This experiment, initially conducted in a jiff, opened up several other possibilities:
- Though the majority of nylon-string players use their fingernails, I can continue my practice of using a flatpick, initially intended to imitate the bowing of Norwegian folk fiddling. This guitar seems to work best when I give it a gentle sideways pick shove, much like mandolin players coax sound out of their instruments.
- Classical-guitar-style, horizontally moving vibrato became relevant for me on this instrument. This may connect romantic European music and Norwegian folk music in the listener’s ear.
- The video “Norian” (see below) is one of two examples on this record where I use partial capo. The clamp isn’t used on all the strings, but leaves the bottom one open. This is a mirroring of the Baroque practice of theorbo-ing (prolonging the fretboard on the bass string[s] by the flick of a lever, or even extending the fretboard itself for one or two strings), and it yields a different tuning than just fifths.
- For live performances as well as in the studio, I gradually introduced a range octaver, a simple effect pedal that doubles the lower register of my guitar, but one octave lower. To my ears, it creates a more natural sound when used with nylon strings than with steel strings. My music seems to work fine with or without it, and it is not essential to me.
I also want to mention the very low price of this instrument as an ethical factor related to teaching and performing music. Guitarists, as I tried to describe earlier, are very often focused on specific types of equipment in connection with specific types of music, and the quest for versatility can become costly – sometimes even depressingly out of reach – for young people. I have seen many surprised faces when I explain that the guitar I used to conceive, compose, arrange and record “Eon” had a list price of only 130 euros at the time I acquired it. I’m at liberty to recommend this modified entry-level guitar to my students, and I can even afford to keep a few specimens available for them in my office – nobody goes bankrupt from this experiment.
I’m also convinced this can become a practical instrument for many other purposes than mine, given its playability and affordability as well as its connection to instruments that already exist (fiddle, octave mandolins etc.). The morning of writing this, I’ve discovered the work of German artist Charlotte Posenske, whose DIY approach to assembling square metal tubes encouraged people to cross the line between “spectator” and “artist” and try her methods for themselves. I would encourage the same here – never mind what I did with this little guitar, go ahead and see what you can do with it:
“You can proceed according to a set program or you pick individual possibilities according to your personal taste,” she explained. “After all, there’s enough of them. Don’t worry if you’re never ‘done,’ because the re-combination could proceed in perpetuity without ever becoming boring.” Unlike many of her
minimalist peers, Posenenske refused to philosophize about the work: “What else they are or can mean (art and stuff like that), will not be discussed here,” she wrote. “The main thing is that you can change things.” At the end, she added: “Have fun!” (Vogel, 2009)
As an epilogue to the “Eon” project, and to see how far this instrument idea could go, I reached out to Swedish luthier Tyko Runesson, and described my setup for him. In his own words, Tyko doesn’t really care about what names or definitions already exist in the world of guitars, he is happy to go with an idea and combine sizes, string configurations and woods into original instruments, and he produced a top-of-the-line specimen for me in Swiss moon wood, Swiss flame ash, Swedish alder, and plum tree (the guitar also features a cheeky imitation of Antonio Stradivari ‘s Baroque guitar headstock). I ended up travelling to his workshop in Winterthur, Switzerland, to pick it up.