About matthew hill


Dr. Matthew Hill is a native of Los Angeles who has lived a somewhat peripatetic life, including more than twenty years in Scotland. He holds a BMus (Hons, 1st class) in music (theory and composition) from Napier University and a MMus in organology from the University of Edinburgh  In 2014, he was awarded his PhD there on the development of the early electric guitar.  

Almost without question, the invention of the electric guitar is the most important development in musical instruments during the last century. No other musical instrument can claim to have had the impact on 20th century music -- and society – since 1900 that the electric guitar and its variants have. The electric guitar's widespread popularity has given it an iconic status in recent years, both in musical importance and as a graphic realisation of the concept of “music”, which almost certainly exceeds that of any other musical instrument, including the violin and the piano. Like the violin and piano, the electric guitar's origins and early history have been the subject of much heated debate and the source of much mythology.  

One of the founding curators of the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, he has also advised and curated musical instrument exhibits at places as varied as the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, The Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, California, and Harrods in London. 

He is also curator of the John C. Hall collection of musical instruments at Rickenbacker International Corporation in Santa Ana, California.

A regular contributor to international journals and conferences, he was most recently a contributor and consultant to the recent book, , The Guitar Collection.

In addition to academic pursuits, he has enjoyed a varied musical life that includes being a Nashville session player, art music composer and rockabilly doghouse bassist. He is probably one of the few people who can say that they have played at CBGB's and had their orchestral music played by the BBC. Not at the same time, though.



Current research projects include making a reconstruction of an 1890 electromagnetically activated acoustic guitar by an American naval officer George Breed (pictured left) and making a copy of the 1931 Rickenbacker "Frying Pan", the first solid-body guitar with an electromagnetic pickup. Read More


Talks, Papers and Publications

Matthew Hill has given a number of talks, presented papers, and been published in a variety of curatorial, academic, and professional society environments.
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Matthew Hill has curated and collaborated on a number of high-profile musical instrument exhibitions in both the traditional museum environment and more unusual and non-traditional exhibition spaces such as the "Born to Rock" exhibition at Harrods in London (pictured left).
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