Simon Thacker, The Alternative Guitar ***** QUEEN'S HALL, EDINBURGH
SIMON Thacker's Alternative Guitar programme for Edinburgh Contemporary Arts Trust (ECAT) took the audience on a whirlwind tour of global musical styles, from hot-blooded South American rhythms to Balkan dances. The guitar is often underrated as a solo instrument, but Thacker demonstrated with startling virtuosity just how versatile and exciting it can be in the right hands.
Receiving its first performance, Kenneth Dempster's Sanctum - jointly commissioned by ECAT and Napier University - revealed a quieter, more meditative side to the instrument. Ethereal bell-like harmonics led on to a gentle, meandering melody subtly punctuated by strategically placed accents.
This delicate unpicking of the harmonic elements of the notes was also explored in Nigel Osborne's After Night, inspired by a Jewish hymn.
A half-second digital delay in Nigel Westlake's Hichinbrook Riffs created a beautifully spacious and beguiling soundworld. Absolute focus was essential, as Thacker was in effect accompanying himself. Sound technology, in the form of a computer-synthesised tape along with amplification of the guitar, also featured in Thacker's interpretation of Shirish Korde's Time Grids, producing a variety of percussive sounds.
This aspect of the instrument created some dramatic moments in Edino Krieger's Ritmata, where Thacker used tapping both on the strings and the wooden part of the guitar, and his dexterity was tested to the limit in Alberto Ginastera's flamboyant Sonata for Guitar Op. 47, which demands a range of unusual techniques, including a sharp "slapping" sound.