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Monday, September 12, 2005 

You Bought a Guitar to Punish Your Motherboard

For 75 years the guitar has craved electricity. Tom Scholz and Brian May believed that the instrument on juice could do anything. "No Synthesizers Used. No Computers Used." said the inside sleeve of Don't Look Back, while the 70s Queen albums I own all have a variation on the stamp "No synthesizers!" These seemingly reactionary claims actually said more about faith in the power of a guitar than they did about synthesis. Scholz and May didn't just want good ol' rock'n'roll guitars-that-sound-like-guitars; they believed in the guitar as an endless tool for shaping sound. They told us these things on the album sleeves to point out that whatever the musical problem, the guitar, if treated and processed appropriately, could solve it.

Now our world has changed and we're living in front of screens with our fingers on keyboards. But there's still a place for the guitar. Since before the time of John Fahey's "Requiem For Molly" the guitar has found a ways to embed itself into experimental movements following changes in technology. The guitar in computer music symbolizes both a connection to the past and the possibilities inherent in organic unpredictability. With its strings vibrating in space the guitar gives the all-brain/no-body computer a glimpse at what happens out here in the physical world, where flesh still counts for something.

Here's what I mean. Ten great tracks where guitar meets computer:

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