The electric guitar is one of the most iconic musical instruments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and, due to its ubiquitous use in much rock and popular music, it has developed a strong cultural identity. In recent years, as the electric guitar has become increasingly common in contemporary concert music, its cultural associations have inevitably shaped how composers, performers and listeners understand music performed on the instrument. This article investigates various issues relating to the electric guitar's cultural identity in the context of Tristan Murail's Vampyr! (1984), in the hope of demonstrating perspectives that will be useful in considering new music for the electric guitar more generally. The article draws both on established analytical approaches to Murail's spectral oeuvre and on concepts from popular music and cultural studies, in order to analyse the influence that the electric guitar's associations from popular culture have in new music.
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