Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Carolan Guitar and its aestheticodes

So, the question was asked yesterday, what would sort of information would you insert into the patterns of this guitar?

Just to clarify, the Carolan Guitar - a unique artefact - has 9 distinctive patterns etched (or laser-cut) into its body. These designs contain codes (they call them 'aestheticodes') that can be scanned with a smartphone, tablet etc. Currently, these codes are already linked to 'experiences' online, but since the project is still in its try-out stages, one of the questions asked by the developers was: what would you link the guitar to.

Well, after a (very) brief week of having this guitar around, it's time to add my thoughts to the debate ... It seems to me that there are, in general, two  ways in which a 'coded' guitar like this could be envisaged:  it is an instrument that either gets sold (or given) to a single person and becomes property of that person, or it exists as a 'social' guitar, one that gets handed around from user to user.

In case of the first option - the individual use - the codes could link to information that is relevant for the single owner, to take with him or her wherever he or she takes the guitar. One design could lead to a personal collection of guitar tabs of all the songs that that guitar player usually plays. Another to the youtube channel with all the videos he or she has uploaded. Another one to their music blog, and another to their online shop. One for their photo collection. Evidently, whenever these get updated online, the guitar 'is aware'. In other words, everything that the Carolan Guitar player was (musically) involved with could be focused in and on this guitar. The guitar would function as a composite tracker of someone's entire musical career.

Another single-user option would be to have guitars like this as ultimate 'deluxe editions' of an album. These are the days when you can buy impressively expanded versions of an album, sometimes for hundreds of pounds --- 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' on 7 discs, including some marbles, a scarf, a piece of the moon and much much more. These things do sell (I, for one, can't resist them). So what if the extremely deluxe edition of, let's say, Prince's The Truth (to name but one totally acoustic album), was a proper guitar - a replica of Prince's guitar - but with the music embedded into the patterns on it? No CDs, no LPs, not even MP3s, but just the guitar. One pattern would lead to the main album, another to the bonus disc with outtakes, yet another to a section with videos, and finally one to a dress-like-Prince game, etc etc. Just a crazy idea? :)

The second option - the social guitar approach - is much more appealing to me. A guitar that would change hands every month or so, that travels from country to country, reaches amateurs as well as famous artists, and, in doing so, would keep track of every single stage. A guitar that would keep its own diary and archive.

As it is now, the guitar already does this to some extent: players can write their blogposts, add information to their own sites, and link (or hope to link) all that to a central website/blog, run by the guitar-creators. But I think it would be much more useful if this was done by the person with the guitar in a centralized way: Having the guitar would also allow you access to that central blog - if, by using one of the patterns on the guitar, you get a special key, to go and add everything you chose to that 'official' blog. The life-blog of the Carolan Guitar that would grow and grow over the years.

Similarly, getting handed the guitar would mean you have to 'log in' to its life-span (and subsequently 'log out' when it leaves you). A perfect time-line of players could be produced in that way (this is the historiographer in me speaking). People could write a short piece about themselves, add pictures if they want. Refer to the their own websites. Everything to make sure that these people aren't anonymous.

A second symbol could take you to a place that lists all the gigs for which this guitar was used. Again, maybe with pictures or even live recordings of that particular gig. It would be great to know that the guitar landing in your hands had had a stint in, let's say, the Royal Albert Hall or the Aberystwyth Arts Centre - once or twice.

A third symbol, and I don't think it really matters which one (discovering what is what would be part of the fun of having this guitar), would take you to a section that chronicles or archives all the songs written on this guitar. These could be finished products, with lyrics, recordings, anything people would like to contribute and share, as well as a section (which I mentioned before) with 'unfinished songs'. This fourth symbol would be a playground for people to go, pick up ideas and/or find long-distance writing-partners. It's certainly possible - I've written songs that way with people, some of them in London, others in the USA.

Symbol five - we have to keep that manual (it worked for me :) ), including the early history and creation of the guitar.

Symbol six - all about the creators of this guitar: who they are and what else they are up to. Related projects.

That would still leave a few symbols. I like the little one, almost hidden on the side and under the neck - it takes you some time to find that one, so maybe that should be a special one. How about accessing that symbol entitles you to an extra week with the guitar? A sort of prize-symbol?

The one underneath the strings I would never use - I always learnt never to take off all the strings at the same time (it's bad for the neck). Maybe that symbol should take you to a place that teaches you how to look properly after the guitar ... :)

In conclusion, being handed the guitar, would also mean being handed its history. And that, I imagine, could be very thrilling and inspiring. That would make this a very special and unique guitar project. So much for my musings. No time to waste now: I better go and work on the song we started on yesterday, as I've only got one day left before the Carolan Guitar is leaving me.

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