Conference: “Instrument of Change: The International Rise of the Guitar (c. 1870-1945)” Melbourne – Dec 2016

Was invited to present some of my PhD research on the playing styles of pioneering female lead guitar players at a conference in Australia last month, entitled “Instrument of Change: The International Rise of the Guitar (c. 1870-1945)”. The conference, held at the University of Melbourne, featured guitar researchers from around the globe, presenting on diverse topics such as “Creativity and Cognition in Early Jazz Guitar Pedagogy” (Amy Brandon – CAN), “Atahualpa Yupanqui’s Guitar Style and Staged Representations of Folk Music in Early Twentieth-Century Argentina” ( Julius Reder Carlson – USA) and “Historical Performance Practice of Spanish Modernism: An Approach to the Performer Regino Sainz de la Maza” (Yiannis Efstathopoulos – EU).

My paper, “She Made That Guitar Talk: Pioneering Female Lead Guitar Players and Their Influence on the Development of American Popular Music”  explored the approaches to playing taken by Maybelle Carter, Memphis Minnie and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, three female lead guitar players who were all significantly innovative within the contexts of the 1930s and ’40s country, blues and gospel/R&B genres. In addition to examining the specific technical and musical approaches of these players, the paper consider the cultural implications of the presence of commercially successful female lead players in early popular music, in contrast with the virtual absence of equivalent figures in later popular styles.

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