A false notion by Clifford Cheam - to quote - ‘Classical Guitar is dying’!?
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Thursday, 01 March 2012 22:38

A false notion by Clifford Cheam - to quote - ‘Classical Guitar is dying’!? From a video clip made by William Kok posted on the Society's Facebook page.

Since this video was posted onto the Society’s Facebook , as the President of the Classical Guitar Society (Malaysia), I feel that I am responsible for correcting what is wrong.  It is obviously not wise to state personal beliefs that are unfounded and riddled with faulty concepts, in addition to not being able to separate one’s commercial interest (with success or not) from what is an intellectual exercise in understanding the history of the classical guitar – the rise and fall of the Classical Guitar (sic!). This notion of the classical guitar dying will be for historians to recount, if at all the classical guitar dies in another 100 years to come!?  History has its ways of telling a story that is not only based on one’s (lack of) understanding and knowledge, or  based on one’s learning (or lack of it) and (limited) experience.

First and foremost, Classical Music is a specialist subject and is not a popular form for the masses;  let alone a specialist of a specialist subject such as the classical guitar! The classical guitar has been around since the 1770s with the likes of Sor, Guilliani, Carcassi, Carulli et al and, with the modern guitar made by Torres  (Torres 1817-1892) till today, we must admit that the guitar has been around for quite a long time.  It has gone through its ups and downs but has maintained itself through till today and if one were to say that the classical guitar is dying…on the contrary, the classical guitar has never had it as good as now! There are so many great players today that has never been seen before in history, with performers winning Grammy Awards like David Russell (2005), LA Guitar Quartet (2005), Sharon Isbin (2010), The Beijing Guitar Duo (Latin Grammy nomination), Milos Karadaglic  (Grammaphone Music Award)  etc. More so do we have great composers writing for the guitar … like Jaoquin Rodrigo whose guitar concerto (Aranquez) is the most performed and recorded in the history of music!

The number of guitar festivals, competitions and societies for the classical guitar in the world is too numerous to mention. But here in South East Asia alone, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia hold classical guitar festivals every year and the number is growing! Do visit the Society’s website to see how successful all our activities are.

The poor sale of books does not mean the classical guitar is dying…trying to produce books to make money and not being able to sell the books does not point to the dying of the classical guitar! There should be many more reasons why the books are not selling! Reasons could be poor marketing strategy, poor content, unknown author, pricing and many more.

Mr. Clifford Cheam states – ‘must change – don’t do old school!’ What does this mean…!? Does he really know what he is referring to? And ’Classical Guitar is dying’.  Sweeping statements should not be made unnecessarily. With due respect I have never heard of Mr. Cheam, either as a performer or of his teaching skills, in my 30 over years in this industry until his books hit the music shops…William Kok is obviously not a classical guitarist and seems to be neither here nor there in his search for a voice in his music!  Anyway, it is definitely not nice to post such a video on the Classical Guitar Society’s page. It is in fact rude!

Simon Cheong

1 March 2012