John Williams: Changing the Culture of the Classical Guitar : Performance, perception, education and construction book cover
1st Edition

John Williams: Changing the Culture of the Classical Guitar
Performance, perception, education and construction

ISBN 9780367001889
Published April 23, 2019 by Routledge
222 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book assesses the influence and reception of many different forms of guitar playing upon the classical guitar and more specifically through the prism of John Williams.

Beginning with an examination of Andrés Segovia and his influence upon Williams’ life’s work, a further three incisive chapters cover key areas such as performance, perception, education and construction, considering social and cultural contexts of the guitar over the past century. A final chapter on new directions in classical guitar examines the change in reception of the instrument from the mid-1970s to the present day, and Williams’ impact upon what might be termed ‘standard classical guitar repertoire’.

With in-depth discussion of the cultural and perceptual impact of Williams’ more daring crossover projects and numerous musical examples, this is an informative reference for all classical guitar practitioners, as well as scholars and researchers of guitar studies, reception studies, cultural musicology and performance studies. An online lecture by the author and a transcript of the author’s interview with John Williams are also available as e-resources.

Table of Contents


The ‘Segovian’ narrative

John Williams and diversity 


1 Andrés Segovia and John Williams

Segovia: career, tributes and reception

Other contributions to classical guitar culture in the early twentieth century

Attitudes to other musical styles


Interpretation of the Segovia legacy

The king and the prince

Williams as a child prodigy

Contrasting approaches to popular and folk music styles

Williams and politics

Shifting attitudes about classical guitar


2 John Williams’ approach to the classical guitar

Following the pulse

Performance anxiety

Approach to J.S. Bach’s Chaconne in D minor

Contrasting approaches to Mauro Giuliani’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 in A major, Op. 30 (1808)

Ensemble playing and sight-reading

Amplification and other manipulations of the natural sound


Guitar design

Williams and guitar teaching


3 ‘Putting the guitar out of classical music’

Cavatina and other film projects 1



Venezuela – El Diablo Suelto

John Williams and jazz


4 New directions in classical guitar




Performing with Julian Bream

Richard Harvey

Williams’ own compositions

Programme choices

Leo Brouwer

Agustin Barrios Mangoré



Broadening the repertoire and appeal of the classical guitar

Critical perception




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Michael O'Toole is one of the leading figures in the Irish guitar scene today. He has given many memorable solo recitals and also contributed significantly to the development of the instrument as artistic director of both The Waltons International Guitar Festival and The Chord Ennis International Music Festival. Michael also currently has the honour of being a director of the prestigious Kilkenny Arts Festival. Michael holds a PhD from the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, and a master's degree in performance from University College Cork.