Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Skip this and go listen to something by Ana Egge.

The sequence goes like this: watch YouTube video of Ana Egge performing > recall an absurd comment made by John Mayer about how great it is that, “girls get out up there and bang out a few chords” (paraphrased) > try to find the source article in Acoustic Guitar by way of Google > fail > end up on the Wikipedia entry for John Mayer and find… of all things… a subcategory describing Mayer’s apparent consideration of abandoning music entirely to pursue a career in… design. Where to begin? Clearly, at the end.

Design: who knows how credible the claim is that design was even a consideration? The overall point though is that the disposition is supported by examples of signature model guitars issued by Martin and Fender. Wow. It is delightful that Mayer had the opportunity to select the wood varieties and offer up some styling cues so winningly, but the fact is that he does not design guitars: at best he specified some features when prompted by legendary makers. Oh wait! Wiki says that Mayer also has designed t-shirts and shoes. I bet that he has even designed a method for sandwich construction whereby the mayonnaise is applied to one piece of bread while mustard is craftily placed on… the other piece of bread. It is like flavor in stereo. Design? How to even begin to describe what design thinking means to a room full of designers when the word design is even casually used in the context of some dolt who stencils a shirt? Clearly at the beginning. [The entirety of the shoe issue has been abandoned for even the slightest attempt at brevity.]

There is always a hip-pocket example to counter the quick dismissal of talent: Mayer’s trivialization of women getting started in the singer-songwriter racket implicitly suggests that women cannot play the guitar like he does… which, I guess, is well. [Though, secretly I am thrilled that there are no heroines-apparent taking up his slack.] The number of brilliant women guitarists is overwhelming, to the point that consideration in light of the comment is moot. Let the mystery be, yes? Not just yet. The fact that there is even discussion of Mayer as a designer to be taken seriously brings me right back to the point of this whole thing: Ana Egge. Her talents are immense vocally, lyrically, and dexterously. The cap though is the fact that she IS a designer. The guitar that she plays is an Egge/Musser original: she made it. Her efforts did not begin and end with style choices. She built it. Further, she plays the hell out of it on a daily basis.

In the world of retail sales of vintage instruments, belt buckle “rash” is an interesting phenomenon: it is the collective distress due to wear from belt buckles, keys, buttons, snaps, and the like that accumulates from the physical contact between instrument and player. Only in particular cases (e.g. celebrity instruments or VERY old instruments) does this kind of wear exist without impact on value. Admittedly, there is a certain bravado in beating up a guitar in more than one way. Patina is cool: designers and musicians agree.

The “honest” wear that I see on Mayer’s instruments I suppose is a trophy of his skill, craft, and lifestyle: hard-charging designer on the road belting out the Grammy winning Wonderbread. Sucks to your asthma,I say! I am compelled to cry foul and pull from my hip pocket video proof of something I have seen in person, as well: the skewed buckle. Aha! Now THAT is a legitimate metric of a designer. That’s right John: she BUILT her guitar; she is designerly enough to understand what that means. Now I know that there are lots of guys getting up on stage with pristine Martins buckling their belts on the hip, but it seems like the world deserves at least one good example of a woman doing the same. That is all: long, boring, and needlessly bitter based on a vaguely remembered quote from an article that cannot be located—interspersed with too many colons.

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