Tyler, James (Henry) 1940-

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TYLER, James (Henry) 1940-


Male. Born August 3, 1940, in Hartford, CT. Education: Attended University of Connecticut.


Office—University of Southern California, Early Music Department, PIC 143, USC Thornton School of Music, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0851; fax: 213-821-1865. E-mail—[email protected].


Author, educator, and musician. Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1986—, became professor and director of early music performance program. Founder, London Early Music Group, 1977. Recordings include Lo, Country Sports, 1971; James Tyler Plays Music of the Renaissance Virtuosi, 1976; Songs in Shakespeare's Plays, 1978; Music for All Seasons, 1978; Italian Airs and Dances, 1980; Elizabethan Social Music, 1981; Dolce Vita Mia: Italian Music from the High Renaissance, 1982; Il Scolaro: For Four Instrumentsi (editor), 1984; Seventeenth-Century Bel Canto, 1985; and Concerti "All Rustica," 1986. Composer and arranger of musical score for BBC-TV productions, including Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and others.


The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1980.

(With Paul Sparks) The Early Mandolin: The Mandolino and the Neapolitan Mandoline, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Paul Sparks) The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to numerous academic journals and to The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 1984, and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2001.


James Tyler studied the lute and made his concert debut in 1961. His varied music background includes stints with the Early Music Consort of London and the Julian Bream Consort. Founder of the London Early Music Group, which played Renaissance and early Baroque music, Tyler also performed on the banjo in a ragtime group. He joined the faculty of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music in 1986 and became director of the early music performance program there. He has also written about music, most notably in three books focusing on the guitar and mandolin.

Tyler's first book, The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook, provides a history of the guitar from the mid-fifteenth century and then provides a "handbook" for performers of early guitar music. The history includes background on early playing styles and a survey of guitar music from about 1546. The handbook focuses on such performer interests as playing styles, techniques, tunings, and notations. A contributor to Choice commended the book for being the "first to focus on a specific era of guitar history, and it does so with a level of scholarship that far surpasses any previous book on the subject." Thomas F. Heck, writing in the Music Library Association's Notes, felt that Tyler falls short in not discussing early guitar music in more detail. However, Heck concluded, "In the balance, one must credit Tyler with a useful contribution to the literature."

In 1989 Tyler teamed up with Paul Sparks to write The Early Mandolin: The Mandolino and the Neapolitan Mandoline. Tyler authored the first half of the book, focusing on a history of the lute and mandolin family from its origins to its decline in the eighteenth century. Sparks discusses the modern Neapolitan mandoline in the book's second half. Writing in Early Music, Tim Crawford noted, "Much of Tyler's section is somewhat speculative … each precious source of information being wrung dry for possible evidence of a definite name, size or tuning of the instrument in question." But Crawford also noted that the "authors write well and clearly" and called the work "a fascinating and well-researched book." Times Literary Supplement contributor Ian Woodfield commented, "The sympathetic portraits of the two mandolins presented in this study together mark an important advance in our knowledge of eighteenth-century plucked instruments."

Tyler and Sparks teamed up again for The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era, an authoritative guide to the history and repertory of the guitar in this time period. In the first section of the book, Tyler discusses the four-string Renaissance guitar and the five-string Baroque guitar, followed by Sparks's discussion of the six-stringed instrument emanating from Spain. In the book, the authors discuss how early guitar was not a dormant instrument but a vital part of eighteenth-century music-making; they also explore the overall development and changing popularity of the instrument. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Anthony Pryer noted that "Books on the history of the guitar are not in short supply, but this is one of the very best."



Choice, March, 1981, review of The Early Guitar: A History and Handbook, p. 964; December, 1989, K. L. Taylor, review of The Early Mandolin: The Mandolino and the Neapolitan Mandoline, p. 643.

Early Music, November, 1989, Tim Crawford, review of The Early Mandolin, pp. 569-573.

Music Educators Journal, February, 1981, review of The Early Guitar, p. 79.

Notes (Music Library Association), March, 1981, Thomas F. Heck, review of The Early Guitar, pp. 588-589.

Renaissance Quarterly, spring, 2004, Victor Coelho, review of The Guitar and Its Music: From the Renaissance to the Classical Era, p. 323.

Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 1989, Ian Wood-field, review of The Early Mandolin, p. 854; January 31, 2003, Anthony Pryer, review of The Guitar and Its Music, p. 30.*

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