Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Importing music can be expensive, especially if your bank charges a rate of $40 for an international wire transfer! I recently ordered a few CDs from a European composer and have discovered that in Europe a number of methods that are convenient for them are exasperatingly impossible for an American. What's worse for me, though, is that there aren't any American stores, local or otherwise, that really even have the stuff I want to look at. To pick a not entirely random example, how many local classical guitar shops can YOU think of that carry Annette Kruisbrink's Five Dances for guitar and double bass? I had a feeling there wren't many.

Fortunately the internet makes the world a little smaller for us fans of chamber music for the guitar. Unfortunately with something nasty like a $40 fee for international wire transfers you could easily pay between 50-150% the cost of a CD or score just to buy a single piece of music. True story. I had that experience buying a neat little duo for French horn and guitar and if you're reading this and your name if Volkmar you know the duo I'm talking about. :) It was worth the trouble of getting the music but the poor vendor had to wait two months, not knowing if I'd ever pay him back for certain, while I went and bickered with banks about whether or not there is even an international postal money order in euros that can be sent to Germany. Not to disparage the fine United States Postal Service but it really stunk that it couldn't help me on this particular issue.

Finally, thanks to obtaining an IBAN and a number of other important pieces of information I set up the international wire transfer and the fee cost me more than the music, almost twice as much again for the fee as for the music itself.

Now I've seen some people in cyberspace complaining about places like Guitare Diffusion and Amazon.com and about how they cut out business from little independent artists and publishers and recording labels. I really do understand the complaint, too, but the sad reality is for an amateur guitarist and composer who isn't actually in the music business the cards couldn't possibly be stacked more unfavorably in terms of the obscurity and expense of finding the little guy or finding someone local in the United States who knows who the little guy is (if the little guy or gal is in Europe). God help you if you try to ask a local music shop, even one that's pretty good about handling special orders like Capitol Music, to find music by Annette Kruisbrink.

And this doesn't simply apply to an established composer and guitarist in the Netherlands who's been around a while. There's this weird habit publishers have of dropping important works for the repertoire altogether. I'm talking about YOU Boosey & Hawkes. I once got an email from a customer service representative who told me BARTOK'S STRING QUARTETS were out of print. Out of print? Seriously? Well, no, two months later Boosey & Hawkes belatedly delivered me the complete string quartets of Bela Bartok and I forked out sixty dollars for the hardbound book. Worth it? Yeah, mostly, but that doesn't mean Boosey & Hawkes didn't piss me off just a little bit by having one of their representatives tell me six of the most important string quartets of the 20th century were "out of print" when 1) they shouldn't have been to begin with for as many quartets actually perform and record these works 2) the works were NOT out of print, after all.

Maybe this is venting a little too much spleen but I tell you that it sometimes seems that in some areas "chamber music" really just means "more than one guitar". More than one guitar is cool, especially if you're the Katona twins. :) But around here it sometimes seems that chamber music consisting of one guitar AND another instrument that's not a guitar feels a bit scarce. I know there was an oboe and guitar duo out around somewhere in Seattle. I hope they stage a comeback. I'd be happy to go hear them in concert.

Peraps I lack the networking and social graces to plug for chamber music myself but it's something I hope to see a little more of in Seattle. Right now the most I can probably do is plug for pieces I think deserve more attention on this blog (even though odds are pretty good almost no classical guitarists read it). I can also write music and pitch it to other people as I have opportunity.

Come to think of it, I should write another post some time about Chanson du Soir.