World without guitars

World Without Guitars is just like our world, only guitars (and related string instruments) were never invented. It serves as a control reality for those undertaking the physical design of new instruments. And also as a cautionary tale for those tackling the necessary concomitant social engineering in order to bring about the cultural acceptance of a new instrument.

Our hero Guitar Boy is visited in a dream by the inter-dimensional ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughn. GBoy is a superb craftsman/electronics guy, and so he makes a Strat-like guitar (yes, and amp to go with it, OK?). Then he shows off his new instrument at MakerFaire. Of course, he can’t actually play it himself beyond plucking at a string and getting a note. Or, occasionally, he remembers the one chord ghost SRV taught him, which brings his left hand into play to modulate the effect of a pluck. Not real impressive, but a totally convincing demo in the eyes (and ears) of GBoy. He’s ecstatic, and very hopeful to boot.

Now he knows plucking a note isn’t the same as the music he heard SRV play in his dream, but he assumes if passersby have heard one note, then they will be able to imagine more than one, and played in a pleasing sequence.  He assures them, “Oh, don’t worry, people will be able to learn to play it really fast, and the result will be wonderful!”


No deal. No one is buying.

It doesn’t matter what he says, nor how pretty the so-called ‘guitar’ he made is, he always gets the same reaction: “No one would be able to play that thing.”

“No human could ever learn,” they go on, “to play that ‘guitar’ in the way you describe, coordinating the so-called ‘chording hand’ with the ‘picking hand.’ And doing that ‘picking’ at the rate of five or ten notes per second? Are you insane? People’s hands and brains just don’t work that way.

“Besides, even if they could, why would they want to? The music you describe sounds hideous.”

Finally, if all that weren’t enough, there is one other problem with this ‘guitar’ that GBoy has invented. It’s made of the wrong stuff. When pushed, a surprising number of people reveal an innate prejudice against the basic technology of the instrument itself.

“Sorry, but I just hate wire and wood,” they say.



Footnote 1. Reason for ‘wire and wood’ phobia in World Without Guitars:

WWG is mostly just like our world, sans guitars, but it does differ in other minor ways. For instance, a lot more of the land is similar to Texas, with vast open plains and lots of cattle. Thus everyone has bad childhood memories of being abused by barb wire on wooden poles (and also a default state of kinda cranky counta there’s no SRV, one of the really good things about our Texas).

So horrible are these memories that they shrink back in terror when presented with an instrument made out of wire and wood (similar to the way many people in our world react when ‘confronted’ with a computer-based instrument). They can’t imagine a non-hostile use for something made of that shit, let alone doing art with it. “Are you kidding? You f***ing pervert!” they yell. Then more yelling, torches and pitchforks ensue.RIP Guitar Boy’s vision of a new art form based on a new instrument.



Footnote 2. Improvisation may be tough even in a world with guitars:

More bad news, folks: improvised music proved impossible.



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