Sándor Szabó

Performing artist, Composer, Music researcher

Interview with Erik Hinds/Georgian Contemporary Unit

1. When did you form Solponticello, and what's the philosophy behind it?

Solponticello was formally launched in October 2001. The idea had been in my mind for about a year or two prior, a way to put under one umbrella my promotional and musical activities; it came together quite organically when Robert Duckworth?s tog group, Julia Powell with her ?Music Swims Back to Me? project and my own SS Puft Quartet were seeking a way to release our music. The philosophy is indicated by the name- Solponticello is a play on the Italian musical term ?sul ponticello? which means to draw a bow across the bridge of a violin or cello, making a very evocative, radiant sound. The radiance to me suggests sunbeams, which relates to ?sol? (Spanish for sun), and the name presented itself... ?sun across the bridge?. That?s what we?re doing, creating a context and forum for some exciting and challenging sounds which are not yet part of the mainstream. We?re creating tomorrow?s mainstream and celebrating today.

2. Similarly, what was the idea behind the formation of GCU? Was it a way to be able to play with Sandor Szabo?

I heard Sandor?s solo 16 string guitar music and was taken away with the emotional complexity and an immediately beautiful melodic approach unlike any I had heard. His music stems in equal parts from the developments of the great Hungarian composer Bela Bartok, traditional Hungarian folk music, and Western jazz, rock, and improvisational styles. At the time, I had been fascinated with the idea of exploring my own roots through music, and as my family background is Eastern European, I thought working with someone who thoroughly understands his culture would help me get a sense of my own. Sandor and I eventually traded recordings and ideas, and soon enough he was on a plane from Hungary to Georgia. The meeting and resulting music could not have been a more edifying experience. He is a deep and wise soul, and I contemplate many of his ideas daily.

3. You're working on a second album; when is it due, and how might it be different from The View You Never Get?

The second album is entitled ?GCU2?, a fun and functional title. The music is from the same sessions as the first album though it differs in two ways...one, I sequenced the first album and Sandor the second- while this in theory does not effect the material, the flow of events is dictated by an individual?s sense of pacing, and I believe this extra-musical sensibility is perceptibly different. Secondly, on the new album Sandor added some overdubs and effects, with wonderful results...the first album, in contrast, is largely as it was played. It?ll be a little while before it surfaces...

4. What led you to commission the making of the H'arpeggione from Fred Carlson? What are its advantages or the unique opportunities it affords you musically?

I first discovered Fred?s work by chance through a cover article in ?American Luthier? magazine...I couldn?t put down one picture in particular- a photo of a guitar with 18 strings- 6 conventional and 12 ?sympathetics? entering into a channel in the neck (they emerge after the fingerboard ends and go to their own ?buzzing? bridge). Fred?s instruments are a reminder that we haven?t even begun to explore the possibilities of music creation and sound generation. It was in this spirit of discovery that we set out to create the H?arpeggione...a quartertone fretted six-string, twelve-sympathetic hollow bodied acoustic instrument with the range of a doublebass through a violin. It allows me to fill many roles in my music...and try many roles never before imagined.

5. How many artists do you distribute through Solponticello, and what determines their addition to the roster? (May be covered in #1)

Currently we have tog, Julia Powell, Riveter, SS Puft, GCU, Dromedary, Klaus Janek, Kyle Dawkins (album coming soon), Erik Hinds (my solo album Cerebus), and soon two new albums by the Georgia Guitar Quartet (one of modern classical compositions, and one of original music by the members). While these artists may have dramatically different visions for their own music, they all have a clear and strong sense of purpose, and all are exceptional within their fields. To me the common thread among these musicians is they each have an acute awareness of color and understand the spiritual and cultural impact of their musical choices. These are people who live and breathe their creativity.

6. You said you fielded a lot of calls yesterday. What's behind all the sudden interest? (If there's some specific event or press release I haven't received or something, please be patient...my editor doesn't always share vital information before interviews like this.)

We just put on a series of events called the Butterfly Effect, which included shows at Seney-Stovall Chapel in Athens and First Existentialist Congregation in Atlanta...these shows were intended to highlight the compositional efforts of several of the people within our Solponticello family. There are very few outlets for new composed music to be performed, so we decided to create our own. Sally Coenen (who wrote the music for ?Kudzula?) had a solo piano piece, Colin Bragg (of SS Puft and GCU) had an electronic piece with dancer Blake Dalton, Julia Powell had an electronic setting of Rumi?s poetry, Jason Solomon and Kyle Dawkins of the Georgia Guitar Quartet each had a long-form quartet piece, and I offered my Diorama Octet for the combined Georgia Guitar and SS Puft Quartets with Julia Powell conducting.
Also in the works is an international music festival to take place in 2004 in Athens. Ken Vandermark, Julia Powell, and I are the curators for this event, and we?re excited to be in the planning stages now. Between this and our own music and albums, things are busy, but it?s a good kind of busy.

That's it for now, I think. I can also try to call you again after you get back from the holidays, if that's later this week or weekend and you have time. Let me know, and thanks for your patience with this and the crazy phone stuff. I like the CD, by the way, good stuff, especially Carillon, I can see why it's the one that's highlighted on the site.

Thanks for the compliment!

Thanks and look forward to hearing from you soon,

Kevin Moreau

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