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Tim Sparks


Guitar Bazaar

Guitar Bazaar
Released: 1995

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Guitar Bazaar: Multi-Cultural Ideas for Guitar

These compositions are the fruit of cross-pollinating musical vocabularies. Eclectic harmonic and melodic ideas have been wedded to asymmetrical dance steps from the Balkans and Middle-East to create a hybrid that is traditional sounding yet different from what has gone before. I hope these "studies" will give you some new ideas. The process whereby these elements have been appropriated and combined is covered in detail in the Guitar Bazaar Workshop video.
    The touchstone for this CD is an early work of the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, Rumanian Folk Dances. Dating from 1915, the Rumanian Dances are folk songs that Bartok collected in Transylvania at the turn of the century. Bartok built on the modal architecture of each dance, adding impressionist harmony with altered chords and chord substitutions. Originally written for piano and later orchestrated, these arrangements anticipate many elements of modern Jazz harmony.
    The other songs heard here are informed by ideas learned in adapting Bartok for the guitar. Most of these compositions are in unusual meters. The method of indicating the subdivision of beats in these irregular meters is one used by Bartok in his notebooks of folk melodies collected in the Balkans and Turkey. The arrangements are extended by improvisations that blend riffs from Celtic and Oriental ethnic traditions with Blues-based Jazz vocabulary.

  • Bach-n-Aliya is a melody suggested by a Bach bouree set to a Turkish dance rhythm of 3+2/ 8. The improvised segment mixes up country blues, Irish bagpipe, be-bop and middle eastern scales on top of an ostinato bass line in the 5/8 Turkish meter.

  • The Rain Beggar -In Bartok's day, rain begging songs were still employed by itinerant shamans in a manner akin to the Native American rain dance. Recorded on Edison wax cylinders and later painstakingly notated, many are preserved in his folk music collections. This song is in memory of Fred Cuny, a modern day wizard who smuggled a municipal water filtration plant through the Serb blockade into Sarajevo. It is written in a 3+2+2/ 8 meter that is popular in Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans as well as Turkey, Kurdistan and Iran.

  • Guitar Bazaar- With a blend of oriental modes and asymmetrical meters, the intent is to convey the full-tilt, going off the tracks flavor of a Bulgarian wedding band. The recurring chord refrain comes from a flamenco form called Bulerias. Two Bulgarian rhythms, 3+2+2/ 8 and 3+2+2+2/ 8 are combined to create a master pattern of 3+2+2+3+2+2+2/ 8. It's not as complicated to play as it looks.

  • Sleeping Giant begins with a theme using an altered mixolydian scale with a raised fourth that comes from northeastern Brazil. The styles evoked are Flamenco guitar, Balkan accordion and Afghani rebab, with a little Mississippi John Hurt. When the song goes into rhythm, the meter is 2+2+3/ 8.

  • Chasing the Dragon is built on a motif heard in a lot of Armenian and Turkish music. The symbol for the dragon used in tribal arts in Turkey and Central Asia seems to be identical to the Mesoamerican symbol for Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent! The idea here is to draw a similar thread through near eastern and new world sounds. As in Sleeping Giant, Latin American and Blues flavors are mixed in a Near Eastern dance, a fast 5/4.

  • Bela Bartok's Rumanian Folk Dances, a fingerstyle jazz interpretation.
    Joc Cu Bata (a stick game dance from Mezoszabad)
    Braul (a waistband dance from Egres)
    Pe Loc (A stamping dance on one spot, also from Egres. In the manner of a bagpipe)
    Buciumeana (a dance from Butschum, a hornpipe dance)
    Poarca Romaneasca (Rumanian Polka, Poarca is a game played by children. From Belenyes.)
    Manuntelul (a quick stepping dance from Belenyes)

  • It's Greek To Me- This tune is a Zeybekiko, a 9/4 dance that is a big component of Greek Rembetika, the oriental flavored soul music brought by expatriates from Turkey in the 1920's. Within a circle of dancers, a soloist will balance on one foot and hop in a wobbly fashion with arms outstretched, like a great, hobbling bird. The Zeybekiko is usually sad and brooding, with lyrics about lost love, firing squads, etc.. This particular version is a little happier and brighter. The soloists employ a style that is known as a doina, playing over the rhythm in free-time. Bartok called this parlando rubato. Yanaris' bouzouki solo is in a traditional vein. By way of contrast, Jim's violin sounds like a hindustani Ornette Coleman.

  • Sailing to Byzantium is inspired by a voyage across the Adriatic. The meter of 3+2+2+3/ 16 is an hypnotic Middle-Eastern dance called Jurjinah. Sea birds, darting about the rigging of a sailing vessel, accompany the violin.

  • Dr. Smedvig's Berzerka- Named for a notorious accordionist, this "Berzerka" is a 2+2+3+2+2/ 16 pattern from Macedonia and Bulgaria called a Kopanitsa. The accordion and guitar riff while while the violin weaves in and out like a Middle Eastern Mariachi. Imagine a colony of Bulgarians living in Guadalajara.


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