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The Well-Unpublished Luthier

The Well-Unpublished Luthier

by William R. Cumpiano

Originally published in American Lutherie #6, 1986 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie, Volume One, 2000



Gather around and listen to a strange tale; a saga of oppression and self-imprisonment and of unending, grueling effort; of frustrated expectations and missed opportunities. But it is a sad story with a happy ending.

My story begins ten years ago when I, a budding young luthier, hired a booth in a large Northeastern crafts fair. It was the dawn of my career: I was green and I was anxious and I could not have known then that craft fairs are worthwhile for makers of multiples, such as ceramic pots and leather bags, but a waste of time for guitar makers. But I had to learn that for myself. Think of the exposure, I was told. Just think of the exposure...

Yes, I was to learn. There I stood, an innocent with a hopeful smile on my face, my shiny wares hanging on a makeshift masonite wall behind me, each one of my little babies stamped with the mute evidence of all the care, sacrifice, and painful experience that had brought them into the world.

“Wow!” a voice in the crowd exclaimed, “what are you asking for one of those?” Haltingly, I responded, a little tongue-tied: “Sev... six... five... five hundred and fifty dollars.”

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Quick Cuts: The Boujmaa Brothers’ Moroccan Lutherie Shop

Quick Cuts

The Boujmaa Brothers’ Moroccan Lutherie Shop

by Bruce Calder

Originally published in American Lutherie #82, 2005



While in Marrakech recently, my wife and I discovered the “Ensemble Artisanal,” a government-sponsored complex of shops located outside the medina in the Ville Nouvelle. Here you can watch artisans at work as well as buy their products. These range from carpet makers to makers of babouche (the typical Moroccan leather slippers) to jewelry makers to woodworkers of several types. It’s a great alternative to the heavy sales pressure to be found in the souks, and if you’re not the haggling type (an art form taken to its highest expression here in Morocco), so much the better — prices are fixed, and the things you buy are always of the best quality. Even better, the money goes directly to the artisans.

It was a most pleasant surprise while in the Ensemble Artisanal to discover brothers Benaddi and Blad Boujmaa’s lutherie shop. Makers of both traditional Berber and Arabic instruments (“We make both, since we are half Berber and half Arabic, just like most Moroccans,” Blad told me), their atelier has been in its present location for about ten years.

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Spiritual Lutherie

Spiritual Lutherie

by Raphael Weisman

Originally published in Guild of American Luthiers Quarterly, Volume 9 #3, 1981 and Lutherie Woods and Steel String Guitars, 1997



We are all, in some way, the samurai warriors of today. Our weapons are our tools, our disciplines and skills are our crafts, and our aim is the refining and perfecting of ourselves as artists, as craftspeople, and as human beings. I am becoming more and more aware of my quest, of my journey in this field, and only a small amount of it really has to do with making instruments.

I see life as a university, a school, the school of the soul where we come to learn as much as we can in a brief spell. This world is the world of the physical, the material, the world of money and nature. It is here that we can learn the most and the fastest because this world offers us an opportunity to experience. And it is through experience that we grow in consciousness, in awareness, and in form. We are the molders of our experience, and through the process of experiencing, we learn. Through learning and refining, we grow.

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Brazilian Guitar Makers

Brazilian Guitar Makers

by Roberto Gomes

Originally published in American Lutherie #33, 1993 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



The guitar has been the main musical instrument in Brazil since it was brought by the Portuguese colonizers centuries ago. In those times, Baroque guitars were the most common string instruments. They had five courses of gut or wire strings. Since then it hasn’t changed much, as we can see in the “Brazilian viola” which is used for a kind of Brazilian country music called musica sertaneja (countryside music). The shape of the soundbox of this viola today resembles more a small classic guitar. Unfortunately there are very few records of those times, making it difficult to make a better study of those guitars and their makers. It’s known that most of the instruments were made in Portugal, Italy, and France.

The first decade of this century brought three immigrant families from Italy: the Gianninis, the DiGiorgios, and the DelVecchios. These families were luthiers in their country of origin and later they founded the main Brazilian guitar factories which became the backbone of Brazilian-made guitars for nearly eighty years. They made mostly classic guitars and some violins, along with Brazilian violas. They also made mandolins, first with vaulted backs like lutes and later with flat backs, which are used to play choro music.

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Meet the Maker: Donald Warnock

Meet the Maker: Donald Warnock

by Cyndy Burton

Originally published in American Lutherie #26, 1991 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Three, 2004



Are you working entirely by yourself now?

Yes. I have had many people in my shop over the years, one fellow for three years. My main teaching efforts consisted of my sojourn at Boston University where I taught the general concepts required to design and make plucked and bowed instruments for early music performance. That was two days a week for upwards of ten years. (See p. 16 for a description of that program.)

What kinds of projects are you working on right now?

To a large extent my workaday occupation is in filling orders that were placed a year and a half to two years ago. I try to finish instruments in almost the exact same order in which they are accepted. At the moment I am working on two undersized 7-string French bass viols I’ve designed to meet the size and proportion requirements of two customers. They are specifically for French music for two bass viols, but will also be used in conjunction with other instruments. These are a matched pair, and are intended for use in halls of restricted size. The fact that they are small is more for the convenience of the players. Ordinarily the French viol was a little larger than the later English concert bass, although it seems probable that the French Baroque players preferred English instruments renecked to suit their basically lute-style technique. Such instruments set the standard for tonal characteristics. And it’s interesting that the French, in the case of viols, repeated what they’d done with the harpsichord, namely took the Flemish harpsichords and adapted them to their own musical usage.

I have another standard bass I’m working on that will be patterned on the Smithsonian Barak Norman. And I have four tenor viols: two will have back, sides, and neck of maple and two will be figured pear. I just finished a treble and a tenor shortly before I left for this convention and also received an order for a treble.

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