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20th Century Guitar
Rara Avis -- The Streamline Style and the 1944 Gretsch Synchromatic 400

December 1998
by Bianca Soros

Link to 20th Century Guitar Magazine

n the United States, where design and commerce were closely intertwined during the war years, a major aesthetic movement was developed that enjoyed popularity spanning the 1930s through the 1950s. Called Streamline Moderne, it emphasized the dynamism of horizontal forms in motion and was derived from advances in transportation, aerodynamics, fluid mechanics and abstract futurism. It can be seen in a vast arra of machine-age products such as planes, trains, automobiles, ocean liners, communication devids and appliances. Streamlining requires a form that is shaped so that is meets the least resistance as it travels through a dynamic medium - in the least resistance as it travels through a dynamic medium - in mechanics, this shape is rounded and smoothly finished, often in the form of a teardrop.

   The Gretsch Synchromatic 400, built in 1944 with its teardrop tone holes, conforms closely to the streamform ideals. The cat's eye tone holes were designed to project sound from the inner chamber with maximum velocity and volume. This resulted in an instrument with fast transient response and considerable cutting power. The guitar was equipped with other streamlined features such as a curvilinear pickguard, chromatic compensating tailpiece and curvilinear "lightbulb" shape suggests through and creativity. The peghead inlay juxtaposition of a pearl teardrop and an engraved "synchromatic" lightening bolt, captured the spirit of power and motion inherent in streamform design. Gretsch catalogs from that period incorporated the streamform vocabulary, which reads like an art movement manifesto. Clearly, the Synchromatic was a milestone in 20th century artistic expression and achievement. End

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