A Journal for Western Man

 

 

 

A Review of Christopher Schlegel's Music for

 Electric Guitar and Classical Guitar

G. Stolyarov II

Issue LXXX- November 26, 2006

 

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            Have you ever heard Rossini’s William Tell Overture played on the electric guitar? What about the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet? In his recent compilation of pieces for concert electric guitar, the composer Christopher Schlegel presents these works and more—along with his original compositions for that instrument. In addition, Mr. Schlegel has released a CD of three of his own sonatas for classical guitar. The two collections complement each other wonderfully; the electric guitar music is intense, vigorous, heroic, and highly dynamic. The classical sonatas are nimble, elegant, peaceful, and serene. Both are extremely well-executed and convey what Mr. Schlegel intended: “not merely a general sense of benevolence, but an explicit sense of triumph.” 

Concert Electric Guitar

            In his use of the electric guitar, Mr. Schlegel takes that instrument onto an entirely new level—the plane of high art. Given the clean, powerful, and melodious sounds an electric guitar is capable of, there is no reason why it should not be used in creating compositions of the highest caliber in harmony, melodic structure, and dynamism. Mr. Schlegel confirms this proposition in two ways. First, he rearranges several recognized classical masterpieces for electric guitar—thereby not only maintaining their greatness but also imparting an additional grandeur to them through the resounding, monumental sounds of the instrument. Second, Mr. Schlegel creates additional pieces for electric guitar which are just as meticulously structured, powerfully executed, and intellectually inspiring as the classical masterpieces. The CD alternates between Mr. Schlegel’s own compositions and classical works—underscoring the continuity between past musical greatness and Mr. Schlegel’s endeavor to restore the heroic and uplifting to its proper place in musical composition.

            The first work in the collection—“Magnanimous Man”—takes its title from Aristotle, who wrote: “The magnanimous man is worthy of great things and knows it.” For Aristotle, the magnanimous man is neither vain in overestimating his worth nor humble in denying it—but an accurate estimate of his abilities leads him to comprehend and convey his capacity for illustrious achievements. The magnanimous man’s justified pride is evident in Mr. Schlegel’s composition. It is written in a radiant major and combines powerful chords with passages of rapid movement; when listening to this piece, one gets the impression of a man who exhibits great ability and activity—directing it toward worthy goals while being conscious of his worth and celebrating it.

            The next Schlegel piece in the collection, “Defiance,” has a darker mood to it; it is written in a minor key and conveys a setting of distress and turbulence—against which the defiant man must struggle. The first chords assail the hero of this piece, which then transitions to a solo passage for electric guitar that culminates in a note of tension as the percussion intensifies to magnify the effect toward the end of the first minute. Then begins a directed melody, a single thread composed first of minor chords and then acquiring major elements over time. This is the defiant man’s resistance to the troubles surrounding him; he decides to take a firm stand in working to counteract the onslaught, and his action is a glorious struggle that bears fruit—though it is fraught with obstacles and perturbations that seek to offset his progress—as the periodic return of the minor passages indicates. As the piece ends, the hero is still engaged in his defiance; his obstacle is not yet overcome. It is powerful, but it has not defeated him, and he is better prepared to resist it than he was before.

            I like to interpret the next Schlegel piece, “Life is for the Living,” as a continuation of the story of “Defiance.” The major here is more prevalent, and it dominates the main theme of the melody. But struggle is also present here; during the minor passages, the hero is no longer embattled—but he is challenged. This piece ends in a major key, indicating that the challenges have been resolved and—through the hero’s lengthy and persistent effort—the happinesses of his life have come to outnumber the problems. In his celebration of life, Mr. Schlegel recognizes that life is generally not a calm paradise; rather, it requires extensive work in the face of difficulty to bring about happiness. Yet the struggle to achieve this is worthy and dignified, and a fine reward awaits those who defy hardship nobly. This reward is depicted in Mr. Schlegel’s next original composition, “Glory and Thunder.”

            “Glory and Thunder” is a full-fledged fanfare in celebration of man’s accomplishment and his ability to overcome obstacles in his way. Mr. Schlegel summons the entire potential of the electric guitar to convey an impression of overwhelming, irresistible power—but a power that is on man’s side and fully in his grasp. It can be deployed to meet his purposes at his command. This piece portrays a man who is supreme over his life and can confidently, comfortably annihilate any obstacle to his flourishing.

Classical Guitar Sonatas

            Mr. Schlegel’s sonatas for classical guitar are gentle, nimble, and elegant; their character is aristocratic in the best sense of the term. Any admirer of 19th-century classical guitar music will find Mr. Schlegel’s compositions worthy successors to it; his melodies are as intricate and graceful as any from that period and convey a similar setting of refined, contemplative leisure. The allegro movements are swift and agile—with their melodies developing gradually over time; every measure, Mr. Schlegel introduces some slight change from the prior one—which the discerning listener will notice as he follows the melody; there is plenty to analyze or simply enjoy. The adagio movements are excellent stimulators of peaceful reflection and relaxation; their melodies convey warmth and calm. Each sonata also has a “dance” movement—a minuet or waltz—which is intricately structured and dignified. The first two sonatas—in A Major and in C Major—have a classical European manner to them, while the Sonata in E Minor exhibits a clear Latin flavor. All three works radiate a benevolence that invites the listener into them and rewards his exploration of them with note after pleasant note.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre, Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

Order Christopher Schlegel's Concert Electric Guitar CD here and his Classical Guitar Sonatas CD here.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue LXXX Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.