Stephen Yates Guitarist

My Compositions

My works for solo guitar represent an amalgamation of musical experiences. Over the years I have studied and performed a wide variety of music and have found inspiration in every area. As a result, on a purely musical level I might find myself blending early 20th century composers such as Ravel or Prokofiev with perhaps old Irish harp music or music from such disparate places as China or central Africa. I do this because there are of course a great many things that these seemingly disparate styles have in common, certain scales, certain types of phrase, certain expressive tendencies. Such blends are not unprecedented, in the 1970s many progressive rock bands would mix blues with “early” music to produce a wholly new musical language and I have found myself drawing considerable inspiration from this area as well.

On a guitaristic level where one is dealing with matters of sonority and physical aptitude of the music to the player’s hands, I have learned a lot from flamenco guitarists. Their skilful use of open strings to colour the sound is a technique I employ frequently. So many prominent works for classical guitar have been written by non-guitarists that it has become the accepted norm for the player to endure endless barrés and generally use stopped notes rather than let the instrument “breathe” and resonate. It’s well worth remembering that the great works for piano were written by pianists who were constantly looking for ways to maximise the sound and find new tone colours. The guitar works of, say, Paco de Lucia are closer in this respect to the piano works of Chopin or Liszt than are the compositions of composers such as Castelnuovo Tedesco or Ponce, fine works though they are. I have also found inspiration in the steel string repertoire and have composed a couple of pieces in “DADGAD” tuning which brings a wonderful richness to the instrument.

Throughout the disparity of my guitar works there is one constant and that is the attempt to express a grandeur that I feel much of the repertoire lacks. There is a truism amongst the classical guitar community that the instrument must remain “intimate” and that large scale expression is something that it cannot effectively achieve. I would refute this. Although the classical guitar is not physically especially loud, its expressive voice is as capable of majesty and gravitas as any instrument.

  • Suite Picaresque
    The term, “picaresque” is used to describe a type of fiction that focuses arounda character often described as, “roguish but appealing”, a sort of “anti-hero*. This short suite of three pieces attempts to evoke the three main aspects of such a character. The first movement is titled “Inception” and evokes the innocence of early childhood… Read more: Suite Picaresque
  • Barcarole
    The melody for this piece came to me in the late 1990s and I carried it about for 25 years or so, saying to myself every so often, “I really must make it into a piece for guitar”. Finally, at the end of 2022 I got around to doing so. The piece has a distinctly… Read more: Barcarole
  • Braziliana
    This melody came to me quite suddenly a few years ago and I had the piece in an embryonic form for a long time before finally sitting down and completing it. The music is both lively and yet laid back at the same time. It has its reflective moments, but the overall mood is festive… Read more: Braziliana
  • Crowdance
    This short and fiery piece took me only a day or two to compose. The idea came suddenly and all that was required was to mold it into a coherent form. The music is wild and eldritch with moments of eerie calm.
  • The Four Muses of Mr Rossetti
    This suite, The Four Muses of Mister Rossetti, is a group of four pieces, each of which attempts to evoke one of the four women who served as inspiration for the English artist and poet, Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, better known as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founder members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. The… Read more: The Four Muses of Mr Rossetti
  • Grand Elegy
    This weighty piece has undergone a number of name changes and actually appears on YouTube as “Queen Anne’s Revenge”. That name seemed apt at the time as it refers to the name of Blackbeard’s most famous ship and I felt that it was in keeping with the somewhat “swashbuckling” nature of the piece as well… Read more: Grand Elegy
  • Io Pan
    I began this piece in 1994 but did not complete it until 2010. Surprisingly, a great many of my initial intentions still remained in my mind and I was able to pick up where I left off but with the benefit of a greater skill in writing for the instrument. The music follows a series… Read more: Io Pan
  • Music for an Old Photograph
    Whilst looking at an old photo taken in 1970 of my tiny rural primary school where I and my erstwhile classmates and teachers stood smiling innocently, this music suddenly inflicted itself upon me and I was forced to bring it into being. Although I wrote this piece in 2017 when I was performing exclusively on… Read more: Music for an Old Photograph
  • Summers Spent
    An evocation of childhood summers, this was the first piece I wrote when, in 2009 I decided to abandon standard classical repertoire to concentrate solely on my own works for solo guitar. At the time I was using a steel strung instrument as a means to free myself from my previous conceptions regarding playing and… Read more: Summers Spent
  • Lament for a forgotten story
    In the past music was used as an accompaniment to the recitation of epic tales and sagas. I like the idea of a piece of music that represents the backdrop to a tale that has been forgotten so that only the music remains and it is up to the listener to imagine what the story… Read more: Lament for a forgotten story
  • Meditation
    The most melancholy of my works, Meditation is a piece it is hard to make any concrete statement about, it is quite abstract. However, I did intend to convey an air of solitude as though the music reflects private thoughts and feelings, perhaps of loneliness.
  • Trajectory X
    When making the first drafts for this piece, I had in mind the last movement of “Koyunbaba” by Carlo Domeniconi with its use of multiple hammer ons and pull offs. Like that piece, “Trajectory X” uses a non standard tuning, in this case “DADGAD”, a tuning common with steel string players. For some reason the… Read more: Trajectory X

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