The Guitar in America
Jeffrey J. Noonan
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Buy *The Guitar in America: Victorian Era to Jazz Age (American Made Music)* by Jeffrey J. Noonan online

The Guitar in America: Victorian Era to Jazz Age (American Made Music)
Jeffrey J. Noonan
University Press of Mississippi
239 pages
January 2008
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Written by an associate professor of music from Southeast Missouri State University, this book on the history of the guitar takes on a very scholarly tone. Which is great if that's what you're looking for. There are many of these types of historical overviews on the development of the six-string guitar, and just about every one of them adopts this highbrow tone. It's difficult to understand why.

The writer looks at the guitar as it evolved from a simple parlor instrument to become the main melodic instrument of both jazz and popular music. This is tied to the evolution of the banjo and mandolin (which really belong in a separate volume), and it is important to know - but it's written in a pretty ponderous prose. Here is the opening line from a paragraph talking about guitar solos:

"Guitar solos for the amateur generally reflected the same technical limitations as the ensemble works but sometimes emulated the models offered by Foden and Mertz's virtuosic variation sets." Wow, and no comma in sight.
Couldn't he have said, "Guitar solos weren't very good"?

But he has done a lot of research, poring over numerous BMG (banjo, mandolin, and guitar) magazines and interpreting the date held there.

The guitar is simply six wires strung to a hunk of wood, and the music it creates runs from joyous to melancholy. It is a simple, uncluttered instrument that produces a singularly unique and arcing tone. To talk about the history of that instrument in such lofty terms seems to, somehow, miss the point

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Steven Rosen, 2009

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