Printed Matters

by J. Andrew Dickenson
September 2006

An accomplished performer on both the classical and electric guitar, New Yorker David Nadal is an active musician on both the solo and chamber music scene, regularly performing with groups such as the Zvi Migdal Tango Ensemble, Slow Six, the Sap Dream Guitar Quartet, and Ursula, at distinguished venues such as the New York Guitar Festival, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and the Guitar Foundation of America Convention. Also a well known teacher in the area, Nadal has taught at Brooklyn College, the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division, the Choir Academy of Harlem, and LaGuardia Community College (CUNY).

As if being an established teacher and an in-demand performer and weren’t enough, Nadal has made his mark on the guitar world in yet another significant way. After graduating from the Manhattan School of Music and Yale University, Nadal set out to make a definitive arrangement of music by John Dowland for classical guitarists. That project soon blossomed into a publishing company he named Kithara. To date, Nadal has published eight volumes of guitar music for Dover Publications, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to stop anytime soon — at least, the guitar world hopes not.

I have to say, David, your collections of arrangements and transcriptions are quite impressive. It’s expansive and interesting, and most of the classical guitarists I know probably own at least one or two of the books.

Thanks, Andrew! I’ve been arranging and transcribing music professionally for over 10 years now. I think that it comes naturally for most guitarists because our instrument is just so versatile. I enjoy the process of selecting the music as well the excitement I feel when I’m composing an arrangement that works both musically and technically.

At what point did you decide to start a publishing company, and what inspired it?

It was near the end of my graduate studies with Benjamin Verdery at Yale. I was trying to figure out what exactly I would do after graduation. One day it just struck me that only a handful of Dowland’s songs were accessible to guitarists who did not read Renaissance lute tablature. My uncle had a printing shop in Queens and I decided I would transcribe, edit and engrave all of Dowland’s songs and sell them by mail order. I really didn’t think any publisher would take on the whole project and publish the complete set but I ended up publishing the first of the two-volume set with Dover a year and a half later.

What does the name Kithara refer to?

The kithara was one of the more important stringed instruments of classical antiquity. It’s a type of lyre that was used to accompany epic poems and stories. It’s also the modern Greek word for guitar. My mother is Greek so the word resonates with me for a few reasons.

I’m curious about the process of creating a collection. How do you choose the music for your editions?

It really depends on the music. Most of the time, I’ll begin with a general idea for a book then start looking for music. The most important thing is to find a proper source. The folks at Yale, especially Ken Crilly who is the Andrew W. Mellon Music Librarian, have been extremely helpful. I’m very grateful to be able to do much of my research there. The collection at the New York Library for the Performing Arts is also outstanding.

How long does it generally take to put together a collection?

I guess on average it’s taken about a year to put each of my books together. Arrangements can be realized quite quickly or the process can feel like a bloodletting!

Do you have a favorite collection, or one that you’re particularly proud of?

I’m happy with how my Dowland transcriptions have become the standard edition for that particular repertoire. I’ve had contact with people from all over the world about these transcriptions.

What was the most difficult collection to put together?

I think my American folksong book was the most difficult to bring to fruition. At first, it was difficult to embrace the idea of bringing together the classical guitar with the world of American folksong. Now I love the idea creating a hybrid repertoire. I believe Lou Harrison
once said that one shouldn’t underrate hybrid music, because that’s all there is!

As you’ve put together your editions, have you made any unexpected discoveries?

I feel like I’m constantly finding new or forgotten repertoire. When I was working on Easy Classics for Guitar, I found several interesting pieces — that had been out of print for decades — thanks to Donald Sauter’s research at the Library of Congress.

Do you have any plans to expand Kithara?

We’d like to begin publishing recordings as well but that won’t be for a little while yet.

What can we expect in the future from Kithara?

Now I’m working on a book of arrangements for the electric guitar. It’s due out in February, 2007. I haven’t been this excited about a book for a long time!