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The quest for an acoustic-electric instrument that sounds great and is useful on stage without troublesome feedback has puzzled luthiers since the PA system was invented.

The focus of this newest Specimen instrument is on electric output while still yearning for lovely acoustic tone. The instrument will join Specimen’s Luddite line as “The Amontillado.” It is made with bent sides and traditional bracing, but with NO sound hole whatsoever. Once the guitar’s chamber is sealed off, no one will ever again see the splendor within. Only the electric signal will escape to see the light of day.

The guitar is being created using Flame-maple back and sides and Sitka spruce top. It will feature a slotted headstock, bolt-on neck, and a new “vertebral” neck block made of Linden wood. It’s shaped like a neck vertebrae in order to accommodate the large heel of the bolt-on neck. Below is a slideshow of photos taken so far during the building of this guitar. We’ll keep posting photos all throughout the process. Stay tuned!

You can see photos of the completed instrument here.

Columbia College commissioned Specimen’s Ian Schneller to participate in a special exhibition titled Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue. For the exhibition, contemporary artists were asked to create new work using abaca and cotton paper handmade by graduate students of the college’s Center for Book and Paper Arts.

The horn speakers we usually make using recycled newsprint, baking soda, and dryer lint yield surfaces that are ruddy, organic, and wild like an untended garden. By contrast, the handmade paper fabricated for this project is so pure, white, and structurally profound that Ian chose to use it to create a pair of Hornlet audio horn speakers that are pristine, stripped down to the lines, and completely naked. Only hand-pulled paper can come close to this organic purity. It is similar to working with porcelain versus terra cotta or stoneware. Naturally, it seemed fitting that the bases for these paper horns also have a quality of purity or transparency which is why Ian chose to use thick acrylic sheets. “It is a little bit eery to listen to them and realize visually to what extent the internal volume of air plays a role in sound production. I think of them as a “full disclosure” version of the Hornlets.” -Ian Schneller

These one-of-a-kind Hornlets will be on display along with newly commissioned works by 11 other artists as well as work by artists-in-residence at Dieu Donné, a New York-based non-profit artist workspace dedicated to the creation, promotion and preservation of contemporary art in the hand papermaking process. The exhibit opens June 15 and runs through August 11. For more info: Material Assumptions. Below is a slideshow of photos taken during the building process.

Specimen Horn Speakers created for Columbia College's Book + Paper Arts ExhibitSpecimen Horn Speakers created for Columbia College's Book + Paper Arts Exhibit

On a beautiful night in May, Andrew Bird and his band performed at Chicago’s esteemed Auditorium Theater. On stage with him were six Aerosel horn sculptures we created in January.

Throughout the performance Andrew’s lighting wizard, Ryan Murphy, dazzled the audience by casting an amazing array of colors, textures, and shadows onto the Aerosels as they gently spun around moving to the music. Below is a slideshow of photos taken at the show. Pure magic!

Designed to be suspended from ceiling, the Aerosels created for Andrew Bird range in height from 5 to 8 feet and will become available after his 2012 tour. We will be posting more photos, descriptions and prices soon!