Katalin Koltai

Katalin Koltai

Katalin Koltai is a PhD researcher and guitarist at the International Guitar Research Centre, University of Surrey, supervised by Stephen Goss. Her research expands the boundaries of the guitar’s idiom through arrangements, new music, and inventing a new magnet capo system and guitar prototype, the ‘Ligeti Guitar’. Publications include articles at Lute Society of America Quarterly, Soundboard Scholar, CDs at North/South Recordings-Naxos, Hungaroton, Genuin, scores at Doblinger and talks at GFA Convention, Royal Academy of Music, Dublin Guitar Symposium, The 21st Century Guitar. She holds the FASS Scholarship, awardee of the Royal Musical and American Musical Instrument Society.


I situate my research within the fresh and growing field of practice-based research in Creative and Performing Arts. As a performer, guitarist, arranger and inventor of a new guitar prototype, I believe that I represent a unique combination of professional experience and research expertise.

Not restricting my guitarist role solely to interpretation, I have always approached music-making and instruments in a somewhat imaginative way. A real challenge – the guitar’s marginalisation in Western Classical music history leaving gaps in the guitar’s modern musical idiom – that led to my creative and innovative approach. Building on my already established international music career, I launched my PhD research on expanding the boundaries of the guitar’s idiom. I approach this objective via three interconnected themes: technological innovation, arrangements, and creating new music in collaboration.  

One of the most significant results of my PhD research is the invention and application of a new magnet capo system (Koltai, 2020) and a new guitar prototype (Koltai, 2021), the ‘Ligeti Guitar’, which I named after the Hungarian modernist composer, György Ligeti. The process of this technological innovation was driven by musical visions. When transcribing a selection of 20th-century piano pieces for guitar, I felt confronted with an intriguing paradox: the music sounded characteristic of the guitar, yet appeared completely idiosyncratic. By inventing and applying new technology (magnet capo system, ‘Ligeti Guitar’), I created successful new arrangements of Béla Bartók’s The Night’s Music and of György Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata.

I demonstrate the bond between arrangement and innovation in a forthcoming book chapter, The tradition of illusion: Guitar arrangement as a post-canonical patchwork (Koltai, 2022), putting guitar arrangement in a historical context and creating terminology for translating timbre, space, texture and instrumental choreography.

My third theme, creating new music in collaboration, demonstrates the collaboration process and resulting compositions for the ‘Ligeti Guitar’, including pieces by David Gorton, Gráinne Mulvey, Tom Armstrong, Benjamin Dwyer and others. I have launched international ‘call for scores’ projects and premiered new works in collaboration with the International Guitar Foundation, King’s Place London, Contemporary Music Centre of Ireland and Budapest Music Centre. I regularly premier new music by female composers as a performer of the King’s Place La Leona project.