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William Kanengiser : Mbira for four guitars Doberman – Yppan



William Kanengiser

Doberman – Yppan: score and separate parts (8, 3, 3, 3, and 3 pages respectively)


This is one of the LACG Guitar Ensemble series, for whom William plays and who are quite rightfully, well known and respected throughout the musical world. This short African based piece can be found in a performance by the LACG on YouTube, but this is a little odd in itself, because there are a few places where the score does not correspond with the recording I was listening to! For example after the first guitar has opened with a four bar repetitive motif on the score (but 8 bars on the recording), guitar 3 enters in the score with a different rhythm entirely from the recording. So I can only assume that the score which is much newer is the composer’s final thoughts on the piece.

Being an African based idea, there is a great deal of repetition and that is the piece’s attraction and yet for some people its downfall, because once you start in the key of E Major, and the few chords that this piece inhabits, you never move away, as there is no development, no contrasting ideas, or keys or speeds.

The music itself is fun and special effects are created with the use of staples on strings 1 & 2, or 2 & 3 depending on which part you are playing. So the first 28 bars are entirely made up of each guitar part having its own motif that repeats continuously. At bar 29, guitar 4 plays a melody imitating a fretless bass by the use of slides etc. Guitar 4 also has the option to use a 7 string guitar with a low A for string 7, should that be available. After a few bars of this, with guitar 3 playing a repeating 2 voiced idea, guitar 2 enters with an off – beat melody. Then guitar 1 has some repeating harmonics on top, until the melody reappears with some extra harmonies. Eventually guitars one and two play the melody in octaves before the opening motif returns for the coda, which consists of the equivalent of a repeat and fade until guitar 1 is left to play the final 2 bars solo. On the recording, incidentally, it is a repeat and fade, and we don’t get to the final two bars of the score as printed here.

The piece is OK, and I suppose that many players will have lots of fun with its immediacy, although I did find it a little lacking in something, but that is just my opinion. Yours might be quite different.


Chris Dumigan


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