Adam Levy Teaches His Moving Solo Guitar Composition “Clandestino (Elegy for a Cheesemonger)”
Many musicians have found new ways of collaborating during the pandemic, and for Adam Levy, the ace guitarist-composer, singer-songwriter, sideman, and educator, this included hosting a remote writing group from February 2021 to March 2022. Using prompts like “the spy who loved guitar” and “walk-on music for your appearance on a late-night talk show,” each member of the group penned 33 new compositions.
One assignment was to write something to celebrate the spirit of someone lost. Levy composed “Clandestino (Elegy for a Cheesemonger)” in honor of Anne Saxelby, a champion of artisanal American cheeses whom he had met at her shop in New York, and who had died of a heart condition in 2021 at 40.
The transcription here is based on a version, available on Levy’s Bandcamp page, that the guitarist recorded on his Waterloo WL-S Deluxe. “Clandestino” begins with a playful single-note figure drawn from the D major pentatonic scale (D E F# A B), followed by a series of broken sixths. This section reflects the vibe that Saxelby projected in her original shop on New York’s Lower East Side. “Her energy was always bright and welcoming,” Levy says, “so that suggested the opening theme.”
Levy lost touch with Saxelby when he moved to Los Angeles in 2013, and in the years that followed, she grew her business exponentially while raising a family. That period was the inspiration for the main body of the composition, where in bars 5–8 Levy shifts an open D minor chord shape against an open D pedal tone, arriving at a series of striking harmonies. Levy says, “Though I didn’t know her then, it seems her life was rich and storied—hence the colorful chords.”
Levy wanted to avoid any sense of sadness in “Clandestino,” so to close the piece (bars 21–24), instead of composing a more elegiac section, he chose to repeat the opening theme twice. “I’ll always remember Anne that way—as a bright light on the Lower East Side, passionate about locavore cheeses,” he says.
For some excellent lesson features by Adam Levy, see Play Guitar Like the Great Singer-Songwriters, available at store.acousticguitar.com.
Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the November/December 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 60.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.