John Griffiths graduated from Monash with a BA (Hons) in 1975 and PhD (1985). From 1980 to 2011 he was based at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music at the University of Melbourne, becoming a professor in 1993. He returned to the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash as Head of School (2015-2016), remaining as and Adjunct Professor since then. He is one of the most senior musicologists in Australia today with an extensive international reputation as both a researcher and performer. His scholarly work and his performance activities centre around early plucked instruments —lutes, vihuelas and guitars— in renaissance Spain and Italy.
His 2014 CD Intimate vihuela (Contrastes Records, CR2201405) has been praised for its “interpretative warmth, of course, an accomplished technique that does not smudge the exquisite lines, but above all the character and expressiveness. He knows how to convey the calmness and delicacy that underlies the repertory, and especially that expressive capacity, that evocative power and the depth that is buried within every piece” (Doce notas, April 2015).
His scholarly work covers broad areas from the social history of Renaissance music, early music printing, historical music pedagogy, organology, connections between written and oral traditions, and music in urban society, as well as detailed analytical studies of sixteenth-century musical repertoire. Notable contributions include landmark studies on the Spanish vihuela fantasia, unravelling the music printing industry in sixteenth-century Spain, and the rediscovery of the Neapolitan tradition of lute playing in the sixteenth-century. In recognition of this work Professor Griffiths has received numerous accolades including being awarded the Cross of Officer of the Order of Isabel the Catholic by King Juan Carlos I of Spain in 1993, election to the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2006 and as a Corresponding Member of the American Musicological Society in 2014. In 2019 he became a Member of the Order of Australia.