December 8, 2013

Quetzalcoatl snake-guitar

I was born in the year of the Snake in the Water lunar cycle according to the Chinese zodiac. Because of this at some point I wanted to create a guitar that had the shape of a snake. As hardware and software progressed, I used various 3D programs, none of which allowed me to produce the image I had in my head, until Rhinoceros R5 and T-Splines made it possible to approximate my vision.

The programs lacked function and I lacked the skill and time to make a shape that would look 'feasible' when viewed from any direction. The now abandoned trueSpace application came close, but lacked the function to create a mix of smooth surface transitions and sharp creases. Besides that, the program was quite buggy, forcing the user to save the file on which he worked very often in order to prevent loss of data. As a result I was able to make the guitar look good only when viewed from a limited number of angles.

Cinema 4D was less buggy but basically had the same transition problems as trueSpace. Rhinoceros R5 came a lot closer than trueSpace and Cinema 4D, but it still required a heap of tinkering to do what I wanted to do. The T-Splines plugin almost opened new worlds so to speak, certainly a large number of possibilities that do not exist in the bare Rhino application. The images on this page are the result of working with Rhino R5 plus T-Splines. It is excellently suited to create organic shapes that can be combined with geometric objects.

The advantage of 3D applications - as opposed to traditional techniques such as painting and airbrushing, is that it allows to quickly (depending on your hardware of course) amend parts of the design, textures, lighting, view angle etc. Some people say that it is impossible to create works in 3D applications that has a 'soul', but I have to disagree since UV-projection and -texturing allow to apply real-life-like 'imperfections' to the surfaces of the objects. In addition, playing with numerous types of light sources is possible without the actual light sources being visible in the rendered or animated image.

It is also possible to define per object or part if an object casts a shadow and if surrounding objects are reflected in it or not. These type of functions give the 3D artists options that are not available in other methods of visualization. They are often used and probably account for the surrealistic effect that is present in a number of 3D artworks. On the useful side, 3D design makes it possible to mimic DNA structure already today, which at some point in time may allow humanity to replace damaged body parts and tissue or even alter a person's physique... This intriguing potential draws me toward 3D applications - faster than my old computer hardware allows me to do.


The lack of detail in the snake-guitar image is due to the lack of calculating power of my computer. if ever it will be possible for me to purchase a more powerful system, the small, but inevitable detail will be added to make the image more realistic. Until that time I will be creating relatively gross approximations in 3D of the visions in my head.

Construction details of the instrument include a hollow neck besides the body being largely hollow (except for the space needed for electronics). A famous luthier once told me that the quality of sound is not only determined by the shape and volume of the resonance space in a guitar, but also by the length that space allows sound waves to travel. Which is why I wanted to give the guitar a hollow neck.

The construction material is carbon fiber that is lightweight and has a unique rigidity as well as excellent material density that allows sound waves to travel inside the carbon material (and not just the space it envelops), which I think will result in full and clear tones. The hollow neck also allows to experiment with pick-ups inside of it which may possibly create sounds that few other similar instruments are able to produce.