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James Tyler and Paul Sparks :The Guitar and Its Music –From the Renaissance to the Classical Era:

Updated: Jun 4, 2022

Jams Tyler and Paul Sparks

Oxford University Press: 348 pages

This hefty tome presents ideas and research on the history and development of the guitar and its music from the Renaissance to the dawn of the Classical era. Having already produced The Early Guitar – a History and Handbook back in 1980, James Tyler collaborated here with Paul Sparks again ( their previous book was the Early Mandolin from 1989), and the result was this careful and in depth study of the two main guitar types found between about 1550 and 1750.They focus principally on what the sources of the music (published and manuscript) and the writings of contempories reveal about the nature of the instruments and their roles in the music making of the period. One of the most useful and fascinating sections is the annotated lists of primary sources,( previously published in The Early Guitar but now revised and expanded) as they constitute the most comprehensive list of Baroque guitar music up to the time of publication (2002)

His appendices of performance practice information should also prove indispensable to performers and scholars alike. Paul Sparks also, offers an extensive study of the period in the guitar's history, the latter half of the 18th century which the standard histories usually dismiss in a few short paragraphs. Far from being a dormant instrument at this time, the guitar is shown to have been central to music-making in France, Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, and South America. Sparks provides a wealth of information about players, composers, instruments, and surviving compositions from this neglected but important period, and he examines how the five-course guitar gradually gave way to the six-string instrument, a process that occurred in very different ways (and at different times) in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Britain.

Divided into 3 main sections , The Guitar in the Sixteenth Century,(50 pages) The Spanish Guitar ( from 1600 – 1750),(137 pages ) and The Origins of the Classical Guitar (162 pages) this fascinating book tells you so many useful, fascinating and engrossing details that you will almost certainly have never come across anywhere else , that I can only say that if you can get a copy it will be if not THE absolute, then one of the absolute reference books in your library, Well worth the effort it might take to get a copy!

Chris Dumigan

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