Adam Del Monte pushes the limits of flamenco

The guitar virtuoso opens up about his roots and where his vision shall spring to next.



Courtesy of Tuscon Desert Song Festival

Maxwell Heilman , Writer

As his debut performance at Crowell Hall as a Biola studio artist draws near, Adam Del Monte provides insight into his life of devotion to flamenco guitar.

Musical beginnings

“My dad, although mostly a painter, was also a self-taught guitar player,” Del Monte recounted during a phone interview. “He played a little classical and a little flamenco guitar.”

Indeed, his musical mind was molded by the culture of Spain, where he grew up, eventually allowing him to travel to England to pursue the study of flamenco and classical guitar to the fullest extent he could.

This unique upbringing became bolstered by a diverse palette of music found in his family’s record collection, including the likes of Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix and everywhere in between. However, Del Monte’s pursuit of guitar never translated into playing in bands. He ended up learning the ropes during his time spent in the gypsy caves of Sacromonte in Granada.

“When I was nine or 11 I would go visit my newly adoptive family in Granada,” Del Monte said. “I would go and play in these caves for dancers and singers.”

He mused about how his time spent learning formative aspects of his playing through traditional gypsy music gave him much-needed experience with culturally distinct art forms with which he would make a career.

“It’s a very culturally specific expression,” Del Monte maintains about flamenco guitar. “Many people believe it is all improvised, but in reality it is quite well-established.”

Distinct timbre

In addition to sporting distinct timbre and techniques, flamenco guitar combines influences from Middle Eastern and Gypsy music, making for a style as flowing and graceful as it is organized and precise.

“Writing my own music gives me the authority to write how I want and change it whenever I want,” reveals Del Monte. “I’ve been known to change songs over the years if I felt that I found a better phrase or a better passage… I own it, so I can do what I want with it.”

He still retains a level of personality when playing music by others as well, leaving his signature stamp on works by composers as prestigious as John Williams and contributing to scores for films like Steven Spielberg‘s “Munich.”

Del Monte names “Wanderlust,” starring Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, as his favorite experience as a score musician. He performed the music for an infamous guitar battle scene on-set, but director David Wain used green screens to superimpose Theroux’s body over his flying fingers.

“What you hear and see are my hands and my music, but it looks like Justin Theroux is playing it,” Del Monte said. “I thought it was done really seamlessly.”

A mark on campus

Del Monte’s connection with Biola University is about three weeks young, as he gives lessons to conservatory students in addition to his work as a studio musician. The guitarist expresses excitement about making his mark on campus.

“I’m definitely looking forward to playing at Biola, having my students in the audience, as well as sharing my music with the rest of the student body, faculty, friends and family that will hopefully come,” Del Monte said.

All of Del Monte’s experience and accomplishments as a musician shall culminate in “Llantos,” a flamenco opera over two years in the making so far. This two-and-a-half hour magnum opus will combine vocal, guitar and symphonic elements through classical, flamenco and modernized lenses.

“What I look for in my compositions is the challenge of fusing various styles together so that they sound like one,” Del Monte said.

Del Monte has his most recent album, 2010’s “Asi Lo Siento Yo,” available on iTunes, and students can watch some of his performances on his YouTube channel in preparation for Friday’s performance at 8 p.m. in the Lancing Recital Hall.

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