Cincinnati Museum Center is the current host of The National Guitar Museum’s traveling exhibit designed as an ‘all ages’ display and interactive experience. With a dual focus on the science as well as the culture of fretted instrument evolution, visitors can touch family friendly displays of the physics of string vibration as well as magnetic pickup principles. Behind glass, 60 instruments are exhibited with an emphasis on 20th century examples though instruments are included which incorporate the 5000 year history of fretted instruments.
In fact the displays of oud, lute, baililika, and vihuela are the most historically interesting pieces in this traveling collection. Although given minor real estate in the exhibition, these rare and geographically diverse members of the stringed (though not necessarily fretted) instrument family show the different cultural approaches to intonation and harmonic and melodic development.
The bulk of instruments shown are flat top steel string and electric six string instruments. Tracing the arc of instrumentation in popular music through developments in electrification and amplification are represented largely by reproductions of valuable mid-century solid bodies. Some interesting original examples include a 1912 Gibson Harp Guitar and a 1984 Bond Electraglide as well as the prototype for Ibanez’s JEM guitar.
Amplification is given rather short shrift as original examples of important or rare circuits or amplifiers are not shown. Instead, modern interpretations of significant circuits created by one modern manufacturer use transparent panels to give a view of capacitors and resistors on circuit boards. There are no histories of the electron valve to digital evolution of the electronic side of instrument amplification which is unfortunate as it would have complemented the physics aspect of the exhibit.
A true bright spot in “GUITAR” Is the display of three of master luthier John Monteleone’s incomparable archtop guitars. “Rocket” , “Orange Blossom Special” and “Il Palermo” are three rare examples of the New York school of archtop design. Lent to the exhibit by local and noted collector Dale Rabiner of DHR Guitar Experience, they are the highlight of “GUITAR”.
“John is universally considered the finest archtop luthier in the world. His approach is not only to the sound, but he incorporates the art element so not only are they exceptional guitars but also pieces of art.” – Dale Rabiner
“Orange Blossom Special” is visually stunning and part of Monteleone’s series of train inspired works. “Il Palermo” includes amazing inlay and color work, blending together different wood species to pay tribute to Monteleone’s Sicilian heritage, and “Rocket” is a more plain design meant to emphasize the speed and volume available in this functional work of art.
“Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked the World” as a traveling exhibit is aimed at families and those with passing interest in or familiarity with the instrument. However at Cincinnati Museum Center they have been lucky enough to have some exceptionally fine and rare specimens of museum quality tucked within the mainstream show of popular and ubiquitous examples.
“Guitar:The Instrument That Rocked the World”
Runs through January 6, 2019
Cincinnati Museum Center