Moods of a Mayfly


The source material for this work is drawn from incidental music written for the play “The Eye of History” by Robert Yeo, premiered in Singapore in 1992. In response to one stipulation of the commission, that the music incorporate an Asian theme, I seized upon the idea of a bridge that could be freely inserted between the strings and the fingerboard. The bridge, together with the bottleneck slide has enabled the tranformation of the guitar into an instrument with Asian characteristics.

For many crucial suggestions, as well as production of the prototype, I am indebted to the luthier M. Matthew. I am equally indebted to guitarist Tiong Kiat Yeo for this astonishing recording as well as collaboration on the score.

Click the play button below to listen to “Moods of a Mayfly”.

Click here to purchase the score in our online store.

Click here to download the recorded performance.

Click here to find out how to make a Luse-Mat insertable bridge.

Click here to download the 29-page score.

Worldwide commentary on the piece:

‘When Robert first approached me with his idea of a moveable bridge, I did not have the faintest idea as to what the final product would do. Now, together with the bottleneck slide, the bridge transforms a guitar into many instruments biased towards the Asian spectrum of the music genre. In Moods of a Mayfly I can hear the gamelan with its syncopated rhythms, not forgetting the pipa and the wailing sitar.  Bravo Robert.. to the excellent idea of the Luse bridge and to the birthing of a piece of music that showcases the potential of such a unique guitar accessory’

- M. Mathew, Singapore (co-developer of the Luse-Mathew Bridge)


– Lukas Foss

“Moods of a Mayfly’” was, I found, not western, but rather like somebody small is talking; small, but never alienated, depressed or afraid of any unknown monsters. Is it played on a classical guitar?

– Nobuko Hoysoya, Japan

‘It is magical how a guitar piece is able to produce the feeling and sound of a Chinese pi-pa and an Indian sitar. An amazing piece that truly captures the spirit of a bug living through it’s transient life in an Asian setting.’

– Kelvin Kwee, Singapore

The CD arrived today and is most enjoyable – I’m running it through for the third time at the moment. I like the sparse sound of the music – to my ignorant ears, guitar trios and quartets too often sound rather muddy, I suspect because, unlike say a string quartet, there is little difference in tone between the instruments. But here, perhaps because of the higher register, it is all much clearer. Have you thought of writing a conventional quartet or trio with say a normal guitar, a base guitar and one of your ‘asian’ guitars?

There are some great sounds. I particularly liked the Largamente – very Japanesy!

– Bill Chubb, U.K.

I’ve listened to Moods once, under perfect conditions.  I consider it a work of genius.  I will have to listen to it several more times before I will be able to say I like it, or like all of it.  But as certain passages reverberate in my memory, I think I will.  It’s so full of thought that it requires much thought in the listening.  And what a performance by a fine guitarist!

– Michael Sullivan, USA

I really enjoyed “Moods. . “ and was sad when it ended. I like the long build to the change around 6 minutes in. Very nice piece.

– Jon Garner, USA

I have received the cd, its very well done. thank u very much. the first part of the music simply blow me away! great music.

– Jacob Leong, Singapore

I’ve listened to your piece a number of times.  It’s usually is good to listen to something over a few times and let it sink in.  I was able to give it a good listen as I was in my shop working as this is where I listen to all my music.

I found it your ” Moods” very refreshing and enjoyable, I do have a love of the lute, and Asian sounds. Your transformation of the guitar into a completely different instrument is quite remarkable.

Many times in compositions the title of a piece has little bearing on the effect of the music, however in this case your title was very well chosen….. I don’t know if the title came first or the piece.

– Michael Thames, USA

I have to say I enjoyed “Moods” immensely and listened to it twice, one time right after the other.

The title is highly appropriate, the music soothing yet not boring, the sounds western, yet they have the Asian touch.

Overall, it’s an “I’ll keep it and enjoy it often CD!”

– Nini Heugle, Germany

“This piece is not like any other I have heard for the guitar.  The prepared strings produce an ethereal sound reminiscent of the Japanese koto, with great clarity and brilliance of tone.  Such a dizzying range of techniques is displayed that one would need to see it performed live to figure out all that is going on.  The accompanying poetic narrative, characteristically eccentric, tells us that this is clearly a one-off!

The opening intervals of the music seem to open up a new space of the imagination, as well as new technical territory for the guitar.  First we hear a melody in resonant trebles, and then bass and treble melodies interweave to make a conversation.  Sometimes ripples sweeping through the music link the basses and trebles.  The effects become repetitive and hypnotic.  After a time we hear the slide swooping here and there in its own melody, and as the music builds in complexity it begins to sound like several instruments.  Successive variations introduce shifts of rhythm including a delicate waltz, and an interlude marked by long trills, soundboard percussion, the rattle of nails on the body of the instrument, snaps and harmonics, rapid strumming, and long rasgueos.  Other sections conjure images of sunlight filtering through forest trees and water flowing over stones, the slide melody still emerging through cascades of sound. The piece builds toward the end, becoming more declamatory, with a rhythm accentuated by (apparently) snapping of the fingers, then a running passage that culminates in brisk, brightly strummed chords.

As challenging as this must be to perform, this is a highly original piece that really opens a window onto a new landscape for the guitar.  There is still a paucity of modern guitar repertoire, and what there is has all too often not been written by guitarists, does not show off the instrument’s special character or sensual qualities, and in short has been alienating and unpleasurable, sometimes even unbearable, to listen to.  I hope that professional guitarists will rise to the challenge, so that the profoundly refreshing sound of the ‘Mayfly’ will come to be heard more often in concert halls, and will inspire further new developments in experimental composition for prepared guitar.”

– Roxana Helen Waterson, Singapore

“In Moods of a Mayfly the composer presents to the listener’s imagination the minimalist meanderings of one of nature’s smallest creatures in quest of heavenly love.  To narrate the tale he uses techniques normally associated with non-occidental music such as an open or modal tuning, a movable bridge and a slide to produce an effect that is both colorful and effective in describing his buggy Don Juan.  The excellent playing of Tiong Kiat Yeo beautifully animates the story.”

– Elvin Johns, France

‘The versitility of the guitar seems boundless.”

- CJ Lo, Singapore

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