The concert was without a doubt an outstanding performance. But there was one piece on Jorge's program that I think it is safe to say slightly eclipsed the others in interest and that was the Sonata Opus 1 of Alban Berg. Berg is known as one of the 3 composers of the 12 tone serialism school of composing. Although after the concert, Jorge explained to us that this particular piece was not based on a tone row (it is roughly based in b minor), it never the less, was highly chromatic in nature. This is the type of composition that (in my opinion) requires several listenings to really get a true understanding of. But never the less there were many things to appreciate in the performance. There was an ebb and flow of intensity, an extremity of range which seemed to use the whole guitar up and down the neck and many unique sonorities and chords. This was Jorge's transcription and several people I talked with thought that it worked on the guitar extremely well. There was a section with harmonics that was ingeniously integrated and the uniqueness of the chords and finger positions was truly amazing to hear and see. Needless to say, I can't wait to here another performance of this and I hope he is able to record it soon.
Some time after the concert, Jorge showed up in the lobby and several of us went over to speak with him. The talk turned immediately to the Berg piece. I was amazed to hear Jorge say that it was a favorite composition of his and that he had been listening to it since he was about 15 years old! Now how many 15 year olds are listening to this kind of music, this was my thought!
The workshop started out with Jorge simply asking if anyone had any technical problems that they would like to discuss. But I believe that Jorge was engaging in a somewhat Socratic attempt to shake up our thinking. Several things were suggested as technical problems. Tension, scale velocity, tone, etc.. but Jorge's answer was that these were not really technical but musical. In other words, almost all technical problems are fundamentally musical in nature!
One of the questions asked was concerning projection. The guitar is generally a soft instrument and playing in large concert halls either alone or with other instruments can be problematic. But Jorge has some very insightful things to say concerning this problem. He pointed out how modern electronic technology had influenced our thinking. That volume and decibel levels are terms derived from technology but are not necessarily the way musicians should think. An analogy was made with photography and reality. A photo does not convey all of the information of an object or scene compared to when we see it in reality. The perception of depth in space is a representation in a photo and not real. Jorge suggested there is something similar with sound. That sound has depth and is more than just making adjustments to volume or decibel level. Jorge suggested that expressiveness and purity of tone are factors in music which provide depth.
Next, Jorge moved on to some discussion of position. He suggested that position is of primary importance when it comes to solving or acquiring certain facilities. Position is a structure and the inter-relatedness of hands and body were emphasized.
At this point, Jorge went into a more detailed discussion of right hand technique. He suggested that the right hand is much more difficult to master than the left in classical guitar because the right hand is constantly moving. Jorge spent some time discussing how the fingers of the hand move and curl as well as how the fingers are when they are at rest. He pointed out that holding a position contrary to this could create tension. Fingers tend to naturally move towards the thumb.
Jorge related right hand strokes to walking. He was critical of the idea of alternation as being moving two fingers in opposite directions. Rather, he described a stroke as a circular motion of tension and release. The finger reaches out to pluck and then relaxes and when it relaxes, it simply returns to it's resting point and is not forced. For rest stroke, Jorge suggested that one should think of resting on the string and not the string which is plucked.
Jorge also brought up the concept of seeing your hand. That is, it is very difficult to learn something without being able to see it clearly with both eyes when you are practicing. He said that he frequently has a student put the guitar on his lap and do a right hand section and that most often, the student could do the section without trouble (because he could clearly see his fingers and his brain could make adjustments easily to coordinate the action) whereas when he played normally the student could not. I thought this was an ingenious approach. It is very common in many athletic activities (like tennis or baseball) to make sure you can see clearly.
In discussing velocity, Jorge suggested using a thin tone and less of the finger. A thick tone would be counter productive and unnecessary since it would be producing larger movements and less clarity.
Anyone who has seen Jorge play I think would agree that he is extremely efficient. His hand motions are economical and slight. One of the more practical things he suggested is to play scales where the right hand fingers only move about half way between the two strings. This will cultivate economy of motion.
The workshop went quickly and many of us there felt that we had only scratched the surface of Jorge's unique ideas and approach to playing the guitar. I asked him if he has ever considered writing down his thoughts and he said he is at a point now when he would be able to do it. I hope he is able to do this soon as I really sensed a very well thought out approach and a stimulating way of communicating it as I listened in the workshop.
These are some pretty rough notes but I hope you have gotten a taste of what Jorge has to offer as a master and teacher of classical guitar. I hope I get a chance to hear him again in the near future!