Gravity and Air sketch.jpg

Scordatura Suite

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for solo classical guitar
duration: 18'
first performance: 11 May 2004; Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, NJ; Andrew McKenna Lee, electric guitar
availability: for sale
recording: Gravity and Air (SSR001-2009)


Scordatura Suite is a collection of three pieces for solo guitar, completed in 2003. The word  “scordatura” means “mistuning” in Italian, and refers to the practice of tuning an instrument to a different set of pitches from what is considered its “standard” tuning. 

Scordatura tunings provide a much greater diversity of harmonic and contrapuntal possibilities on the guitar, an instrument that has a large, but limited, number of intervallic combinations available to the left hand. By altering the tuning of the guitar, different chords and voicings become possible that would not be otherwise. I find these different tunings help me to think “outside the box” of what my hands might end up doing naturally as I improvise, which is always an important part of my creative process.

The individual movement titles of the Scordatura Suite, and their tunings (low to high), are:

  • Arabescata (DADGAD)
  • Gravity and Air (CGDAAD)
  • Dizzying Array (AAEGDE)

In spite of studying classical guitar for many years, these pieces are inextricably entwined with my formative experiences as a rock guitarist. Much of my work has been preoccupied with finding an effective, creative middle ground between the seemingly disparate traditions of classical and rock music. In these particular works, I found myself exploring parallels between the heavy ornamentation frequently found in Baroque music (especially the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti) and the heavily improvised, blues-influenced playing of great rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix.