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

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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”

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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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International Guitar Research Centre Conference 2016 – Reflections

#IGRCSurrey 2016

If you have managed to read through the last few blog posts, you will by now know that there has been an incredible amount of world-class research presented at the International Guitar Research Centre Conference 2016 at University of Surrey over the past six days. A diverse contingent of performers from a number of genres, researchers,  musicologists, pedagogues and advocates for our instrument in its many facets came to together from around the globe to network and freely share their research and artistry. Every single lecture and recital was stimulating and thought provoking. It is amazing that my blogs over the past few days have only covered about half of the amount of research presented. Most lecture sessions were run in parallel,  and I wish I could have split myself into two people in order to attend the other sessions! The full-schedule can be found here:


Wonderful news is that IGRC directors Dr Steve Goss and Dr Milton Mermikides have meticulously ensured that all of the proceedings over the entire conference were digitized and will be endeavoring to archive it all and make audio/video and media available to the public in the next few months – watch this space: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/schoolofarts/research/guitar/

A Facebook page has been established in order to network the attendees, and any others who are interested in keeping up-to-date with the future events at the IGRC, which can be found here:  https://www.facebook.com/IGRCSurrey/?fref=ts

A massive thanks to all the delegates for so freely sharing your knowledge, artistry and passion this week and to Dr. Goss and Dr. Mermikides and all the #IGRCSurrey crew for putting on such an incredible event.  While I still may need a few more days to rest my brain and body after such an amazing week, I am already counting down the days until the next one 🙂





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International Guitar Research Centre Conference 2016- Day 6

Day 6 – Wednesday Mar 23, 2016 

The last day here at #IGRCSurrey 2016. The morning began with a fascinating lecture-recital from Sam Muir (accompanied by her student Lara) discussing the history of the enchanting Medeiran machete de braga, and its transformation into the Hawaiian ukulele. Sam was followed by Gilbert Biberian discussing his three volume methodology, LIBER.

The morning continued with two lecture-recitals on Brazilian Guitar Music. Adam May and Ken Murray (both from the University of Melbourne) presented a dynamic lecture-recital titled “Brazilian guitar music: seven-string guitar, cavaquinho, and the traditional 6-string guitar”, exploring both the established solo Brazilian guitar repertoire, as well as the guitar in solo and small ensemble playing in Brazilian Popular Music. The duo played some wonderful mixed duo’s and finished with a fantastic original composition by Ken Murray.

Following Ken and Adam, Marlou Peruzzolo Vieira (University of Aveiro, Portugal) presented a lecture recital titled “Non-guitarist composers and the problems of writing for guitar: a case study on Brazilian composers”, in which he analyzed and exemplified difficulties faced by non-guitarist composers when writing for the classical guitar.

For the final lecture-recital set of the day and the conference, Martin Vishnick presented a lecture on his research surrounding guitar repertoire and morphological structuring principles.  Following Martin, Ericsson Castro Bezerra Castro Sá Munoz and Andrea Paz Munõz Silva (CEM: Centro de Educação Musical Carlos Gomes, Brazil) discussed the reflections and relations between idiomatic and free improvisation, and their use in the guitar universe within the context of contemporary music.





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International Guitar Research Centre Conference 2016- Day 5

Day 5 -Tuesday Mar 22, 2016

Another wonderfully full day at #IGRCSurrey 2016.

The morning began with a fascinating lecture from physicist and postdoctoral research associate, David Robert Grimes, who discussed the physics of string-bending and other electric guitar techniques. Following David was another of my University of Surrey PostGrad colleagues, James Armstrong. James’ paper, “In Search of Environmental Influence and the Significance of Space on Guitar Performance” presented some early results of his ongoing research into the overall impact of environment and space on guitar performance. Laura Lee, a University of Surrey MMus research-practitioner, closed the session with a presentation on her current research; an ongoing collaborative project that aims to re- invent the classic ‘jam’ environment. The project explores collaborative input between two guitarists (Dominik Struzenberger and Laura Lee) and ‘machine’, using Ableton Live as a compositional and performance tool.

In the second session of the morning, Jon Rattenbury presented a lecture titled “An overwhelming amount of information – exploring Milton Babbitt’s guitar music through repetition”, in which Jon gave a report on the progress of a performance-as-research project involving guitar music by Milton Babbit. Following Jon, Hannah Lindmaier discussed her continuing research on 19th Century female guitarists, with a focus on the life and career of German-English guitarist Catharina Josepha Pratten (née Pelzer). Trevor Babb then presented a lecture-recital titled “New Modes of Listening and an Embrace of Rock in Tristan Murail’s ‘Vampyr!’”, exploring Murail’s fascinating work for solo electric guitar.

After lunch, The Hibernian Guitar Duo (Morgan Buckley and Eoin Flood) presented a wonderful key-note lecture; “Communicating with the Orishas: exploring cross-culturation and the creative process in two commissions on Yorubian Bata drumming music”. The duo is currently working on an interdisciplinary artistic commissioning project, designed to explore and elucidate cross-culturation and the nature of creativity in the commissioning process. Using contemporary composers and historically informed sources, the project aims to experimentally reenact and observe the cross-culturation that took place in Central America. The program concluded with a premiere of “Talking Drums” by Steve Goss.

The afternoon session featured a group of diverse papers from Grahame Klippel, Amy Brandon and myself. Grahame presented on the classical guitar works of British composer Gareth Walters (1928 – 2012). Following Grahame, Amy Brandon presented a highly informative lecture on her research into the efficacy of available Jazz guitar methods. Amy presented some preliminary results of an experimental study evaluating the effectiveness of fourteen published methods of fretboard memorization. The goal of the study is to discover which method, if any, has an advantage in allowing the student to learn and memorize the notes on the fretboard the fastest and the most completely. To close the session, I presented a paper exploring the negotiations of gender within the field of electric lead guitar playing in popular music, touching on the career of players such as Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie, through to Carrie Brownstein and Annie Clark. This paper is an off-shoot of my current PhD research into the technical and musical analysis of pioneering female guitar players in American popular music.

To finish another full day, Christopher Page Professor of Medieval Music and Literature in the University of Cambridge, gave a fascinating key-note lecture on The Guitar in England from 1550 to 1650, presenting new findings from archival material.IMG_1406IMG_1410IMG_1415IMG_1417IMG_1419IMG_1424IMG_1428IMG_1430IMG_1432IMG_1435

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International Guitar Research Centre Conference 2016- Day 4

Day 4 – Monday Mar 21, 2016.

Another incredibly busy and informative day of guitar, research and music at #IGRCSurrey 2016.

To start the morning, Aliexsey Vianna presented a lecture-recital titled  “Unaccompanied Improvisations – The multi-textural nature of the guitar”in which he presented his analysis of some fundamental techniques used by two of the most prolific classical guitar improvisers: Ralph Towner and Dusan Bogdanovic. Inspiring to hear such strong advocacy for improvisation on the classical guitar, from such a great player. Joe Bell followed Alieksey, presenting on the improvisational techniques for fretted and fretless instruments. With examples from Persian, Arabic and Indian repertoire, alongside jazz materials, Joe discussed  methods of improvisation, the relationship of improviser to materials and structures, and meditational methods related to performance.

At 11am,  there were three papers presented on Jazz Guitar topics; Tom Williams, one of my IGRC PostGrad colleagues, presented a paper titled “Filling In the F Holes: A topography of the contemporary jazz guitar-scape”, during which he provided a highly informative analysis of the contemporary jazz guitar scenes, including the exponents, music and strands which interweave to create the richly diverse idiom that exists today. Mark McKnight and Ant Law both presented excellent papers related to the exploration of creativity and composition in Jazz.

The afternoon featured a panel discussion on “The Electric Guitar: Pedagogy, Diversity and Virtuosity”. This panel brought together a group of electric guitar educators and practitioners to discuss a range of themes surrounding the electric guitar including issues of literacy, pedagogy, virtuosity,diversity and technology. The panelists were Bridget Mermikides, Mike Outram, John Wheatcroft, Amy Brandon, Jason Sidwell, Neville Marten, Mark McKnight and myself, and the panel was chaired by Milton Mermikidies.

After the panel, I had a chance to spend a little time with Matt Buchanan and Guy Traviss, discussing their exciting work on an upcoming  documentary project on the acoustic-percussive fingertsyle guitar movement. More details can be found here:


Jan De Kloe, today’s keynote speaker, discussed symbolism in the music of J.S.Bach and finally the  ‘Ant Law Trio’  delivered an incredible jazz show to end the night.


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