Alector Guitars collaborate with Marios Joannou Elia on an innovative instrument – the Samurai Classical Guitar on #neuguitars #blog
The Greek luthiers Giannis and Tassos Koukourigos (Alector Guitars) collaborate with the polymedial composer Marios Joannou Elia to craft an innovative classical guitar model, named “Samurai”, as part of “Sound of Kyoto”. The all-black instrument has an original design and pays homage to the iconic warriors. 150 years ago, Kyoto was a key battleground for Japan’s samurai.
The Samurai guitar craftsmanship has a unique dynamic. It is the result of a functional coexistence of elements and derivatives of great civilizations, which were simultaneously analyzed to document their usefulness. This procedure reflects the methodology used by Elia in his Concept of Polymediality, that is, a qualitative-processed application of diverse musical materials and media as substantial components for the composition of a work – as in “Sound of Kyoto”.
The Samurai guitar is a prototype instrument, the construction of which began in 2019. Its world premiere is planned to take place in Japan in 2022, parallel to the premiere of “Sound of Kyoto”. The instrument is an exclusive “MJ Elia Signature Edition” guitar made by Alector Guitars. The wood of the guitar is from a Swiss hand-crafted barrel of the 19th century (sides) and a barrel of French origin (back) in which Assyrtiko was aging (a white-wine variety made of a rare grape indigenous to thevolcanic island of Santorini). This has a symbolism: According to the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, the barrel originated with the Gauls in Alpine villages. Moreover, Pliny’s geometric symmetry was the basis for the design of the soundbox.
The guitar has an original back, the so-called “binomial soundbox” (double pumpkin). This is the result of the following combination: Firstly, the method applied for over 1500 years in the construction of lutes and Japanese shamisens (in this case, “a double shamisen”). Secondly, the design of sound boxes in the traditional Lutherie of lute instruments in the Eastern Mediterranean region was based on the pumpkin shell. The adoption of shamisen leads to a guitar whose body is outside the classical standards. It is characterized by a high degree of coupling between the lower and upper bout. The Samurai guitar does not have the front of the typical classical guitar, but of the shamisen. Therefore, the degree of merging of the two bouts is greater. This is the reason for its great sound. Furthermore, the guitar’s soundboard is constructed using the honeycomb technique. The instrument has an adjustable neck, with which the string height can be adjusted in a fast and seamless motion. This adjustment has little or no effect on the intonation of the guitar.
Baroque guitars had a high degree of coupling. Modern guitars, however, have a narrower waist for better ergonomics. The narrow waist makes it easier to hold the guitar, but it does not help the production of a better sound. On the contrary, the Samurai guitar, because it has a larger waist, it has more middle frequencies.
Scientific studies regarding the efficiency and advantages of the shape of the Samurai guitar were undertaken at the Technical University of Munich and the Technical University of Crete. Acoustics researcher Alejandro Diaz Bandres is in the process of a new scientific analysis of its sound at Vienna University. The Samurai guitar proves a strong, powerful, resonant and sensitive sound, unlike any other classical guitar. It is the third and newest development of a model inspired by Japan and made by Alector Guitars.The evidence that points to the samurai character of the guitar is the black lacquer on the soundbox, the dark cedar cap and the large black ebony keys. In addition, the inclination on the back is an element borrowed from the samurai armor. Sangaku geometry (a geometrical problem or theorem on wooden tablets which were placed as offerings at Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples during the Edo period) is an integral part of Japanese culture and a key element in the design of the Samurai guitar. On the guitar’s lid there is an authentic Sangaku, including its solution.