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Guitar machine

I described a connection in my last post between myself and the guitar. This connection doesn’t by itself differ from connection between humans and other musical instruments. All instruments are pieces of technology that communicate thoughts and feelings originating in their players’ bodies.

But the electric guitar is the first musical instrument designed specifically to create sound by connecting to electronic technology outside of itself. Orchestral instruments are able use electronic technology, but doing so isn’t their normal way of operating.

For the electric guitarist, electronic technology (on-board electronics, amplifiers) is integral to its origin story, and that story has evolved over decades to include effects pedals and digitization.

The electric guitar doesn’t exist without this technology, a technology that represents a basic otherness, a machine-ness outside of human experience.


Blurred boundaries

The electric guitar blurs the boundaries between human and nonhuman, and expands the concept of what it can mean to be human. This can be said about any instrument, but the electric guitar foregrounds this idea in its extreme and varied use of technology.

And this extreme is normal for the guitar. Not so for orchestral instruments.

Given this normality of extremes, the electric guitar is more obviously a machine than other instruments. It becomes the standard-bearer for human-machine collaboration in a musical context.

With the guitar, a machineness outside of human experience changes to become a natural part of what it means to be human. This given the the fact that it is the machine that allows us to demonstrate our humanness by allowing us the possibility of emotional and intellectual expression.



If we connect to a machine (the guitar) in the way I describe here, then it makes sense that we change how we think about ourselves.

Essentially, when we play the guitar, we become part machine. We forget ourselves. Sometimes we forget the guitar. Our experience is reduced to sound, and that sound is what’s left in the fusion of human and machine.

Which is kind of cool. And kind of scary. And kind of what musicians have always done.


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