Archive for February, 2013
When someone brings up Luther Vandross, which of this great singer’s hits enters your mind? “Never Too Much.” Ah, you knew Luther at the beginning, when he was migrating from the Manhattan jingle scene into the pop/R+B field, which he would dominate for several decades. “A House Is Not a Home.” You know that the great Dionne Warwick was an avatar for Luther when he was a child, and he recorded this gorgeous Bachrach/David song as an homage to her.
“Any Love.” Wow, we’re in sync. This beautiful song, penned by Luther and the incomparable Marcus Miller, released in 1988, would become Luther’s fourth number one on the Hot Black Singles Chart.
But if I was forced to choose only one his songs to add to my virtual playlist, it would be “Stop To Love.” Released in 1986, “Stop To Love” topped the R&B chars and crossed over to the pop charts, peaking at number fifteen on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Luther wrote “Stop To Love” with Nat Adderly Jr. Written in the early days of MIDI, when computer related timing issues were still being resolved, this track was programmed by synth whiz Jason Miles, who also contributed his talents to the Vandross/Adderly collaboration, “Give Me The Reason,” released on the same album.
I interviewed Nat several years ago. He was surprised when I asked him about the difference in feel between these two tracks. Take a listen. “Give Me The Reason” has a more mechanical quantization… less groove, right? Nat told me that the production team was unsatisfied with the feel on this track, and made some technical corrections that allowed “Stop To Love” to swing more.
Ah, Luther… RIP dude, you had the gift.
Several years ago Steve Epstein, who has about the same number of Producer Of The Year Grammy Awards as Pete Sampras has Grand Slam titles, sent me the sound track recording he’d produced of the musical “The Light In The Piazza.” I listened once to the score, written by Adam Guettel, (who also contributed the lyrics) and fell in love with the song “Love To Me,” but hurried through the rest of the recording. Several days ago I decided to write a blog about the unique qualities of this gorgeous song, delivered by Matt Morrison, who would become known to millions when he accepted a starring role in the television show “Glee.”
“The Light In The Piazza” received mixed reviews when it was released in 2005. Based on a novella of the same name written by Elizabeth Spencer, the plot centers around a wealthy American woman who takes her 20-something daughter to Italy on vacation. The young woman, saddled with a mysterious malady that’s revealed late in the production, falls in love with a handsome Italian boy who barely speaks English. Setting aside the plot contrivance (Craig Lucas wrote the show’s book) some critics felt that Guettl’s score was a muddle of influences; Sondheim, opera, pop music, that never quite gelled.
They’re wrong. I pulled out the CD this morning and listened to it from top to bottom. The score to “Light In The Piazza” is a great work of art, one that future generations will reference when they check off the musical masterpieces of the early 20th century stage.
Of course, Robert Schumann didn’t always pick the right horse, so any composer who falls in love with a score has to temper his passion, but this one overflows with an individual harmonic sense and an understated contrapuntal aspect that propels the music forward in waves. The vocal lines, which move effortlessly between melody and declamation, are without exception perfectly suited to the human voice. Not surprising, since Guettl was a boy soprano who performed at both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Operas when he was a child. As you may know, his theatrical pedigree traces back to Adam Guettl’s grandfather, the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, through his mother, Mary Rodgers (“Once Upon a Mattress”).
Recalling their chance meeting in the square, “Love To Me” is Fabrizio’s declaration of affection for Clara. Scored for nylon string guitar, which Guettl himself played on the record (I thought it was a harp until Epstein corrected me) and chamber orchestra, this beautiful song has something about it that’s harmonically unique. But what? Dissecting it at the piano the answer became clear: “Love To Me” features the largely forgotten diminished chord-four of them in all. The diminished triad, built on the seventh step of the major scale, has long been considered too weak to stand on its own. Folded into the dominant seventh chord centuries ago, it’s been used in extended harmonies, but you’d be hard pressed to find many examples, in either popular or “serious” music, where the diminished triad is displayed so nakedly. Its usage heightens the tenderness of the melodies Guettl assigns to Fabrizio. Gorgeous, and in service of the character.
The cast album was recorded at Right Track Recording in New York and mixed in Sony Music Studios, Room 309, by Todd Whitelock. Anyone who had the pleasure of mixing in that great room, which featured a custom console built by David Smith, will forever regret the day SMS was torn down.
Every project that Steve Epstein turns his talents towards glistens, including the gorgeous score to Adam Guettl’s “The Light In The Piazza.” If you’re not familiar with this music, check it out.
I started off 2013 with one less class to teach and was anticipating having extra time to make a dent in my to do list.
No Such Luck!
My extra time went into prepping and supporting a Rockabilly session at Minneapolis Media Institute. It was an all-analog, four-day session involving two former students, a stand-up bass and a collection of gear that was older than many of the participants.
- To pull off the analog part, a tape machine had to be integrated into the patch bay. This was my second ‘DL connector refresher course’ in recent months!
- After getting some TLC, the Otari MTR-90-II was aligned for 15 IPS, +3/250nWb/m, IEC EQ on recycled Quantegy 499 tape.
- My vintage outboard rack was brought in to augment the studio’s gear rack. At the eleventh hour, my heavily modified Pultec MB-1 preamp got an optical limiter implant that when combined with an RCA D77 ribbon mic, the vocalist and real tape delay authenticated the Rockabilly vibe we were looking for.
- With the exception of one condenser mic (a Sony C37a on Snare) and two dynamics – an EV-664 (kick) and a Sennheiser e609 (bass amp), the rest were ribbon mics. The producer brought a Turner ribbon mic that he had re-ribboned. It complemented the stand-up bass mic, providing much needed ‘note focus’ where needed.
- The ‘guest’ who brought the C37a also provided two tweed-era Gibson guitar amps, a Fender spring reverb and an Echoplex tape delay. By now you should be guessing that all the tube gear gave the space a very vintage aroma. As the Echoplex warmed up, however, it needed some TLC. The next day – with spare parts in hand, I replaced the tape as well as the power supply filter caps.
- We did the entire session live, no click, no grid and no headphones.
The session was a success, my assistant and I are making progress on the Serge Modular synth (mentioned in the February issue). I have a Sony C-500 condenser mic on the bench that needs its DC-to-DC converter rebuilt (no polarizing voltage) and I sold a few LA-4 opamp and opto upgrade kits.
I hope to give y’all more details about some of these items in my March column.
Do you like Michael Crawford? I hate that guy. His singing is so affected, and that plastic mask he wears over half his face… dude, let it go! Still, I just listened to his vocal on “Since You Stayed Here.” What an awesome song…and the arrangement rocks!
For starters, this song is from a musical, “Brownstone,” I know nothing about, other than the fact that Wickipedia says Josh Rubins wrote the book and lyrics, with help from Andrew Cadiff. Peter Larson composed the music for this production, which centers around a group of folks living in a Manhattan brownstone…I can relate; I walked up five floors to my 83rd St. and Lexington Ave. brownstone apartment for three years, including the one after I’d broken my ankle in six places backing off the catcher in a show biz softball game played behind the Delacort Theater in Central Park in the summer of 1982.
What a gorgeous arrangement. Who ever thought a midi piano/Rhodes pad would sit at the center of such a lush track? I know; Nelson Riddle would have jumped on this sonic combo, had it been available back in the day.
Then there’s the reverb; a gorgeous room enfolds the orchestra, and it sounds like a lesser amount of the reverb send is directed towards Mr. Crawford himself… the ambience, in aggregate, sounds great, doesn’t it?
Ah, the oboe… a perfect complement to the vocal. And who said Michael Crawford had a deficiency. Man, this guy sounds terrific!
File this one under shameless self promotion. Christopher Johnson-a truly brilliant pianist who combines blistering speed, a feathery legato, and the ability to bend tempi the way Yuri Geller bends spoons-hiked into LBrown Recording on 9th Ave. several weeks ago to record two of my works, “Soft As a Kiss (Emily’s Song)” and “A Brief Discourse On The Blues,” on the studio’s 1881 Steinway D concert grand piano. As expected, he did a superb job. My only problem was trying to fill the two hour minimum booking time; Chris laid this material down before I could reach for a second cup of coffee.
Louis Brown has a great room. If you’re looking for a place to track in Manhattan, particularly if your session involves a piano, I’d strongly suggest you head to the company website (lbrownrecording.com) and poke around.
I created a virtual album of these two works, “Reunion,” and put it on my Nimbit store, in the Piano category. Like everything else, it streams for free. INSERT HUCKSTERISM HERE: “Hey, check it out, check it out, Psst, come on, what you got to lose?”
If you do listen, leave a comment if you care to! Here’s the link:
Whether you’re a recording artist or label owner, it’s easy to feel apprehensive about the seemingly chaotic state of digital music distribution. While there’s plenty to debate when it comes to proposals for the future, there’s one thing we can all agree on: things will never be the same in terms of how musicians and rights holders get paid when their work is served over satellite, cable, and the Internet.
Besides direct downloads, listeners currently access music through one of two types of services: interactive streaming services such as Spotify and Rhapsody, where users can choose what they hear; and non-interactive streaming services, such as SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Pandora, which are more radio-like because the listener can select a station (based on an artist or genre) but not the exact song that he or she hears.
The radio-like paradigm of non-interactive services yields a radio-like royalty stream, but with a major difference. Just like with terrestrial radio, non-interactive services get a blanket license with the performance rights organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC—in this case for a non-interactive stream—that is used to compensate the composer and publisher of a musical work that is played by the service. These rates are made public.
However, unlike terrestrial radio, the non-interactive streaming services also pay a royalty that is divided among featured recording artists, non-featured recording artists, and owners of the master recording (typically a label). A federal organization called the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), which is appointed by the U.S. Library of Congress, sets these rates based on public negotiations with interested parties that participate in a public rate-setting process every 4 to 5 years.
The Library of Congress put SoundExchange, a non-profit performance rights organization, in charge of collecting and distributing these statutory rates. Musicians and master-recording owners that have music that is being streamed online can register with SoundExchange for free, even if they already belong to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. That’s because SoundExchange collects a different type of royalty from digital streaming services than the traditional PROs do. In fact, if you write, publish, perform and release your own material, you’ll reap the maximum benefits by belonging to both types of performance rights organizations.
In December 2012, I had a chance to speak with Michael J. Huppe, the President of SoundExchange, about the current state of digital music delivery and how his organization fits into the puzzle.
Can you give me a quick overview of how SoundExchange works?
In a nutshell, we help enable the entire digital radio space. What we do is pay musicians and performers directly—the 50 percent that goes to performers.
Many of the most popular digital radio services—Pandora, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, iHeartRadio, and even the digital radio services on your cable and satellite systems such as Music Choice—use a statutory license from the federal government so they don’t have to go to 20,000 record labels and sign deals. They get the right to stream their music by utilizing a part of federal law that gives them that right. That’s a much more efficient way for them to set up their business and get access to all the masters so they can run their business.
If they use the statutory license, as most of them do, then SoundExchange is the entity that basically helps administer it. They send us the royalties and the data of what they’ve played, and then we take it, and we clean up the data. We make sure they’re paying what they’re supposed to. We work with them to streamline all the operational aspects related to that. And then every quarter, we send out checks to 25,000 musicians and rights owners.
This is, obviously, a growing and important revenue stream. In 2005, we distributed $25 million: half to artists, half to the owners of the masters. Typically this goes to a record label, but not always. That $25 million in 2005 is well over $400 million in 2012—so, significant growth along the way.
Are there different rates of pay in the digital radio category?
There are 12 or more different types of licenses—different categories of service, and even different categories within the same genre. For instance, let’s take webcasting. There are lots of webcasters, but within webcasters we have one rate category for non-commercial webcasters, another one for college radio, and another one for folks that simulcast. Basically there are different rates for different services depending on the unique aspects of their business.
We have over 2,000 services that send us information every month, and it’s our job to know who they are, what category of license they’re using, and then we take it from there and make sure they’re paying under the right rubric.
How long does it take for the process to complete, from when you get a payment from a webcaster to when the artist and label gets money?
It depends. A lot of times a service may send all the materials, but they’ll have a problem in their logs. There will be some stray data problems that mess up the log that we have to work with them to fix. Sometimes they won’t send the proper payment, or it doesn’t match up with the invoice. When things like that happen, it sort of delays the issue. But assuming everything is submitted properly, the vast majority of our royalties go out the door in five to six months. I don’t have an exact number, but it’s north of 80 percent, I would imagine.
How does terrestrial radio fit into what SoundExchange does?
If you mean for the over-the-air signal, terrestrial radio doesn’t pay us anything, which is a battle the recording industry has been fighting for eight decades. SoundExchange has been actively involved in that over the past 4 to 5 years.
When an FM station broadcasts over the air, they still pay the songwriter [and publisher], as they should, through ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. But they don’t pay anything to the performer or the record company.
However, when they take that very same signal and simulcast it online and turn it into a digital broadcast on the Internet, then they do pay the performer and the record label, as well as the songwriter [and publisher] again. We don’t dispute that the songwriter [and publisher] deserves their fair share, as well.
So the fact is that over-the-air radio pays nothing to the performer. The problem, as I’m sure you know, is that the U.S. stands alone as the sole industrialized country that does not pay the performer for that right. FM radio makes somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 billion (with a B) dollars a year on revenue, and the revenue is because people come to the radio to listen to the music. The fact that they don’t share a penny of that $15 billion with the performer, who brought the song to life, is very unfair in our view.
How are the payments to the different parties involved in a recording sorted out by SoundExchange?
The musical work, itself — the notes and the lyrics — we have nothing to do with that. A streaming service has to work that out with ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Most [listeners], when they say “song,” they really mean “recording.”
So, let’s take Pandora. When Pandora publicly performs the recording, the statute tells us how to split that money. And it splits it as follows: 50 percent goes to the copyright owner of the master; 5 percent goes to background vocalists and background musicians; and the remaining 45 percent goes to the “featured artist,” whichever artist is featured as the primary performer in that recording. And that’s how we split up the money. It’s set by statute [to be divided] between the featured performer, the non-featured performer, and the owner of the masters.
Is it the record label that makes sure that these streams go to the right people, or are they sent directly to the featured artist, the background musicians, and so forth?
We have direct relationships with the featured performer and they will get a check from SoundExchange, with the SoundExchange logo on it. In fact, we will not send it through the record label. If we get a Letter of Direction from a performer telling us to direct their royalties to their record label, we won’t honor that because it is a core policy and a fundamental tenet of SoundExchange that we believe in artist-direct pay. So we pay the featured performers the 45 percent directly.
That 5 percent reserved for non-featured musicians — background vocalists, background musicians — goes to a fund that the two unions, AFM and AFTRA, run. And that fund (AFM & AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund) takes care of distributing that money. And the reason it goes to them is that the fund is set up to do a whole bunch of other things. They get payment for other collective bargaining monies and such. So they’re the ones who handle payment of the non-featured performers.
What if the non-featured performers are non-union members?
You do not have to be a union member. It’s operated by the union, but you do not have to be a union member to sign up for those royalties. You sign up through the fund.
For the 45 percent at SoundExchange, they should sign up with SoundExchange. And so should the record labels. We’re talking about musicians right now, but we have 25,000 rights owners who get the master-owner half of the money, and most of them are record labels. But even if it’s an individual artist, if they also own their masters, they should definitely sign up for that half of the money too.
Do the digital radio payments include play on interactive services such as Spotify?
The statutory license only covers radio-like services. It has to be “non-interactive,” which is a not a totally clear term. Spotify, until recently, didn’t have a radio product. They were doing on-demand streams. SoundExchange doesn’t have anything to do with that, because that isn’t covered by the statutory license. Spotify had to go to the record labels and get the rights directly for all of that stuff. However, a few months back, Spotify actually started a radio service, and for that non-interactive digital-radio product they can use the statutory license. They have filed with us, and for that they have started to pay us.
Considering how little each digital radio performance yields for independent artists, is it worth it for them to sign up with SoundExchange?
The payments have grown over time. The beauty of what we do is that it doesn’t all go to the big acts or the big record labels. We all know that terrestrial radio has heavy spins of the bigger acts and the bigger labels. We all know that when you want to sell something at WalMart and you’re fighting over limited shelf space, obviously the larger entities have a bit more leverage. The beauty of the Internet is that there’s no limited shelf space, there’s no limited bandwidth, and there aren’t a limited number of FM stations in a market: It’s unlimited. And because of that, the money that we pay out is much more dispersed than the other revenue streams. For instance in 2011, 90 percent of the payments were $5,000 or less in annual payments. But in terms of it being small or big, I can tell you that with most of the record labels, we are the number two digital-music revenue source behind iTunes.
I don’t know if all the payments are that small. For instance, take Pandora: Their typical subscriber does the free service and they listen for 20 hours a month. And they pay us, basically, a little more than a tenth of a penny per stream per person. For someone listening 20 hours a month, every month all year long, the royalties that Pandora pays us are a little less than $4 for that user. And remember, that $4 gets divided half-and-half between the record label [the master owner] and the performers.
So from that perspective, yes, it’s a small payment. But when you add all these micropayments up, we’re expecting to pay out more than $400 million this year . So all of those little tenths of a penny add up. And I do think that people are starting to notice this is a more substantial source of revenue.
Is the revenue is going up because you’re getting better at collecting?
It’s going up for lots of reasons. Usage is trending this way; there’s more people getting their music digitally. As people are getting it on their mobile devices, they can listen to it in more places, through more platforms.
The consumption of it is more and more a listen instead of a purchase. A lot of people like just having the access to the music and having it stream to them, as opposed to going and buying downloads. And the more that happens, the more it’s going to fall under that statutory license. So, I think it’s a factor of usage, and it’s a factor of the rates going up every so often. I think those are the two big reasons. Increase in rates and increase in usage.
For more information and to sign up for SoundExchange, visit soundexchange.com.
And while you’re there, check out the rates paid for the various types of non-interactive streams.
Perched in mid-career, David Starobin has a resume that brims with achievement. The guitarist came of age in the late 1960’s, a time when his instrument was leading the assault against earlier forms of popular music. He picked up the guitar as a small child and experimented with rock bands during his teens, but David Starobin would find his initialt success as a young master of the “classical” guitar.
Established on the concert stage by his mid-20’s as an exponent of the much beloved but limited concert repertoire, Starobin became a champion of new music. In 1981 he and his wife Becky formed Bridge Records. Devoted to new music, this still thriving label is now a family enterprise; both Starobin children are active in the business. Bridge releases have received 26 Grammy Award nominations, and received three (Best Contemporary Compostion, George Crumb’s “Star-Child” (2001), Best Classical Vocal Recording, the Lorraine Hunt Lieberson/Peter Serkin performance of Peter Lieberson’s “Rilke Songs” (2007), Best Solo Instrumental Recording, Garrick Ohlsson’s Beethoven Sonatas, Vol. 3 (2008), Adam Abeshouse, Producer).
Starobin remains active on the concert stage and in the classroom. He is currently head of the Guitar Studies department at the Curtis Institute of Music.
You grew up in the halycon days of British pop and soul music. Did you play in rock bands when you were a kid? If so, did any of that music make a lasting impression on you?
David Starobin: Between the age of 12 and 14 I was lead guitarist in a band. Our glory days included an appearance at the 1964 World’s Fair, captured on a film clip that has provided much mirth to my children over the years. All of my musical experiences contributed to who I am as a musician. My most recent guitar recording just happens to be as an electric guitarist, playing playing a 1964 era electric guitar-very much like the one I played back then (The $100 Dollar Guitar Project: BRIDGE 9381A/B).
Is the chasm between pop and “serious” music greater than it’s been in the recent (or distant) past?
DS: I think the chasm has been shrinking steadily. We are now at the point where a lot of good music can not be categorized as either ‘serious’ or ‘pop’, so blurred are the boundaries. The breakdown of the “chasm” has had many contributing factors,but mostly it’s the inexorable march forward of communications media. Most good musicians keep open ears. Exclusion of musical influences because one is trying to keep one’s art “pure” is a fairly dead horse at this juncture.
Can you maintain your technique without practicing six hours a day?
DS: I almost never practice six hours a day. When I do put in long hours on the guitar now, it’s to learn new repertoire. Come to think of it, that’s always been my modus operandi.
Has the posture that a “classical” guitarist has to endure caused any physical problems for you?
DS: I’m very fortunate. About 25 years ago I transformed my playing position after watching the great Joe Pass play. He had the most beautifully fluid technique I had ever seen. So, I copied it, began playing with a strap, and have not had physical problems since then.
The 1950’s experienced serialism, there was then a reaction against it; multiple waves, from the “third” on have altered the course of contemporary music. Is there a lingua franca in modern music?
DS: The lingua franca might be Esperanto. The educated ear demands that our artists have a working knowledge of what came before them. No matter what materials an artist chooses to employ or reject, the weight of history demands decisions that are based on literacy and familiarity with our shared heritage. When art is naive, it generally is ephemeral. There are exceptions, but I believe they are rare.
Is an audience necessary?
DS: I’m sure there may be some great work that has been created in a virtual vacuum. For many artists who create or perform, interaction with an audience is inspiring and therefore, essential. I really can only speak for myself here. I do my best work when I know someone is listening.
How does Bridge fit into your artistic life? Why go through the trouble!!
DS: Even on the worst days, I’ve never questioned why we go through the trouble. Bridge has become my life. My wife and I (AND our son and daughter) all work for the company. Our closest friends are the composers who write for us, and the performers who record for us. Our travels revolve around the company. There is never enough time in the day to accomplish what we need to do. I’m very proud of our catalog, and excited about upcoming projects. Trouble? Nah, it’s an adventure.
Do CD’s have a future, or will downloads be the exclusive delivery model in the future?
DS: I don’t have a clue. Both are doing well, with no let up in CD sales.
Do you write as well as play music?
DS: I’m a dabbler. A Sunday afternoon artist. I’m a published composer, poet, and filmmaker. I don’t do any of the preceding all that often, but love to get my feet wet.
Is Fernando Sor still worth playing?
DS: I played Sor’s Op. 54-bis Fantasy for two guitars yesterday. I was doing my teaching at Curtis Institute, and one of my students (Jordan Dodson) and I read through the work. The piece is fantastic-one of Sor’s few pieces in the popular Spanish style. In addition to being one of the great players of his era, Sor as a composer is to the guitar what Mozart is to the piano-his work is full of inspired melodic and harmonic turns and composed with impeccable technique and taste.
How do the responsibilities break down at Bridge Records, Inc.?
DS: As A&R Director I’m largely responsible for the content of our catalog. No decision of mine, though, moves forward without Becky’s (Starobin) approval. As Bridge’s President, she has made a largely classical company, specializing in a very high percentage of new music releases, a going concern. In this day and age, this is a true rarity. Her work in building Bridge has been nothing short of phenomenal. Our son, Rob Starobin (Vice-President) is another essential player. He oversees our digital distribution network, and is point man on various funding initiatives. Our editor is Doron Schachter, and Adam Abeshouse has been the mastering engineer for nearly everything we’ve released during the past 20 years.
Do you produce any of the records you release, or is Bridge primarily a
DS: We’re primarily a production company. I produce a lot (but not most) of our recordings; my work includes George Crumb Complete works (working on Vol. 16); Elliott Carter (working on Vol. 9); Odense Symphony Orchestra (Mozart Piano Concerto series and numerous other releases); Poul Ruders series (working on Vol. 9). In addition, solo artists and ensembles that I produce for are Daedalus Quartet, the cellist Steven Doane, the baritone Patrick Mason. Recently, I’ve produced orchestral sessions in Denmark, Los Angeles, Cardiff (a co-production for the BBC), and Becky and I co-produce a Library of Congress series-restorations of historical recordings. In addition, we regularly work with a lot of independent producers: Adam Abeshouse, Judy Sherman, Silas Brown, David Bowles, Steven Epstein, Viggo Mangor and Max Wilcox, are a few that come to mind.
Where do you like to record? Do you edit in house? If so, who does that work, and do you have a digital audio workstation in house?
DS: I prefer recording most things in concert halls. I made my first record at the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1975, and it has always been a favorite venue for solo and chamber music. We record a lot at SUNY/Purchase’s PAC (both Theater A and C), and in LA we’ve been recording in Zipper Hall. In Denmark, we’ve made dozens of orchestral recordings in the Carl Nielsen Hall, and in Warsaw, we use Philharmonic Hall. We edit in house, with Doron Schchter, using Pyramix.
You teach at Curtis and Manhattan School of Music. How does teaching the guitar fit into your artistic life?
DS: Pretty seamlessly. I try to encourage my students to play music that I am interested in, and many of them come to me specifically to study some of the repertoire composed for me. In addition, I try to perform with them, and on numerous occasions have brought them into the recording studio to work in professional situations requiring a good player. I’m fortunate to have drawn superb talent over the years. Many of my former students have gone on to win leading international competitions and pursue successful concert and academic careers.
Is the study of the “classical” guitar different than it was 40 years ago? Has performance practice changed at all?
DS: The guitar has changed radically during the past 40 years. This is mainly because of the increasing requirements of the music composed during this time. When a Britten, or a Carter, or a Berio writes a new work, players need to meet the music with greater understanding and additional technique. History has proven that it is almost always composition that has pushed the art forward.
Who do you feel are the best players of your generation?
DS: My generation? Well, there are a number of very good players who have carried the instrument forward in one way or another. They really are too numerous to list, and any naming of individuals invariably leaves out others who are of equal importance to the guitar’s growth. One generalization I can make with assurance: the players of my generation are easily outstripped, technically, by the players of the next several generations. Current teaching of ‘how’ to play the instrument is light years ahead of where it was when I began as a seven year old.
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