Work-In-Progress: Guitar Sounds – LOCC Blog

By Tanner Porter
December 11, 2023

Here in the LOCC, we’re already preparing for our Creators Corps concerts in May 2024,  which will feature premieres of new works by this year’s cohort. Ahead of the May concerts, the LO has offered us three days of “reading” rehearsals, which will take place in January. For these  “readings,” we’ve been encouraged to bring in works-in-progress, drafts of ideas, and older pieces we’d like to revisit—anything that will be of use to our writing processes and help the orchestra get better acquainted with our compositional voices. From there, we will be able to take what we’ve learned and continue full steam ahead in our writing processes.  

This work-in-progress “reading time” is, in my experience, quite unusual in a  professional orchestral session. Often, when a composer is hired for a commission, the rehearsal period comes just before the premiere of the piece, at which point the music is finalized, and any rehearsal is purely in service of getting the performance ready. Even in many educational institutions, if a student composer is lucky enough to be at a school where they are able to write for the university’s orchestra, there are rarely opportunities to hear incomplete works-in-progress. 

Needless to say, these early “reading” rehearsals are part of what makes the LO Creators  Corps residency unique. It’s a rare chance for the composer, orchestra, and conductor to get into the creative weeds together, to experiment with compositional ideas and orchestration in a still unfinished piece, to try things out that may or may not work, and to have direct conversations with each other in the process. 

The piece I’m writing for May 2024 is intended to be a song cycle, which I’m thrilled to be singing on (more on that soon!). It’s also a piece that will feature an electric guitar. I love the sounds that electric guitar and orchestra can make when mingled, a feeling I was reminded of during a beautiful performance of Lisa Bielawa’s piece “Home” on the LO’s tour earlier this Fall. 

I’m particularly excited about the potential mingling of electric guitar and percussion. For the January readings, I’ve written for Crotales and a few metal percussive instruments to be dipped in water. When you strike a Crotale, cymbal, or other metal instrument and then dip the still vibrating instrument in water, it can create strange, wonderful slides and echoes. I hope to combine this sound world with the e-bow on guitar, which can be used to make similarly haunting slides and effects. 

Orchestration is one of my favorite things. It’s total magic. Combining instruments to create new tonal pallets is one of the great joys of getting to work with the orchestra. I’m so excited to hear what kinds of sounds might emerge when you throw an electric guitar in the mix. During the readings, I look forward to having time with the LO to experiment with musical colors and to see if we can find something that both suits the storytelling of the song cycle and enhances the orchestration of the music. 

Watch as Tanner explores the many sounds of an electric guitar!