music. I like to feel that I’m still innocent enough that I can be influenced, but I’m not into copying licks anymore. Everybody does it; you’ve got to do it at some point to create some kind of vocabulary. Then, hopefully, you will start to find your own voice—something with the instrument that becomes your signature. Maybe the word “influenced” is not quite right, because I think what you get from other people is a field of energy that inspires you. I’m not looking for attitude, I’m looking for some really great music. When I hear a Ben Monder record and think, “OK, this guy has really taken it somewhere,” that’s inspiring to me. That’s what I’m looking for: something that makes me go, “I want to write something now!” ________________________________ Andy Summers’ Favorite Unsung Guitarists AUGUSTIN BARRIOS “Absolutely one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived. He played classical, but with a steel-string guitar. And he had an elastic band wrapped around the top, which dampened the strings. There’s a three-CD set of his music that is really incredible.” PHILIP CATHERINE “Philip’s a real genius. When John [Etheridge] and I were doing stuff we were very much influenced by the Larry Coryell/Philip Catherine model. They were essentially jazz players, but they’d write real modern compositions.” BEN MONDER “A lot of people play well, but what stops me is if somebody’s got a musical concept that’s different. Ben Monder is a jazz guitarist, but he’s not playing any bebop phrasing at all. He’s made an album that reflects wide musical thinking and ability, and incorporated music from other places to create his own world. He’s got a very good right hand.” BEN VERDERY “He’s doing some fantastic compositions, he’s a great player, and he’s really trying to open up the concept of the nylon-string instrument to put it into another place. Rather than playing through the somewhat tired classical repertoire, Ben plays pieces by Prince and Hendrix, has transcribed the Blue Danube waltz, and has refingered J.S. Bach’s Chaconne to suit his own methods.” How to Cover the Police Whether he’s playing a Telecaster in a rock band or a Martin in a jazz trio, Andy Summers fits the tool to the job. So how would he play a Police song on acoustic? “It’s more difficult,” he says. “You can play the same chords, but in the Police I would’ve been doing it with an Echoplex and a whammy bar and little weird electronic stuff to make it sing like a cloud.” So for an unplugged version of a song like “Tea in the Sahara,” where single chords ring out with the sustain of all those effects, Summers says he would take the chord shapes and move them around, playing more chords in the same amount of space to get a similarly expansive effect. Police songs have been covered by everyone from Alanis Morissette and Anthrax to UB40 and Frank Zappa. “Recently I got this album, Policia,” (The Militia Group, www.themilitiagroup.com <http://www.themilitiagroup.com> ) Summers says. “It has about 12 different bands doing Police covers. My one criticism of the record is that it gets too heavy, so all the subtlety and all the little weird stuff we did gets lost in this massive, sheet-of-sound modern production. But there’s a version of ‘Every Breath You Take’ on there [by an English band called, ironically, Copeland] that is really fantastic. They do it slowly, like a ballad, and they’ve completely reharmonized it. It’s a knockout. I might actually write to these guys and say, ‘Congratulations.’” WHAT HE PLAYS * Acoustic Guitars: Martin Andy Summers signature model 000C-28; 1925 Martin 000; Fleta and Fritz Ober nylon-strings. * Electric Guitars: 1960 Gibson ES-335 with PAF humbuckers (the guitar was the basis for Summers’ 2002 signature model); Klein headless guitar with Bartolini and EMG pickups; 1963 Fender Custom Telecaster (to be replicated as a signature model in 2007). * Amplification: Fishman Ellipse blend (Martin); Mesa Boogie/Simul-Class 2:Ninety power amp, Triaxis preamp, and sealed-back Rectifier cabinets (electrics). * Effects: Ernie Ball volume pedal; Lexicon PCM70 reverb; Eventide Eclipse multieffects processor; T.C. Electronic 1210 TC; Klon Centaur overdrive; Menatone Red Snapper overdrive; Fulltone Ultimate Octave. * Strings: D’Addario phosphor-bronze medium gauge (acoustic steel-string); D’Addario normal tension (nylon-string); D’Addario custom gauge: .012, .015, .018, .028, .038, .049 (electric). _________________________________________________________________________________________ Used by kind permission of Acoustic Guitar, July 2006, issue 163, © 2006 String Letter Publishing, David A. Lusterman, Publisher. All rights reserved. For more information on Acoustic Guitar, contact String Letter Publishing, Inc., 255 West End Ave., San Rafael, CA 94901; telephone (415) 485-6946; fax (415) 485-0831 < back to top >
An Interview with Turibio Santos at the Villa Lobos Museum 03.03.06 BY ANDY SUMMERSOn a bleak winters night in January 2003 I sat in my bedroom in the hotel Manhattan with the Brazillian guitarist Victor Biglione and my friend the classical guitarist Ben Verdery. In the middle of a happy situation where we worked our way through a bottle of Dom Perignon and a couple of songs that we would play the subsequent night at Joes Pub, Ben started to play some of the Villa Lobos studies. Half way through study number eight Ben looked up and said "of course you know about the edits" and then proceeded to tell me about the original Villa Lobos manuscripts and that it now appears that Segovia had edited some of the original writing. I poured another glass of Dom, while Ben played a beautiful chordal sequence from the 1928 version of study number ten, but missing in the 1929 MS. This was news. Like many guitarists I have lived with this music through most of my playing life. Lived with these seminal works by Villa Lobos that sit in your head like a monolithic presence. Like a place you know and love, it is music that you invariably return to once again to take in its exotic aroma. Having known this music only in the Segovia/Esching version I felt a mixture of intrigue and dismay at this information and determined to get a copy of the original manuscript and look at it for myself. A few weeks later with a copy of the original manuscript and articles by both Stanley Yates and Eduardo Fernandez, I found out the following .The earliest manuscript of the studies is dated as 1928. This version-with no derivation to Segovia is replete with fingerings and expression markings written in meticulous detail even down to different size note heads to differentiate between thematic and structural lines. Without going into elaborate detail here it may be sufficient to say that in the original Etude 10 there are 19 measures of new material and in Etude 11 a new passage of thirteen measure. The Segovia/ Eschig edition, dated 1929, is without these passages. It is hard not to indulge in conjecture about Segovias interraction with this marvellous and original guitar music where it seems - unless with the approval of Villa Lobos ,passages were cut out ,fingerings re-written etc etc. And yet when they were finally published in1953 , Segovia in his preface to the studies remarks how he had no need to alter the fingerings of Villa Lobos who knew the guitar so well. In February of this year after spending a wild week at the Carnaval in Rio and experiencing Brazil in all of its finest throbbing intensity I paid a visit to the Villa Lobos museum. To meet and talk with it’s genial curator, the guitarist, Turibio Santos. The museum is a charming old house that lies in the back streets of Botafogo. After meeting with Turibio in the sun dappled courtyard that contains a bust of Villa Lobos we wandered in to the darkened rooms. On display are a cello, piano, various items that belonged Villa Lobos ,several oil paintings and video ,film and sound archives .Along with this is a vast collection of original manuscripts that are stored in a room upstairs under controlled conditions . But of course what caught my eye was the guitar behind glass in the corner of the room , apparently the instrument on which Heitor composed all of his guitar music. I began the conversation by asking Turibo who the maker was and how Villa Lobos came by it. TS “ It was given to Villa Lobos in 1923 in Paris by Tomas Teran. He was a pianist that after wards came to Brazil and stayed here for the rest of his life. AS - He gave him this guitar? TS - Yes and he composed the twelve studies on this guitar... AS - He wrote them on that actual guitar? Who is the maker ? TS - Josef Bellido .a french guitar maker. Its a bit fat , but... AS - yes almost like a Martin Dreadnought ,unusual for a classical guitar , but he wrote the twelve studies on this instrument – did he write the preludes on another guitar . TS - Probably this one, he had this guitar all his life AS - Yes- “this” was his guitar( laughs) TS - yes it is a nice guitar – a small sound but very good quality As - you have played it of course TS - yes I have played it AS - That must have been a religous moment when you played his guitar! TS - ( laughs ) No, I am not impressed like that. AS - Well fantastic. T S - The fifth of March is the day on which Villla lobos was born was born and now is classified by Brazillians as the day of classical music in Brazil. This weekend on Sunday the fifth of March we will have a concert here in the museum that will last for four or five hours. AS - And the music will all be the music of Villa Lobos . He is recognised as the founding father of modern classical music in Brazil. TS - Would you like to see the library? We have all the originals We move upstairs to the library which is actually a teperature and humidy controlled room where they keep the original manuscrits . Naturally I was hoping they would pull out all of the guita music for me so I could actually touch it. No such luck, but a young women wearing white gloves did actually and rather gingerly remove the original Bachianas Brasileras no 5 from its dark case to lay it like a butterfly on the table .We stared at it admiringly and I turned to Turibio and said “ Iwant to ask you about the studies and the story about the edits” to whichTuribio replied... TS - This where people look for music. Here you can search for anything. They never touch the originals . but for instance if they ask they can see the original of Prelude number 1 .You can find everything here. We looked at a few more pieces of music together and then moved upstairs to Turibios office... AS - I understand that in few days it will be the birthday of Villa Lobos – do you commemorate that in any way. T S - The fifth of March is the day on which Villla Lobos was born was born and now is classified by Brazillians as the day of classical music in Brazil. This weekend on Sunday the fifth of March we will have a concert here in the museum that will last for four or five hours. AS - And the music will all be the music of Villa Lobos . He is recognised as the founding father of modern classical music in Brazil . How long have you been the curator of the museum TS - Twenty years – I started running the museum in 1986 AS - did the museum exist before that TS - Yes my relationship with the museum comes from the beginning of the museum. In fact I met Villa Lobos himself personally in 1928 AS - 1928 ? you must be what ? about 110 years old TS - sorry (laughs ) 1958! when he was doing some lectures about his own music. The main lecture that I attended was about his guitar music and this was absolutely fabulous because a friend of mine who was a musicologist was supposed to come to make notes but then he became ill so he asked me to note every word that Villa Lobos was saying. AS - that’s fantastic – is there a print out of those notes TS - Yes there is a book - a Turibios Santos book -with the lecture inside. He talked about the compositions . The preludes for example. They were written as an hommage . for example the first one is an hommage to the the men of the interior of Brazil. Indians The second one was to the capadochio Carioca –malondro. The third one was an hommage to the music of Bach ,the fourth to the Indians of Brazil and the fifth is an hommage to the social life of Rio . The kids all dressed up in fancy clothes as they go to concerts, this sort of thing. In the lecture he told the story of how he met Segovia for the first time in 1923 . It was at a house in Paris , Segovia was playing in someones house to a small group and Tomas Teran his friend the pianist brought Villa Lobos to present to Segovia and said “have you met Villla Lobos the composer from Brazil “? Segovia replied “yes Miguel Llobet showed me one valse that he did. He doesn’t understand the guitar very well because he aske you to ma ke a very big stretch with the fingers of the left handand he asks you to put the small finger to make chords with five notes “ Villa Lobos hearing these comments took the guitar of Segovia and started to play, and Segovia was suprised with the new ideas and the flow of music. And they became friends. By chance I heard this story from both of them .From Villa Lobos in 1958 and from Segovia in 1965 in Santiago de Compostela. The only difference and note that is important was the way Villa Lobos took the guitar .Segovia said that Villa Lobos said with some vehemenece “ I want this guitar”. Villa Lobos said “ I want this guitar” and took it by force. But they were very close friends and at this point Villa Lobos started to work on the studies . He started in 1923 and he finished in 1928 AS - Okay so it took him five years to write the studies. TS - Yes and in 1962 I made the first performance of the twelve studies . AS - I have the record TS - yes I was invited by Arminda Villa Lobos.I don’t know if you have the original’ On the original the cover had a picture of Villa Lobos smoking a cigar it was also my first record but in 1968 I made it again , this time for Erato in France . AS - Yes, that is the one I have. Is that first one still available or not TS - you can find it here in the museum , but it is not for sale , but you can make copies. We have almost all of the original music here available for copy. AS - well I have a few questions There are stories about conflict between Villa Lobos and Segovia . For instance there is a story about Villa Lobos picking up the guitar and Segovia hating the sound that Villa Lobos made . TS - yes I have heard that. But Philip Marettii – one of the two brothers who were the owners of Max Eschig told me that many times he heard discussion, arguments between Villa Lobos and Segovia, mostly about the twelve studies Segovia saying “ Villa Lobos this is not reasonable – we can’t do that “ And V illa Lobos would take the guitar and show Segovia how to do it
The 27th of November 2004 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the death of the great Paraguayan guitarist /composer Augustin Barrios Mangore. San Juan Battista -the small mission town in southern Paraguay and birth place of Barrios - celebrates this occasion with a concert by the name of Encuentros de Alma.- meetings of the soul. This is the fourth occasion of this festival but with it’s auspicious date this year it is a special celebration. Augustin Barrios Mangore of course is now a well known figure in the world of classical guitar having finally received a world wide audience with the all Barrios recording of John Williams in 1985.Since that time the compositions of Barrios haver become an established part of the repertoire. For my part I have been invited to visit Paraguay bu the great contemporary Paraguan guitarist Berta Rojas to take part in this festival , to give a master class in Asuncion and to attend a tribute –as if in some sort of surrealist dream to myself- complete with T shirts.After a flight that seems to go on for several months I arrive like a rumpled heap in Asuncion. I am greeted by Berta ,friends and paraguayan official at the airport and then after several photo ops and a quick rendition of Feliz Cumpleanos for Lizzy a friend of Bertas on a Takamine guitar which is loaned to me by Bertas original guitar teacher for the duration of the trip for we climb in into several cars and begin the journey south. The heat is stultifying. As we drive south through the flat watery greeness of this part of Paraguay I notice that at least from the road the counry appear to be up to date and well run. At the present time Paraguay is holding free elections . After the thirty five years under the dictatorship of General Stroessner that ended in 1989 but only to endure another period of political tumoil with a few assassinations thrown in for good measure. With the history of this country it s dictatorships ,political upheavals, Nazis on the run and thriving black market in mind you arrive in Paraguay wondering what you will witness.. But as I travel around I am taken with the friendly and humorous spirit of the paraguayanos and their own concerns about their country . You get the feeling that it is a place that if in the process of healing itself and is looking forward not with cynicism but enthusiasm. A few days later as I give a master class in Asuncion I am struck by the strong attitudes of the young musicians and their interest in blending aspects of Paraguayan music and culture with the more obvious western forms, and that whatever machinations they have been through the desire to make art and music prevails Laid out in the formal Spanish style San Juan Batista has a grid pattern with the cathedral at the centre where it sits on the edge of a small park.We pull into a small dirt road at the side of the town and are immediately surrounded by smiling officials, several beautiful young girls in traditional costume- white embroidered blouses wide floral patterned skirts and flowers in their hair- uniformed men on horseback and a phalanx of photographers. All of this is accompanied with the plangent tinny moan of a small brass marching band. Already here and waiting for us are Brazilan guitarist Carlos Barboasa Lima and cuatro virtuoso Gustavo Colina… . we all join in the procession and begin the march toward Casa de Barrios. In an attempt to stave of the jet lag I put myself in between two of the most beautiful girls and march forward with them as cameras flash like machine guns. Suddenly I feel revived. Twenty minutes later in a jostling wave of bodies we arrive at the site and are ushered into the two rooms which serve as the museum . They are already packed wall to wall with town residents and officials which I find somewhat frustrating as having personally traveled several thousand miles to reach this guitar shrine it’s impossible to feel whatever mystical vibration might be lingering in the walls. But,there is a feeling of celebration in the air and in the festive mood typical of South America you get picked up and carried on it. A performance begins with songs from the parade girls and then a poem read out to great dramatic effect. This is capped by a dance by Carmen who with a heart breaking smile , ivory skin and green eyes dances before us to a loud soundtrack that sounds as if its from a south American film from the thirties or forties -imagine Rita Hayworth in Gilda. The highlight of this moment is when she places a ceramic pot on her head and then - as we collectively hold our breath -moves through several tricky contortions without losing the fragile vessel. The dance comes to an end , I nudge Carlos and and together we sigh. Several speeches now follow in praise of the festival, Barrios and San Juan Batista itself The Mayor makes a long speech declaring and Berta, Carlos , Gustavo and myself all receive framed diplomas which is a pleasant surprise although I get Carlos’s ,he gets mine and Berta gets Gustavos etc. With ceremonies over it’s time to walk back through the town to the cathedral for the concert itself. When we arrive there it is already packed to the rafters. Somehow I manage to lose everyone and I arrive alone in a crowd, Knowing I have to play in about forty five minutes I stagger about at the side of the chuch looking for the Takamine . I finally find it and pull it out to have a little warm up as I haven’t seen a guitar for two days. I start practising in the gloom at the side of the church but unfortunately this proves to be a magnet for the local paparrazzi so it becomes a very self concious moment and I quickly pack up. A figure appears from the dark to lead me to the front of the building and the official designated Salon des Artiste that no one told me about. Berta Carlos and Gustavo are practising nicely together and just about to go on stage or rather to the altar which is where tonights stage is located . I grab a café cito and whip out the Takamine again and wish them well as they head toward the stage . The concert begins with a beautiful rendition by Berta of“Jha Che Valle”, which Barrios dedicated to San Juan Bautista, his “valle”. Later Berta tells me that in Guarani, “valle” means the small town in the countryside, specially in the rural areas, in which you are born. It needs to be a town though, Asuncion for instance is not a “valle” but a city. Their “valle” is something the Paraguayans love deeply and they are very proud of them. Being born in Asuncion, says Berta I am very jealous for not having a “valle”. “Jha che Valle”, means in Guarani “Oh, my hometown” an exclamation of admiration by Barrios to his beloved San Juan Bautista. So, that was the only possible opening piece for a concert in San Juan Bautista! Carlos Barboza Lima is next playing “Brazil”, and Gustavo Colina follows playing a “Venezuelan Joropo”. After these solo spots A series of duos, between Carlos and Berta , Carlos and Gustavo and Gustavo and Berta continues the program. “Son de Carrilhoes” by Joan Pernambuco in duo with Carlos and Berta , followed by “La Reina”, in duo between Carlos and Gustavo. A second section of the concert is devoted to Barrios and it opens with “Danza Paraguaya” performed by Carlos Berta and Gustavo “Junto a tu Corazon” is then performed by Carlos, and then the third movement of “La Catedral” performed by Berta . The audience – the biggest they have seen for years- listens in rapt attention and I notice that Berta apart from great taste and sensitivity has a remakable technical facility and her playing of this allegro movement is rapid and flawless . This is followed by the trio playing the beautiful “Sueno de Angelita” by Felix Perez Cardozo. Berta -who is a celebrity in Paraguay- now announces me and I take the stage in front of the altar wondering if maybe I should offer up a prayer for myself -Un Alma por Yo Berta very kindly allows me to use her Robert Ruck guitar and I feel better about playing .I begin with a piece from last album called Roseville this goes well and then I follow that with Julia Florida a seminal Barrios composition . You don’t get many chances to do things like this and I feel compelled to play at least one Barrios piece while I have a captive San Juam Batista audience .The beautiful melody sings on the Ruck and it goes down well with the audience receiving a sustained applause at the finish- maybe they have mistaken me for John Williams or David Russell. Berta joins me on the stage and we improvise our way through a couple of Jobim songs ‘the Girl from Ipanema and the One Note Samba and then Gustavo and Carlos come up and we finish with an ensemble version of Chico Chico. That seems to be the end, but due to vociferous audience response Berta ,Carlos and Gustavo play an encore of Maxixe by Barrios and the concert comes to an end. with a standing ovation. After we finally leave the cathedral we drive out into the lush country side to the estancia of the Llanos family where we end the night under a star filled sky among gauchos roasting meats and herds of cattle grazing in the fields around the ranch. I fall into bed around four am with the sound of Danza Paraguaya ringing in my head. The next morning at my request Berta, myself and friends head back into San Juan Batista to have a quiet visit to Casa de Barrios. Here in the two rooms that set aside to constitute at least a small hommage to Barrios we wander about play ,the guitar that sits in a chair against the wall and a hope that gretaness rubs off. I have the following conversation with Berta.
A- Berta- I notice that the guitar leaning in the chair over there is actually a nylon string guitar not a steel string which Barrios played and I understand that you were trying to obtain an original Barrios guitar to return to Paraguay - what is the story… B- The guitar that was sold to an American Collector was the one Barrios’ used for his first recordings, which happened to be the first recordings ever made on the classical guitar. Regarding the auction of that guitar, again it was question of money Andy, and Paraguay doesn’t have much, I wish we could have bought it. Jorge Gross Brown could have probably bought it but he missed the email I sent him telling him about the auction of the guitar My efforts were concentrated on acquiring the biggest collection of Barrios’ letters and manuscripts that were in Uruguay, under the ownership Martin Borda Pagola’s heir, Barrios’ patron and great friend. I couldn’t afford to buy them myself but I thought they belonged to Paraguay, so I worked very hard to try to get the Paraguayan government interested. I talked to Ministers, Senators, Diplomats, people with power and money (or both) to understand what Barrios meant for Paraguay and help me with my endeavor. But in the years that followed 35 years of Dictatorship that killed almost every cultural aspect of Paraguay, it was hard. In short, they were not acquired by the government, but by Dr. Jorge Gross Brown, a lawyer, and his wife Maria Gloria who saw the value Barrios’ music had for Paraguay and bought the collection just to keep it in our country. A- Rico Stover has recently published a revised and complete edition of Barrios compositions did you give him some original manuscripts for this book... I have to go back in history to answer your question. The friendship between the young Barrios and Borda Pagola, gave Barrios stability and protection in times of uncertainty. Living with him for a long time, Barrios produced a lot of music at his house. It also allowed Pagola to own, the biggest collection of Barrios’ manuscripts under one person’s ownership, 14 letters and 25 manuscripts of pieces such as Danza Paraguaya and La Catedral, a collection he treasured and preserved with love for his entire life. When Pagola passed away, his only heir, his daughter Aida Borda de Piovano, who became a good friend of mine in her last years, inherited the collection which she, as her father, preserved her entire life with love. During her lifetime, she only sold the letters, which with my advice were bought by Jorge Gross Brown. At her death, her son Daniel Piovano, sold the manuscripts to Jorge and Ma. Gloria Gross Brown. Stover was going to publish the new collection of Barrios’ music. Stover visited her in Uruguay and I knew that Aida Borda Pagola never allowed Richard to see the collection. I thought it was important for Stover to study this manuscripts which in my impression, were going to be a great contribution to the Mel Bay’s new edition. Jorge Gross Brown was very generous in allowing me to provide Stover with copies of the entire collection. A- Tell me something about these Encuentros De Alma, who organizes them, how often are they put on etc “Encuentros del Alma” is a concert series created by Oscar Cardozo Ocampo, member of the most prestigious musical family of Paraguay. Family of composers, singers, pianists, guitarists, they moved to Argentina in times of the dictatorship. Oscar, who was in part Paraguayan, in part Argentinean, worked as arranger for the most renown Argentinean musicians, from Mercedes Sosa to Jairo, and was awarded the “Konex Prize” as Arranger of the Decade, in Argentina. Cardozo Ocampo was preoccupied about the isolation of Paraguay from the rest of the world, musically as well as in other aspects. He thought that by inviting his Argentinean friends to perform in Paraguay with Paraguayan musicians, it would expand Paraguayan musicians’ horizons. His dream was to open that door to musicians from the rest of America also, and eventually the rest of the world. His tragic death, two years ago on a car accident when he was driving from Argentina to Paraguay, didn’t stop his dream from becoming a reality. His friend Lucha Abbate, director of the Tierranuestra Foundation for the Education, http://www.tierranuestra.org.py followed his dream and continued with this “Encuentros del Alma”, Meeting of souls. A- How many times has the Encuentros del Alma been put on -what years? The first “Encuentros del Alma” took place under the direction of Oscar Cardozo Ocampo during the year 1995 (4 concerts), and in the year 1996 ( 3 concerts). I performed in the first edition of Encuentros del Alma in 1995. In the year 2002, Tierranuestra, whose institutional Anthem was composed by Cardozo, takes over the project and decides to continue with “Encuentros del Alma” (registered name that the Cardozo Ocampo’s family donated to the Foundation in honor to Oscar Cardozo Ocampo and in support of its many educational projects in Paraguay). The latest was then, the third Encuentros del Alma in Asuncion and the first in the countryside. A- Who sponsored the Festival in San Juan? Tierranuestra and the City of San Juan Bautista sponsored the concert in San Juan. Oscar dream was to bring Encuentros to an audience in the rural areas. I did this for two years with my duo parter Juan Cancio Barreto, touring the countryside and performing free concerts for an estimated audience of 12.000 people in two years in Paraguay. When Lucha Abbate and I talked about Encuentros, we both thought that it would be lovely to take this Encuentros to San Juan, this time to honor Barrios. The Mayor, Víctor Hugo Pereira Alcaraz assigned his general secretary, Dr. Andrés Riveros Obregón and Cultural Affairs Secretary, Gill Alegre (also owner of the Barrios’s House) as organizers of the event. Many social organizations from San Juan also collaborated strongly with this event, such as the one presided by Rumilda Marin, teacher of San Juan who gave a celebration party after the concert and accompanied our visit to Barrios’ house the day after. A- Is San Juan Bautista a mission town established by Jesuits? When the Jesuits founded the first reduction in San Ignacio Guazú in Misiones, in the year 1609, they also founded the “posta” of San Juan. The small “posta” was later on transformed in a “villa” populated by correntinos (Argentineans from Corrientes, located near San Juan) . Many ranches were established and these were the first Jesuit Ranches. Later, after the expulsion of the Jesuits, these ranches where known as “Estancias de La Patria” in the times of the Lopez’ government. It was Carlos Antonio López, first constitutional President of Paraguay, who gave San Juan, its status as “town”. Some other historians attribute the establishment of San Juan to the German Jesuit Antonio Sepp in the year 1697. Sepp, who was a pioneer in steel production and the first person who worked in the system of cotton cropping, today the number one export of Paraguay. Sepp also played more than a dozen musical instruments and taught the guaranies how to play the violin and other string instruments as well as the organ. Antonio Sepp built the first organ of South America in the Jesuit Missions and is known as having been the one who introduced the harp in Paraguay, the national instrument of the country. A - tell me about the gentleman who owns the house now and the situation B -His name is Gil Alegre Nunez, an artist who came back from Italy a few years ago and saw the ad of a house being sold in San Juan Bautista. He knew that that house belonged to the Barrios’ family and that it was the house in which Barrios lived his entire childhood. He felt the need of buying the house to preserve it and one day, to turn it in a Museum. This is a one man effort, and Paraguay is indebted to him for his courage and vision. My hope is that the City of San Juan would buy this house and with official help, turn it in a proper museum where perhaps the Gross Brown’s Collection could be preserved along with some other objects that belonged to Barrios and that are preserved in Paraguay. A -Thank you for letting me playing your Robert Ruck -last night tell me about it B- I play a 1993 Robert Ruck which was a present from Ruck himself to me. It is a cedar top and he made this guitar for himself. It has an inscription below the rosette that reads “made by Robert Ruck for Robert Ruck”. He thought it was going to be in better hands since he plays very little so he gave it to me. It is a very special instrument, precious to me. I put away my mini-cd recorder and Berta and I take turns in playing pieces on the funky “barrios guitar including a left hand right hand duet . and then leave and head south to the Iguacu Falls. < back to top >