Muriel Anderson Dreams a Little Dream of Melodic Naturalism

September 1, 2004

All too often, classical guitarists are seen as elitists who have little time for less “serious” 6-string stylings. Thankfully, not all classical guitarists have that attitude. Muriel Anderson’s virtuosity, for example, is informed by decidedly non-classical delights—including everything from bluegrass to Les Paul’s mad-scientist excursions. But Anderson is a classical guitarist through and through, and her recent New Classics for Guitar and Cello [Valley Entertainment] displays the work of an open-minded artist who gathers inspiration wherever she can find it.

In the liner notes to New Classics for Guitar and Cello, you mention that you hear compositional ideas in your dreams.

Yeah, I find that most of my dreams have some sort of melody going on in the background. The piece “Living out a Dream” on the new record is a perfect example. I sang the melody I was hearing into a tape recorder immediately after I woke up. Then I wrote down some of the chord changes, and I fell back to sleep. When I woke up and assessed what I had put down, I realized that it was much different from anything I’d ever written before. I added a middle section to stretch out the piece, but the rest was very much as it was in my dream.

You also gather a lot of inspiration from nature.

That goes way back to my childhood, when I would try to imitate the sound of crickets by scratching my guitar strings. I was fascinated by how birds sang with each other, and the rhythms the ocean waves made as they crashed upon the shore. It only stands to reason that if you interpret rhythms like sounds in nature, your guitar playing will sound more natural and musical.

Who was the player that turned you on to classical guitar?

Christopher Parkening. When I heard him, I couldn’t believe a guitar could sound so beautiful. I was in love with the classical guitar from that moment on.

Who inspires you right now?

Tommy Emmanuel’s playing has been a great inspiration to me and to my music. I don’t know anyone who plays their instrument with that much command, love, and musicality.

What instruments did you use on the new album?

I used my main “Muriel” model classical guitar built by Paul McGill, as well as a steel-string acoustic built by Kevin Ryan, and a classical guitar built by Australian luthier John Price—an incredibly loud instrument that can be heard unamplified when I play with a cello. In fact, the Price instrument was the inspiration for a new guitar Paul McGill just built for me. It combines the volume and low-end of the Price with the singing treble characteristic in McGill’s guitars.

How do you typically record your guitars?

I put my ear to different areas around the guitar, and listen to what part of the instrument sounds the most natural. I usually end up pointing a Sony C48 mic directly between the 12th and 14th frets, and a few inches away from the neck. Then I place another C48 a few feet away for ambience.

Do you have a strict practice regimen?

I always say that I’ll get a practice regimen, but I guess I still think of playing guitar as something I do only because I want to. A practice schedule says I have to.

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