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A Socio-Economic Theory of Guitar

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Title : A Socio-Economic Theory of Guitar
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A Socio-Economic Theory of Guitar

I had an odd thought I wanted to share: I notice that fine classical guitarists seem to come in waves from different parts of the world. Here they are over the last hundred years.

  • First wave from Spain late-nineteenth through first half of 20th century: Francisco Tárrega, Miguel Llobet and Andrés Segovia
  • Second wave from Latin America and southern Europe: Alirio Diaz, Abel Carlevaro, Oscar Ghiglia
  • Third wave: the UK and Australia: Julian Bream, John Williams, Pepe Romero (the Romeros are a bit of an anomaly--they moved from Spain to the US in the 1950s)
  • Fourth wave: the US, Cuba, France: Manuel Barrueco, Eliot Fisk, Sharon Isbin, Leo Brouwer, Ida Presti and Alexander Lagoya
  • Fifth wave: Eastern Europe, Canada: Ana Vidovic, Marcin Dylla, Drew Henderson
I'm not doing any actual research here and closer examination might reveal something quite different, but it seems to me as if the classical guitar is something of a transitional instrument. It does well in cultures that are neither wealthy nor highly developed culturally. And as a particular culture becomes wealthy and more developed, young musicians tend to gravitate to instruments other than the guitar. For example, there don't seem to be too many first rank players coming from Spain these days (or am I wrong?) or the UK, or the US. Instead they are coming from places like Eastern Europe. I could have included China there, but while there is one very fine Chinese guitarist, Xuefei Yang, most music students in China are singers, violinists or pianists. That's where the money is!

The other thing I notice is that, with each wave, the economic rewards grow less and less. Segovia did very well, as did Bream and Williams, Pepe Romero had a rewarding career as did Manuel Barrueco. But since then, even very fine guitarists, easily as accomplished as any of those, have meagre careers with very modest rewards.

Here is the terrific Canadian guitarist Drew Henderson with some fine Bach:

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