New book documents the work of visionary instrument-maker Ed Stilley | Rock Candy

New book documents the work of visionary instrument-maker Ed Stilley

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Ed Stilley, in Acoustic Guitar
  • Ed Stilley, in Acoustic Guitar

Ed Stilley is one of those extraordinary people who though they aren't artists are driven to create. In Stilley's case, God was the driver and in 1979 He told Stilley, a farmer in Hogscald Hollow outside Eureka Springs,  to build acoustic  instruments for children. This month,
Acoustic Guitar has a great article about a new book about Stilley's visionary work by photographer Tim Hawley, who documents his guitars, mandolins, dulcimers and fiddles in "Gifted: The Instruments of Ed Stilley." The online magazine said the book has "some of the most extraordinary photographs of some of the most extraordinary stringed instruments you’ll ever see.

The Walton Arts Center exhibited Stilley's instruments in 2013 in a show called "True Faith, True Light: The Folk Instruments of Ed Stilley," in connection with Fayetteville's Roots Festival. Last year, the UA Press published Kelly Mulhollen's "True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley." 

A passage from Hawley's books describes just how unusual Stilley's creations are:
Besides experimenting with different sizes and shapes, Stilley also invented a mostly unseen but intriguing instrument within the instrument. This interior metallic skeleton is made up of an odd assortment of hardware including screen door springs, saw blades, pot lids, and old medicine bottles. These unlikely combinations work collectively to create an unusual framework of oscillating tonality. The listener will recognize a distinct timbre with harmonic overtones, some dissonance, and a haunting sort of reverb.
You can't buy one of Stilley's instruments — they are not for sale — but if, like me, I am ashamed to say, you didn't know about Stilley, the books will allow you to catch up.


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