Here’s the final installment of the Guitar CoOp John Williams interview. This is a landmark, in-depth interview with one of the very best classical guitarists of the last century and this one, conducted by interviewers who are themselves accomplished guitarists. In part 1 Marcelo Kayath of Guitar CoOp (which produced the video) and guitarist/composer Stephen Goss of the Royal Academy of Music discuss Williams’ early development as a guitarist and in particular Len Williams’ (his father) teaching style and philosophy. They discuss Williams’ early years and his great friendship with the recently deceased Alirio Diaz, and they conclude with a very interesting discussion of technique and of improvisation. In part 2 they discuss pop music, composition, repertoire, the 1960’s and more, and in part 3, titled ‘The Composers’ they discuss Baroque music, 19th Century composers, collaborations and more. In this fourth and final part they discuss practicing technique, life-long repertoire, relaxed playing and the guitars themselves.

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22 Responses to “John Williams Interview Part 4 (Final) – Guitar CoOp”

  1. Michael says:

    When will part 2 be up?

  2. garrett says:

    Thank you so much!


  3. Fantastic! Thank you for sharing.

  4. My tongue is hanging down waiting for the next three.portions of this interview! I have a several decades long association with John and even rode a train from New York to the Peabody Conservatory with John . I am the person who shouted “We missed you Johnny” when he gave his first concert in the United States after the Kent state incident. Fo those who don’t know,John is a great and supremely intelligent individual and we will be in store for an excellent upcoming three parts no matter what topics are discussed. I also have met mister Goss here at Mannes College of Music and I was in Toronto the year Marcelo Kayath won the Guitar competition .John has always dealt with the truth and we should be grateful that we have such a giving and. Clear cut person to represent our Classical Guitar community. Imbued with courage,being deemed the “Prince of the guitar” by Segovai,his personal integrity led him drop th Segovian stuffy mold and explore so many styles and Cultures.Because of John, the music of Augustine Barrios Mangore have received its rightful place on the concert stage! Barrios played rings around and was Segovias head to head main competitor .It was a travesty that Segovai bad mouthed Augustine but John had put Barrios where he belonged by his revolutionary recording on that Fleta guitar. It is kind of sad that John has retired from the concert stage! He and Bream are my heroes and I hope you folks will enjoy this brilliant man in the next three installments

  5. tom says:

    When I inadvertently clicked on Don Witter Jr’s name in the Recent Comments column on the right, I got the page of Ibogaine Treatment For Alcoholism. Is this a new marketing ploy from GSI? 😉

    • James says:

      Yes, Lawrence Tendler really HATES John Williams:

    • James Louder says:

      And who, I wonder, is Lawrence Tendler when he’s at home? But his outburst of obscenities at the fellow who called him out (see comments on part 2) is enough to show is, not who he is, but what he is. Feh.

    • James Louder says:

      And who, I wonder, is Lawrence Tendler when he’s at home? But his outburst of obscenities at the fellow who called him out (see comments on part 2) is enough to show, not who he is, but what he is. Feh.

  6. tom says:

    In the second part, Stephen Goss referred disparagingly to Barrios’ “little tonal ditties”. I was surprised that John Williams let that pass without comment!

    • John Taylor says:

      Tom seems to have misunderstood the point Steve Goss was making here. Steve wasn’t voicing his own opinion of Barrios’s pieces by describing them as ‘little tonal ditties’, but was trying to give an idea of the snobbish attitudes that still prevailed in the 1970s (when only those composers who strove to break new ground, avoiding any trace of traditional melodies, harmonies or rhythms, were rated as ‘serious’) and of how John Williams was bravely bucking this trend by offering a whole album of the then little-known Paraguayan guitarist-composer. I can confirm, having been a member of a guitar quartet playing a lot of new music written for us at that time, that these attitudes really were prevalent – not so much among the general public, but certainly in the significant minority who would flock to concerts of new music by Stockhausen, Boulez, Berio, etc. And the first wave of young guitarists emerging from music colleges and universities, at least here in London, generally aspired to following Julian Bream’s example of getting proper, grown-up composers to write serious works that might push the guitar beyond its familiar boundaries. So perhaps you can see that in this context, an album of mainly short, tuneful pieces by a guitarist whose style was an amalgam of South American dance rhythms and European romanticism in the Chopin/Tárrega line, wasn’t seen as the most progressive type of offering. But then, as John Williams suggests in his answer, he didn’t consider it a brave move because he wasn’t particularly interested in this idea of progress – or worried about what other guitarists thought – and was in a great position to record whatever music he wanted to play, since all his records sold so well. He was the first leading guitarist to realise what a treasure-trove all the newly discovered Barrios music could be, and that first album was truly seminal as it catapulted Barrios to being a favourite of the guitar repertoire ever since. (Of course, an unintended consequence is that some Barrios pieces have become over-familiar through repetition, but it’s neither the fault of John Williams nor Barrios that guitarists love to play this music so much, or that audiences that aren’t already sated with guitar music love to hear it.) If there was an element of bravery in JW’s decision to champion Barrios, it was perhaps that his former Maestro might not have wholeheartedly approved…

      • tom says:

        I take your point, John. I could have phrased that better, although, given his compositional record, one could take a ‘two birds with one stone’ view of Stephen Goss’s words.
        At the time that John Williams’ first Barrios recording was released, a large element in the guitar repertoire could have been characterised in the same dismissive way and much of it had already been recorded by John Williams with few people referring to it disparagingly.
        Stephen Goss’s assertion that John Williams “took a huge risk” with that recording was hyperbolic to say the least.

  7. Stephen Pandov says:

    Steve came across as a know it all guy and if things are what they look like, then he is an arogant know it all. Apparently he writes better music than the loved by all maestro Barrios. At one point John was interviewing Steve, and Steve likes the sound of his voice so much, he hardly noticed that we all want to hear John Williams and not him. Disappointing and almost boring.

    • John Taylor says:

      I feel I should spring to the defence of my friend Steve Goss, who really does know a lot about the guitar and its repertoire (being a fine player who teaches at the Royal Academy of Music in London), and about music in general (being a professor at the University of Surrey), as well as being a very in-demand composer who has worked closely with John Williams during the last few years, particularly on his Guitar Concerto and Marylebone Elegy, both of which JW has recorded for CDs. Considering all this, Steve mostly kept a remarkably low profile during the first three parts of the interview, and he only began to speak at greater length when JW specifically asked for his opinion, deliberately steering it more towards a conversation between equals, as he likes to do. So with respect, Stephen, I think you’ve rushed to a bit of a harsh judgement here – give the guy a break!

  8. jose Ademir says:

    Fantastico. very good. Love.

  9. James Louder says:

    There is one thing I would append to Williams’ critique of right-hand technique technique on the classical guitar. The natural, fundamental rhythm that comes from up-and-down movement, the lack of which he regrets, is indeed to be found in the technique of the *baroque* guitar, with its strummed chords and passage-work played “thumb-under” alternating p and i–and up-and-down movement of the very sort Williams is talking about. The people who are good at it can go like the wind. Check out Paul O’Dette playing Santiago de Murcía, for example(on YouTube).

    Renaissance lute technique was also thumb-under–hence up-and-down–although chords were generally plucked, not strummed. he same is thought to have been true of the Spanish vihuelistas, who added the technique of “dedillo”–down-and-up with the index finger alone.

    • tom says:

      Never mind the baroque guitar etc., Mr Williams could check out the more recent work of Dimitris Kotronakis:

      • James Louder says:

        Never mind? Notice that Mr. Kotronakis, in his introductory remarks, explicitly states that the vihuelists’ “dedillo” technique is the inspiration for his own. Once again, a true artist has built upon the works of those who came before. To the ancient up-and-down index finger technique, Kotronakis as added a similar use of the thumb, which adds yet another kind of clarity and colour. Bravo, I say! (And thanks for the link.)

  10. MIke Wright says:

    Does anyone know the name of the piece that opens the interviews?

  11. Dimmitrios says:

    Lovely informative interview, thank you! Only downer is pity about the Brazilian guy who says ” umm mmm” around 300 times. Learn some new words bro!!!

    • Rene says:

      That “Brazilian guy” is Marcelo Kayath, a great guitarist and musician who has fortunately decided to return to the classical guitar since leaving the concert stage. He is the person strongly involved in the guitar “CoOp” effort in Brazil, without whom there would not have been this interview with John Williams. So rather than disparaging him, you might thank him for his efforts “bro”.


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