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Senior Lecturer in Music, Deputy Director of the International Guitar Research Centre (IGRC), University of Surrey

Before coming to Surrey John taught and led modules at University of Liverpool, Goldsmiths, LIPA and ICMP (formerly Guitar Institute). A professional guitarist from the age of 17, John has performed in ensembles with Dustin Wong, Sharon Gal, Cavalier Song, Rhys Chatham, Howard Skempton and the aPAtT Orchestra. McGrath has been commissioned to write for the IMMIX ensemble and performed new music alongside large arrangements of his work with the group. As a solo performer John has performed at a number of festivals and has supported Richard Dawson, Gwenifer Raymond, Laraaji and Sun Araw. Recent appearances include a solo set at King's Place, London. McGrath's compositions have been featured in The Wire, RTE Radio 1, BBC Radio, aired on several television programmes, and sounded at Tate Modern and FACT.

His monograph Samuel Beckett, Repetition and Modern Music (Routledge, 2018) explores the interactions and cross-pollination of music and literature including examinations of the Beckettian music of Morton Feldman and avantjazz guitarist Scott Fields (positive reviews in Music & Letters, Psychology of Music, Irish Studies Review, The Wire, Burning Ambulance); while other recent publications investigate the transmedial work of Laurie Anderson and David Lynch in addition to practice research on glitch aesthetics and avantfolk. In 2014, John was awarded a PhD in music from University of Liverpool, which was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. John is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a consultant for guitar pedagogy on Learn to Play: Computational Assessment of Musical Playability for Users' Practice (AHRC). He is Deputy Director of the International Guitar Research Centre (IGRC) and has just co-edited the collection 21st Century Guitar for Bloomsbury.

Research interests include popular music, performance, word and music studies, practice as research, cross-disciplinarity, aesthetics, AV media, Samuel Beckett, avantjazz, experimental music, folk / avantfolk, improvisation, guitar, repetition theory.


  • –present
    Senior lecturer, University of Surrey


  • 2014 
    University of Liverpool, PhD in Music