Nature under his fingertips with just intonation

He enters in silence as the lights dim, sits in his seat and tunes briefly. He then looks up and gives a gentle nod as the audience applauds. Matthew Grasso performed an eight piece solo guitar show featuring classical music of his own transposition Friday in the American River College Music Department room 547.

At his fingertips are two custom guitars, the extended seven string and the 18-tone, 11-limit just intonation. According to Grasso, other musicians who play intonation guitars are very rare due to the instrument’s complexity. The guitar itself is covered in frets and half frets at varying intervals.

Traditionally, music isn’t written for these instruments, so Grasso’s entire show was self-transposed, including several original sets. Music written for a concert piano or chamber orchestra need to be re-written to be read by a solo guitar player. Two of these self-composed sets were written and designed specifically to show off the capabilities of, and to get listeners used to, the unique sound of these guitars.

“It’s pretty cool seeing guitars that are not the norm,” commented David Miller, a biology major attending ARC.

For a solo act, Grasso’s playing sounds like a multiple instrument group. If you close your eyes and listen, you would swear it had to be more than just one man playing a single guitar.

This has to do with the instrument’s phenomenal range. “It has 18 notes to an octave instead of the typical 12, none of which are shared,” Grasso explained. “Every artist can choose (his or her) own way of tuning, so it’s very personalized.”

At the climax of the set was a piece of music called “Four Spirits,” which took place in four movements. The sections were composed by Grasso specifically to acclimate a person’s ear to the sound of the just intonation guitar, which he says is more in tune with the natural world. “We’re getting back to nature,” Grasso said.

Overall, the allure to this particular type of music is the novelty. “It’s different than what you normally hear in classical music, so it’s worthwhile of a show,” commented applied mathematics major Anthony Lazzarino. Grasso has remarkable talent and the audience responded very positively to the show.

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