Van Stiefel

Cinema Castaneda

Commissioned by: Minneapolis Guitar Quartet with support from the Augustine Foundation and Met Life Connecting Composers (Meet the Composer).

Recording available. Thrum on the Innova label.

…the most conversational of the four composers, with luscious lines of melody complementing and re-enforcing the strums of the player before, and dissonant slanging matches erupting through stabs of buzzing nylon...

Jack Chutter on Thrum.

The process of composing Cinema Castaneda began as a retracing of Copland's steps through John Lomax's 1918 collection of cowboy songs. Strumming on my guitar, I imagined these tunes set for guitar quartet, four guitarists gathered like ranchers around a campfire after a day traversing vast spaces, crossing borders, horse-trading, etc. I was jolted from this storybook nostalgia by news of the day: angst about the Mexican border, the legal and illegal passage of people and goods, news of trade both fair and unfair. On one hand there is a positive desire for commerce, self-actualization and betterment, on the other: violence, self-destruction, and exploitation. Once these timeless and conflicting themes took hold in my imagination, composing Cinema Castaneda became a dizzying journey through frontier ballads, rancheros music, narcocorridos, as well as music by Chuck Berry, the Doors, Velvet Underground, and Kurt Cobain.

The guitar as an instrument of the road crosses boundaries both real and imagined: boundaries of time, place, culture, language, memory, and states of mind. Patterns idiomatic to an incredible variety of music are shaped by the lay of the hands on the instrument. Cinema Castaneda explores (and blurs the distinction between) various American voices as they map naturally to the guitar's grid of open and fretted strings. The titled sections of the one continuous movement give some hint of the morphing voices of cowboys, wanderers, and traffickers-seekers of escape, comfort, or ecstasy.

1. What the Train Remembered...
2. Brujo
3. Chuck to Now
4. 'Strange Days'
5. Seeping Borders I
6. Apologies
7. Dying Cowboy
8. Seeping Borders II
9. Con Dios
10. Second Coming