Stephen Goss : Minimal Effort for guitar ensemble in 8 parts
Doberman –Yppan: score and separate parts (31, 10, 11, 7, and 8 pages respectively)
Stephen Goss’ music is literally like no one else’s. Having seen several of his scores over the years I have come to realize this fact. Commissioned by the Tucson Guitar Society and Julia Pernet, it received its first performance in December of 2018 and there is a video on YouTube of the entire piece. The Programme Notes go into some detail as to what the very unusual opening and closing sections are depicting, and the score here is quite a sight in itself, as the first 6 pages and the final 4 consist of a huge variety of effects, e.g. hands sweeping up and down bass strings, sometimes with notes being fretted at the same time, the use of bottleneck, all manner of glissandi, and so on. This takes some considerable time on the recording and the conductor here is essential, because I would think it would be impossible to even consider being on the same beat and in the same bar without one. When the effects stop and the musical notation takes over four parts of harmonics are placed atop some large clashing 6 string chords spread over the final four parts. Then at the close of the chordal section, a sharp and short ponticello section, to be played very dry and full of off – beat rhythms takes over that leads to a new 12/8 part. Here all the guitars collide against one another with their rhythms constantly changing and the actual notes they are playing becoming so complex that themes are to a great degree absent. The music, line by line is not chromatic or atonal by itself, but the effect of all eight sets of players seeming to play almost randomly leaves the effect of a huge sound where little can be picked out and no harmonies or melodies are audible. If that is the effect that the composer intended, namely a sort of huge enveloping soundscape where the size of the whole sound is the important factor, then this is exactly what happens. After a climax has been reached the players revert little by little back to the opening effects and everything closes ppp.
The difficulties of each part are not too advanced but the entire effect, the multiple time signatures and the immense concentration on constantly crossing the beat with every part in a different place means that the difficulties of this piece are considerable. As I said before Stephen Goss writes like no other, but his music is very popular with many players and so if this style appeals and you have a guitar ensemble that are mentally and physically up for it, then this could be right up your street.