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Meeting Recap - Sept 21, 2011
Chicago Section Meeting Highlights
Date: September 21, 2011
Schneller welcomes AES into his Specimen workshop
September 21, 2011, Ian Schneller took members and guests of the
AES’ Chicago Section on a fascinating journey into the world of
a small businessman, a luthier, and a creative inventor. Those of
course all being himself, Ian Schneller.
facility on the near west side of Chicago, known as the Chicago
School of Guitar Making, is a discreetly located warehouse where
he simultaneously does service work for touring musicians, builds
custom instruments, and mentors interns in the custom building
trade. That is, when he’s not pursuing inventions of his own,
such as his rock-solid “Octoblock” tube amplifiers and a line
of unique multi-driver horn speaker systems with quite a visual
flare to them.
his talk, Ian shared his design aesthetic with the group, ie. the
philosophies which guide his approach to his work (which is
clearly his passion as well). His primary recurring theme was a
desire to do things right. It was evident as he exposed the subtle
ways in which big name guitar manufacturers can cut corners in
their products (including inventing seemingly exotic new materials
for marketing purposes). It was also evident as he talked about
how his electronic products were made more durable; specifically
in response to some of the things he has seen doing service work.
a secondary theme was a desire to follow his own vision, even when
it might seem unconventional, or unusual to others. A good example
was his use of a clean, simple front-to-back input-to-output
topology on his amplifiers, despite the fact that some consumers
might inevitably ask why all the jacks are not in one spot!
Another was his following his interest in octagonal profile horn
speaker design and construction all the way to the creation of the
“Sonic Arboretum”, a novel experiment in multi-channel
reproduction (a system simultaneously using dozens of horns) which
he and internationally-known multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird
collaborated on, ultimately displayed in the Guggenheim Museum in
New York and soon will debut in Chicago’s own MCA.
the evening went on (and due to the fascinating array of topics it
really did go for some time!), our group saw everything from
custom-design guitar-making workbenches invented by Ian, to
spinning horns, and a wild array of one-off instruments like one
guitar with a half-guitar shape, several metal body designs, and
several non-guitar instruments.
what we really saw was a man who followed his creative instincts
far more than most, without the many restrictions that are placed
upon people in more structured, restrictive corporate
environments. A man who may be a craftsman as much as an audio
engineer, but who above all seemed to be happy with his work and
the legacy he has created.