Mesut Özgen - New Dimensions in Classical Guitar

Mesut Özgen and friends in a multimedia performance

Program includes five premieres, featuring works by Christopher Pratorius, Robert Strizich, Pablo Ortiz, Robert Beaser, Anthony Gilbert, Anthony Newman, Carlo Domeniconi, Deepak Ram, and Benjamin Verdery.

Visual Artists: Gustavo Vazquez (video and stage choreography), Peter Elsea (digital images and multimedia design), and David Lee Cuthbert (scenic/lighting design and stage choreography).

Guest Performers: Deepak Ram (bansuri), Annette Bauer (recorder), and Lauren Rasmussen (soprano).

Friday, March 5 7:30 pm
Saturday, March 6 7:30 pm

The University of California Santa Cruz Music Center Recital Hall, as part of the 2003-04 Arts & Lectures season $23/$19 call: 831-459-2159 or or UC Santa Cruz
Mesut Özgen's web-site Mesut Özgen

Saturday, March 13 8 pm
The Mello Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the 2004 season Artists in Residence Performance Series of Pajaro Valley Performing Arts Association, 250 E. Beach St. Watsonville, CA. $15/$12 call: 831-763-4047or Tickets


Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo (1) by Christopher Pratorius
I. Introducción y Danza
II. Canto
III. Estudio

La Guitarra for soprano, guitar, and percussion (1),(2),(4) by Robert Strizich with Lauren Rasmussen, soprano

Sortija (1),(2) by Pablo Ortiz

Shenandoah by Robert Beaser

Gigue by Anthony Newman


Stars for recorder and guitar (3) by Anthony Gilbert with Annette Bauer, recorder

Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song by Carlo Domeniconi
Uzun ince bir yoldayim by Asik Veysel

Surya for bansuri and guitar (1),(2),(5) by Deepak Ram with Deepak Ram, bansuri

Be Kind All the Time for guitar and electronics (1),(2),(6) by Benjamin Verdery

(1) Written for Mesut Ozgen
(2) World premiere
(3) American premiere
(4) Commissioned with funding from the Porter College Hitchcock Poetry fund
(5) Supported in part with funding from the Porter College
(6) In this work, Mesut plays a 2003 Gil Carnal guitar with D-TAR pick-up system (under-saddle and under-nut double transducer), D-TAR Digital Modeler, Line 6 Delay Modeler and Boss DD-20 Giga Delay; in other works, he plays a 1995 Simon Marty guitar
-This event is partially funded by a grant from the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts


New Dimensions in Classical Guitar is the collaborative effort of a multidisciplinary artistic team. Each musical composition is accompanied by a visual composition comprising video, interactive computer images, and particularized lighting design and stage choreography. I have been so lucky to have this opportunity to collaborate with such a talented artistic team as Gustavo Vazquez, Peter Elsea, and David Cuthbert for about two years. Each one of them brought their expertise generously from their respected art to this special presentation of classical guitar performance.

The video images support the music in various ways, setting an emotional mood through an abstract use of landscapes, animate and inanimate objects. Gustavo has prepared the video footage, exploring the relationship of sound as vibration and image as color temperature, which appears to be an abstraction to our rationality in many ways.

Peter creates animated digital image patterns and manipulates them during the performance. His Visualizations Project is an exploration of methods to make visual images and performed music cohesive by generating and modifying images with the sound. A computer program analyzes the sound of the performer for volume, pitch, and timbre during the performance. This information is then used to produce the projected images.

The scenery and lighting design also set the mood of each piece and support the music by transforming the stage subtly during the performance according to the changing musical content, both between and within the same piece. David's interest in multimedia as a theatrical device for story telling for years has led him to develop new design approaches for the New Dimensions in Classical Guitar.

This interdisciplinary collaboration between several art forms (music, visual arts, digital media, and theatre arts) aims to push the traditional boundaries of these art forms to explore visually enhanced stage presentations in classical music performance. I would like to thank Gustavo, Peter, and David for contributing tremendously to this event with great dedication and artistry.
Mesut Özgen


As an image maker in this collaboration, I was inspired both by Mesut Özgen's precise gift as a guitarist and his sensibility in interpreting the composer's work on stage. The composer's notes were pivotal when I considered the type of images I would create for this piece. I have attempted to link a visual association germane to the origins of each piece of music. This concert has offered me the opportunity to bring together my interests and training in painting, photography, and filmmaking.

In Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo second movement, Canto, I chose the light house as a metaphor for the woman that waits for a friend, a lover. The music evokes a stoic distance and a solitary vigilance for his return. In La Guitarra, I am interested in bringing to the foreground the poetics of Garcia Lorca and my personal connection to classical guitar. I feature the actual text of the poem and my visit with Don Baltazar who was an old man that introduced me to this art form. His story contrasted the rough life of a miner living close to the land in the mountains of Mexico and the delicate talent of a classical guitarist.

Sortija is a very joyous song with kinetic energy. I chose to combine images of art studios and merry-go-rounds that allude to the colorful qualities of the music. For Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song, I was inspired by the words,  "On a long and narrow road walking day and night unaware of the condition I am." I decided to use images of old places and then purposefully create motion and abstraction of colors. I intend to call to mind the spirit of places and a pondering of each being's mysterious life. In Surya for Bansuri and Guitar, I created the visual work to resemble a tapestry for the master musicians to luxuriate on while they play their instruments.
Gustavo Vazquez


The visualization techniques used here are in two styles. In most of them, you will see images generated from some aspect of the sound, which are then processed in various ways. This is similar to what happens in iTunes and MediaPlayer, but there is one important difference: the process is under the control of a human being at all times. So, the graphics do not change randomly but are shaped to follow and fit the performance. Depending on the skill of the visualizer (?) the images will react to tempo, form and mood in a way that supports rather than distracts from the music.

For "Stars", I have taken a different approach. Just as the composition is based on the composer's impressions of the woodcut, the graphics are my own interpretation or gloss on the picture. Maurits Escher did not just sit down one afternoon in 1948 and draw "Stars". He spent a major part of his life designing geometric figures and working with the mathematics of projection. Prior to "Stars" he built models of all of the figures (and many more), dozens of drawings, and produced a preliminary woodcut "Study for Stars". During this time I suspect he was even dreaming about these figures. What you will see might be one of those dreams.

For the technology addicted, all of my visualizations are produced in real time using the program "Jitter" by Joshua kit Clayton and David Zicarelli.
I'm dedicating my part of this concert to my father, Carl A Elsea, who lived a life of frugality and sacrifice so that I could indulge in artistic nonsense.
Peter Elsea


Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo by Christopher Pratorius
"Sonata: Ondas do Mar de Vigo" is my first large guitar piece. It is based on a Spanish song by the medieval troubadour Martin Codax, from Portugal. The song is classified as a Cantiga de Amigo or "friendship song." The genre is characterized by the longing of a young woman for a lover who has gone. Typically, the "friend" is supposed to meet her by the sea and never arrives. The title of the song used as the basis for this piece is "Waves of the Sea of Vigo." I began with an in depth analysis of both the poetry and the melody. It is a strophic song, with four verses. I decided to mirror that structure with four movements. In one movement, the structure of the whole poem, with its subtle repetitions and variations, was the basis. In another, the structure of the melody was used. The other movements were freely composed, but still work within the context of the larger form. My idea was to do a set of structural variations that takes into account every aspect of the original, not to reproduce similar but slightly different copies, but to project the structure of the original song in a way that would be quite unexpected. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Mesut, not only for encouraging me to write this piece, but also for being a genuine partner. He tackled a difficult piece, analyzed it for hours so he could understand my musical logic, brought passion and artistry to it, and also contributed many original ideas to the project. The most obvious contribution is an arpeggiation pattern that he suggested for the last movement, which has added a great deal of excitement to the only hearing of the original melody. Thank you, Mesut!

La Guitarra for soprano, guitar, and percussion by Robert Strizich
I first encountered Federico García Lorca's evocative poem La Guitarra when I was an undergraduate music student at the University of California at Berkeley. The poem was displayed in a coffee and sandwich shop I used to frequent on the north side of the Berkeley campus, elegantly inscribed on the stucco wall in the original Spanish. In the course of my regular visits to this coffee shop, I became intimately familiar with the poem, and resolved that some day I would set it to music.

However, the idea for this project lay dormant for many years. But for some reason, when invited recently by guitarist Mesut Ozgen to write some music for a series of new works he was planning to perform, it seemed, finally, like just the right time to set Lorca's poem to music.

La Guitarra appeared originally as one section of a longer poem entitled "Poema de la siguiriya gitana," which appeared in 1921 in a collection of Lorca's poetry entitled "Poema del cante hondo." All the works in this collection were inspired by flamenco music and dance, subjects about which Lorca was extremely knowledgeable, and which influenced much of his creative output. In my setting of the poem for soprano and guitar, I have tried to combine some of my current compositional interests with references to the flamenco styles that inspired Lorca's poetry. In fact, the piece is cast in the form of a seguiriya, which - with its regular alternation between 3/4 and 6/8 meter - is one of the most venerable and profound forms of cante hondo. The inclusion of wine glasses, to be played as a percussion instrument by the soprano, seemed like an obvious, but nevertheless necessary and inevitable, contribution to the setting.

Sortija by Pablo Ortiz
Sortija is a large ring used in Argentinean merry-go-rounds. The kids try to grab the Sortija out from a pear-like wooden container. The person holding this container alternatively prevents or facilitates the children's grabbing efforts. Whoever gets the Sortija is eligible for a free ride. The piece was written for Mesut Ozgen, who kindly helped me sort out some of the mysteries of his fascinating instrument.

Shenandoah by Robert Beaser
The original tune "Shenandoah" was popular on American sailing vessels in early New England. Later the regular cavalry carried the song west. Shenandoah is the name of an Indian chief who lived along the Missouri River. The singer portrays a man who has fallen in love with the chief 's daughter. It is thought that the song originated with the loggers or rivermen who taught it to sailors in port. The sailors took the song to sea and used it as a shanty, or work song, while loading cargo.

Beaser's Shenandoah, commissioned by Rodrigo Riera International Guitar Composition Contest held in Caracas, Venezuela in August 1995, is not a set of variations, but comprises various sections in an arch-like form: beginning quietly, building up the tension gradually, and ending softly. This arch-like emotional process is thus the composer's main request of the performer, reflecting the musical equivalent of the song's story from his point of view. The original tune can be heard sometimes in part, and sometimes complete, in arpeggio, chord, and tremolo sections on the trebles or bass, and sometimes disguised in a contrapuntal texture. When I worked with Beaser in preparation for the premiere performance at Yale Guitar Festival in 1995, he played all transitions from section to section on the piano for me in order to demonstrate the overall structure. He also gave me a lot of room not only to discover the most effective fingering, timbre, and idiomatic positions, but also to explore various textures, especially in chordal sections, by providing as many as ten notes and allowing me to choose the ones that I felt most appropriate to the particular context. During the several months of work, Eliott Fisk provided many valuable fingering suggestions and added beautiful harmonics in the lyrical sections.

Gigue by Anthony Newman
The Gigue is part of a larger suite, neo-baroque in style [commissioned by luthier Thomas Humphrey and written for Benjamin Verdery]. My system of harmony is to use older background harmonic motions and then fill them in with added notes, which either spice the harmony, or all right replace them. This is how music gradually progressed through Brahms and Wagner, and later Stravinsky. Besides the "spiked" harmonies, rhythmic substitutes abound, much more so than in the works of Bach, they are more like raga substitutes.

Stars for recorder and guitar by Anthony Gilbert
The piece takes as its point of reference a wood-engraving by Maurits Escher in which a number of single, double and triple geometrical solids float through space around a giant central composite of interlocking stars imprisoning two dragons or chameleons. The music has nine such elements, related but extremely contrasted. Strictly speaking, the elements should float freely around each other in any order, but for practicalities of performance I have been obliged, like Escher, to fix them in a specific relativity to each other, some recurring, some interlocking. Some of the elements tax the players' capabilities to extremes: these are the dragons!

Variations on an Anatolian Folk Song by Carlo Domeniconi
This is one of Carlo Domeniconi's most successful works based on Turkish folk music. The theme employed, Uzun ince bir yoldayim, is a famous folk song written by Asik Veysel (1894-1973), an influential Turkish folk musician. Domeniconi's variations reflect the quasi-improvisatory character of this kind of music very well, especially in the final section of the piece. Asik Veysel is one of the most renowned representatives of the "asik" tradition in the 20th century, which dates back to the 15th century in Anatolia. The Asik (a kind of troubadour), singing poetry (mostly their own) and playing the saz, has become the voice of common people, expressing their relationship with their land; their loves, inner conflicts, and expectations--generally depicting all aspects of rural life. Veysel's poetry is metrical, using predominantly 8- and 11-syllable meters. His melodic patterns, trills, and particular emphases result in a unique musical character. The video created for this piece by Gustavo Vazquez features two pictures of Asik Veysel: a photograph by Yucel Yonal (provided by Asik Veysel Cultural Association, Ankara) and a color painting by Rahmi Pehlivanli, which is owned by the Ankara State Painting and Sculpture Museum.

Surya for bansuri and guitar by Deepak Ram
While I have written a few works based on elements of Indian music for western classical musicians, this is the first work that includes myself as a performer. I am thrilled to perform this with guitarist Mesut Ozgen. The guitar part is all through composed, while the bansuri part, with the exception of the main melody, is all open for improvisation, which is the quintessence of North Indian Classical music. To create open spaces for me to improvise and have meeting points to synchronize with the guitar was an interesting challenge. This piece, therefore would be different each time its performed, and at some point I would score the improvised bansuri part, making it available to be performed by a western flute or oboe, also a new version for string orchestra, concert harp and bansuri. The work is based entirely on a south Indian raga known as Kirwani which has a scale comparable to the harmonic minor scale E F# G A B C D# E, and has seven short movements, each emulating an element of Indian music, such as alap, jor, jhala, gat, and taan. It also uses three time signatures: 4/4, 7/8 and 6/8. As a performer I am constantly influenced and inspired by my teacher, the great master Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, and as an aspiring composer my greatest influence is the great master Pandit Ravi Shankar. I humbly dedicate this piece to him. I decided to call this piece Surya, which is one of the many names of the sun, Ravi being another.

Be Kind All the Time by Benjamin Verdery
Be Kind All The Time is an electric classical guitar piece using digital delay, loops, volume pedal, chopsticks, slide bar, and paper clips in three connected sections. Each section has one simple featured melody with the materials surrounding being more harmonic and rhythmically based. The piece is in scordatura tuning of C, A, Bb, F, C and E (from the sixth string to the first). Both the harmonic and melodic materials are derived from this tuning.

In the first section there is a brief passage of two bars that are looped. The guitarist will record six parts, which repeat a specific number of times. Nothing is prerecorded. The opening motive serves as a driving force of the last section. In the middle section, the performer is asked to use a chopstick (preferably Japanese style), which will be put underneath the strings at the 19th fret and slid down over the frets to the fifth fret where it will act as a capo. While repeated chords are being played and heard in the delay, the guitarist will insert three paperclips on the lower three strings. The rest of the section will be played with the other chopsticks and a slide bar. The performer is sometimes asked to play behind the chopstick on the fifth fret. The middle and last sections utilize a digital delay of three measures, allowing the performer to play in a duet or trio with the delay.
The piece was commissioned by and written for Mesut Ozgen. It is dedicated to H.H. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.