Make a song from these bones – Linda Hogan

November 6, 2015

This box we play, made of wood from various places in my own case: cedar top from British Columbia. rosewood back and sides from Brazil, ebony fingerboard from Africa and mahogany neck from Mexico. This range is remarkable, the result of international trade but the masterful skill a luthier uses to finish a guitar is extraordinary. From the design perspective there is the analysis of all the precedents both for the practical purpose of making sure it stays together, and the aesthetic reason of making a beautiful sound that responds to the players skill and needs.

According to Canadian guitar maker Oscar Graf, the primary source for instrument spruce was the black forest in Germany. It takes 60 – 80 years for a tree to be large enough to harvest for instrument use. Instruments that use spruce for soundboards include piano, violin. viola, harp and guitar. Sections of the forest there have been grown especially for instrument use since about 1500. Acid rain has ruined the trees that could be harvested for instruments. A secondary source Oskar told me was the forests around Sarajevo, but they were mostly bombed during the conflict there.

DSCF8884When speaking this past summer to French builder Olivier Pozzo I asked about the sources for his guitar tops. He told me that there was some very fine wood in the French alps. He said there were men with special skills who walked through the woods at very specific times, which were the result of a complex bio-dynamic process. These people knocked on the trees and hen they found an appropriate candidate for harvesting they marked it and suggested also the date it should be harvested. Tree whisperers!

There are guitar makers [luthiers] who listen to a player before making them an instrument. After hearing them play, they then fine tune the instrument for that player, compensating for his weaknesses and balancing his strengths. Shaving bits to do this from the braces and the top will highlight certain frequencies creating an instrument perfectly suited to a given player.DSCF8871

Then we make songs from this old wood, sourced form around the world, aged for many years. Old songs, written by masters from the 19th century and new composers still living and trying out new things. We make songs from these old bones to enchant, delight and inspire.

One day, Nasrudin was riding his donkey and spotted a ripe peach hanging over the wall of someone’s orchard. After positioning his donkey under it, he stood up and grabbed a branch, reaching for the peach with his other hand.While doing this, a noise startled the donkey causing it to run off. Nasrudin was left hanging from the tree as the orchard owner spotted him: “Thief”, he yelled.”I am not stealing anything” said Nasrudin. “. Can’t you tell by the way I’m hanging here that I have simply fallen off of my donkey?”