A recent trip to Madrid for the presentation of “Roseta” enlarged my guitar vocabulary in unexpected ways. I made some new friends and came to understand a little better those whom I had always considered to be my polar opposites. I heard for the first time the term “the Granada syndrome”, apparently coined by Lesure while writing about Debussy. It refers to the attribution of romantic longing to this admittedly romantic, moorish oriental city. In Debussy’s case without ever having visited. You can read more about this in Lesure’s “Le syndrome de Grenade” or in the article by Angelo Gilardino, “Andrés Segovia: Paradigma de una identidad” in the latest Roseta journal. As always, Gilardino’s writing is beautiful and insightful. Later in the evening, the sort of guitar-maker I am familiar with (artesano) was referred to as a “guitarrero de portal” meaning that they work with a view of the street or in view of the street. The alternative of course being a larger operation with someone out front to deal with the public. I have to assume that no offense was intended (and none taken) but the distinction was made to imply that the larger operation is a very serious affair. I often make the same distinction to highlight the quality and dedication of the artisan. Not surprising I guess that we each defend the particular model that we have chosen.
As the night “poured” on and conversation turned inevitably lighter I heard the term “New Madrid school of guitar-makers”. Nothing strange in that but when I was told that, in the opinion of my drinking companion, it is made up of a Swiss man, a Korean woman and a Catalonian I wondered how the others in town might react. The references made were to Leonard Plattner, Yunah Park and Elías Bonet. I have seen guitars made by two of these makers and have heard great things about all of them. Without a doubt, they come from a place of tradition and respect for the guitar and share a desire to improve both the guitar and the Madrid school. More power to them. I got some very negative feedback when I published an article here praising the first foreigners to take up guitar-making in Granada so maybe this too will get some negative attention.
I had the pleasure of meeting Amalia Ramírez and sharing a drink with her and her nephew Enrique Ramírez. The latest José (Enrique) in an unbroken line of Ramírez is passionate about guitars and interested in every aspect of this six-string world. In answer to a question I posed to Amalia I think the answer is “Yes, he has what it takes”. All that tradition and family history together with a personal committment to the guitar can bring great things. As for Amalia, after our conversation and reading her interview in the latest issue of Roseta, I feel like I understand her much better and can only congratulate her for her success with the family business. There is no doubt as to the fact that it is her success and that the next generation owes her a great debt.