Acoustic Uprising is a crowd funded film featuring interviews with international performers like Kaki King, Newton Faulkner and Andy Mckee. Set for release in 2017 it looks at an emerging movement of guitarists renowned for taking the ubiquitous acoustic guitar to astounding heights of virtuosity. Read on for more info and check us out of Facebook here.
A new experimental frontier in guitar has risen to prominence on the internet in the last 10 years. An approach to solo acoustic guitar renowned for it’s “astounding virtuosity” – Gotye. This approach has startled and inspired millions on Youtube due to it’s inherently visual nature and ambitious approach. The movement is not defined by a style or genre, but more by an attitude and an aptitude for skill and precision. Akin to martial arts, it is dependant on a high level of technical proficiency. The goal is to perform multiple musical roles at once, taking on the task of conveying a complete piece of music including elements of melody, harmony and rhythm with one performer on the one instrument. That one instrument is the acoustic guitar.
It is the very nature of the acoustic guitar that allows the artists to be so expressive. It is after all essentially a wooden drum with strings. Considered to be the “people’s instrument”, the acoustic guitar has not traditionally been associated with high class or virtuosity like violin or piano. It was more likely to be found performed on a street corner or at a ‘juke joint’ performed by African American musicians than in classical conservatoires in the late 19th century. The acoustic guitar would explode in popularity throughout the 20th century thanks to it’s affordability, portability and low barrier to entry, making it’s way into many musical traditions. From the moment Elvis Presley performed Heartbreak hotel on television in 1956, the silhouette of a man and his guitar would become the symbol of music across the west for decades to come. The guitar would go on to dominate our love affair with music defining cultural movements in the 60s and 70s and throughout the 80s electric guitar players would take an almost god like status. And while the electric guitar scaled these blinding heights, the acoustic guitar’s role would remain the same. A tool for song writers, an accompaniment instrument, in front of the band but behind the song.
In the 80s and 90s a handful of musicians began to take new approaches to the acoustic guitar channeling a plethora of new influences through it and most notably using it as a tool for composition. Their music would expand the language of the instrument, challenge the perception of the acoustic guitar and give it the identity it had been lacking as a solo instrument. Their pioneering visions would largely go unnoticed by a mainstream that had fallen out of it’s 50 year love affair with the guitar, gravitating towards more synthetic music genres. But it would set the stage for the the explosive acoustic revolution that would come to the fore in the mid 2000s on the internet.
Against the backdrop of the digital revolution and the rise of electronic music, FingerStyle would continue to appeal to a small but passionate niche. All that would change in 2006 when a humble guitar tutor from Kansas named Andy Mckee would upload a video to a brand new internet platform called Youtube. The song and techniques used in the video were inspired by the pioneers of the 80s. Andy Mckee’s song would go ‘viral’ and reach over 50 million people and counting. It was beautiful yet counterintuitive. His innovative manipulation of a very ubiquitous acoustic guitar made no attempt at representing a genre, yet it struck the ear as pure music. It was transcendent. The acoustic guitar would never be the same again & Andy Mckee would be thrust onto the world stage, touring the globe with artists like Prince and Dream Theatre.
This story would become the seed of a thriving community. Through the internet like minded artists would find their tribe, heralding a new era of innovation and creativity. The intimate nature of the acoustic guitar and the communal nature of the internet came together to create an exciting new laboratory of experimentation and discovery. Here players from all over the world share, learn and evolve with each other and every now and then one of them strikes a chord that thrusts them onto the world stage.