Julian Lage, Guitar Prodigy, Comes Of Age

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hide captionThe next style Julian Lage hopes to conquer is musique concrète, French electronic and experimental music.

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Julian Lage was not born with a guitar in his hand, but he could have been. He started playing at age 5. By the time he was 8, he was playing with Carlos Santana and was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary film. At 11, he appeared at the Grammys and was spotted by Gary Burton, who asked Lage to perform and collaborate with him.

Lage has now reached the age of majority and has plenty of notches on his guitar. He's played at the San Francisco and Newport jazz festivals, studied Indian music at the Ali Akbar College of Music and classical music at the San Francisco Conservatory. Now, with the help of musicians such as Bela Fleck and Nickel Creek's Chris Thile, Lage makes his debut as a solo recording artist with the album Sounding Point.

This isn't the first time Lage has entertained the idea of a solo album. The first offer came early, about the same time he attended the Grammys at 11, but Lage says he just wasn't ready.

"Musically I could have done something, but personally I didn't want to be on the scene as a solo artist yet," he says. "I really wanted to wait until all the pieces felt like they were coming together. I wanted to make a record that drew on the music I loved as a kid."

Lage had an affinity for jazz, but he also loved film scores, such as those of Bernard Herrmann, who is best known for his music in Hitchcock films. "All Purpose Beginning," the second track from Sounding Point, is influenced by this deep affection. The piece begins with the curious noise of a pencil writing on paper.

"There's a certain sound to pencil writing on paper that is really evocative," he says. "It could be a love letter, could be an angry letter, it could be anything ... It's very reminiscent of the love theme from Vertigo, which is very romantic, but also tragic at the same time. That one's very cinematic."

When he emulates film scoring, Lage can create endless moods, as if he is composing a different theme for each character, for a love scene or a fight scene. It adds a level of variety and freedom to his pieces, as they are not bound to any one genre or style.

"Film composers, you don't think of being stylistic," he says. "It's whatever the scene calls for."

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