Bridging the Great Divide: An Exploration of Musical Style in the Guitar Works of Nigel Westlake

 ...what a mouthful that title is!

I started my PhD at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2013, and completed it this year. This degree challenged me in so many ways... there were times when I felt confident in my abilities, and times when I had crippling self-doubt and thought I'd never finish. It's a shared experience though: ask anyone who's done a postgraduate degree and they'll tell you that 'it's all part of the journey.' Thankfully, I've made it through, and I'm just a little bit excited that I've earned the title of 'Doctor.' I'll admit that it's still a little strange when people call me 'Doc,' but I like the ring of it! 

My research explores the tension between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ musical styles in eight significant guitar works by Nigel Westlake; namely AntarcticaSongs from the ForestThe Hinchinbrook RiffsSix FishShadow DancesShards of JaisalmerJovian Moons, and Mosstrooper Peak. Through detailed analysis and recorded musical performances, consideration is given to the extent that these works bridge the aesthetic divide identified by Adorno, Jameson, Huyssen, and others; exploring their potential conformity to notions of postmodernity in music. The argument is advanced that Westlake has created a musical language that simultaneously combines sophistication and mainstream appeal. Illumination is made of many significant details of Westlake’s guitar music—including rock guitar techniques, harmonic formulations from popular music, and the extensive use of the more esoteric idiom of octatonicism—which provide a foundation for future analysis, evaluation, and performance of Westlake’s music.

In addition to writing a weighty dissertation on all of Westlake's guitar works, I gave a live recital in 2014, and audio recorded the same works with Perth Recording over the course of 2015-2016.

The dissertation is available for download from ECU:

Due to copyright and licensing I cannot publish the full audio recordings online, however, some videos from my live recital and several short excerpts from my studio recordings are available on my media page.

Melissa Fitzgerald