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“…rain, wind and time/blown across the land of a body.” Linda Hogan

April 6, 2016

ramses guitar fretted sideA few months ago I met Ramses Calderon for lunch and during our conversation he told me about a new guitar he had built that was a two-sided model. One side was fretted while the other was not and both had seven strings. Later I followramses guitar unfretteded up with some specific questions to find out about the ideas behind this curious instrument.

[Ramses] I was talking with a friend around 8 years ago about microtonal music, and with the guitar’s conventional set up, we only have semitones and equal temperament. We thought the only way to do quarter tones on the guitar, would be to have a fretless one. At the same time, if you have a fretted one, you could do conventional music as well. So we talked about the possibilities of having both together and how with a double-sided guitar, what would happen to the sound.

We did bit of acoustical study to see if such an instrument could be built and played. When we were satisfied with the plans, my friend sent them plans off to Ecuador, his homeland, to have the first one built. At the same time I sent the plans to El Salvador [my home country] for a second instrument. The first one turned out very nice, it was a bit heavy because of the type of wood used on the neck, but it had a great sound. The second one was significantly better: it’s sound was very open, and had a long decay. I am very happy with it.

ramses guitar rosetteramses guitar side viewThe rosette features the Mayan/Aztec symbol for the universe and the infinite. Everything in life is in constant movement, while at the same time that nothing has happened before or after. Everything happens when and where it is needed. This reminds me how to live while at the same time the dual sides remind me of balance, like the Yin and Yang – the two forces that are also one. The abalone shell comes out of the water, as a Pisces, this reminds me to look after my emotions. Through water flows life.

The rosettes are shaped like a Sun, which is the meaning of my name ‘Ramses’. The seventh string, – the lowest one – can be tuned to C or B and I am at the moment composing some music for the seven string guitar. I am also writing a concerto for guitar and string orchestra for this instrument and I will use both sides. It is the first time I am writing for fretless guitar and it is very exciting: there will be an Ontario tour with 13th Strings Orchestra in Ottawa and Aradia ensamble in Toronto, in the fall of 2016.

One day, while Nasrudin was visiting the court, the Sultan overheard a joke made at his expense. Nasrudin was arrested and imprisoned, accused of slander. Nasrudin apologized for the joke and begged for his life, but the Sultan in his anger, sentenced Nasrudin to be beheaded the next day. The next morning Nasrudin spoke to the Sultan saying: “May you live forever sublime leader. As a skilled teacher, perhaps the greatest in your kingdom, if you delay my sentence for one year, I will teach your favorite horse to sing.”

The Sultan who was no longer angry, did not believe this was possible, but was amused by Nasrudin’s claim. “Very well,” replied the Sultan, “you will have a year and after that time if my favorite horse cannot sing, you will wish your were beheaded today.”

That evening Nasrudin’s friends visited him in prison to find him in very good spirits. “How can you be so happy?” they asked. “Do you believe that you can teach the Sultan’s horse to sing?”

“Of course not,” said Nasrudin, “but now I have a year which I did not have yesterday. Much can happen in that time: the Sultan may repent of his anger, and release me. He may die in battle or of illness, and it is traditional for a successor to pardon all prisoners upon taking office. He could be deposed, and again, all prisoners would be released. The horse may die, in which case the Sultan would release me.”
“Finally,” said Nasrudin, “if none of those things come to pass, perhaps I can teach the horse to sing.”

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