Yesterday the guitar world lost one of its greatest living composers: Roland Dyens. This post is a tribute from Rhayn Jooste to Roland that celebrates a small part of his life and influence.
Roland Dyens sat down in front of us, picked up his guitar and stopped just as he was about to play. He reached down and released a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and chuckled. They were digging into his leg, he said; and maybe this was also a reminder not to smoke. Non perturbed and with a Gallic shrug of the shoulders he carried on making his point musically.
The date was the 23rd of July 2001 and I was sitting in near the front of a master class Dyens was holding for the International Guitar Foundation and Festivals in Bath, England. The memory of the man and his insight still lingers to this day even though I, for once, took the barest of notes. (The class was fun and engaging and difficult to notate.) Dyens was presented with a few pieces that day but what stood out the most was his love of Jazz, improvisation and Fernando Sor’s Mozart variations (Op. 9). He hadn’t played the piece in a long time and sigh read some of the variations for us. He explained how, as a younger guitarist, he would get bored and improvise on the tough bars until he had got it or a new idea for a piece emerged.
That night he performed in concert in Bath, opening as he does, with an improvised prelude of sorts. However, due to the abundant seagulls gathered on the roof, he was constantly being interrupted by their squawking. Undeterred he made a feature of the cries and even imitated them at one point on the guitar. This is the Roland Dyens I remember, it was an ever so brief intersection of paths that he probably would not remember yet one that left an indelible mark on me. His music contains classical and jazz alongside pop and even rock (Dyens admired Jimi Hendrix, so much so that you can find the Hendrix 7#9 in most of his pieces). This language spoke to me (still does being part of my daily routine), being a child of the 20th century, it had scars and emotions I could relate to. More importantly it taught me to dive deep into myself and search for new techniques and feelings. For that I can only thank you Roland, you have left behind a legacy that is rich, dark, scary, challenging and most importantly filled with a sense of joie de vivre.
May you find peace.
Here is a link to an insightful article from Classical Guitar Magazine he did last year. and of course the great man playing!