Willpower. The greatest creative force known to humankind. The sheer force of will that fuels the effort to bring into existence something, where once there was nothing. The willpower to bring a vision into reality. Drive, commitment, resolve and tenacity are the things that overcome obstacles, bridge long distances, and make the seemingly impossible, possible.
Andrés Segovia is the godfather of classical guitar, and was a man of immense will. There was almost no such thing as a classical guitar recital before Segovia. There was no repertoire, no audience, no precedent. The guitar was a so-called “peasant” instrument, and didn’t have a place in the “art-music” world next to the piano or the violin. Segovia changed all that.
There are times when I am really in the mood for classical guitar. It is a sublime instrument. Subtlety is king in the music of the nylon-stringed guitar. The dynamic range is small, with the louds and softs all being pretty quiet, and there is endless debate about how a string should be plucked. With a fingernail, the flesh of the fingertip, or a combination of both? Guitarists are fiercely protective of the nails on their right hand. Breaking a nail the night before a recital is a disaster that ruins months of preparation.
To create a body of music to play, Segovia had to transcribe music originally written for other instruments. He enlisted composers he knew to write music especially for him. Some of my favorite pieces are the transcriptions of Bach for guitar, which is no shock, since I am a great fan of J.S. Bach in the first place.
As his reputation grew, so too did the commanding presence that Segovia had on stage. He started his concert career before electronic amplification. The audience had to maintain absolute silence for anyone beyond the third row to hear any of the music. There was a bit of reverence and awe in the recital hall for Segovia, and a measure of contempt for anyone who coughed. All classical guitarists you hear today owe and acknowledge a debt to Segovia. In fact, during his lifetime, many players claimed to be students of Segovia even if they weren’t. He once said:
“All over the world I have ‘pupils’ I have never met.”
As can be expected for a man with such tenacity and will, Andrés Segovia had a bit of a stubborn streak in him. He was very tough on his (real) students, and there was only one right way to do things — HIS way. Segovia didn’t just transcribe music for the guitar, but often notated his own interpretations into the score, adding his own thoughts to the original composer’s. He would only perform works with which he had a personal connection, and completely rejected music he did not. If it didn’t suit his taste and musical sensibilities, he didn’t play it, and likely didn’t believe anyone else should either. I would say he probably earned the right to his opinions, even if I don’t agree with all of them.
I would like to think I have at least half of the backbone that a man like Andrés Segovia had. I have a pretty good track record of meeting my goals, slaying the dragons in my path, and bringing my visions into reality. If I have a superpower, I would hope it is guts and sheer force of will. I could do a lot worse. If I get two superpower wishes, maybe the second should be a cool car like the Batmobile. Chicks always dig the car.