Ink on photocopied paper, dimensions variable, 2000 - . First exhibited at TCB Art Inc., Melbourne, 2003.

I love and hate the guitar.

It's the only instrument I more-or-less know how to play, and I've always wanted to write music for it. However, years of playing it left me jaded with its possibilities and feeling constrained by the limitations of my technique. Attempts to apply other compositional techniques I've used on the instrument produced results I found too dull to pursue. Trying out my extended free improvisation chops seemed futile, given the plethora of far more talented and imaginative guitarists out there. For a while I gave up on the instrument, but found that the need to compose for guitar wouldn't go away.

2000 Guitar Solos is an extensive series of compositions in progress, that aims to map comprehensively one section of the guitar fretboard: a kind of 'Return To Zero' before approaching the instrument once again with any creative intention. In writing these pieces I am learning to embrace the guitar's inherent qualities while at the same time crushing its accumulated rhetoric and mystique. The pieces' conscious antecedents are the exhaustive permutational compositions of Tom Johnson, Tom Phillips' paintings of paint companies' colour catalogues, and John Cage's act of making a detailed drawing of a tape recorder he was about to work with for the first time.

The series acquired the name 2000 Guitar Solos because it was begun in that portentous year, 2000, but as the compositional process became more systematised I decided to aim for a total of 2,000 pieces. In fact, I have now sketched 2,556 solos, and from time to time return to the series to write out another batch of neat, final versions.

The Exhibition

The beginning of the series, some 120 solos, was exhibited at TCB Art Inc. in Melbourne in 2003. Their simple, linear, obsessive nature makes them as suitable for display as 'visual music' as they are unprepossessing for public performance.

In addition to the multiple sheets of music, two other elements made the exhibition. On the wall facing the solos was a large poster printed with The Obsolete Guitar manifesto. Also in the exhibition space was a chair and a guitar, ready for use.

To help promote the show I made up hundreds of small, photocopied flyers, which took advantage of some other joker called Ben Harper who happened to be touring through town at about the same time.


Whenever 2000 Guitar Solos, or any part from it, is exhibited there should always be a guitar and a chair present with the sheet music to reassure punters that these pieces can, nay, should be played.

Whenever possible, I would come into the gallery for an hour or so, pull the chair up to a random section of wall and start to play, as an adjunct to and extension of the visual display. These appearences were never announced in advance, so that it was a matter of chance whether or not visiting punters could hear as well as see the work. Like I said, the music is unprepossessing, and these somewhat furtive performances reflected the internalised nature of the musical results.

Ben.Harper, 2003/08.