Les Paul

>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

Checking the news, I just read about Les Paul's passing away at age 94. I'm not sure what to say about that, actually--as a dabbler in guitar (indeed, a fairly serious player at one point in time), I'm looking at the passing of a legend, though one has to acknowledge he had a good, long run, and at 94 his passing isn't necessarily shocking.

I've actually done a short entry about Mr. Paul previously, embedding an old video of Paul and longtime partner/spouse Mary Ford showing off their stuff. You might hop over to the link--in addition to being a brilliant inventor, Paul was a phenomenal musician in his own right.

Much will be said about Paul's invention of the solidbody electric guitar and the role it played in rock'n'roll. As much as I love the heaviness and sustain of a solidbody guitar, I'm not sure the solidbody was ultimately as significant as Paul's other major invention, the use of multitrack recording techniques. Aside from the fact that Paul's rival luthier Leo Fender wasn't too far behind Paul on the same path to building a solid guitar, I'd argue that making the studio into an instrument in its own right had a more profound effect on how we listen to music than the evolution of any one "traditional" instrument. Multitracking did more than make it possible to layer sounds over sounds and to turn a four-piece-band into a dozen people--multitracking also means you're not dependent on capturing a perfect live take with everyone getting everything right all at once. The lead singer flubbed a note? Punch it in. The guitarist blew the solo? He can fix it while the rest of the band heads down to the cafeteria. Of course this is all technical: artistically, multitracking is what made possible wholly synthetic aural experiences like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Dark Side Of The Moon, in which tapes are looped and split and assembled to create collages of music, voice and sound effects.

Anyway, thank you, Mr. Paul. And not just for the fab guitars.


Janiece Murphy Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 2:35:00 PM EDT  

::looks around furtively::

I, too, think multi-tracking is the best thing since sliced bread.

But don't tell the Smart Man I said that.

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