Book: Guitar Makers

YaleNews features works recently or soon to be published by members of the University community. Descriptions are based on material provided by the publishers. Authors of new books may forward publishers’ book descriptions to us by email.

YaleNews features works recently or soon to be published by members of the University community. Descriptions are based on material provided by the publishers. Authors of new books may forward publishers’ book descriptions to us by email.

Guitar Makers: The Endurance of Artisanal Values in North America

Kathryn Marie Dudley, professor of anthropology and American studies

(University of Chicago Press)

In “Guitar Makers,” Kathryn Marie Dudley describes the builders of artisanal guitars, their place in the art world, and the specialized knowledge they’ve developed.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with members of the lutherie community, she finds that guitar making is a social movement with political implications. Artisans, Dudley contends, “listen” to their wood, respond to its liveliness, and strive to endow each instrument with an unforgettable tone. Although professional luthiers work within a market society, Dudley observes that their overriding sentiment is passion and love of the craft. Guitar makers are not aiming for quick turnover or the low-cost reproduction of commodities but the creation of singular instruments with unique qualities, and face-to-face transactions between makers, buyers, and dealers are commonplace.

In an era when technological change has pushed skilled artisanship to the margins of the global economy, and in the midst of a capitalist system that places a premium on ever faster and more efficient modes of commerce, Dudley shows how artisanal guitar makers have carved out a unique world that operates on alternative, more humane, and ecologically sustainable terms.

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