"OK ... anyone for an acoustic treat? I have been in communication with Carlos Bonell for some time ... he is a masterful classical-style guitarist ... classical-style, yet modern in the sense that he will approach modern music, and especially Queen music, in his own way, his transcriptions being entirely of his own creation.
Well, he's made a very nice album ... I think you'll find reference to it somewhere on this website ... but sometimes that old thing of actually SEEING someone perform with no added frills is the special ticket. Well, he recently recorded himself playing just in a friend's house in Ireland, and the friend put in on Youtube (with his permission, I hope!) ... and ... well, I think it's well worth 4 minutes of anybody's time. The sound quality is amazing, apart from anything else ... but check out his tone, his phrasing, his lyrical and passionate delivery ... and ... well, to my mind it's a triumph! Then you've probably got to go buy the album!"
Brian May (of Queen)
McCartney owns a house in Sussex and has built a recording studio nearby. He had an appointment at the studio with classical guitarist Carlos Bonell, who was helping him with some technical aspects of the guitar concerto. Bonell arrived a few minutes before McCartney did and waited in a small kitchen adjoining the control room.
Bonell explained that his task in the studio is to transcribe on musical staff paper the passages that McCartney has composed on his guitar and on his computer.
A session with McCartney, in early May of last year, happened to fall on the morning when the British newspapers broke the news of McCartney's separation from Mills. Bonell hadn't heard. "He told me straight out about it. Then he got down to work." McCartney's ability to focus on his music impressed Bonell. "You'd be in the middle of a passage, the phone would ring, and it would be Paul's solicitor," he said. "He would go and talk to him. Then, bang, it was right back into the piece."
Bonell sat with a ream of paper in his lap; Smith was at the mixing board. McCartney faced them in a red swivel chair, and Hammel brought him a piece of whole-grain toast covered with melted cheese. Smith opened a sound file on his computer: a portion of the concerto that Bonell had recorded a year ago. No one in the room had heard the section since then. "Not since last May," Smith said. "A bad time." "Not a wonderful month, no," McCartney murmured. He leaned back and put his feet on the edge of the mixing console. Smith clicked his mouse, and music poured from the speakers mounted above the console - a plangent swell of strings and brass overlaid by the precise embroidery of a classical guitar playing a melody with a Spanish influence.
McCartney had used a synthesizer to create the orchestral sounds; later, he planned to assign real instruments to replace the computer-generated ones.
Bonell began to transcribe a guitar passage while McCartney talked about his intermittent attempts to learn to read music: first, as a boy, when he briefly took piano lessons, and grew bored; and, later, as a Beatle, with the same result.
After discussing the arrangement for a sweetly melodic movement called "Romance," McCartney and Bonell went into an adjoining room with hardwood floors containing a concert grand piano, vibes, guitars, and other instruments. They sat beside each other on tools, facing a window through which they could see Smith in the control room. Both men picked up guitars and prepared to work on some passages that McCartney wanted to refine.
He asked Smith to play through the studio speakers a guitar phrase from the beginning of a movement called "Farmboy" - an ascending run of five notes that McCartney had recorded sometime earlier. Smith played the phrase. "O.K., stop there," McCartney said. He turned to Bonell and explained that he wanted the figure to include "more notes."
Bonell performed the phrase, adding more notes.
McCartney grunted. "I'm trying to get, like, twice the amount of notes in," he said. "So instead of -"he played an arpeggio-"it should be." He tried to play the sounds he heard in his mind, but stumbled.
Bonell's fingers flew over the frets. "Yeah," McCartney said, still not hearing it. "Um, there's a note on the way, a passing note."
Bonell played a fancier run up the scale. "Yeah," McCartney sad, dubiously. He attempted to sing the phrase but couldn't capture it. "It just needs two notes for every one," he persisted.
Bonell tried again. "Yeah, that's probably it," McCartney said. But he didn't sound sure. He suggested that they move on to another passage. They worked this way for almost an hour. At 4:30P.M., McCartney announced that the session was over.
John Colapinto, New Yorker
© Carlos Bonell and David Young
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