I came in to write a few lines and found that the pile of repair work was screaming for attention. So, with regret, I turned to the first guitar awaiting my ministrations, only to find a distressed patient. I admit, the musical instruments I work on are more than just inanimate chunks of wood to me. I have spent many hours with these wounded friends, trying to ease the torment which unthinking owners inflict. Over the years, I have, not without frustration, actually come to expect the neglect, but outright abuse is hard to tolerate. I’ve spoken before of my feelings regarding this, so you won’t be taken aback to hear of my discomfort with mistreatment of fine musical instruments.
I know in my brain that these actually are just conglomerations of wood and metal, even sometimes plastics, but in my heart I see the potential for art, not only in the beauty of the instrument itself, but especially in the bonding of instrument and artist, which results in a symbiosis of a sort. The musician is dependent on the instrument for his or her satisfaction, the production of melodies and harmonies and chordal structures, to say nothing of the physical comfort while propagating the same. A fine instrument is a joy to play, both in the pleasure of the music and the ease of producing the tones. In my experience, the musician demands much of the instrument, while the instrument always demands slightly less, a controlled physical environment, periodic adjustment, and replacement of necessary parts from time to time. And, that’s where the problem lies.
Many musicians are only interested in what they extract from the instrument, but much less concerned with what they give back. People who live in spotless homes bring me guitars to restring, for which the word filthy would be generous. Belt buckles scrape the backs of the guitars, and various objects are glued, screwed and taped onto them. Holes are drilled, finishes scraped, and still the player demands perfection. While I know there are some poorly built instruments which may actually deserve such treatment, many of the beauties I see do not. A fine instrument should last a lifetime, and in fact, will improve in performance with use, but our culture encourages replacement and therefore also encourages neglect and abuse.
Tonight’s project actually was a victim of over-zealousness on the owner’s part. Repairs were attempted for which the skill was not present, adjustments made which were poorly executed. I prefer this over the abuse and neglect I see so often, but the end result is the same. A fine instrument is designated inadequate, or even useless, when it actually should have seen the owner through any level of performance to which he ever aspired.
I’m better now. As I made repairs to the guitar, I realized that my mechanic probably feels the same about the condition of the vehicles I take to his shop, the carpenter bemoans the neglect of beautiful homes he is asked to repair, and the cycle continues. Obviously, from my perspective, they’re not comparable, but one has to consider the viewpoints of others. I’ve heard mechanics speak with passion about the abuse of the lovely creatures they bring back to life, although I know they’re speaking about a mass of nuts, bolts and sheet metal, so the point is lost on me. Nevertheless, I understand that my intensity regarding my little projects, while necessary to motivate me to perform my craft, is my passion and not that of others. Therefore, I will resist all temptation to rant and rave when the owners arrive to pick up their rehabilitated instruments, but will calmly make suggestions regarding care to avoid a recurrence, knowing all the while that the next time I see them, we’ll almost certainly have a repeat performance.
For today, I’ve done what I can and will be content. It’s taken a lifetime, but I really am finally catching on to the principle that I’m responsible to take care of my duties and obligations, and no one else’s besides. It’s been a hard transition, from expecting others to march to my drumbeat to realizing that my particular rhythm is meant for one person, but I’m getting there. It doesn’t hurt to advertise a bit, but enforcement is not an option. And, perhaps that’s just as well.
“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.”
(Rabindranath Tagore~Indian poet 1861-1941)