Springfield Museums Press Releases

Museums to Present Lecture on Les Paul in Conjunction with GUITAR Exhibit

General Museum News

January 29, 2013

On Sunday, February 10, The Springfield Museums will present a lecture titled Les Paul's New Sound: Re-imagining the Electric Guitar in 1950s America by Steve Waksman, author and associate professor of music and American studies at Smith College. The lecture which will take place at 1:30 p.m. in the Davis Auditorium of the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, in conjunction with the Museums’ current exhibit, GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World. The talk is free with Museum admission.

Steve Waksman has turned a lifelong involvement with music as a player and listener into a career as a scholar of rock and pop. His books include Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience and This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk, which was awarded the 2010 Woody Guthrie Award from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. He has also contributed to several journals and edited collections, including the Cambridge Companion to the Guitar, and The Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. In 2008 Waksman was the keynote speaker at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters event honoring the legacy of musician and inventor Les Paul.

For the upcoming lecture, Waksman will focus on Les Paul’s unique contributions to the evolution of the modern electric guitar and his impact on popular music. Paul was one of the earliest and greatest innovators of electric guitar technology, and his career as a successful performer spanned eight decades. According to Waksman, "Few figures have combined musical and technological innovation as successfully or influentially as Les Paul. His development of the solid body guitar and his use of multiple-track recording technology created an entirely new sound that made him, in tandem with his wife Mary Ford, one of the most popular recording artists of the early 1950s."

Also on the February 10 program is Quinnipiac Professor John Thomas, whose work in taking X-rays of vintage guitars led to the forthcoming book Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women and Gibson’s ‘Banner’ Guitars of WWII. The book details Thomas’ research into guitars built by women at Gibson’s Kalamazoo, Michigan factory during World War II. According to Thomas, the X-rays of these guitars revealed craftsmanship that was more refined that that of their male predecessors and successors. In his presentation, Thomas will discuss this project as well as the artistic and scientific significance of the X-rays he’s made of dozens of other vintage guitars.

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