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GBHC - Interwoven Words and Music - Captivating the Listeners

Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHCReading - Recital Concert

Calling itself a "Reading-Recital," the duo of Glenn Kurtz (reader) and Aaron Larget-Caplan (guitarist) staged a great performance at the thirteenth Greater Boston House Concert.  Himself a guitarist who gave up the classical guitar, then returned to it ten years later, Glenn wrote "Practicing:  A Musician’s Return to Music" in 2007. 

He describes it as a book not consisting of bad poetry about music but a poetic book about the practice of music. His book was likened to a musical composition in word form.

Aaron is an accomplished guitarist who enthusiastically practices his chosen form of artistic expression and who enables others to express themselves artistically as well.

Part I - "Sitting down"

Reading: "I am sitting down to practice,  I open the case and take out my instrument, a classical guitar made from the door of a Spanish church.  I strike a tuning fork against my knee and hold it to my ear, then gently pluck an open string."

Glenn talked about his writing style:  "When I was working on the book, as a musician, one of the things I dislike the most is writing about music. I hate reading about music. Because you're supposed to listen to music not read about it. Writing about music is what I call "bad poetry." So what I concentrated on was the sensation of playing the guitar. What was it like to play the guitar? Not what this the sound of the guitar convey to you. What do you feel like to play it?"

Excerpt:  "My attention warms and sharpens, and I shape the notes more carefully.  I remember now that music is vibration … is a kind of breathing, an exchange of energy and excitement."

As he read, his words constructed the narrative through carefully visualizing real objects and gently constructing people and circumstances that made us laugh heartily.  Always a journey - the guitar became the Spanish guitar and the stories took us to its predecessor the lute and to the intimacies of a time in history brought alive through the importance of the musical instruments.

To which Aaron played a Bach Prelude and Fugue without the assistance of a score and on a new guitar made from a comination of Indian Rosewood (1976 and seasoned) on the back and an Italian spruce on the face, the same species that Stradivarius used.

Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC

Part II "Flute players have beautiful lips …"

Excerpt  "The urge passes.  Smashing the guitar might feel good - for a moment.  BUt it won't solve the problem.  It's not the instrument's fault that I'm stuck; it's mine."

Allen (attendee) said he "loved it - the intimate setting - not so stuffy as other classical concerts.  Glenn’s writing is poetic and the reading got me into a trance. In the last section, he used no imagery because it reflected the culmination of the practice.  And Aaron’s playing was excellent."

Another Bach on guitar followed - Aaron played Suite in E-minor, BWV 996, again without score.

Part III - "The guitar has its own particular spirit."

Excerpt:  "It takes courage to play new music; it takes courage to be a musician at all.  But it takes more, so much more, to remain a musician, to let yourself be shaped by music, however, it speaks to you."

During the Q&A at the end of the concert, a member of the audience asked: "I have a question for Scott and Charles.  How close to what you wrote (lots of raucous laughter) did Aaron play your piece?"  Scott was Scott Wheeler who had composed Nachtlied in 2008; Charles was Charles Turner who had composed "White Potatoes" in 2012.  Both composers were in the audience.

Charles: Paul Hindemith always said: "I don't need your my pieces performed because it all sounds much better in my head anyway."  I feel exactly the opposite. I feel the performance almost always sounds better than what I heard in my head. And that was the case today.

Scott described the process of how his composition becomes understood by the performing artist.  Aaron began learning the new composition with the goal of having the performance sound as close to the intention of the composer.  On that basis, Scott responded by asking Aaron for a different "resonance" so Aaron re-fingered the piece. "It’s a conversation," Aaron said.  "We work out how to perform the piece based on the goals of the composer and the limitations of the instrument." 

Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC

Part IV - "The classical guitar hasn’t always been sweet."

Excerpt:  "I take my instrument from its case, then strike a tuning fork against my knee and hold it to my ear.  The guitar is perfectly in tune."

A member of the audience asked:  "Do you think you found your voice as a writer of literature - one of a group of artists that have crossed over from music into another art form? 

Glenn answered:  "A voice is an orchestra.  My book was written in the same way the score of a piece of music would be done.  In many ways, I practice writing in the same way I practiced guitar.  There are some sentences that I work on, over and over and over again until I get it to sound the way I want.   But always the performance of either music or words will change the composition."

Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC

Part V - "The blue guitar."

Excerpt:  "I listened, and I knew that the time, my effort, and my dreams of music were not waiting to be reclaimed but were irretrievably lost.  I put my guitar back in the closet and left it there. I had to let the whole story go.  After ten years I’d finally quit.  I became a former musician."

David said:  "It was wonderful.  I really liked the concert a lot - both artists, the way their work was interwoven. I knew that the performance moving back and forth like that would be very comfortable but I wasn’t sure how.  I came to explore.  And the guitar pieces chosen reflected perfectly the readings."

The concert began at 8pm and at 10:30pm when the instruments and Q&A recessed for wine and cheese, the audience members could barely imagine that so much time had passed.

Thanks to Aaron for another great performance and thanks to Glenn for taking us on a journey - a tactile and reflective journey and one that culminated in a symphony of words sounding like an orchestra playing music.  


Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC

Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC Glenn Kurtz and Aaron Larget-Caplan Perform at GBHC


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Posted: January 13, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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