Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cargo Cultism

This is just a short little post, partly because I really should be doing some worthwhile work but mostly because I can't be bothered to think through a more elaborate treatment of this idea right now.

I was aimlessly wandering the internet the other day when I was supposed to be working and I came across this beastie

This is a fender Rory Gallagher Tribute model. Now anyone who has read this blog before or got me drunk will know that I don't like pre-distressed guitars, clothes, people, etc - But this one is special - I refer you to the manufacturer's writeup:

"The Rory Gallagher Tribute Stratocaster guitar is an exact replica of that revered instrument, right down to the extremely worn 3-Color Sunburst alder body, maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. We’ve even included five Sperzel tuners and one Gotoh tuner, and we’ve replaced the 12th-fret dot marker with white plastic instead of the original clay. It also features three custom-wound ’60s single-coil pickups, aged chrome hardware, 21 jumbo frets and a bone nut. Our homage to a true and truly missed master."

This level of imitation is frankly bizarre, I couldn't get my head around it at all until I remembered something I'd read a few years ago about odd pseudo religions in the south pacific called cargo cults. These were collections of rituals and practices designed to imitate the trappings of western culture without any knowledge of the reasoning or purpose behind it. People would build airfields, with crude imitation control towers and radio equiment carved from wood, in the hope of summoning aeroplanes with their precious cargo. I see the same thing in this guitar, it's like a bunch of people completely ignorant of music heard this amazing musician once and are labouring under the impression that by accurately (if superficially) recreating the objects associated with him and his music they will somehow be able to reproduce it.

It's at times like this that I wish I could figure out a way of writing down an exasperated sigh.