by Giacomo Fiore


Michael Karmon is a California-based composer who dedicates much of his output to the classical guitar. We sat down (virtually) for a little interview about his background, composition process, and new models for commissioning music. Tell us about your musical education and the path that led you to the guitar

MK: I took the usual academic path as a composer, and was trained to write for orchestra, voice, and various chamber ensembles. I didn’t write much guitar music while in school, but once I got my degree I felt drawn back to the instrument. I was very fortunate early on, because I got to work with some terrific players (Joe Hagedorn, Denis Azabagic, Newman/Oltman Duo,) and that set me on the right track. The guitar is a really tough instrument to write for, but I’m continually inspired and energized by the various challenges it poses.


So did you study guitar formally before you commenced your composition studies? or did your interest in the instrument prompt you to learn to play later on?

A bit of both. The extent of my formal training is two years of lessons when I was very young. I picked up the guitar again in high school for the usual reasons. In college I played a lot of jazz both as a soloist and in various ensembles. After school I started playing classical, and this was very much driven by my interest in writing for the instrument. I’m not a good player, but I’m better now than I was when I first started writing for guitar. It definitely helps to be able to play through my own music.

As a composer, what’s your relationship with and attitude towards the “canon” of our repertoire?

I can’t say I share most guitarist’s love for the Spanish repertoire. For me things start to get interesting with the pieces Bream commissioned, especially from Takemitsu, Berkeley, and Walton. I try to play and study pieces from the repertoire as often as I can, and I find many of them inspiring. I’ve certainly learned a lot about writing for guitar through these pieces. Having said that, I do wish guitarists would embrace new music more readily. There really are a lot of worthwhile contemporary pieces out there.

You’ve developed some projects through online communication and networking. Tell me more about them, and do you think they may hint at a new, viable way of commissioning music?

Backpack Pieces, a suite of 10 easy movements, was such a project. I proposed on the Delcamp Guitar Forum that players could each have a movement dedicated to them in exchange for a small fee. Unfortunately, in this scenario participants could not have any input about the music, but they could choose which piece was dedicated to them. I even wrote the first movement in advance so people could have something concrete to look at. It went over well. I think all the spots were filled within a few hours. It certainly looks like there’s an interest in this kind of crowd sourced commission, and people seemed genuinely excited about being involved in the creation of a new piece. I think there is a lot of potential out there both in terms of getting funding and finding players to write for. Meeting players in person can be inspiring and valuable, but I’ve had great experiences writing for guitarist that I’ve met only online and never in person.



Niccolo Paganini – Grande Sonata: Allegro Risoluto, Romanze, Andantino Variato
Bach – First Violin Sonata, BWV 1001: Adagio, Fuga, Siciliana, Presto
Manuel Ponce – Sonatina Meridional: Campo, Copla, Fiesta
William Walton – Five Bagatelles: Allego, Andante, Alla Cubana, Smpre Expressivo, Con Slancio
Federico-Moreno Torroba – Sonatina: Allegretto, Andante, Allegro

Start – 16:00 Paganini
16:0129:40 Bach
29:4238:06 Ponce
38:0951:00 Walton
51:02 – End Torroba

LeftoverVISUALS·99 videos

Andrew York, well known classical guitarist and composer, visited the studio of LeftoverVISUALS to film a performance of his song ‘Emergence’, a modern classical piece with lots of energy and virtuoso guitar playing. With Andrew i also did an interview about ‘Composing for classical guitar’, that was published in issue 21-2012 of the german magazine AKUSTIK GITARRE (

On my website you find additional information and a foto session with Andrew York.

Andrew York on the internet:


Paola Requena interpreta la obra Sonata heróica