By the 1830s, caricaturists had begun to show the fashionable guitarist as a man's instrument, but musical ability at the amateur level with guitar, harp or pianoforte was insistently gendered as female. The guitar, being a light, curvaceous and softly voiced instrument, was easily associated by the censorious, not always males, with the most vapid aspects of young female minds raised on restricted mental food or with an art of licensed seduction necessary for making successful marriages. The discussion will broach the question, little explored, of whether the guitar, like the harp and pianoforte, was the subject of a campaign, in effect, to control the potency of musical art in a domestic context by associating it with the narrowed social and intellectual sphere that non-working women were encouraged to inhabit, and with a coquetry which the male viewer (and listener) was always at liberty to indulge or censure as he thought fit.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/the-guitar-and-the-fair-sex
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