~ Special Feature ~

In Memorium
~ Dieter Guttler ~

maker of bagpipes

In late April, 1999 Dieter Guttler, of the city of Mainz in Germany, left this world. Dieter was a greatly talented and prolific maker of bagpipes, as well as other wind and string instruments. His style was unique. To Dieter, bagpipes were not rigid historical objects to be copied; he built pipes to suit himself, his friends and his clients rather than to meet any arbitrary historical standard. While he certainly would not have argued against the value of creating exact replicas of early instruments, his own view (which is supported by much historical evidence) was that early bagpipe builders very often followed their own lights, particularly in regard to outer forms, materials used and so on. Thus many of his instruments do not look "traditional" in the conventional sense, but reflect his own personality, including his wonderful sense of whimsey and humor.

Another remarkable aspect of Dieter's work was his workshop. It was almost as though a shop had been transported from a long-gone time and place, with only the most limited concessions to modern technology. This was not some sort of an attempt to copy early ways, but again reflected the same spirit of improvisation and adaptation seen in Dieter's instruments (and in the styles of many early makers). Dieter's lathe, for example, was nothing more elaborate than an old drill-press laid on its side on a bench. Using what fell to hand extended to materials as well. In German cities, unwanted furniture is often placed along the street by householders to await collection by trash haulers; this provided a source of thoroughly seasoned fine hardwoods from which many of Dieter's instruments are made. Again, the analogy can be drawn with a maker of older times, going off into the local forest in search of wood for an instrument.

So, in a way Dieter could be considered perhaps the most traditional of today's bagpipe makers - not because of the results of his work, or the tools and methods he used, but because of his attitude. But the results of a style must stand on their own merits as well, and beneath all of the elements mentioned here Dieter's bagpipes stand the ultimate test very, very well - they are marvelous musical instruments, a delight to hear and play. They will long continue to bring joy to a great number of people, as will, for those fortunate enough to have known him, the memory of Dieter Guttler, bagpipe maker. - O.S., May 2, 1999

Here is a gallery of photographs of Dieter and his work, taken in 1997. Click on the images for enlargements with captions. I hope to add to this collection, perhaps also with some sound files of Dieter's instruments.

Back To The Special Features Page