Leading up to our Ignition Duo show, we will be writing about a few of our composers and performers! Kyle Randall told us a bit about himself in preparation for the big show at the Center for New Music.
Be sure to check out the show at the Center for New Music on February 27.
Tickets will be available at the door, and rest assured we will have Lagunitas beer present, as they have offered their generous support of the arts.
I’m Kyle Randall, and I’m originally from New Hampshire, so I love trees and snow and seasons. I realize this makes me a little weird in the Bay Area, but I don’t really mind. I have to admit, though, as much as it pains me to be away from the storms happening in the east, having spring in January is a pretty nice thing.
I grew up in a household of eclectic but carefully considered ideas, listening to a huge variety of music, from whatever was on the radio to classical recordings to jazz. 70s rock, film scores, and alternative music, though, were particularly big pillars in my life, probably because those were my dad’s favorites. I suppose I got my start in music with Suzuki violin lessons around age three, but I had forgotten how to play before I got into piano a few years later. Even then I never practiced, and I would be a terrible pianist now if I hadn’t started composing around age ten. I remember sitting down to practice a piece and thinking that I didn’t really like it, but then there was this sudden realization that there was nothing stopping me from just making it go the way I wanted, rather than the way it was written. I’ve never stopped composing since then, and have seen my formal musical education as a careful balance between learning the tricks of the trade and avoiding the closed-minded pitfalls that overly academic and intellectual music can sometimes present.
Getting involved with the Ignition Duo was a no-brainer; the electric guitar is one of the most versatile instruments ever developed, and the enormous repertoire (at least in rock-related music) of the 20th Century has expanded its capabilities to an overwhelming number of timbres and techniques. It’s this variety, among other things, that lets bands create so many different “sounds” for themselves, from song to song or band to band. Add to that the fact that I had been itching to write for guitar for a while, as well as the chance to work with another one of the great ensembles that define our generation of new concert music makers in the Bay Area, and it’s the perfect opportunity.
The approach I took in writing for electric guitars is, at least in my mind, a little different from a lot of the concert concert music that uses them, and I think my colleagues followed a similar approach. It seems like a lot of the time when concert music uses electric guitars, it treats them as a direct import from rock—style of playing and all—and while this can be interesting, it definitely feels like a foreign entity from rock-world has been dropped into the concert hall. What I’ve tried to do in my piece is to use the electric guitars not as rock instruments but as instruments in themselves, with all of the versatility that comes even with the most idiomatic of playing. The same way that a piano can easily play things that aren’t “classical piano music”, electric guitars can play things that aren’t what we might think of as “electric guitar music”. With this in mind, it’s been really fun to see what the guitars can do, and to try to use them to paint a musical picture.
It has really been a blast working with Ignition Duo and GCG on this project. For composers, there’s just nothing better than getting to work closely with performers who are really excited to dig into some new music. The opportunity to workshop our pieces several times during the course of the project has been invaluable, especially for something as finicky as writing for guitar, which is famous for both its versatile layout and its frustrating voicing limitations. There’s no better way of writing something that will work well for your performers than actually giving them some music and talking with them about it, and our workshops—especially when they involve more than one of the composers—have led to inspiration and new directions. It’s thanks to all of these things that it has been such an enjoyable and rewarding experience to work with both of these great groups: the Ignition guys for their raw enthusiasm, generous support, and artistry; and GCG for connecting all of us, putting us in contact, and facilitating this whole process. I can’t wait for the concert!
The Guerrilla Composers Guild is a fiscally-sponsored affiliate of the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the service of chamber music in California.
Please consider making a donation to help us put on our future shows! We are proud to be fiscally sponsored by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and would love it if you considered donating. If you would like to donate goods or have a special request with a donation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
The show is also supported in part by Lagunitas, and we are so excited to feature their beers for your enjoyment!