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El Paso

My first complete composition at Southwestern University was a piece for guitar called El Paso.

At Southwestern (SU), composition instruction includes individual lessons with Dr. Jason Hoogerhyde and a studio seminar for all composition students every other week. The seminars focus on a particular topic for the semester; fall of 2011 the focus was instruments less commonly composed for and for which it is difficult to write. I think Dr. Hoogerhyde chose this topic because he had just written a piece for guitar earlier in the year, which was a part of the River of Words project for baritone and guitar, commissioned and performed by Dr. David Asbury, guitar, and Dr. Bruce Cain, baritone.

In our composition studio, every two weeks we composed a short sample for each instrument. We had specialists visit our class on each topic, addressing special aspects of the instruments and how to write for them: Dr. Asbury for guitar, Erin Martysz for percussion, and Lisa Lamb for harp. They each returned after two weeks to play our short compositions and give feedback.

I decided to expand my guitar composition from that process into a full piece. It took me the entire semester to compose these 67 measures! El Paso attempts my own instrumental retelling of the story in Marty Robbins‘ epic cowboy song of the same name, which I heard many times growing up because my dad was a big Marty Robbins fan. Throughout the experience of writing El Paso, I was thinking of my friend Jim Erickson. An excellent guitarist and teacher, Jim had passed away suddenly just a few days before that semester started. I like to think Jim would be proud and pleased with my work.


SU New Music Society — John, Andrew, Ashley, and Jeffrey

Both Dr. Asbury and fellow student John Lind helped me work on the piece. Because I do not have strong skill sets with any single instrument, my music always benefits tremendously from the generous sharing of time and expertise on the part of performers! For example, I originally wrote the piece in F, and Dr. Asbury pointed out that if I changed the key to E, it would work much better on guitar, and boy did it! John premiered the piece November 30, 2011, and performed it again April 6, 2014 at my Capstone Recital.

El Paso

Permanent link to this article: https://ashleyhkraft.com/el-paso/

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