Professional, passionate, personable and completely in love with his instrument, Pablo Gomez is a stroke of guitar genius.
Dressed in all black, Gomez sat in the audience tuning his guitar, bearing a mischievous grin. Surrounding a chair placed in the center of the room were exotic percussion instruments, among them a tam-tam, guiro and a gwoka. Students, professors and local fans alike poured into Southwestern’s Music Recital room and waited in silence to watch a modern maestro of guitar.
Gomez took to the stage and promptly unveiled the concept for his performance.
“All songs represent an old universe in music for guitar,” he said, “but they’re only the tip of the iceberg.”
A deeper look into the history of guitar would take years, to faintly touch the highest tip of the iceberg could be done in a single evening, he promised. Gomez tuned his guitar to Baroque, an unfamiliar sound to contemporary listeners. These tunings aim to sound like early five gut stringed guitars with movable frets from the 1600s. Daintily setting his non-slip cloths on his thighs, he closed his eyes and delved completely into his strings.
His first piece, “Overture,” originally composed by Silvious Leopold Weiss in the 17thcentury, was as classic and rudimentary as guitar gets. The different tuning was enough to take one back centuries. It was a style too foreign for some to fully appreciate. He proved himself a worthy purveyor in his technique and professionalism.
Gomez pulled his strings back to a contemporary tuning and introduced his next song, “Carpiccio,” an Italian piece that showcased a popular style in the 1800s.
His fingers stirred in a flurry, offering more musical and physical expression. Chaos, crescendos and craze filled the room. Finally, more vitality! The audience inched in.
“Tarantelle,” also an Italian piece, probed the beginning of a new style. One that demanded music to move “as fast as possible,” said Gomez. “And later, faster.”
He could not chase his fingers up and down the fret board fast enough. Periodically, he showed off his mastery of the guitar, playing with just one hand. It was pretty impressive. Without being cocky, Gomez continued to take guitar playing one step further.
“Astruias,” an early exhibition of what is known as the Spanish guitar, or Flamenco, proved that Gomez could play complicated music, and beautiful music. His picking mocked sounds of water, allowing one to be lost in the soothing, yet flavorful nature of the piece.
His fifth and arguably most profound piece, “Tellur,” began with a noise.
Using a Flamenco strumming technique called rasgado, where one strums outward rather than inward, an eerie muted noise slowly creeped into the atmosphere. Gradually it grew louder and more complex with each strum. Gomez then slapped his bass strings with fervor, loosening and tightening his strings at once. His guitar, unrecognizable at times, went from bass, to synthesizer, drums and back to guitar. Gomez reveled in a wonderful display of harmonic dissonance and true mastery of the instrument.
When the last three pieces of his performance called for a percussion counterpart, Professor of Music Todd Caschetta heed the call. His contribution, vivid and at times abstract, proved to be a wonderful conversation between guitar and percussion. Traveling from Indian-inspired pieces to Gypsy-like jams and songs that personified dogs, the duo inadvertently had enough magic to transport one far from room 801.
The last piece, “Apnea,” was a new wave duet with a compilation of saturated and violent electronic sounds. Slapping the bass then quickly dancing both his fingers high on the fret board, Gomez, like clockwork, moved his fingers all over the guitar’s body to compliment the harsh electronic intonations. Inclusively tap, tap, tapping, on the soundboard like a percussion instrument. A horror film’s perfect companion, suspense filled this piece in every corner, proof that Gomez could not only emulate the classics, but he could get experimental too.
A complete professional, Gomez bowed after every song, expanded on every stage of the guitar history’s journey with poise and graciously opened the floor to questions after his performance wrapped. His complete skill, mastery and knowledge of guitar and its history was engaging, enticing and at times intimidating.
A simple man to his core, the maestro explained in his native tongue what he cherishes the most from playing guitar.
“El agarre de las cuerdas cuando aprendes la guitarra––the grip.”
Translating to––the grip of the chords when you learn the guitar.
Maestro Gomez’ passion is proof that it can be easy to fall in love.
Close your eyes.
Grip the strings.
Set your fingers free.