How convergence and creative collisions fuel invention
It was the Covid lockdown that did it. Got me into compulsive listening. As my physical world contracted so I spent more and more time taking voyages inside my head, carried along by music. These days the choice of vessels in my harbour is impressive; I can embark on a whole series of different journeys depending on my mood — jazz, classical, soft folky reminiscence or driving angry rock. But whatever the journey there’s a pretty good chance a guitar will feature somewhere in the mix.
(Confession; I’m a guitar player, have been since I was twelve years old and managed to persuade my parents to let me trade the trumpet I was learning as part of the school orchestra for a six string I’d seen in a shop window).
Even allowing for my bias and your many different musical tastes, you’d probably agree that taking the guitar out of our aural landscape would leave it a poorer place
And it would certainly be a commercially poorer one as well — the market for guitars is booming. It’s currently worth around half a billion dollars and is estimated to grow steadily. Covid-19 was an important sales agent, nudging millions of people to try and fulfil their dreams of converting air guitar playing to the real thing. Fender, one of the biggest names in the industry, had the best sales of its 80 year history during 2020 while James Curleigh, CEO of market leader Gibson, commented that during that year “we literally couldn’t deliver enough. Everything we were making, we could sell!”
But how did the guitar get here? And what role did innovation play in the process?
It’s an instrument with a long history — in fact if you take the idea of stretching strings across some kind of frame and letting the vibrations conjure sounds then we’re back at least three thousand years. There’s a stone carving of a Hittite musician entertaining at a Babylonian party in the Ancient Orient Museum in Istanbul and what he’s playing looks suspiciously close to being a guitar. It clearly didn’t take long for others to catch on the concept of the…