Ethereal III: Liner Notes

Ethereal III

Both as a composer and guitar player I have always felt the limitations of the guitar. This might be one of the reasons why classical guitar occupies a lonely place within the classical music world. Not everyone can compose for guitar; only those who intimately know the limitations and possibilities of the instrument. Even if someone knows the guitar well, the instrument does not offer the necessary levels of polyphony and tonal ranges. Since the beginning of my career I have had my own compositional concept to create music. The guitar proved to be unsuitable to achieve them. This is why I started to use more strings, to use special tunings, etc., to extend the possibilities of the instrument. I tried to follow the way others compose for guitar; however, I encountered new obstacles. As a composer, I decided to suspend composing using only guitar. Instead, I wanted to compose in a different way to avoid the limitations of guitar.

Ethereal III is my first attempt in composing for a chamber orchestra, and also the very first album where I do not play guitar and I appear only as a composer creating the orchestration behind Kevin Kastning’s piano pieces. This project was unbelievably educational for me. I got Kevin’s sparsely-recorded piano tracks leaving enough space for the orchestral layer, then I started to build up the music with a never-experienced freedom. Technically it was also very challenging because I did not want to use the popular orchestral software, which all sound the same and their sound is too sterile for me. Instead, I used live recorded samples from real string instruments which were not modified or optimized. To work with these samples demanded much more work and time, but the sound has been individually unique; for example, containing random sound elements naturally occurring in live playing. The setup of the chamber orchestra is special. I used 1 violin, 8 cellos and 1 double bass. This setup is not typical in classical music, but I did not want to create this music following any aesthetic trends, but instead to find something for my music I have heard inside.

In the future, Kevin and I will record more chamber orchestral pieces, including orchestral compositions with two guitars.

Sándor Szabó
Vác, Hungary
3. March, 2019

In late December 2017 during the recording sessions for what would become the album 30/36, Sándor asked me to record a pair of piano pieces. He planned to use these piano pieces as the basis of a cello sonata composition. Sándor had worked with a cellist in Budapest and created a new set of digital cello samples. Using my piano tracks, Sándor created a pair of wonderful sonatas for piano and cello. It wasn't until our 2018 European Tour that I would hear the final versions of these recorded compositions. These pieces made a strong impression on me, and I carried their memory and imprint with me for quite some time.

When Sándor and I began to discuss the direction of Ethereal III, the next installment in the Ethereal album series, I still carried the thoughts, atmospheres, and impact of the cello sonata pieces in my head. I then suggested that I perform on piano for this record; thus continuing the direction he began with the cello sonata pieces. Sándor agreed, and I set out to begin further considering the direction for this album project. I decided to continue with the compositional direction I'd begun with the cello pieces.

After recording a few piano pieces, I proposed an entirely new and challenging concept to Sándor: to record Ethereal III entirely without guitars. In other words, I would be on piano for the entire record, and Sandor would create cello and other string orchestral sounds and elements. Hence, there would be no guitar sounds on the record; only piano and orchestral instruments. He agreed, and we embarked in a new and previously unknown direction.

When I made the proposal to Sándor, I had envisioned this as a long-term recording project. However, the recordings came together much quicker than either of us had imagined. Within a couple of weeks, the recording sessions were complete.

At the outset of this recording project, we had no real idea the direction it would eventually take, as we had never attempted a project like this. I do not see Ethereal III as a project that has come to completion. I see Ethereal III as being a key to unlocking an entirely new direction for Sándor and I.  Not an ending, but a beginning.

Kevin Kastning
Massachusetts US
1 March 2019





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