Aluminum Flowers is a concerto for solo guitarist playing both electric guitar and nylon-string “classical” guitar. It celebrates the variety of the musical modes that such “polymath” guitarists practice on a regular basis, which range from delicate, intimate tones emanating from flesh on nylon strings to the grand orchestral textures possible with the electric guitar wired to a bank of effects pedals. From the six-hundred-year-old tradition of the Spanish Vihuela to contemporary pop, rock, blues and jazz, guitarists are conversant in a wide range of styles, all of them, ironically, on the fringe of mainstream classical music.
The piece is in five sections:
The movements contrast sharply with each other as each movement is cast for a different instrument: The first movement is a nylon string “classical” or “Spanish” guitar. The second movement runs the electric guitar through a delay pedal, requiring impeccable timing from the soloist, to produces a rapid moto perpetuo texture. The third movement, somewhat paradoxically, uses overdrive/distortion to create a sustained, lyrical, singing tone. The fourth movement is for prepared guitar – a guitar pick threaded through the strings to create a gong-like sound – and a bottle neck which slides up and down the string unencumbered by the frets. The last movement uses a looper to layer several polyphonic strands creating an orchestral texture.
Within each movement, one thing leads to the next naturally, without jagged edges or willfully discursive digressions, one might say “organically.” This organicism combined with the image of metal wires carrying current from the guitar to its pedals like veins to petals conjured the image of metal flowers – Aluminum Flowers because the pitches A-F have an important structural roll in the piece beginning with the introduction which is made up entirely of a bass-line which alternates between A and F.
The piece is dedicated to two extraordinary polymath virtuosos – Jiji Kim and Gretchen Menn.