published Thursday, February 7th, 2013

In Tune: 3-D technology hits sour note in music

After a recent epiphany, I can come to only one conclusion about myself, and it's a doozy: I'm a dirty, rotten hypocrite.

For the last several days, I've been obsessing over 3-D printing, a burgeoning technology that allows people to create pretty much any physical object at home from digital blueprints saved on a computer.

While watching a video of the 3D Print Show in London last year, I was drooling over 3-D printed objects such as silicon replacement "ears," home-brewed action figures and crazy geometric lamps.

Then, a 3-D printed guitar suddenly came on-screen, and my mind came screeching to a halt.

"Wait a second," I thought. "That's not right. Printing off a bikini is one thing, but an acoustic guitar without wood? Blasphemy!"

I embrace new technologies in other facets of life, but something about music feels like it should be sacrosanct, an island of solid inalterability in the river of advancement.

Clearly, that's not the case. Music, as with all things, changes with the times. But I'm not alone in thinking that, occasionally, the old ways are best.

Resistance to change is the reason people booed when Dylan "turned coat" and went electric at the Newport Folk Festival. It's why Queen long emblazoned "no synthesizers" on its albums (until, of course, the band gave in and started using them).

Technology's influence on music hasn't been all bad, obviously.

Without a desire to tap into technology and expand their music beyond the possibilities of live performance, The Beatles would never have retreated to Abbey Road Studios. Had he not defied convention and played into a microphone, Little Walter would never have changed blues music. If not for Les Paul's experimentation into solid-body electronics, rock music might not even exist.

In my head, that 3-D printed guitar was a sin against nature, a really interesting-looking, plastic monstrosity that represented a corruption of the art form.

Only not really; it was just a guitar. If they can be printed off at a fraction of the cost of traditional wood or metal instruments, doesn't that mean 3-D printing could make music accessible to even more people? Who's to say what could come of that?

Besides, as with any kind of technology, no one is going to force me to use it. So, yes, I'm a hypocrite, but at least, I'm an open-minded one.

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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