Culture Buff

Keith Urban using a Maton guitar, recording Gimme Shelter in Olympic Studios, London

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

27 June 2020

9:00 AM

We are critical of ourselves for not designing or manufacturing things any more. Well, there is a contrary example in the field of musical instruments. Maton, the guitar manufacturer, has been making them consistently since 1946. This is no cottage industry; the company produces an astonishing 8,000 instruments a year. Founded by Bill May, a Melbourne-born jazz musician and woodwork teacher, the company became a success against the odds, creating over 200 guitar models. Maton was the first manufacturer to use Australian wood species in guitars on a large scale.

Celebrating this outstanding achievement, a retrospective exhibition of over 130 instruments will cover more than 70 years of music-making by greatly admired musicians, both Australian and international. The exhibition (opening 25/7) will be presented at the Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo. It is part of the personal collection of Wadih Hanna. The Powerhouse used to collect musical instruments as part of its world-famous collection of artistic and technological objects.

It is wonderful for the family of Bill May that their company’s achievements are to be celebrated but it is a great sadness that the exhibition is in a building shortly to be demolished, while the museum’s collections are being put into storage pending the building of a new, inadequate structure at Parramatta. Overseas students from Taleban families should come to Sydney to learn how to destroy a culture.

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