NYC based guitarist/composer Charlie Rauh has been invited to be resident composer by such organizations as the Rauschenberg Foundation, Klaustrid Foundation, and the Chen Dance Center. His work as a soloist has been supported by grants from Meet The Composer, The Untitled Artist Group, and The Fractured Atlas Group. Rauh’s approach to solo guitar composition takes inspiration from folk lullabies, plainchant, and the imagery of various poets ranging from the Brontës to Anna Akhmatova. Acoustic Guitar Magazine notes that “Charlie Rauh plays guitar with a quiet intensity, each note and chord ringing with purpose… With these lullabies, Rauh gives a gentle reminder that playing soft and slow can be more impactful than loud and fast.”. He presents us his brand new release in Destiny Records
The Bluebell is the third solo album from guitarist and composer Charlie Rauh, following 2019’s Hiraeth, which garnered enthusiastic response from the press as music with “a quiet intensity, each note and chord ringing with purpose. With these lullabies Rauh gives a gentle reminder that playing soft and slow can be more impactful than loud and fast” (Acoustic Guitar Magazine). The Bluebell continues Rauh’s stylistic hallmark of spacious solo guitar composition, while giving greater depth to this set by taking on the beloved poetry of Emily and Anne Brontë as its creative inspiration. Titled after a small flower familiar to the landscape of the Brontës’ homeland in Northern England, and a subject of both authors’ writing, the songs of The Bluebell emerge as thoughtful, pensive, and reverent interpretations of the poems from which they draw inspiration. Recorded in the home where Rauh spent his youth and his father taught him guitar, the nine miniature songs weave, ring, and decay as they alternate between selections of Emily and Anne’s poems of childhood, growth, persistence, and wonder. As heard on Hiraeth, Rauh’s combination of finger style and flat picked guitar playing evokes echoes of medieval modal movements intertwined with smoky Appalachian melodies that add a unique
As a support musician, Rauh works with a variety of artists across several genres both as a touring sideman and a studio musician and arranger. Recording projects include work with Wilco drummer Ken Coomer, Magnetic Fields producer Charles Newman, and Sparklehorse contributor Alan Weatherhead. Live performances include artists such as Pulitzer nominee Cornelius Eady, Rolling Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler, Iranian pop innovator Sepideh, and Finnish indie artist Peppina.
A song inspired by Anna Akhmatova's poem, The Sentence,
featuring Sónia André singing
The solo guitar version can be heard on Hiraeth, Destiny Records 2019
1 As in the story of “The Emperor's Suit”, the global crisis has put the weakest parts of our model of life in tension. The problem of art in general, in a world with an exaggerated technical-economic drift is one of them. What role does it occupy and what role should it occupy, when it is one of the functions that tends to be cut most violently in a process of crisis. Is art fundamental or can we just do without it
CS Lewis once wrote that “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” The fundamental role that art plays in our existence is rooted in relation. The ache for purpose is intrinsic in the creating of art, and the action of art is one of extension in the most intimate of ways. Without art, the world would continue. But it's the invitation to wonder that inspires humanity to reach for greater heights, and that is what art provides.
A lullaby inspired by Anne Brontë’s poem, The Bluebell.
Filmed by Eric Skye
2 Within art, How does music contribute to today's society
Music contributes a universal bond that asks for nothing, and gives everything. To listen to music, and to be nourished by it, requires no prerequisite. Someone can hear a piece of music and think nothing of it, while the person next to them can have their life changed by the same piece. Within the context of art, music offers us a glimpse into the eternal.
3 The role of the musician is increasingly difficult. It is a great challenge to dedicate himself exclusively to his work, as he is being pushed out of the economic environment. It is very difficult to be able to be dedicated professionally and exclusively to creation, and the digital world is progressively moving the musician away from being able to live from the commercialization of his products. What panorama awaits us if one of your last sources of income is reduced, those derived from physical presence, concerts
I choose to adapt in every way that I am able to. With travel and performance (my main income source for over a decade) no longer an option for the foreseeable future, I have pivoted to taking on remote session work from my home studio set up combined with teaching online to bring in my income. I also try to stay productive as a composer by taking in inspiration from research and interpreting literature that I find inspiring in order to create music that I believe is worth offering to the world.
4 In this troubled time, what motivates you to keep making work for the public
In a way, the creation and release of music is a form of sonar for me. I do want to share my music, as I am proud of it and hope people will enjoy it, but it's also a way to search for kindreds. When I release new music, there's always an underlying beacon sent out to see who else feels what I feel. In addition, the hope is that I can offer inspiration and likewise be inspired.
When I started to promote The Bluebell, I wound up getting in touch with DM Denton, a brilliant author and Brontë researcher. We have since been promoting each other's work - with my song composed after Anne Brontë's poem being the backdrop to the trailer for her book, Without The Veil Between, Anne Brontë A Fine and Subtle Spirit. There is no finer example than this regarding my motivation.
2020 is the bicentennial of the birth of Anne Brontë.
"This novel portrait gives us Anne. Not Anne, the ‘less gifted’ sister of Charlotte and Emily; nor the Anne who ‘also wrote two novels’, but Anne herself, courageous, committed, daring and fiercely individual: a writer of remarkable insight, prescience and moral courage whose work can still astonish us today." ~ D. Bennison, Bennison Books
5 What would you say are the main concerns within your sound search Those that you persecute, hide, transform, those that remain and excite you, or even hypnotize you.
The central intention that I focus on in my sound is distillation. I am trying to develop a sound that has only what needs to be there and absolutely nothing else. Two years ago I transitioned to exclusively playing acoustic guitar for my solo compositions after 20 years of exclusively playing electric. I had always played electric guitar with ambient effects to create space and atmosphere, but then realized I was straying very far from what I heard in my head, and the sound was not personal or unique to me as an artist.
Composing on acoustic steel string guitar has opened my ears to true atmosphere - the reverb on my albums now is whatever naturally occurs in the space I choose to record, and 'effects' are whatever sounds naturally occur in the space that the mic pics up. I only record my solo pieces in remote locations (so far a barn in France, a small cottage on Captiva Island, the dining room in the house I grew up in). I am fascinated by space in sound. My hope is that I can learn to be patient and attentive to the minutia of tone, and create microcosmic pieces of music that emerge more is magnifying glasses than megaphones.
6 How would you describe the influence of poetry on your music
I am deeply affected by poetry in that its delivery seeks to be concise, impactful, and memorable. When I read poets like Anne and Emily Brontë, I immediately feel inspired to respond. Its almost like having a conversation with them when I compose. I want to create music that listens as a poem reads - that lingers in the aftermath, and that settles in a sacred place.
A view into The Bluebell - a collaborative project bewteen myself and my two siblings, Nini and Chris. I composed a cycle of solo acoustic guitar lullabies inspired by the poems of Anne and Emily Brontë, and handed off the music to my brother and sister. They in turn combined their original paintings, miniature word responses, and our own messages to eachother to rereceate a personal rendition of an historic and treasured document. Anne and Emily would often write accounts of their lives, minds, and hearts illuminated by sketches, and crosswriting techiniques (writing a letter with both horizontal and vertical lines) in their now famous Diary Papers. For the release of this album, my sister has constructed a limited edition of 30 Diary Paper sets to be made available with the purchase of the digital release album. footage by Christina Rauh Fishburne
7 How would you define your use of the guitar?
I use the guitar as a means to deliver subtlety and delicacy. I am interested in the small details of overtones, note decay, left hand dynamics, and bare melody. I love the idea of the guitar being a free standing sound that very much sounds like one guitar alone. Solo guitar is often marked by finding ways to emulate several voices at once (which is beautiful), but I am not interested in doing that. I use the guitar to attempt a clear, solitary voice.
New England Plains Drifter (time lapse painting) - Charlie Rauh & Cameron Mizell
8 I find in this new work a specific intimate search. Contained forms, songs or ballads or lullabies that would find a classic definition when one is alone, he sings to accompany himself. As I listen to your work, a work that always impressed me comes to my memory Silent Music by Federico Mompou. How do intimacy and distance matter in your work.
This new album is very intimate and personal, yes. The songs on The Bluebell are all written about poems by Emily and Anne Brontë, two of my favorite writers. They shared a very special bond amongst their other siblings and their family, and their poetry has deeply inspired me for some time. Intimacy is an essential factor in my music. I feel in my attempts to express intimate detail though composing, I am able to likewise purely expound emotionally. For many years I avoided openly calling on emotions to compose, because I never felt that I was capable of genuinely accomplishing it. But through the inspiration of poetry in my composing, I have found permission to feel.
Already madness, with its wing,Covers a half of my heart, restless,Gives me the flaming wine to drinkAnd draws into the vale of blackness.
I understand that just to itMy victory has to be given,Hearing the ravings of my fit,Now fitting to the stranger’s living.
And nothing of my own pastIt’ll let me take with self from here(No matter in what pleas I thrust
Anna Akhmatova. Requiem 1935-1940
9 Three simple words: Poetry, Painting, Music
Poetry nourishes my thoughts, Painting contextualizes the importance of small details, and music provides a vehicle to act.
10 How do you see your next step? Where would you place your fears and illusions right now?
I plan on continuing to compose solo guitar music, and adapting to the state of things however I am required to. I feel a spiritual void from not being able to travel, meet new people, and experience new things (I'm sure most of us do). All I feel that I can do is to continue, and do so with hope and faith.
B&W Photos: Alice Teeple