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The $100 Guitar Project: Act 1

Pascal-Denis Lussier By

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Nick: Somebody should get this thing. Maybe we can all chip in $25 and collectively own it like a bunch of commies.

Chuck: That would be funny—it would be great to do a whole album with each track by a different guitarist using this guitar. Call it something like "$100 guitar"!

Nick: Wanna do it? Get Shawn [Persinger] involved?

Chuck: I'm on the verge. How do we get it to different places? Sort of pricy to ship it all around the country? Who else would be involved besides us three?

Nick: I'm ready to pull the trigger on this.


"Boom. That's it!" said Didkovsky. "The idea preceded its purchase. We had a scare at one point where people started to get on board but we didn't own it yet. Chuck bought it at 9:30pm but in the morning he got a message from Elderly that the guitar had been sold. We were rather shaken and started thinking about finding another guitar. Well it turned out the message from Elderly was a response to an earlier question from Chuck, and the guy replying didn't realize he was talking to the buyer. Bummed for one day, as I really felt like this was The One. Glad it worked out."

"Good Lord, The Momentum Of This Is Ridiculous... It's Only Been Two Days"

The above quote is part of the response from Didkovsky after emailing him, on October 23, 2010, about writing an article on the project.

"There were no expectations when we started, none," O'Meara said. "We both assumed that we would simply invite a few guitarists from our inner circle: Shawn Persinger, Steve MacLean, Henry Kaiser, the people we know with a sense of humor who also enjoy a challenge. We thought it would be a small project. But as soon as we announced it via email [on Oct. 21st], participants found us, not the other way around."

"[Guitarist] Henry Kaiser's answer: 'I want to do this! I must do this!' frames the impulse very well," Didkovsky said. "Chuck and I tend to come up with ideas in a snowball/avalanche fashion, and this is no exception. The snowball effect is stunning. Most said 'yes' in a heartbeat. Everyone got on board with this stupid guitar before they even heard it, including us. People love the idea instantly. Nobody's on the fence. I both understand and don't understand that; I mean on one hand it's just a ridiculous idea that nobody should spend any time on, but on the other hand, you know, it's touching people in a very elemental way that draws them in. Alex Skolnick said it well and tersely: 'The idea sounds nonsensical, absurd and silly—I like it.' It's a little scary actually, we have way too many guitarists on board for one CD now and may have to do a double release."

So far close to forty guitarists are involved, including Elliot Sharp, Keith Rowe, Mark Stewart, Shawn Persinger, Steve MacLean, and Henry Kaiser. A full list will be offered in the next installment.

Philosophizing with a Finger Hatin' Dead Fish

Sure, there are plenty of collaborative projects going on, the Internet certainly has facilitated long-distance partnerships, but this one—the idea of buying an old, nameless guitar with a mysterious past and sending it on its way, getting top-notch guitarists to record one song with it before sending it to the next player—has a much different and undeniable, old-world appeal; a strange mix of Pre-Socratic ideals with Platonism, Byronic elements with Weimar Classicism and Absurdism; Romanticism meets pragmatism through a fact-value distinction. Here, an otherwise uninteresting, undesired, and inconsequential object becomes the vehicle through which a communal effort that celebrates individual creativity is expressed. This story addresses quality, equality, and inner beauty. In their words:

"As far as appeal goes, I think participation in this project is childish in the purest sense of the word. We're all being childish. We want to play," said Didkovsky. "I'm not going to render any judgment about it being a poor man's guitar or anything like that. There's real poverty on this planet. If you can spend $100 on a guitar and if you have running water you're already doing better than a lot of people. And I really want to resist the notion that my motivation is to teach anyone a lesson about how we don't need expensive guitars to make good music—that should already be obvious to everyone. So that's not why I'm doing this. People will derive their own meaning from this project as it moves along and after it's done. What I do know is that I really want to record a tune with this finger hatin' dead fish and get into its stink and its ugliness, and be in the company of others who feel the same way.

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