Updated: Aug 27, 2019
This is a question about Michael’s sonata. I find the Shostakovich influences intriguing, as he is one of my favourite composers and probably the last composer I would associate with guitar music. What drew you to Shostakovich?
Shostakovich is certainly a composer that seems very removed from guitar. I think part of that is that his two best-known musical outputs, his string quartets and symphonies, use textures, ranges, dynamics, and melodic styles that are difficult to capture on guitar. The pieces are either so slow that the guitar cannot hope to sustain the notes, or so fast and furious that us poor guitarists can’t keep up. However, there is something to his music that has spoken to me as an artist. Sometimes you just hear music that makes you want to compose; or put another way, you hear a quality in the music that you have been searching for in your own writing. Every time I
listen to his music I can hear echoes of my own ideas in the back of my mind that I want to realize.
Shostakovich can sound abrasive to the uninitiated listener--the moods of his works can range from moody and depressed to chippy and sarcastic all the way to violent and deranged. I enjoy experiencing the emotional journey of his pieces, tracking the movement between different moods and studying them to figure out how he manages to create them on a technical level.
The inspiration for this particular piece dates back to January 2017. Mike and I had finished playing a concert together in Vancouver and spent the rest of the evening enjoying some well-deserved beer and listening to Shostakovich string quartets. We had been discussing the possibility of me writing a piece for Mike for a while but were undecided about what the material should be, but by the end of the evening we were set on a Shostakovich homage!