Fernando Sor Mini-Series Part 5: Sor’s Music and Legacy

This post will be the last in my five part mini-series on Fernando Sor. In previous posts, I have discussed Sor’s contributions to furthering the status of the classical guitar, his compositional style, perceptions of his music during his lifetime, and his approach to pedagogy. In this post, I will attempt to summarize these aspects of Sor’s musical career and illustrate why Sor’s music, pedagogy, and musical philosophy are still important to consider today.

Sor combined his approach to part-writing, pedagogy, and musical philosophy to craft music that challenged stereotypes about his instrument and led the classical music world to take the guitar more seriously as a concert instrument, thus raising its status. Sor’s music uses a deft combination of counterpoint, harmony, classical forms, and clear phrases, illustrating the assimilation of a broad array of styles, ranging from classical composers such as Mozart and Haydn to fellow guitarist-composers Padre Basilio and Federico Moretti. Although Sor is perhaps most famous for his guitar music, he also composed operas, ballets, art songs, and other works, which likely contributed to his synthesis of disparate approaches in his compositions for guitar. Today, his works for guitar are standard repertoire for students and professionals alike. They are taught in private studios and university programs, and performed in concert halls around the world. His music and pedagogy combines classical sophistication, past and contemporary traditions of part writing, and an emphasis on logic and reason, all of which are just as relevant today as they were during the early nineteenth century.

Resources for further information on Fernando Sor’s life and career as a guitarist, composer, and music educator:

Hartdegen, Kenneth. “Fernando Sor’s Theory of Harmony Applied to the Guitar: History, Bibliography, and Context.” PhD diss., University of Auckland, 2011.

Jeffery, Brian. “Sor [Sors], (Joseph) Fernando.” Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root. Accessed 9 October, 2019. https://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.

Page, Christopher. “New light on the London years of Fernando Sor (1815–1822).” Early Music 41, no. 4 (November 2013): 557-569.

Rhodes Draayer, Suzanne. Art Song Composers of Spain: An Encyclopedia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009.

Ribiero Alves, Júlio. “The History of the Guitar: Its Origins and Evolution.” Marshall Digital Scholar (Fall 2015): 1-169.

Sor, Fernando. Method for the Spanish Guitar. London, UK: Robert Cocks & Co., n.d. (ca. 1832). http://ks.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/2/2b/IMSLP260517-PMLP58779-sor_method_merrick.pdf.

Wade, Graham. Traditions of the Classical Guitar. Richmond, UK: Overture Publishing, 2012.




A Musician’s Observations on Learning to Create Your Own Website

It was one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2019. I would finally have my own website. At first, I thought I would hire a website developer. It seemed like a good idea. That is, until I started pricing it out. I quickly realized that this prospect was beyond what I could afford, and after much deliberation and research and planning, I decided that I would try to do it myself. I figured it would be a good learning experience, and at least I could say that I tried. To be honest, even the thought of making my own website filled me with fear. Specifically, the fear of spending lots of time on it, only to make one wrong click and watch my website fade away into oblivion. Because of this (mostly unfounded) initial fear, I have decided to write a post on this topic (even though it doesn’t have much to do with analyzing classical guitar music) in order to encourage my fellow musicians that you absolutely CAN make your own website! It is truly amazing what can be done if you do a little bit often and start with an approximate vision of what you want! I have found that building a website uses many of the same skills necessary to be a musician and is much less overwhelming than it seems if you do a little bit at a time.

Although I do have some prior experience doing web-based projects, this would be the first time that I would attempt to single-handedly build a website from scratch. Like most things worth doing, it was simultaneously more and less difficult than I originally imagined. Seemingly simple tasks such as setting up a contact page ended up taking many hours of trying an idea and thinking that it worked, only to test it and find out that it didn’t work at all, and repeating the process until I found a solution. On the other hand, the process of changing basic elements of the site (like adding/editing items on the main menu) was surprisingly easy. During the course of creating my own site, I learned a lot about WordPress, web hosting, and significantly improved my skills with HTML and CSS.

I started by looking at other music and/or creative arts websites to help me figure out what I wanted my website to look like and what I wanted my website to do. I made a visual sketch of each site, which helped a lot. Once I had an approximate idea of the look and feel I was going for (and made a sketch of my vision for my site), I researched and compared different web hosts and content management systems for a couple of weeks, eventually choosing Siteground for web hosting and buying a domain name, and WordPress as the CMS (content management system). Once this was set up, I had to decide on a theme for my site. After looking at lots of different themes, I chose to use the Genesis Framework and Workstation Pro child theme by Studiopress, because it seemed to be the most high-quality and dependable theme that fit with my vision. It did add to the cost of making a site (the Genesis Framework and child theme cost around $100), but the theme was (in my opinion) so much better than any of the free themes that I saw on WordPress. Using Studiopress was, hands down, the best decision I made during the course of creating my site! The theme works great, the support at Studiopress is amazing, and it made my site work so much better overall in terms of design, responsiveness, and aesthetic appeal. To add music, photos, and other necessary features, I used either widgets, widget shortcode, plugins, or HTML code. Ironically, I used HTML mainly to format my resume, which I thought (very wrongly) would be a simple copy/paste endeavor, and to add special effects. I tried my best to be as organized as possible, because I know that I can easily spend way too much time mulling over options and not enough time actually building a site.

I also want to emphasize that no one learns something new entirely on their own, and my foray into website design was no exception. I read books on website design (my favorite books on this topic are “Wordpress to Go” by Sarah McHarry and the two book HTML & CSS and Javascript and jQuery set by Jon Duckett), googled nearly every problem I came across, contacted the support team of Studiopress, and looked on many forums (which I found especially helpful if the problem involved code). In fact, it was similar (in some ways) to learning an instrument. You start with no idea what you are doing, you listen, read, and study those who do know what they are doing, and gradually learn new skills along the way as needed in order to accomplish your vision.

All of this is to say that I am very happy to announce that I have successfully created my own website! I started working on the site in late January, added the theme (Genesis Framework, Workstation Pro child theme) and essential components throughout February/early March, and added the finishing touches earlier this week. The website showcases my music, teaching, writing, blog, upcoming gigs, and much more. Please feel free to check it out and spread the word!!! See the link below to take a look: https://benguitarmusic.com/