John Gordon Armstrong

Canadian Composer


The Space Within

I wrote The Space Within in the summer of 2017. I was intrigued by the 10-string guitar, of which Julian Bertino is an enthusiastic proponent! My goal was to take full advantage of the extended range and the possibilities for sympathetic vibrations.

In Julian’s words:

“The Space Within is utilizes the additional resonance that the 10-string guitar offers over the standard 6-string guitar. John Armstrong utilizes the familiar extended techniques and colours that audiences of the classical guitar are very familiar with, such as pizzicato and tambora, but also natural harmonics which are only possible on the 10-String Guitar and even some 10 note sonorities. 

Because the 10-String Guitar has an open bass string which is either a perfect fifth or an octave below all 12 chromatic semitones, it is possible to play virtually the entire pitch range of the guitar in natural harmonics. The Space Within uses this in order to clearly define and characterize musical sections in ways which a 6-string guitar could not. The tuning of the 10-string guitar allows each chromatic semitone played on the treble strings to have sympathetic resonance, causing some notes to sustain up to three times as long, and sound warmer and fuller.”

Pizzicato is particularly interesting on a 10-string guitar. It sounds much like the effect of muting a piano string while holding the sustain pedal. The actual note is very short, but the sympathetic vibration continues.

Julian Bertino premiered The Space Within on Nov. 25, 2017 at the Salle Huguette Labelle, University of Ottawa. The recording below is from that concert.

Composed in 2017 for 10-string Guitar
Duration: 6 minutes
Advanced student/Accessible