- Laurence Libin
(b Hill City, MN, Feb 7, 1956). American guitar maker. Carlson is known mainly for his Sympitar, a six-string guitar with additional sympathetic strings and associated damping mechanism. His larger Harp-Sympitar features an array of separately plucked, unfretted strings. Carlson’s instruments are often fancifully named and custom-made for clients who include professional performers. His penchant for sympathetic strings shows the influence of the esraj, sarangi, and related Indian instruments, while his H’arpeggione and Guitarangi da Gamba also pay tribute to the arpeggione, viol, and baryton. Piezoelectric pickups on some of his instruments allow for amplification. Incorporating both local hardwoods and modern synthetic materials, Carlson’s often asymmetric designs exemplify the eclectic vision of a group of luthiers who constituted the Vermont Musical Instrument Builders’ Cooperative in the 1980s, among them Carlson’s partner Susan Norris (b San Pedro, CA, 9 May 1954), inventor of the Suzalyne, a five-string violin-viola with additional sympathetic strings, and Ken Riportella (...