New perspectives : a reappraisal of the lap steel guitar

Buckley, S 2021, New perspectives : a reappraisal of the lap steel guitar , MPhil thesis, University of Salford.

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As a critical study accompanying a creative project which involves composition, rearrangement and recording featuring my work as a performer on lap steel guitar, New Perspectives is invested in both a historical consideration of the role of the instrument and an examination of how it can move away from the traditional context enabling application within new spheres of music. From the Hawaiian music boom of the early Twentieth Century to the mid-century rise of American country music, the lap steel’s ascent and subsequent decline in popularity has since placed the instrument as a sideshow curiosity; a wealth of recorded material that has held the instrument in historical suspension, latterly used by musicians who choose to recreate recording techniques and stylistic accuracy from a bygone era. Whilst the roots of the instrument’s invention and initial success are undoubtedly important, a select number of musicians have recently utilised the lap steel in fresh, vibrant and diverse directions with exciting results and with this consideration, New Perspectives seeks to further dispel the notion of an instrument which has an antiquated limitation. Highlighting an emphasis on performance and studio application, instrumental relationships are explored that show the lap steel’s ability to both blend with sectional phrasing and to also take a strong melodic lead role. By eschewing traditional right-hand picking techniques that typically feature metal thumb and finger picks, the change of connection between the player’s right-hand fingers to the string yields a particular sense of immediacy and brings a different dynamic response to the instrument’s range; this coupled with switchable effects units, introduces a fresh sonic palate which undoubtedly enables future development, along with slide techniques influenced by conventional slide guitarists such as Derek Trucks and Ry Cooder. Along with furthering the instrument’s lead role capabilities, New Perspectives also considers the possibility of using the lap steel for underlying textural application, with a look into individually recorded four-part harmony lines and the use of a technique which I believe to be a new approach to the instrument; chords are played in harmonics and then layered with reverb, distortion, tremolo, wah-wah and delay effects creating an almost ethereal sound. along with slide techniques influenced conventional slide guitarists such as Derek Trucks and Ry Cooder along with guitarist David Gilmour. Six recordings are submitted; three original pieces and three rearrangements that feature changes of ensemble size and genre setting; from large ensemble consisting of rhythm section and twenty-four-piece string orchestra through to iii a simple Hammond organ trio. A reworking of late nineteenth century impressionist composer Erik Satie’s piece Petite Ouverture a Danser looks at progressing the recordings of pedal steel guitarist B.J Cole from 1989. Each of the six pieces encourages further development whilst enabling the lap steel to have a more prominent role within the fields of composition, performance and recording. These recordings are to part of an E.P released on the Limefield Recordings label under the name of my established ensemble The Wagon Train, an ongoing project for both live and recorded work. The study therefore seeks to add to existing knowledge within this field whilst opening the possibility of further research alongside technical and musical exploration.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Contributors: Dewhurst, R (Supervisor)
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Mr Steven Buckley
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2021 12:48
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 21:53

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