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20th Century Guitar
Rara Avis -- Stromberg's Master 400

December 1998
by Bianca Soros

Link to 20th Century Guitar Magazine

fter midnight at Harlem's Cotton Club, the glitzy orchestral rumblin' began. It was 1938 and Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, dressed to the nines, were busy setting the pace of modern urban rhythms. Meanwhile, that same year in Hollywood, American clarinetist and band leader Benny Goodman, the "King of Swing," starred in his first feature film, Hollywood Hotel. The jazz era had arrived.

   This 1947 Stromberg Master 400 commemorates a time when the acoustic guitar was used mainly as a rhythm instrument, during the swing era of modern music. One only has to gaze at the compelling Master 400 to realize this American instrument designer and others had to become visually style conscious. This stylization of the Stromberg has a modern Art Deco cosmopolitan flair and a very big sound, ideal for the jazz hepcats.

    The Art Deco style geometricizes naturalistic forms, with a degree of abstraction thrown in for good measure. It originated from the temple towers of the ancient Babylonians in the form of terraced pyramids called ziggurats and later surfaced into 20th century American skyscraper architecture. It emphasized strong vertical shapes and was used frequently by set designers in Hollywood and on Broadway, consequently forming a popular lexicon of visual style in contemporary design. Art Deco was adaptable to mass production and found an audience of mass consumers throughout America. Its appeal was its decorative eclecticism that made overt references to luxury and the high life during a period of economic depression.

   This high quality guitar boosts state-of-the-art features such as the architectonic head stock inlays, finely designed Kluson Sealfast tuning machines, multi-layered plastic bindings and a natural finish. It captures the artistry of archtop design and engineering where early manufacturing methods foreshadowed the mass-production assembly lines of the decades to follow. End

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