December 2021. Rhythms Amongst The Dust.


Those who have miraculously read all my blogs, will recall the April 2017 effort was all about a most excellent bust in alabaster, Napoletanina. In a sense the lady represents a lost world, one where statues and elegant vases were the stuff of middle-class social aspirations, something that today has been replaced by electronic chicanery, artless abstract art, and the very latest in Tin Lizzy’s. Such is the direction of an advancing (or perhaps declining) civilisation that has little time for a small gesture towards historical craftsmen whose art does not shout loud. One has the feeling that Alabaster was seen to have become so retro and anachronistic, having not a touch of chrome or a swipe anywhere, that they are regarded as nothing more than the dusty objects of yesteryear. Volterra, many consider, was the capital of this particular industry, given that once there were over 100 botteghe  (workshops) employing some 500 individual craftsmen for a world-wide market. Many craftsmen became their own travelling salesmen, as indeed the subject of this blog did, visiting and promoting themselves in the United States and all over Europe. How the mighty seem to have fallen. Today, only a handful remain to remind one of a glorious past.  

But this post is not about the antiques and the bygones of another age, nor the artisans who laboured mechanically to produce these heirlooms in the once satiated markets of the world, but about a craftsman who defiantly refuses to see his craft as an ossified relic, out of fashion and out of time. True, he continues to turn, and carve in a traditional manner, but also sets his mind to remain part of the modern world, tongue in cheek, moving with the rhythm of the contemporary era, creating objects that have become essentially timeless. Naturally, this does not come from just a flash course in relics at the local Tech, but in the ageless manner of ‘man and boy’, following in footsteps, learning from parental guidance, and yes, in 1979 enrolled for a true three-year artisan education at the Technical School in the small Tuscan town of Pomerance. After graduating he served a compulsory year in military service before returning to his father’s workshop to learn the finer points of running an Alabaster business. Such is the journey that adds up to this modern bottega with 37 years of independent practice behind it.

Giorgio Pecchioni is the real thing, a master of his trade, unique in his philosophical belief that skills are not static but can be applied to the modern world and in the modern manner. It is why he can make the impossible become reality in the present era - making traditional musical instruments out of solid Gypsum rock - Alabaster.


You believe me not? Rather, I kid you not. Hardly dead representative artefacts, relegated to holding the door open, but noisy, razmataz, syncopated tools to make music with, carved and constructed from minerals laid down at the beginning of time.
Certainly, Giorgio is no novice, and demonstrates that he can play the flute of which he produces a huge variety, and in 2000, even an Etruscan example based on an instrument illustrated on a stone bas-relief of an Etruscan cinerary urn. The example has only four tone holes to control the pitch, a factor which to modern tastes might probably be somewhat limited. It is not the only thing that is limited.


Alabaster has to be mined, and locally there is only one mine left. Further afield, Castellina Marittima still produces a very white alabaster, but much material used locally is now imported from Spain. It takes more than a little imagination to see the beautiful objects that will come from these huge, bland, serrated table size blocks, of solid rock.

Though his corpus of wind instruments appears the most numerous given the historical lengthy time scale of their existence, electric and bass guitars are no doubt seen as the most interesting of his creations as they appeal to so diverse an audience, most who would originally doubt its authenticity until they hear the extraordinary sound. The only drawback, technically, is that it’s not possible to create an acoustic guitar as the material does not have the desired resonance. For this reason, they are always electric, requiring external amplification. A factor that probably makes it more familiar to that wider audience.


This, almost naturally, led to the addition of full sets of drums giving the possibility of creating a musical group, though whether the one trumpet he has made might one day be included, remains to be seen. The snare drums were developed with the assistance of Daniele Picchi for use with his group “Sticky Fingers”. Among the stringed instruments he has also created a very beautiful Italian chitola or mandolin, a member of the lute family. One could not put it past him to produce the instruments for a whole orchestra. However, his creations are considered serious instruments, seeing them used in the sound track of the film “The Village” in 2006, also Gordon Sumner – more famously known as Sting – has an alabaster transverse flute.

The development of musical instruments in alabaster has led Giorgio to create the project “Alabastro Sonoro” or “Alabaster Sound”, enabling musicians to take a direct interest in the development of unique personalised instruments in a different material.

So, if you have a desire for a handmade alabaster guitar, or perhaps some other instrument, it is possible to take advantage of Giorgio’s refined skills. The only drawback which presents itself is time, as such an instrument can only be made in collaboration with the creator, needing to fashion and fine tune the instrument to individual requirements. In many ways a voyage of discovery. Quite obviously that takes something more than a moment. Certainly, more than the minimal three months, but obviously worth waiting for if you are a would be Django Reinhart, Eric Clapton, et al!

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An example of Giorgio Pecchioni’s alabaster instruments can be heard on: