The talented Italian guitarist Marco Cappelli's love affair with New York City began with a trip in 2002, which led to him commissioning a series of compositions for solo guitar. That set of piecesthe "Extreme Guitar Project is a remarkable collection, allowing at once a variety of vantages of the composers, the interpreter and the guitar. The pieces were written by guitarists and non-guitarists (not all New Yorkers), and all take advantage of his unusual, customized instrument, a classical guitar with eight added sympathetic strings and live electronic options.
The program falls naturally into two halves. The pieces written by guitarists (Marc Ribot, Elliott Sharp, Nick Didkovsky, Otomo Yoshihide and Mark Stewart) put Cappelli in the position of holding himself up against eminently recognizable stylists. His talent shows through, especially on the Ribot and Sharp pieces. The techniques and compositional sense are retained, but at the same time Cappelli integrates them into the program and makes the pieces his own.
The other half of the set is interesting more from a sense of compositional technique. Ikue Mori, Anthony Coleman, Annie Gosfield, Erik Friedlander and David Shea are called upon not just to write for an instrument they don't play, but to write for a unique one. It's interesting to hear their voicesno less familiar or present than those of the guitaristsjuxtaposed onto Cappelli's fourteen strings. Gosfield, a pianist, approaches the challenge as if she were writing for harp, offering a piece played only on open strings. Coleman and Friedlander, melodicists both, wrote pieces that one can easily imagine on their respective piano and cello.
The two composers who work closest with electronics wrote two of the most unusual pieces here. Mori's "Bird Chant has the guitar triggering her samples in ways unpredictable to the player, and then the player's reactions continue the synergy. Shea's loops are built in real time from the sounds of the guitar, creating an epilogue that turns Cappelli's guitar into a hazy chamber ensemble.
The fact that Cappelli was able to organize such a league of musicians to write for him is remarkable enough. That he can not only perform the set of works but give it the sense of a whole is staggering. He is clearly committed to making his mark on "downtown music," and I have no doubt we'll hear much more from him.
Personnel: Marco Cappelli: guitar.