Composed by Bryan Johanson
Edited by Frank Koonce
Les Productions d'OZ
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The folia was "a very noisy Portuguese dance, performed with tambourines and other instruments, by women wearing masks and men dressed like women." The name translates as "mad," "without a brain," or "empty headed." [Note 1]. By the early seventeenth century, through its proliferation in guitar tablatures, the folia had acquired certain characteristics for which it became universally known: "It would always be set in a minor key, most often d minor. The ostinato bass and the chord progression, i-V-i-VII-III-VII-i-V-i, finally became unique to the folia--unlike in the previous century when this chord scheme, or ones very similar, comprised several dances such as the passamezzo antico, romanesca, and the fedele." [Note 2]. After 1672, a simple melody by Jean-Baptiste Lully also became associated with the folia; however, many composers and performers continued to use only the chord progression as a basis for improvisation. This progression remains one of the most popular and important formulas for musical variations on all instruments. In the program notes for his recording of this piece, Bryan Johanson tells us:
La Folia Folio was commissioned by Canadian guitarist Harold Micay. He wanted a work that he could splash around in. The result is a set of variations based on the chord progression from the famous theme La Folia d'Espagna. That work has a rich and long history of attracting composers. There are sets of variations by A. Scarlatti, C.P.E. Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Liszt, Nielsen and Rachmaninoff, not to mention dozens of sets by guitar guys like Sanz, Corbetta, Sor and Giuliani. I have tried to stress the dance nature of the theme by using only the harmonic progression, omitting the melody altogether, though there is a weird paraphrase of it about halfway through. The work is a blast to play and I enjoy splashing in it as often as I can. [Note 3].
Notes Note 1. Covarrubias, Tesoro, translated in Kurt Martinez, "Five Hundred Years of La Folia," Soundboard, XXX, No. 2 (2004), 6.
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Note 2. Martinez, Ibid., 12. Martinez also cites Otto Gombosi, "The Cultural and Folkloristic Background of the Folia," Papers of the American Musicological Society (1940), 88.
[Return to text] Note 3. Bryan Johanson, from the program booklet of Folio: Music for Guitar Alone by Bryan Johanson, Gagliano Recordings GR 602-CD, 1996.
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Bryan Johanson is an active concert guitarist, composer, and author who has taught at Portland State University since 1978. A Professor of Music, he currently serves as Chair of the Department of Music. His articles and reviews on the guitar have appeared in the top journals and magazines in the field, including Soundboard, Guitar Review, Acoustic Guitar, and American Lutherie. His compositions have been published by Columbia Music Company, Edizioni Musicali, Berben, Frederick Harris Music Publishers, Guitar Solo Publications, Thomas House Publication, Earthsongs Music Publishers, and Mel Bay Publications, Ltd. The recipient of many commissions, his music has been performed and recorded by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chamber Music Northwest, The Oregon Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, David Starobin, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, David Tanenbaum, the Portland Symphonic choir, and Third Angle New Music Ensemble. He has won numerous composition prizes, including awards from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, the Esztergom (Hungary) International Guitar Festival, the Festival of August (Venezuela), the Roger Wagner Center for Choral Studies, as well as multiple awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Johanson's music is recorded extensively and appears on record labels such as Albany, Bridge, EMI, GSP, Gagliano Recordings, and Naxos. In 1999, his critically acclaimed composition Open Up Your Ears for guitar was recorded on David Starobin's Grammy Award nominated New Dance, and, in 2004, his Pluck, Strum and Hammer and Let's Be Frank were recorded by the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet on their Grammy Award winning Guitar Heroes.
   (La Folia Folio, as performed by Bryan Johanson)
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