Conference Report: The 6th Annual International Conference on the Blues, Cleveland, Mississippi, 4th Oct 2019

I had the great pleasure of being invited to the 6th Annual International Conference on the Blues to present some of my research on blues guitarist, Memphis Minnie. The conference was held on the campus of Delta State University at the Delta Music Institute,  in Cleveland Ms., a town located in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. The conference was designed to celebrate the blues, through scholarly activity, discourse, and music.




The day featured concurrent paper and lecture recital sessions, with topics including the blues; African American musical traditions and influences on world cultures; the influence of gospel, spirituals, and soul music; music of the American civil rights movement; African American music as social commentary and protest; and history and culture of the Mississippi Delta.

The conference began with a session on the blues abroad; Prof. Michael Rauhut (University of Asher, Norway) presented a paper on the development of the blues in divided Germany from 1945, illustrating how political and social conditions shape the meaning of the music.


Dr. Clay Motley (Florida Gulf Coast University) then presented a paper entitled ‘Painting Clarksdale Something Other Than Blue: Colombian Street Art in the Delta’, in which he documented how the residents of Clarksdale, Ms., recently brought internationally renowned street artists from Bogota, Colombia to town to paint large murals downtown. The presentation examined how the project challenged Clarksdale’s identity as the “Birthplace of the Blues”, connecting the Delta to the Global South.


The second paper session of the day, ‘Identity and Appropriation in the Blues’, began with a paper from Nicole Sonneveld (Roosevelt University) entitled ‘From Cornbread to Country: Appropriation as Oppression in the American Country Music Industry’. Tackling issues of identity, racism and cultural appropriation, this paper explored the country music industry’s denial of Black artists’ contributions to the genre.


Dr. Barton Price (Purdue University, Indiana) then presented a paper addressing cultural appropriation in 1980s teen films. The paper, entitled ‘Nobody Leaves This Place Without Singin’ the Blues”: Appropriation in Adventures in Babysitting’ focused on a scene in the film Adventures in Babysitting that featured a Blues performance by white middle-class teenagers before a black audience in a club on the southside of Chicago, revealing the myth of racial harmony mediated by the Blues.


The third session of the morning focused on the Blues in West Tennessesse. Dr. Mitsutoshi Inaba (Austin Peay State University) presented a paper exploring the tradition of harmonica performance practice in West Tennessee from the 1920s to 1940s. His research was developed from reserach into Charlie Musselwhite, famed harmonica player from Kosciusko, MS.


In this same session, I presented my paper, entitled ‘How She Made That Guitar Talk: Memphis Minnie and the Lead Guitar in Early Blues Music’.   A native of Mississippi, and a regular performer on  Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee,  Minnie was one of very few women to gain commercial success as an instrumentalist in the ealry blues field. My paper focused on her idiolect (individual playing style), including her creative engagement with master and seed riffs to unify her catalogue, and her influence on the development of the Blues.


After a ‘lunch and learn’ panel discussion focused on ‘Books and the Blues”, featuring authors and editors influenced by Blues communities (Dr. Tammy L. Turner, Dean Julius, Will Jacks and Craig Gill), Prof. Scott Barretta (University of Mississippi and Delta State University) gave a keynote presentation entitled ‘Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You?” Religious Songs Collected Outside of Church Settings in the 1941-1942 Coahoma Study’. In his presentation, Prof. Barretta detailed the variety of performances of religious songs captured by ethnomusicologists Alan Lomax and John Wesley Work III, as well as recollections of older styles including hymns, spirituals, and shouts.


Following Prof Baretta’s keynote, musician, educator, and author of ‘So You Want to Sing the Blues’ Eli Yamin, gave a masterclass on blues singing, working with DSU vocal students. Mr Yamin began with some vocal warm-up’s and offered insight into general efficient technique, and then worked with some of the talented local students, offering guidance on approaches to rhythm, phrasing and timbre when singing in the blues idiom.


After a break to explore the town of Cleveland, which is home to the Grammy Mississippi Blues Museum , and located only a few miles from the historic Dockery Plantation (one of the key sites in blues history), we attended a concert by gospel vocal group, The Como Mamas.


Born in Como, Mississippi, sisters Della Daniels and Angelia Taylor, and cousin Ester Mae Smith, have been performing together for over 50 years, from their beginnings as youngsters in the church.

The group performed on the steps of the Downtown Cleveland Courthouse, the location in which W.C. Handy described as becoming  “enlightened” to the power of the Blues, after watching an audiences fervent response to a blues trio playing at the courthouse.


Following the amazing concert from The Como Mamas, some of the conference participants attended a fantastic “blues in the round” jam session at ‘Mississippi Grounds’. The event was hosted by award-winning singer/songwriter David Dunavent and allowed local and visiting musicians to close out a full day of discussion and discourse, to play together – an amazing way to round out an amazing conference.


Many thanks to the conference organisers Shelley Collins and Don Allan Mitchell, and the whole team at DSU and the Delta Music Institute, for an amazing and inspiring day in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, the home of the Blues.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Second International Conference on Women’s Work in Music, Bangor University, Wales, 4–6 September 2019

From the 4-6 September, Bangor University in Wales hosted the Second International Conference on Women’s Work in Music.  The conference celebrated the achievements of women musicians from across the ages to the present day, and aimed to critically explore and discuss the changing contexts of women’s work in music on the international stage. There were 6 research sessions over the course of 3 days, with 2-3 concurrent topics running at once, in addition to lively panel discussions and concerts.


Day 1:

The conference began with a paper session on female practitioners in popular music. Alice Masterson (York University, UK) presented a paper on Karen Carpenter, demonstrating how expectations surrounding ‘womens work’ in the soft-rock idiom of the 1970s suppressed Carpenter’s expressive freedom.


I had been invited to present a paper in the same session, entitled “A Mother and a Sister: Pioneering Female Guitar Players and their Influence on the Development of the Lead Guitar in American Popular Music”. My presentation focused on the idiolect and influence of Maybelle Carter and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, two pioneering female lead guitar players in the ealry country and gospel-blues genres.


The second afternoon paper session focused on performance and reception. Peng Liu (University of Texas, Austin) began the session with a paper on the German piano virtuoso Caroline de Bellville (1806-1880), examining the coexistence of gendered characteristics considered both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ within her performance style, and her reception via an examination of concerts reviews.


Dr Jaswandi Wamburkar (SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, India) presented three case studies of  female Indian singers in the field of ‘light music’ (Malati Pandi, Jayamala Shiledar and Suma Kalyanpurkar), examining the ways in which the women successfully negotiated public and musical domains which had been historically dominated by patriarchal assumptionsj


Dr Barbara Gentili delivered a paper on Emma Carelli (1877-1928), an Italian operatic soprano, active in the age of versimo opera, who left a successful performing career to take up the role of impresario at the Roman Opera house.


Gabriele Slizyte (Sorbonne University and Conservatoire de Paris) presented a paper which offered an overview of the career of Gaby Casadesus (1901-1999), documenting the ways in which Casadesus navigated traditional gender roles and maintained an autonomous performing career, whilst married to Robert Casadesus, a male performer heralded as ‘one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century’.


Day one concluded with a concert celebrating the work of one of Wales’ most prolific composers, Rhian Samuel.


Day 2:

Day 2 began with a number of sessions, including a second session on Performance and Reception. Jessica Beck (University of Manchester UK) opened the session, presenting a paper on the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s inclusion of women as composers, performers and administrators. Ms. Beck drew on her research undertaken at the BBC archives, examining programming data and available press reports.


Madeline Herbert offered an examination of the attitudes toward all- female big bands, with a comparative reception analysis of the ‘International Sweethearts of Rhythm’, a band active prior to and during the second world war, and the contemporary ‘DIVA Jazz Orchestra’. The paper discussed attitudes toward women in jazz, and the ways in which these attitudes may have changed over time.


Joy Ellis (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) presented a paper focusing on the ‘Tomorrows Warriors’ program, an arts organisation based in London that aims to “inspire, foster and grow a vibrant community of artists, audiences and leader who together transform the lives of future generations by increasing opportunity, diversity and excellence in and through jazz”. Ms Ellis’ paper focused on the strategies deployed by the organisation to help young women access and navigate jazz communities and performance spaces.


The morning was concluded with a keynote presentation by Dr Liane Curtis, President of the ‘Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy’ and the ‘Rebecca Clarke Society’. Dr Curtis’ presentation argued for the continued historical recovery and robust integration of women composers as part of the fabric of classical music-making, in every respect.


Thursday afternoon began with a session on Music, Gender and Representation. Claudia Falcone, a PhD candidate at Bangor University, presented some of her research, analysing the portrayal of the guitar and female players in ealry nineteenth century art. Ms. Falcone identified five recurrent tropes of effeminacy, exoticisation, wealth and status, education and romantic courtship, and offered exemplifiers of each.


Dr Elisabeth Honn Hoegberg (University of Indianapolis, USA) offered a paper entitled ‘Untrammled Imagination: The Women of Wa-Wan Press’. Active in the first decade of the 20th century, Wa-Wan Press was illustrative of America’s search for its musical voice. Dr Hoegberg discussed the ways in which Wa-Wan promoted female American composers as part of a nationalist agenda, through an examination of the visual representation of the women’s music and accompanying narratives.


Dr Vivian Montgomery (Longy School of Music, Massachusetts, USA), Dr Janet Youngdahl (University of Lethbridge, Canada) and Elizabeth Kenny (University of Oxford, UK) presented a lecture-recital in celebration of the work and life of 17th century composer/singer Barbara Strozzi, 400 years after her birth in Italy.




The afternoon concluded with a panel discussion ‘Women Composers: Looking Back and Looking Forward’. This panel brought together performers, academics and broadcasters (Diana Ambache, Dr Kate Kennedy, Rhian Samuel, Edwina Wolstencraft) to discuss how they have approached and sought to redress the notable absence of women composers in histories of music, university syllabi, on the airwaves and in concert halls.


Day two finished with a pre-concert talk with Angela Elizabeth Slater, founder and artistic director of the ‘Illuminate’ concert series, which celebrates the work of women composers from the past and present.


The talk was followed by a wonderful concert, with a program featuring all-female composers, including Barbara Strozzi, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Rebecca Clarke and Vivian Fine, as well as world premieres by contemporary composers Yfat Soul Zisso, Joanna Ward, Sarah Westwood, Caroline Bordignon, Blair Boyd and Angela Elizabeth Slater.


Day 3

Friday morning began with another paper session, ‘Perspectives on Women’s Work in Music’. Dr Laura Hamer (Open University, UK) opened the session with a paper entitled ‘Une belle manifestation feministe’: Motivation and Formation of the UFPC (Union des Femmes Professeurs et Compositeurs de Musique).  Dr Hamer’s paper illuminated the contributions of the UFPC, an organisation formed in Paris in 1904 by Marie Daubresse, in order to defend the ‘collective interests of women musicians’.


Kelly Lynn Christensen (Stanford University) offered a paper entitled ‘Women and Parisian Music Publishing in the First Half of the 19th Century’ , revealing women’s involvement in the music publishing industry in Paris, in particular the leadership of Madamme’s Leduc and Launer.


Dr. Nancy Washer (The College at Brockport, State University of New York) delivered a  paper documenting  ‘women’s work’ in the Viola da Gamba Society of America, examining the contributions of women to the historical development and current leadership structures of society.


The morning concluded with a thought provoking Keynote presentation from Deborah Annetss,  Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, entitled ‘100 Years after Womens suffrage: Has music got the message?’ Her presentation included an examination of the findings of a survey taken by the ISM in 2018, which aimed to compile data surrounding issues of discrimination in the British music sector.



The Second International Conference on Women’s Work in Music was truly an inspiring and empowering conference. Many thanks to the committee at Bangor University, led by Dr Rhiannon Mathias, for bringing together a terrific community of scholars, practitioners and professionals in the field, each with a common focus – elucidating the often overlooked contributions of women in the field of music.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conference Report: International Guitar Research Centre Conference, Hong Kong, July 2019

The International Guitar Research Centre (IGRC) at the University of Surrey (UK) held its 2019 research conference from 14th to 20th July 2019 at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. This event brought together guitar researchers and practitioners from around the globe, with a focus on the theme of improvisation but open to all topics within the area of guitar research, regardless of style or genre. The Conference was held alongside the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts’ International Guitar Forum (IGF) with a theme of 19th Century Performance Practice, and the Altamira Hong Kong Guitar Symposium and Competition.


IGRC 2019, Day 1:

In session 1, the first lecture-recital of the conference was given by Vladimir Ibarra (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México),  entitled “The interpreter as co-creator: open forms and improvisation systems in “Del Crepúsculo” – Fantasía (“On Twilight” – Fantasy) No.1 Op.12 by Ernesto Garcia de Leon”. In his lecture, Vladimir offered an interpretation of the analysed musical composition, in order to exemplify the way in which an interpreter can assimilate the ideas of the composer and become his co-creator.


Kenneth Kam (Eastman School of Music, USA) then presented a lecture-recital focused on his on-going research into Walton’s ‘Bagatelles’. In his presentation, Ken gave an analysis of Walton’s guitar writing, through study and comparison with Anon. in Love (1959), Capriccio Burlesco (1968), Scapino: A Comedy Overture (1940), and his two symphonies.


In Session 2, Ken Murray from the University of Melbourne (AUS) presented a lecture- recital entitled “In the loop? Classical guitar and new technology”, exploring the recent proliferation of the loop pedal in both popular and art music contexts. Implications for the use of loop pedals with the solo classical guitar were drawn with particular reference to the creation of his own composition, “Loop Sonata” (2016)


Following Dr Murray, David Cotter from the University of Cambridge (UK) gave a lecture-recital,  “New Work for Classical Guitar & Live Electronics with Dynamic VR Score: Structuring improvisation in a three-dimensional virtual environment”, which focused on David’s own collaborative project exploring the interface between physical and virtual realities in the context of classical guitar performance; principally through a semi-structured improvisational approach using instructional and notated material displayed in 3D space using the Oculus Rift system


To end the session, Greg Stott from the Australian National University (AUS) presented a lecture-recital entitled “Beyond the Echo Chamber – A Rhythmic Praxis for Guitar”, in which he offered details of his own research that explores the abstraction possibilities of drum-set vocabulary and methodologies for use in guitar composition and improvisation. In the presentation, Greg performed recent works and gave an overview of Procedural & Representational Abstraction methodologies arising from his research, in particular their application to drumming concepts to generate new vocabulary for guitar composition and improvisation.


In session 3, Jonathan Leathwood (University of Denver, USA) Stanley Yates (Austin Peay University, USA) and Stephen Goss (IGRC, University of Surrey, UK) presented a keynote panel session, “Improvisation as a Way of Knowing: Towards a New Pedagogy of Notated Repertoire”. In this session, the three scholars/practitioners demonstrated a series of practical approaches to improvisation from the 18th century to the present day. They demonstrated how musicians in the baroque and classical periods trained with complete formal units, and how improvisation can inform present-day preoccupations, from memorising pieces in autonomous atonal languages to collaborating with composers on new works.


The final session of day 1 began with Sophie Marcheff (University of Melbourne, AUS) presenting a paper exploring the emergence of the classical guitar in Australia, Sophie’s paper, “Anything That Plinks Just Isn’t Classical:” Early Critical Reception of the Classical Guitar in Australia, 1968-1980”, traced the shifting status of the “classical guitar” in Australian musical society from the foundation and early years of select societies through to the eventual use of the guitar in contemporary classical composition.


The final paper of day 1 was offered by Eric Johns (University of California, Riverside, USA), entitled “Jazz al tango: Stylistic Shifts in Late-Golden-Age Tango Guitar”. In his presentation, Eric demonstrated the often-overlooked influence of jazz on Golden-age tango guitar styles, with a particular focus on increased levels of chromaticism as well as a shift in harmonic possibilities in the performance of tango.


IGRC 2019 – Day 2

Day 2 began with a lecture-recital from Dr Paulo Olivero of Belmont University (USA). Dr Olivero’s presentation focused on the incorporation of jazz improvisation vocabulary into the daily technical routine of a classical guitarist. This included a study of scales, arpeggios, chord voicings, and licks associated with the practice of technique, such as slurs, shifts, hand placement, polyphonic control, legato, and sound projection. He then went on to perform some original arrangements that contained sections open for improvisation and demonstrated how to develop an improvised solo using the concepts presented.


The next lecture-recital was given by Dr Rich Perks of the University of Kent (UK). The presentation, entitled “The Expansion of Improvisatory Techniques and Sound-Palette Specific to the Fretless Electric Guitar” offered discussion of various performance techniques specific to the fretless electric guitar, as well as discoveries of new techniques and sounds which have emerged from Dr Perks’ personal practice. This was followed by a solo, part-composed/part-improvised performance, demonstrating how such techniques and sounds might be used in a contemporary music context.


Session 2 began with a lecture from Dr John McGrath (IGRC, University of Surrey, UK) entitled “Ghost Guitars in the Machine: The Affordance and Philosophy of Loops in Live Improvised Performance”. In his paper, Dr McGrath interrogated the concepts and practice of improvised live granular synthesis, offering an analytical and philosophical insight into its prevalence today, through the lens of repetition theory.


Dr Marc Estibeiro (Staffordshire University UK) then offered details of his research, in a presentation entitled “Improvising with Electronics: Encouraging Classical Guitarists to Reframe and Explore the Natural Sound of the Guitar Through the Use of Digital Instruments”. Dr Estebeiro presented a software environment which encourages classical guitarists to improvise with electronics, arguing that models which exploit the existing skillsets and performance practices of classical guitarists are most likely to be successful, whereas models which rely too heavily on external controllers and interfaces can discourage engagement and improvisation.  He then gave a demonstration of the software environment to show improvisation through real time control of the digital instrument using the natural sound of the guitar as both the source material for electronic processing and to control the electronics


The final paper of the session came from Dr Milton Mermikides (IGRC, University of Surrey, UK). In his paper “Plucked from Thin Air: Guitar Improvisation as the Intersection of Composition, Performance and Cognition”. Dr Mermikides argued that improvisation should not be considered an adjunct skill to the conventional activities of performance, composition and analysis, but an active and central agent in their development, pedagogy and creative application. Further, he demonstrated how the constraints and peculiarities of the guitar fretboard could be shown to be a vehicle for improvisational expression.


For the final session of the afternoon, I presented a paper entitled “Stand By Your Man: Les Paul, Mary Ford and the Guitar in Mainstream Popular Music” in which I offered an initial assessment of the key elements of Les Paul and Mary Ford’s instrumental idiolects, their collaborative approach as a duo and subsequent influence.


Following my presentation, Dr Tom Williams (Academy of Contemporary Music, UK), delivered a paper entitled “Strategy Based Improvisation in Jazz Guitar: Post Vocabulary Approaches to Improvisation Analysis, Practice, and Pedagogy”. Drawing on generative theories established by Clarke, and studies of improvisation in practice by Berkowitz and Hargreaves, Dr Williams’ paper demonstrated the benefits of considering a schema-based approach in relation to contemporary guitar improvisation.



The final paper of the day presented research from Amy Brandon (Dalhousie University, Canada), in a paper entitled “Perceptuomotor Encoding of Complex Movements and the Feedforward Process of Jazz Guitar Improvisation”. In this paper (read by Dr Mermikides), Amy explores the literature of visual or perceptual encoding of complex hand movements, examining the possible cognitive processes and brain areas involved in the encoding and recalling of improvised guitar movements, and factors as to why visuo- or perceptuomotor encoding seems heavily present in jazz guitar improvisation.


IGRC 2019, Day 3

Day three began with a paper presented by Andreas Aase (Nord University, Norway) entitled “Nordic Folk Tunes as Building Blocks for Jazz-influenced Improvisation”. As a practitioner and researcher, Andreas argued as to whether pieces of dance tunes from Nordic folk music, organized according to principles from jazz, could provide source material for building an improvisation language.

Next, Prof Goss and Dr Mermikides led a discussion on the nature of improvisation, inviting participation from the audience of practitioners, researchers and pedagogues from a variety of streams. The topics ranged from the problematic issues of defining improvisation to the benefits of embedding improvisation in all curriculums, covering much insightful ground in a short session.

In the second session of the day, Dr Bill Thompson (IGRC, University of Surrey, UK) offered a lecture-recital entitled “Mongrel Practice: Improvisation and the Moog Guitar as Found Object”. Dr Thompson presented aspects of his on-going investigation of the Moog guitar as ‘found object’ for improvisation, and centred around a live performance using the Moog guitar, found objects and various pieces of electronic equipment.


Following Dr Thompson’s improvisation, Pierre Bibault (Brussels Royal Conservatory) presented the Sabrina Vlaskalic Prize Lecture-Recital, in which he examined two pieces: “Tellur” (1977) for classical guitar, by Tristan Murail (commissioned by Rafael Andia), and “Kahraba” (2017) for Electric Guitar and Electro-Acoustics, by Zad Moultaka (commissioned by Pierre Bibault). Both works were written by composers who are not guitar players, and who have been collaborating with the IRCAM (a major Institution for Contemporary Music in Paris). The lecture first presented the ways in which improvisation can be included in notation, and culminated in a performance of both works.



IGRC 2019,  DAY 4

For the first session of the day Ari van Vilet (Cumuli Foundation, The Netherlands) gave a lecture-recital entitled “Napoléon Coste: Guitarist in Parisin which he examined the approaches and influence of Coste, elucidating the ways in which the composer took the musical foundations of Sor, Giuliani and Aguado to a higher level, making his music central to the repertoire of Romantic guitar music.


Ari was followed by independent scholar, Neil Caukins (USA), who gave a lecture-recital titled “Resurrecting The Improvised Prelude Using Early Nineteenth-Century Guitar Methods”. In his presentation, Neil examined in detail the methods of Bathioli and Boccomini, as well as Opus 1 by De Ferranti and chamber works by Pettoletti and Blum to introduce and analyze less-familiar examples of improvisatory preludes. Cadence examples from these works were presented as a foundation for constructing historically-informed “improvised” preludes for either the solo or chamber music context.


In the following session, Francesco Teopini (Hong Kong Baptist University) offered a paper entitled “Elusive Allusions in Giuliani’s Le Rossiniane: The Case of Op. 123”, analysing Guiliani’s allusions to two outside musical texts belonging to Rossini. Francesco unveiled new hypotheses about certain historical and interpretive issues concerning both Giuliani himself and Le Rossiniane Op. 123.


Piotr Bąk (Academy of Performing Arts, Prague) presented a lecture on Baroque lute music written in Bohemia and Poland at the turn of 17th and 18th century. The paper, entitled “Bohemian Baroque lute music from a guitarist’s perspective” shed light on the turbulent historical background of the aforementioned works, in addition to introducing nine Czech and Polish baroque lute composers, reflecting on their lives and works.


For the final lecture in the session Dr Milton Mermikides presented a paper entitled “Music, seen: Visual Representations of Musical Rhythm, Harmony and Structure” in which he illuminated salient aspects of musical mechanisms otherwise hidden by standard notation. Through an examination of the process behind his artwork for Theorbo Concerto (Stephen Goss, Deux Elles 2019) – entirely driven by the structure of the work – Dr Mermikides demonstrated the opportunity for music notation, analysis and visual art to be fused, enhancing each of these disciplines.


IGRC 2019 – Day 5

On day 5, Professor Stephen Goss presented a thought provoking session on the topic, ‘The Guitar and the Politics of Nostalgia: the Mutability of History Through an Arcadian Retrotopia”. Prof Goss explored how the guitar, through its 19th, 20th and 21st Century history and repertoire, became an emblem for nostalgia.



In conclusions, what an amazing week of guitar research! Many thanks to all the delegates for sharing your knowledge and artistry and to Prof. Goss and Dr. Mermikides and all at HKAPA and Altamira Guitars for hosting a wonderful conference.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sue Foley interviews the legendary Carol Kaye

A great (brief) interview with the legendary Carole Kaye over at  Kaye began her career as a jazz guitarists, but became perhaps most well know for her work as a bass player and member of The Wrecking Crew, an LA-based collective of session musicians, who played on hundreds of Top 40 hits during the 1960s and 1970s.

The article can be found here; Kaye, circa 1955

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (finally) inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame – October 2018

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

International Guitar Research Centre’s Jazz Guitar Research Day – October 2018

A great one-day research seminar at the University of Surrey’s International Guitar Research Centre in October. Was happy to be asked to present a paper on the playing style of Mary Osborne, perhaps the only female to gain commercial success as a jazz guitarist in the late swing and be-bop era.IMG_2354 (1)

Osborne was a highly-skilled and versatile player, playing in big bands and small combos, and working extensively on radio and television in the 1940s and 1950s.

Her playing on ‘Spotlite’ (1946) Coleman Hawkins’ 52nd Street All- Stars exemplifies well her fantastic lead playing. Listen for her main solo @0:38;

Her lead and comping skills are in full effect on the Mary Osborne Trio recording of ‘Blues in Mary’s Flat’ (1947), composed by Osborne herself;

Finally, a fantastic video of Osborne performing with Billie Holliday on the Art Ford Jazz Party programme in 1958;


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Altamira International Guitar Symposium, Hong Kong (July 2018)

Had an amazing week in Hong Kong at the Altamira International Guitar Symposium in in July, where I presented a research paper on my framework for popular guitar analysis.

37177060_1041893329307118_4081404367943499776_o .

The research symposium was a wonderful event, bringing together guitarists and guitar researchers from all over the world, with papers encompassing classical, jazz, popular and folk guitar research topics.  The conference ran concurrently with the Altamira Classical Guitar Competition and Festival, offering concerts from numerous world-class players, including Meng Su, David Russell and Aniello Desiderio.  Wonderful to catch up with old friends and colleagues, and to meet new ones. An amazing week, in an amazing city.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, Memphis Minnie….

June 3rd 1897 – August 6, 1973


One of my favourite MM solo’s is from ‘Looking the World Over’ (1941)…… listen @ 1:45

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Article in PopScriptum 12

I have had a new article published in the online journal PopScriptum. The latest Volume is entitled “Sound, Sex and Sexisim”


“In the penultimate article, Kate Lewis deals with the gendered connotations of guitar in popular music. In As Good As Any Man I’ve Ever Heard: Lead Guitar, Gendered Approaches, and Popular Music she describes the marginalization of women on the electric guitar as a historical phenomenon that did not exist before Rock’n’Roll. In the late 1950s, however, a stereotype of the electric guitar response, so strongly interwoven with normative ideas of masculine authenticity and technology dominance, developed that the play of guitarists in front of this cultural background became quite incomprehensible. Guitarists in the pop music field must not only bring outstanding technical skills to the instrument, but also develop their own positioning and performance strategies in a male-encoded field.

Find the complete article here   “As Good As Any Man I’ve Ever Heard: Lead Guitar, Gendered Approaches and Popular Music”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment