MetCollects—Episode 7 / 2017: "The Four Seasons" Guitars

"What makes an instrument an individual?" Anthony Wilson plays John Monteleone's "Four Seasons" guitars

John Monteleone invited guitarist and composer Anthony Wilson to write a piece for the ensemble of "Four Seasons" guitars. In this video, Wilson discusses each of the guitars' individual voices.

Featured Artworks:
John Monteleone (American, b. 1947). "The Four Seasons" Guitars, 2002–2006. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Abraham J. & Phyllis Katz Foundation Gift, in memory of Michael Allan Katz, 2017 (2017.179.1–4)

Songs, in Order of Performance:
"Traditional"
"Jackson" by Anthony Wilson
"Alla Chitarra" by Anthony Wilson
"Vida Perdida Acabou" by Anthony Wilson

MetCollects introduces highlights of works of art recently acquired by The Met through gifts and purchases. Discover a new work each month.

Anthony Wilson: When John built these "Four Seasons" guitars, he asked me to write music for the quartet. He has a very refined sense of line and proportion and design. All of those beautiful touches inspire the player, but his primary concern is sound and resonance. Each guitar has a little bit of a different way of speaking.

This is the "Winter" guitar. It was the first one that he completed. It's got an oval hole, so a quite big and developed tone. It almost creates its own little theater. Archtop instruments, when you play them quiet, they tend to feel like they're disappearing, and when you play them loud they freak out, and you can't get what you're looking for out of them. But this, at the most kind of delicate dynamic, speaks. It doesn't get lost. And then as you kinda . . . you know . . . you have quite a bit of room to play with as a player, as a composer. So it makes a beautiful foundation for the other instruments in the ensemble.

This is the "Spring" guitar. It has its own visual brightness and freshness about it, but it also has this kind of forward, throaty sound that I love. I almost think of this guitar in terms of the whole quartet as more of the soprano instrument—that beautiful bird-like quality—even though it's the same range. At the same time, though, as I play, it still has a beautiful, balanced bass, a beautiful low-end response.

This is the "Summer" guitar of the "Four Seasons." This one has this beautiful scroll borrowed from the mandolin family of instruments, and it has also an oval hole, similar to the "Winter" guitar. The sound tends to whoosh out of them. The "Winter" guitar has a little more thump to the bass. There's something in the bass of this guitar that's rounder. You can see this guitar is big, but when you're holding it, it just feels so good. It doesn't feel intimidating.

This guitar is "Autumn," suggested by that beautiful burnished color and the slightly, in a sense, more burnished tone. You know . . . a little bit . . . slightly darker. I love this guitar because of the way it handles beautiful, complex harmonies.

These "Four Seasons" guitars are just a testament to how guitars have characters and personalities if you can just tune in with them.

Director and Producer: Sarah Cowan
Editor: Sarah Cowan
Camera: Dia Felix, Stephanie Wuertz
Lighting Design: Ned Hallick
Sound Recording and Editing: David Raymond
Interviewer: Christopher Noey, Jayson Dobney
Production Coordinator: Kaelan Burkett
Production Asssitant: Bryan Martin
Special Thanks: Pam Summey

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