Acoustic Resonance in Contemporary Guitar Writing

Submitting Institution

University of Surrey

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media, Performing Arts and Creative Writing

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Summary of the impact

The University of Surrey has established the International Guitar Research Centre, led by Prof. Steve Goss and Dr. Milton Mermikides, a central strand of which experiments with the innovative use of acoustic resonance.

Practice-based research outcomes (compositions) have created impact as artworks, having been recorded on Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Telarc, Naxos, and Virgin Classics. CD sales emerging from the project are in excess of 200,000. The compositions have been performed internationally by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Barcelona Symphony Orchestra.

The new techniques developed at Surrey are utilised by renowned musicians, such as John Williams, Xuefei Yang, Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Russell, and Miloš Karadaglić.

Underpinning research

A key element of Surrey's International Guitar Research Centre's work explores innovative approaches to the use of acoustic resonance in writing for guitar. The research dates back to 2003 and from its start integrated partnerships with national and international collaborators in music and composition studies, such as Jonathan Leathwood, Denver University; Michael Partington, University of Washington; Xuefei Yang, EMI Classics; Craig Ogden, Royal Northern College of Music. It took its departure from exploring new techniques and approaches to playing the guitar (such as composing a piece for two guitars to be played simultaneously by one player) and developing new notational strategies to clarify the musical intentions. From here, the project went on to explore, through projects on the solo guitar, specific aspects of guitar resonance, which are at the heart of the presented case study. Research investigated the use of resonance in various Chinese and Japanese forms of traditional music, or ways of simulating, through idiomatic guitar writing, the effect of the sostenuto pedal of the piano on the guitar. This research has been undertaken through practice-based projects — compositions and concerts — which continue to further the understanding of this new approach to resonance, through music scores, articles, papers and academic writing. Several of these pieces feature guitar in a chamber music setting where the sound of the guitar's resonance is coloured by other instruments in the ensemble, thereby developing a new approach to guitar writing within specific chamber music settings. Techniques developed through this research are specifically in the areas of campanella, laissez vibrer textures, scordatura, slurs, innovative right hand fingering patterns and extended rasguaedo techniques. A recent project (The Flower of Cities) explored the possibilities of using these new techniques in the combined resonance of two guitars, within the context of a mixed chamber group (3).

To date, the innovative research in guitar composition undertaken at Surrey has been referred to in a number of Masters, DMA, and PhD submissions, in the UK and the US (Colorado State University, Arizona State University, California State University, Royal Northern College of Music, City University London, Peabody Institute Baltimore).

As an example, the Portuguese guitarist Rui Mourinho completed a Master's degree at Escola Superior de Música de Lisboa in 2011 focussing on the subject of resonance in the solo guitar pieces, El Llanto de los Suenos, The Chinese Garden and Sonata.

References to the research

1. Guitar Concerto , Goss S (2012) for guitar and orchestra, 25 mins
Commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Derngate, Northampton.
First performance, Simon Wright — conductor, Graham Roberts — guitar, RPO, 5th Feb 2012.
Published by Cadenza Music, ISMN 979 0 57047 077 8.
Recorded by John Williams and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
National Tour with John Williams and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra including
performance at the Royal Festival Hall London (11/6/14

2. The Albéniz Concerto, Goss S (2009) for guitar and orchestra, 28 mins
Commissioned by EMI Classics for Xuefei Yang and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra. First UK performance, Shi-Yeon Sung — conductor, Xuefei Yang — guitar, Royal Liverpool
Philharmonic Orchestra, 24th October 2009.
Published by Cadenza Music, study score ISMN 979 0 708057 949
EMI Classics, 5099969836121 © 2010. CD reviewed worldwide (incl. The Independent, The
Los Angeles Times, Gramophone Magazine (starred review), Classical FM Magazine, The
Irish Times, International Record Review, and The Korea Times.) Broadcast on BBC
(UK), RTE (Ireland), and NPR (USA) radio. Performances have taken place in the UK,
Spain, Ireland, USA and Poland.

3. The Flower of Cities, Goss S (2012) for two guitars, violin, double bass and percussion, 25 mins.
Commissioned by John Williams for the 50th Anniversary of the City of London Festival. First performance, John Williams and Craig Ogden — guitars, Max Baillie — violin, Tim Gibbs — double bass, and Tristan Fry — percussion, Fishmongers' Hall, London, 10th July 2012.
Recorded in March 2013 for release in February 2014.

4. The Chinese Garden, Goss S (2007) for guitar, 12 mins.
Commissioned by Xuefei Yang for China Now 2008.
First performance 16th April 2008, Wigmore Hall, London.
Published by Cadenza Music ISMN 979-0-708057-74-1 © 2008.
Recorded on 40 Degrees North, EMI Classics, 5099920632229 © 2008.
CD reviewed worldwide and won `Best instrumental CD' and the Chinese CD Awards 2008.
Editor's Choice in Gramophone Magazine, in July 2008. Broadcast on NPR in the US and BBC
Radio 3 in the UK. More than 100 performances worldwide, incl. National Centre for the
Performing Arts, Beijing, China and The Herbst Theater, San Francisco, CA, USA.

5. El Llanto de los Sueños Goss S (2007) for guitar, 11 mins
Commissioned by Grammy winner David Russell (Spain).
First performance, 30th October 2008, King's Place, London.
Published by Cadenza Music ISMN 979-708057-78-9 © 2008.
Recorded on Telarc International B001RTP3R8 © 2009.
Broadcast on national radio in the USA, Europe and the UK. Performed more than 120 times worldwide. Editor's Choice in Gramophone Magazine July 2009.

6. The Autumn Song, Goss S (2009) for cello and guitar, 7 mins.
Commissioned by the Macau Festival for Natalie Clein and Xuefei Yang (China).
First performance, Macau, China, 13th October 2009.
UK premiere, Wigmore Hall, London, 3rd February 2010.
Score published by Cadenza Music ISMN 979-0-57047-020-4 © 2010.
Recorded on FMR Records © 2011. Performed more than 40 times and broadcast on BBC
Radio 3 and RTE Radio, Ireland.

Details of the impact

The compositions that have resulted from this research project exploit the techniques and notational strategies developed through the exploration of resonance. As musical compositions which are available as published sheet music, they have made a contribution to the cultural life by pushing the boundaries of practice and playing on the instrument.

The resulting works are available as commercial recordings, and have been performed in many hundred concerts and broadcast internationally (Cf. list of key performances and broadcasts with relevant dates:;

This impact is evidenced through complementing reviews in broadsheet newspapers and the Classical music press, and further corroborated through sales figures in large numbers. Recently, in 2012, the research has reached an even wider audience through the inclusion of the Albéniz Concerto in Virgin Classics and EMI's Classical 2012 compilation album, and the commissioning of various arrangements for Miloš Karadaglić's new album Latino on the Deutsche Grammophon label. Karadaglić's last album won two Gramophone Awards and sold over 200,000 copies. The work with Karadaglić and Andrew Lloyd Webber on Stephen Ward (ITV, Deutsche Grammophon 2013) brought these research outputs to an even wider audience.

The research has also advanced and influenced contemporary practice by some of the world's most prominent guitarists, who have commissioned pieces that use these resonance techniques, and they have collaborated on the research as instrumentalist: John Williams, David Russell, Xuefei Yang, Jonathan Leathwood, Miloš Karadaglić, Carlo Marchione, and Craig Ogden. Composers have used and adapted the procedures that have been developed further in other contexts, while the notational strategies have also been adopted by several composers when writing for guitar: Roland Dyens, Chris Malloy, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rob Keeley, Colin Thurmond, and Marek Pasienczny.

The music that has so far emerged from this ongoing research project is beginning to become part of the established canon of modern guitar repertoire. Other professional performers and also students have taken up the pieces and played them in concerts and examinations

The pieces have featured on examination syllabuses and have been set as test pieces in international guitar competitions, for example the 2012 London International Guitar Competition

The music is now regularly performed in final Master's and Doctoral recitals in many of the most prestigious universities and conservatoires in the world. Since 2009 these have included: The Julliard School, The Manhattan School of Music, The Mannes School of Music (New York), Yale University (CT), University of Southern California, San Francisco Conservatory, University of Colorado (Boulder), Denver University, Robert Schumann Hochschule (Germany), Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing), Royal Academy of Music (London), Grieg Academy (Bergen), Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

Sources to corroborate the impact

a) The Albéniz Concerto : Guy Traviss, Classical Guitar Magazine January 2011, 6pp. International Record Review, February 2011, Gramophone Magazine, February 2011

b) El Llanto de los Sueños: Editor's Choice, Gramophone Magazine, July 2009

c) The Autumn Song: The Independent, June 10th 2011, The Strad, May 2010

d) The Chinese Garden Editor's Choice, Gramophone Magazine, July 2008

e) Guitar Concerto: Graham Wade, Classical Guitar Magazine, August 2012, pp 26-27

f) `To-ing and Fro-ing: collaboration in the music of Stephen Goss', cover article, Classical Guitar Magazine, May and June 2008, 12pp

Uneasy Dreams: compositional process in the music of Stephen Goss
Filmed interview 60 mins (Kingston University, FMR DVD004-0310, June 2009)

Individual users/beneficiaries who could be contacted to corroborate claims Independent reviewers

g) Chair of Conservatory Program, University of Denver, CO, USA (contact details provided)

h) Chair of Guitar, Arizona State University, AZ, USA (contact details provided)

i) Music Departmental Chair and head of the International Guitar Research Archives (IGRA)
California State University, Northridge, CA, USA (contact details provided)

j) Chair of Guitar, Yale University, CT, USA (contact details provided)


k) John Williams (contact details provided)

Miloš Karadaglić (contact details available)

David Russell (contact details available)

Xuefei Yang (contact details available)

Craig Ogden (contact details available)

Andrew Lloyd Webber (contact details available)