Before they can make beautiful music these instruments need to be made beautiful.
Another installment in the Peabody Award-winning series, Craft in America, this time around we deal with music, specifically the craftsmanship involved in creating musical instruments. As before, we travel across the country.
This go around we travel to six different places in order to learn about how musical instruments are crafted in America. We start off in Hawaii with the Kamaka family who create ukuleles and have been doing so for four generations. I was personally delighted to see ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro since I’m a self-professed fan of his from the time I reviewed Life on Four Strings. Portland, Oregon is home to David Monette and his beautiful one-of-a-kind trumpets specifically engineered for the player in question. One of the most interesting aspects of the laborious trumpet production is that everyone who works there is a former client. They not only have the knowledge, but the love and appreciation for the instruments.
Next up we’re off to watch Geoff Stelling create bluegrass banjos in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Franklin, New York Jim Hartel produces fretless banjos and we watch musician Rhiannon Giddens perform on one. In L.A. Joseph Pereira shows off his custom mallets by master craftsman Jason Ginter and demonstrates how they influence the sound on the calfskin drumheads he uses. Our last stop is Nazareth, Pennsylvania and Martin Guitar where iconic musician Joan Baez is interviewed to help give even more gravitas to the impressive provenance of the guitars.
The technical specs are not HD level but not copied from a burned VHS level either. They are more than serviceable, holding a clear natural palette within the 1.78:1 video transfer. Also holding its own is the Dolby Digital 2.0 track. There are no bonus features.
There’s been one compilation offering thus far in the Craft in America series, though it doesn’t include Craft in America: Music. If you choose to purchase this disc you can feel good knowing it helps Verdict as well as PBS. However, it’s worth streaming, especially if you have any interest in the construction of any of the instruments showcased.