Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inspiration From Disaster: Gibson Guitars in Nashville Has A "Flood of Creativity"

My heart went out to the people of Tennessee in early May 2010, who had experienced a torrent of rain and floods for two straight days, driving people out of their homes, drowning landmarks and causing millions of dollars of damage in its wake.  As a music lover, my heart sank even furthur to hear that the Grand Ole Opry House, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Gibson Guitar USA factory in Nashville had suffered some terrible damage, as well.

But, as Bryan Wawzeneck, international editor for Gibson Lifestyle blog, had said, "Sometimes great beauty can be found in the strangest of places and under the most horrible of circumstances."

photo by Bryan Wawzeneck

The Gibson USA factory, located in Nashville, Tennessee, the plant which crafts the esteemed and highly reputed Les Paul and SG guitar models, was ravaged by flood waters, leaving many guitars still left to be finished unsalvageable.  

photo by Bryan Wawzeneck

The receding waters revealed much damage that was heartbreaking to the staff and luthiers that had worked so painstakingly on these instruments, only to have them destroyed beyond rescue.  The seemingly endless destruction of months of hard work wasn't the only thing revealed - in the finishing department, where many guitars were stored to dry after paint and laquer were applied, the receding waters left an unexpected inspirational mark.  "Almost magically, a bunch of swirling, colorful patterns were unveiled on the floors of the plant’s finishing department," writes Bryan on Gibson's Lifestyle blog.  "Although the natural disaster had destroyed so much, it had also created these gorgeous designs. The receding flood waters had crafted the patterns from the remnants of paints and stains. Amidst so much ugliness, these swirling works of art were a reminder of Gibson’s positive and creative spirit."

photo by Bryan Wawzeneck

Restoration of the factory's equipment and materials proceeded quickly, and brought about a strong energy within its production and quality.  To pay homage to the "positive and creative spirit" helped through Gibson USA's quick recovery, the swirl patterns left on the floor from the flood waters would serve as a new inspiration for the Gibson USA factory.  The floor would be preserved inside the factory itself, and will be a new finish on the latest guitar to roll out of the factory, the Firebird X.  "The unique pattern is a badge of survival, artistry and honor," writes Bryan, "worn proudly by Firebird X."  

photo by Bryan Wawzeneck

Musician's note: Funny enough, for us 'gearheads', the Ibanez fan base is crying foul over this design, fighting for the Jem series and their distinctive swirl patterns available since the late 1980s and played by guitar icons such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, claiming Gibson might be stepping on some toes.  It seems to me that Gibson has the 'commemorative' ideal in mind, only making a limited number, or only limiting this finish to the Firebird X itself.  Being on the fence between these two fine guitar brands at present moment, let's wait and see how I feel about this if this finish option becomes available on a Les Paul or SG.

photo by Bryan Wawzeneck

The 'musician's note' aside, this was a moment that made me reflect as an artist who seeks constant sources of inspiration.  I applaud Gibson Guitar's decision to preserve the 'flood swirl' floors, stamping a moment in their history of perseverance and determination to make a legendary guitar for the ages.  I think Les Paul himself would be proud. 

Read Bryan's article from Gibson's Lifestyle blog here.

photo by Bryan Wawzeneck

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