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Interview with the Montreal Guitar Trio

February 11, 2013

This week i have included an interview with the Montreal Guitar Trio listed as MG3 for the rest of the piece.

William Beauvais: MG3 presents a wide variety of music on the guitar, it struck me that the guitar was simply a vehicle for you to communicate and share the music you love to an audience. To what extent do you feel yourselves to be primarily guitaimagesrists and to what extent do your feel yourselves to be simply musicians?

MG3: The guitar is more present than any other instrument in the musics of the world, from East-European to death metal, passing through India (Indian slide guitar), bluegrass, blues, pop, etc. There is a wide range of different techniques on the same instrument. When you’re interested in many musical styles, as we are, you often find yourself trying to imitate a particular effect or musical idea on your instrument. Most of the time it’s not a guitar effect or idea. Working in this way leads to arranging music the same way, so you will then “try to sound” bluegrass, or tango, or Indian when playing that type of music. We think like guitarists when there’s a musical problem, or when something is not effective. We then try to find a solution exploring our guitar background and all the techniques available. But, otherwise we prefer to consider the phrasings of other instruments related to the music we play, or simply the “swing” or the colour of the different music styles. We work hard on guitar technique when rehearsing, but never while performing. I think the main goal is to “build” the music as guitarists and then perform it as musicians.

Q: Playing from memory changes the relationship with the audience, and the relationship you develop with the scores. At what point did you decide to perform only from memory?

MG3: We decided that at the very beginning, even before our first rehearsal. There were a number of different reasons for it, but fundamentally, it has to do with energy. This seemed to us to be the best way to communicate energy, first between ourselves, but also to the audience. As classical guitar students, we had to perform from memory for solo stuff, but we could use the score for chamber music. Performing both ways made us realize that we were more dedicated to the music when playing by heart, more free to interact and most of all, to have more fun! We also wanted to reach a real audience, outside the “guitar milieu” or classical music circles, who could listen to the music and find it fun. Let’s admit that a music stand is a bit formal, and doesn’t especially contribute to a good show. A concert program is, also. We wanted to try something as an “all together” kind of concert where the audience is with us. And, believe me, to get rid of programs, scores, tuxedos and to add a few comments and a relaxed atmosphere (and why not a couple of jokes?) makes everybody much more focused on the music. We believe that now more than ever.

WB: Could you talk a bit about how the group came together and what special things, if any, you do in rehearsal to “own the music” better.

MG3: As I said before, we met during our studies. We all played with the other guys of the trio during college and university. After graduating I was working as a classical department manager in a record store when I realized that I would never do music professionally because I didn’t know how. I had never learned the music business and how to build a career. So I came to the guys with a serious project and together we decided to try everything that could allow us to play the music we wanted as professionals. We began to work more than ever before. Not to complain, but making music as a professional is the most difficult job I know. Of course, nobody would help us, so we had to build our own management from nothing except what we could learn on the job. We planned every aspect of promotion, booking, image, recording and artistry in their ideal form for us, and then tried to make them real. Luckily it went well! Targeting what we really want is still very important. We made many important decisions at the very beginning that are still valid today – like not making compromises easily, like allowing ourselves to make the music we like our own, to stop playing something we have played a lot and – as you experienced yourself – sometimes to change the score a bit when we are convinced of a musical idea that needs changes in the music. Those are still today among the things that make us “own the music” better and keep us going on.

WB: In many ways it sounds like you do some arrangements together, kind of like a rock band: listening to the music together and working out parts. Is this how you arrange the pieces which aren’t written down?

MG3: We don’t work exactly that way. There’s always one single person who’s doing the arrangement, but we experiment a lot as a trio. Most of the time, the new arrangement arrives, completed or not, and we all work on it to make it sound efficient, referring to the musical ideas that we want here and there. Sometimes there’s some “partly arranged only” sections where we will want to try different things or maybe some new technipD1f8RoPMXPeoBYHHPhAGiIavGmO8oRCoIjA6mgGcORFGsyfQsJ-IdRDo1qCWQeeSBVM=s137ques. There’s also this very interesting part of the work where we have the chance to work with other musicians. Working on Indian playing with Master Ravi Naimpally, or gypsy music with a genuine “tsigane” violinist such as Carmen Piculeata, are great experiences for performers. When you play a wide range of traditional musics of the world like we do, the danger of playing world music like “Yankees” is always around. It’s important for us to explore the roots the musical cultures we visit. Since the pre-production of the last album (Garam Masala), we have had the chance to work with outstanding musicians from different cultures, and those have been fascinating experiences. The result of having many of them on the album was really fun too! But, when we work with other musicians, we work more «kind of like a rock band» with them as we build a new part together, section by section, for the new instrument. We have worked that way with many instruments such as banjo, percussion, whistle, tabla, fiddle, and accordion. It really has become a work process for us now, and there’s still more to come.

WB: In some ways, the practice of western art music seeks to attain an ideal like Gould recordings, a one-time perfect rendering of a work. In the theatre, however, directors frequently change things the way you changed Toward the Oasis, [from Juxtapositions by William Beauvais] to reflect the needs of the space, or the talent they have to work with. It seems that MGT follows the “theatrical” model more than some other performers. Could you comment on this?

MG3:We can easily identify with this kind of working process. Everybody knows that there’s a composition aspect in performing, but consequently there’s also a “performing” aspect to composing. Just like such composers as Mahler or Stravinsky who wrote down a load of indications on their scores. But, I believe this particular aspect can always be questioned by a performer who has carefully studied what is submitted, but has an alternative vision of the thing. I personally read, studied and listened to Glenn Gould a lot. I can tell you that the guy was “editing” a lot in the music, especially on repeats, tempi and, mostly, phrasing. One just has to listen to a Beethoven sonata by Gould to be convinced of this. I think that, in the world of outstanding performers that we have access to through recordings, the notion of a “perfect” rendering of the music is just one aspect among others. Effectiveness is another important aspect, and I’ve never met a composer who is against that. We have the chance to play an instrument that still holds many, many unused possibilities, so we have always felt free to use one or two of the possibilities we have discovered in order to make the music more idiomatic on guitars. Gould did that on the piano (his Bach recording process is a genuine “piano” vision of Bach music) and I believe it’s a good path to follow. Sometimes, while working on a piece, one of the guys spontaneously finds a new idea and says: “listen, what if it went like this…” If everybody is convinced after he plays it, it’s difficult to resist the temptation to change the score a bit.

From → Reflections

One Comment
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