The Guitar

The Guitar

Tracing the Grain Back to the Tree

Chris Gibson, Andrew Warren
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Guitars inspire cult-like devotion: an aficionado can tell you precisely when and where their favorite instrument was made, the wood it is made from, and that wood' s unique effect on the instrument' s sound. In The Guitar, Chris Gibson and Andrew Warren follow that fascination around the globe as they trace guitars all the way back to the tree. The authors take us to guitar factories, port cities, log booms, remote sawmills, Indigenous lands, and distant rainforests, on a quest for behind-the-scenes stories and insights into how guitars are made, where the much-cherished guitar timbers ultimately come from, and the people and skills that craft those timbers along the way. Gibson and Warren interview hundreds of people to give us a first-hand account of the ins and outs of production methods, timber milling, and forest custodianship in diverse corners of the world, including the Pacific Northwest, Madagascar, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Japan, China, Hawaii, and Australia. They unlock surprising insights into longer arcs of world history: on the human exploitation of nature, colonialism, industrial capitalism, cultural tensions, and seismic upheavals. But the authors also strike a hopeful note, offering a parable of wider resonance-of the incredible but underappreciated skill and care that goes into growing forests and felling trees, milling timber, and making enchanting musical instruments, set against the human tendency to reform our use (and abuse) of natural resources only when it may be too late. The Guitar promises to resonate with anyone who has ever fallen in love with a guitar.
"How old is a guitar? Did its life begin in the hands of the player, in the workshop or the factory, in the sourcing of its wood, or in the forests from which it came, with their majestic, centuries-old trees? In an exhilarating round-the-world journey, Gibson and Warren follow the trail of this most eloquent of instruments to its arboreal roots. Full of colorful characters, it' s a story that will keep you on edge of your seat. " -- Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen "The book integrates cultural practices and environmental issues of profound importance. It will have a vast appeal to those who, like myself, buy, use, and love guitars. Beautifully written, jargon-free, clear, and vivid. Brilliant!" -- Doug Harper, Duquesne University "At a time when our world faces increasing global crises, Gibson and Warren trace guitars back to their trees to offer the first sustained example of how to rethink commodity chains as chains of care. Through rich, multisited ethnographic research, they show how people across the Global North and Global South attempt to sustain each other and their skilled handcraft industry by caring for the trees and the forests, by caring for one another along with everyone in the chain, and by caring for trees they will never, as individuals, live to see become guitars-in order that someone else someday can. Richly researched and compellingly crafted, this book stands as a model for the creative soul of geographical scholarship. " -- Dydia DeLyser, California State University, Fullerton
Chris Gibson is professor of geography at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Andrew Warren is senior lecturer in economic geography at the University of Wollongong, Australia. They are coauthors of Surfing Places, Surfboard Makers: Craft, Creativity and Cultural Heritage in Hawai' i, California, and Australia.