.::..Nicholas Sagan..::. …:.::..artworks and experiments…::.:…nicholassagan@gmail.com

Conceptual Luthier?

So many years ago I took a woodshop class.  While many of my classmates decided to build gun racks (small Midwestern town…) I went ahead and built a very odd bass guitar.  My interest in playing musical instruments has always been coupled with my fascination of how they work and how they are put together so I took apart and reassembled every instrument I owned…and destroyed a couple in the process.  But once I really started to figure out how to really make one I was on a roll.  The first one was a full-length scale 4-string bass.  It featured neck-though-body construction with hand-carved walnut wings, as they call them.  A few years later I built a small scale fretless using some more walnut and a cocobolo fingerboard.  The previous bass’s neck was prefabricated and I basically assembled it whereas this small scale bass’s neck was hand carved and sanded by yours truly.

But really the whole point of this post was to examine the role that luthier-ship has in my work as an academic and professional artist.  In the past few years I’ve been working with experimental sound more and more, something I used to do when I reworked all the guitars I owned.  While the craftsmanship involved in constructing a bass guitar from scratch can be a bit of a challenge (the electronics still don’t work perfectly…) the artistic/conceptual process involved slightly stunted when compared to context of the art I generally create.

So it could be that I am really into this whole notion of being a “conceptual luthier” so to speak.  It’s about coming up with new ways to engage spaces and objects so that they interact on the same level as a musical instrument.  The Before We Were installation was more or less the analog for a player piano (albeit much more complex content-wise) and Waking the Invisible was essentially a room created to respond to the viewers movements, thus making it a very large instrument operated by computer vision.  Continuing on this process I can see how the further conceptual development of creating instruments and the physical implications and control systems can, depending on how successful the works are, really validate this term “conceptual luthier” and place it in a context that works on a level closer to contemporary artistic practices rather than centuries-old instrument making traditions.

There is also something about this line of inquiry leading into how my work is really about observation on a few different levels.  It can function as art observing science; art observing science fiction observing art; art observing people observing science; art observing people observing themselves, etc etc etc….

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