Evan Hirschelman is an extraordinarily talented guitarist and composer. He has received top prizes in numerous international guitar competitions such as the prestigious Stotsenberg Guitar Competition and his new composition Lament and Wak
e was recently recorded by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet
, on their Grammy Award
winning compact disc Guitar Heroes
. His debut recording Water in Darkness
will be available later this year.
For more information about Evan Hirschelman go to www.theguitarist.net
GM: Please tell us about the piece recorded by LAGQ recently. What was your experience working with such incredible personalities of the music world? How much did you get to interact with the quartet as they
were learning the piece and what was that like?
EH: I remember listening to the LAGQ play Ian Krouse's Folias
in high school and wearing out the compact disc. To say the least, it was a pleasure getting the LAGQ commission. One day I was having dinner with Scott Tennant and he told me how much the LAGQ liked my solo work Homage to Michael Hedges
and he asked if I would be interested in writing a new composition in that style for guitar quartet. I enjoy rock and metal music and I thought about how much fun it would be to have the LAGQ "rock out", with tapping, slapping and certain aggressive characteristics. I have had numerous people tell me they hear Primus, Hedges, and Tool in Lament and Wake
- so I guess the fusion of influences worked out.
The guys in the LAGQ are easy going, affable people. They are obviously top notch musicians and are amazing sight readers. In the preparation for recording Lament and Wake
, I attended a couple rehearsals and worked with certain members individually. Only Andrew York was familiar with the extended techniques I used, so I needed to show the others how to tap and slap (bass-style) cleanly. Bill Kanengiser not only learned the extended techniques for the recording but also handled the "ripping" arpeggio/slur section in the movement "Wake" which constantly changes meter from 7/16 to 9/16. There is an article from Sound & Vision magazine about the recording of Lament and Wake.
GM: We would like to know about your music. What kinds of pieces have you written and what instruments are they for? Are they available commercially? Do you write works by commission?
EH: Most of my pieces are for solo guitar, but I have also written for piano, string quartet, guitar duo, and guitar quartet. All of my compositions are (or will be) available on my website at www.theguitarist.net
. Besides my own publishing, I am in current talks with a couple of music publishers, but I am not sure if I will join them yet. Sheet music publishers usually want to have ownership of their compositions. In most instances I don't think it makes sense for composers to give away their copyright, especially when it is so easy to distribute one's music on the Internet without a middleman.
Luckily, I have been receiving commissions. They can be very stimulating, because they might involve researching something new and exciting. I recently completed a new piece for the Chinese virtuoso Xuefei Yang which appears on her new CD Si Ji
(GSP Records). She requested that the work contain some elements of Chinese music. I embarked on a study of traditional Chinese music and its most recognizable instrument - the pipa. After considerable reflection, I took these Chinese characteristics and shot them through the prism of my current compositional language and came up with the piece 3 Meditations.
GM: What projects are you working on presently? What plans do you have for the near future?
EH: I am finishing up my extrapolation of the piece Textures for guitar quartet
(including Lament and Wake) for solo guitar. I am also writing an Indian-Raga influenced piece and a set of etudes for guitarists of all levels. These etudes will include standard and extended techniques like percussion and tapping. Lately, I have been working on my upcoming CD Water in Darkness
. It contains original works along with some other contemporary compositions. The wonderful guitarist Scott Tennant joins me for a couple duos on the CD. Otherwise I spend my time teaching guitar and composition out of my private studio and at the Musicians Institute (GIT), where I am a full-time faculty member.
GM: Lets talk about the creative process. What are the driving forces that inspire you as a composer? How are your musical ideas born?
EH: Many of my compositions are born from simple ideas - an invigorating rhythm, a certain texture, a short phrase that catches my ear. Often when listening to other composers, I find myself wishing the composer had developed a certain section more or used a different embellishment, which invariably leads me to create variations on a similar idea which often becomes the seed of a new composition. I revel in my influences and never feel overly influenced by them since they are always focused through my personal lens - my unique view of the world.
GM: Evan, please tell us a bit about your roots. Where did you grow up?
Where did you study? Who influenced you in your formation process?
What kinds of artists did you admire?
EH: I was born and raised in Michigan. I first began my musical explorations on the electric guitar at age 12. In high school I mainly studied jazz, fusion and metal music. One day my parents took me to a Kazuhito Yamashita concert and that piqued my interest in classical guitar. It was the first time I heard such virtuoso repertoire on the classical guitar. My parents were extremely supportive of my musical interests and constantly encouraged me to go further. From there on, I really explored as much classical repertoire as I could, especially falling in love with 20th century music.
After high school I attended Indiana University, Bloomington, which is the only place I formally studied music composition. Then I continued my Bachelor's degree at the University of Arizona, Tucson, which was a wonderful experience. I gained a lot of guitar technique refinement there. After Tucson, I moved to Los Angeles to teach and do my Master's degree at the University of Southern California. The faculty at USC really helped me grow as a composer and are still a constant encouragement. Besides some of them performing my compositions, they often give me great ideas on my works in progress.
In regards to artists that I admire, it is a long list. I am still exploring as much as I can. As a performer Julian Bream has been a big influence. His artistry is way above most of his contemporaries. He was one of the few guitarists who constantly performed such inspired interpretations and wasn't afraid to take technical challenges if the specific music called for it. Lately I have been enjoying classical guitar CDs by artists such as Aniello Desiderio, Scott Tennant and Tilman Hoppstock. There are so many composers that inspire me like Steve Reich, Ian Krouse, Ginastera, Rush, Gorecki, Michael Hedges, Pink Floyd, Cynic, etc.. There are too many to name...
GM: What do you think are the elements required for one of your compositions
to be successful? Do you write having a specific target audience in mind?
EH: I usually am struck by an overriding emotion of a piece. That is the most critical aspect I look for. After creating something I find harmonically interesting, I then look to escape certain patterns within my music by changing time signatures, developing motivic relationships in different ways, etc. When I write a piece, I don't think about what audience I am writing for. I assume it will be a hodgepodge of people and I should just try to stay true to myself when composing. I'd like to think my works are appealing to people who enjoy numerous styles.
GM: Thank you for speaking with us.
EH: You’re welcome.