Fernando Sor: Method for Guitar

Translated, Edited and with Commentary by
Matanya Ophee.

136  pp., $29.95, Presser Order number 494-02839 (RTFT-15)

SOR-cover.jpgUndertaking the translation of a guitar method by an author of such monumental importance to the history of the guitar as Fernando Sor is a daunting task. It is particularly so when a translation into English was already prepared during the author’s life time, and is still available today. It is precisely the existence and availability of the 1832 translation by Arnold Merrick, that is the main motivation for the present endeavor. A close comparison of the Merrick translation to the original, reveals a wide-ranging number of instances where the translator was more intent in translating the words of the author, than in correctly transmitting the pedagogical thought that these words meant to convey. The result of this pedantry is that many important precepts of Sor’s philosophy regarding guitar technique are often distorted in a way that provides English speaking HIP enthusiasts with a facile apparatus to create a way of playing the guitar that is different than standard guitar technique, often on the patently false claim that it is more authentic, but a way of playing that Fernando Sor would not have recognized as his own. Stylistically, the text attempts to describe the physical world of the guitar and its technique with a most poetically inspired florid discourse, often couched with oblique references to real or imaginary adversaries. Perhaps the most annoying stylistic peculiarity of the narrative is Sor’s constant usage of the first person singular when dealing with matters of guitar technique. At the very beginning of this method, and many times throughout the book, Sor keeps reminding us that his main purpose is not to tell us what to do, but to tell us how he himself reached whatever conclusions and principles that he promotes here. However, extending this notion to the actual descriptive discourse of technique, quickly becomes an overbearing tedium that is not helpful in understanding the issues involved. My modus operandi, then, was not to translate the text, but to convey Sor’s approach to the pedagogy of the guitar in a clear language that would make immediate sense to English readers today. Obviously, such methodology requires an interpretative examination of every single sentence in the book, attempting to glean from it the wisdom that the teacher Sor would have imparted to his students during their private lessons with him. Necessarily, much of my work required detailed explanations of the reasons for my editorial decisions. Since the original text contains a fair number of footnotes, often quite extensive, I chose to place my comments in a separate Commentary section, leaving the main text uncluttered and free of interventions, except of course, the rare instances where a short square bracketed comment can save a great deal of verbosity. All commentaries are referred to in the main text in alphabetical End Note cross references. I am acutely aware of the maxim that Time Mutes, The Translator Mutilates, and I am sure it could be argued that I greatly mutilated the original text. I fully agree, as it was my intention from the very beginning to do so. However, I have attempted to convey as clearly as possible, what Sor would have explained to me privately, had I been fortunate enough to have him as my teacher.

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Last Modified: 11/18/2011 10:00:42 PM