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Alternative Guitar Summit

Alternative Guitar Summit: new and unusual approaches to the guitar


The Alternative Guitar Summit, founded in 2011 by guitarist/composer Joel Harrison, is a yearly festival of daring, inventive players who emphasize new and unusual approaches to the guitar. It celebrates the guitar’s enormous range. Although we are closest to the world of jazz in our model, we are partial to performers that transcend style or genre and are deserving of wider recognition.

The AGS is administered by Life Force Arts Inc., a 501 c3 started by Joel Harrison in 2013.

We are applying to New Music USA for two public performances and a 3 day teaching intensive for next year’s summit, our 7th annual celebration of all things guitar. Concerts are  March 11 and 15 and the teaching camp is June 6-9. The two concerts will take place at Studio 151/ Nublu and National Sawdust and include the following performers:

March 11: Nels Cline Solo, John Schott Trio, Rafiq Bhatia with Marcus Gilmore and Rashaan Carter, and Adam Rudolph’s Go Organic Guitar Orchestra feat. Liberty Ellman, Miles Okazaki, Nels Cline, Joel Harrison, Marco Capelli, and more.

March 15:  Dither Guitar Quartet Plays Fred Frith; Steve Mackey (Gtr) and Jason Treuting (perc.): excerpts from Mackey’s guitar opera  “Orpheus Unsung;” The debut of The Resophonic Guitar Orchestra led by Joel Harrison, with Elliott Sharp, Brandon Ross, Dither, and more. New music for multiple National Steel resophonic guitars in a piece entitled “Blind Willie Johnson Rising;” Steven Bernstein Quartet (trpt)- New music with guitarists Larry Campbell, Dave Tronzo, Steve Cardenas- An intimate conversation between Bernstein and 3 iconic guitarists.

The teaching intensive offers workshops and one on one playing time with Steve Cardenas, Marc Ribot, Larry Campbell, Oz Noy, Joel Harrison, and Miles Okazaki. It takes place at Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, NY. (I note that we are doing one other show on March 10 honoring Pat Metheny @LPR which we are not applying for funds for.)

Simply put, there has probably never been a convocation of so many cutting-edge guitarists anywhere- ever. Thirty guitarists will be presented in 3 days, all of whom are leading lights in the worlds of adventurous improvisation and composition. Each act has something new and unusual to say with the guitar. Some acts involve communal improv, some will play original compositions, others will perform important work from esteemed living composers. All have extended the language of the instrument in important ways over the course of the past thirty years.

The Summit and workshops are my attempt to make opportunities for players who fall between genres, who proudly embrace the non-commercial, whose lives, often lived outside the spotlight, are devoted to sonic exploration. I want the audiences and students to be radically inspired by the abundance, the diversity, the daring nature of the shows.



Project Media

Orpheus Unsung: Pursuit and Trespass mvt 5
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Features: Steven Mackey

Esteemed composer Mackey has written a “guitar opera” that features Jason Treuting from So Percussion and is based on the Orpheus Myth. The hour long duet is a virtuosic showcase, eliciting a stunning number of different tones, textures, and approaches. Mackey uses the electric guitar in about every way possible to drive the drama. He will perform a 25 minute excerpt at AGS.


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Features: Fred Frith

Dither Guitar Quartet has developed a unique body of work through commissions and performances of “out of the box” composers where improv and complex/ eccentric notation combine. They will perform the rarely heard guitar quartet music of iconic composer/ guitarist Fred Frith on March 15. This is a cut from Frith’s own quartet, demonstrating the seamless union of jazz, rock, folk, and noise music. Frith practically invited the notion of avant-garde “extended techniques” for electric guitar. He is in some ways a role model for the Summit.

Start and End Dates



NY and Big Indian, New York

Project Created By

Brooklyn, New York
Named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2010, Washington D.C. native Joel Harrison has long been recognized as a highly gifted guitarist, composer, arranger, vocalist and songwriter. A survey of Harrison’s body of work would be a bit like spinning a globe and stumbling on regions with names like Duke Ellington, Hendrix, The Beatles, John Mclaughlin, and…

In Collaboration With

Brooklyn, New York
New York, New York
Performer/ composer


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