of craftsman and guitar of factory
Marco Cavedon Chitarra d'artigiano e chitarra di fabbrica, Mazzotta, Milano
superiority of the guitar of the liutaio over the factory guitar is the superiority
of a human way of production (handicraft) over a mechanical way of production
(industry). This doesn't mean, of course, to propose the complete elimination
of machines and industrialization, but to recognize the structural incompetence
of the industrial production system when it has to deal with any commodity that
requires sensitivity, intuition, creativeness.
Man tends to improve, the machine has to repeat. The advantage of mass production lies in the possibility to repeat endless times a process that is very expensive in terms of preparation of model,, setting up of the machinery, starting etc., processes that once set going can replicate the model at a very low cost. This means that the more guitars are produced, the less each one costs... (omissis). On the contrary, man tries to get better, to experiment, to be never satisfied, never to repeat himself. The liutaio that taught me to work, ever since I know him, every time that starts a group of new guitars experiments an innovation, he changes a particular, then verifies the result and proceeds, learning from his own mistakes and constantly improving. By the way, you only have to remember Stradivari, that made his best instruments after the age of sixty and that he went on working up to his ninety-fourth year, with a process of growth that didn't have breaks along the seventy years of his career.
Man tends to personalize, the machine needs standardization. Even starting from the choice of materials the criterions are different; a particularly beautiful board is a lucky find for the artisan that at once thinks how to exploit it; it leaves instead indifferent the machine, that will treat it exactly like the others.
The industry chooses the material regardless to quality, but considering quantity: the main point is that it be available in adequate quantity and with characteristics more or less always uniform; the changes in quality, for better or worse, are always negative. In the same way the constructive choices happen not with acoustic or aesthetic criterions, but on the basis of data such as the number of constructive steps involved, or the percentage of breaks of the wood in the processings etc.
A particularly interesting point then, it is the reduction of the harmonic table of fir to the optimal thickness: this thickness varies approximately between 2 and 4 mm according to the type of wood (male or female, red or common fir), to the width and the inclination of the fibers, to the hardness of the pulp etc. The thickness has to be determined and each table, point after point, hasto be worked upon according to the liutaio's experience, while industry chooses an average thickness and uses it indifferently to any wood. Man adapts to the material, the machine forces the material to adapt.
To man faults and good points become experience. In the craftsman's production line the liutaio is the first to check the finished tool. That allows him, we have said it already, to verify the actual results of his experiments, but there is more: how many times an unexpected result has brought to an important discovery, in any field! From toilet paper to the X-rays, how many times a casual mistake, a neglect of details, has brought to unexpected results! In the same way it can happen to the craftsman that, for example, two guitars built to be identical, show an inexplicable difference of sound; so every step is revisited, considering the materials, the single processes, trying to spot out the particular operation, the error even, that is at the base of the difference of sound: and so the unexpected becomes experience... [omissis].
For the artisan the main point is to spread knowledge, for the industry the main point is to spread ignorance. Industry must sell a lot, it must do better than its competitors on the advertising domain, it must convince people that they need a guitar, and just of that type and of that brand. Industry could not be satisfied with people that really love to play, it could not speak clearly. It must encourage the commodity and hence the advertisements; it needs high profit margins, and hence poor materials and coarse processings; it must privilege the aspects of standardization, of finishing touch, and must leave out what really matters for the sound and the duration of the instrument.
The artisan, to the contrary, must persuade people to pay more attention to the resonance, to the tone, to the duration, to a simple aesthetic taste, to the beauty out of content, more that of form. And to do this the artisan has all the interest to explain the constructive processes, the importance of the materials, the function of each detail. He is concerned that people know judge, recognize the real value of an instrument. And this means making culture, spreading the love for music and knowledge