The millenary craftsmanship lives again in Praiano. In the workshop of Pasquale and Leonardo, where ancient musical instruments have been produced for fifty years
By Anna Volpicelli
Guitars hanging on the walls, silhouettes of instruments lying on a counter full of tools, a wall full of CDs, musical strings, drawings of ancient models found in museums. We are in Praiano, in the workshop of Pasquale and Leonardo Scala, father, and son, known as the luthier.
A brand exported all over the world
“My father – says Pasquale Scala, 76 years old, who as a young man played and sang in a popular song group – made furniture. When I finished my military service, I started helping him in his workshop. One day I thought of making a guitar. I showed it to a friend who teaches at the Conservatory of Music in Naples, and he was impressed. Since then, I began to make antique musical instruments”. It’s been about fifty years that every morning Pasquale comes down to his workshop to work on guitars and classical guitars, mandolins, “we make more than 40 different instruments that we have sold, on order or to tourists passing through here, all over the world. South Africa, Canada, the United States, France. Many of our customers are musicians. Some are collectors.”
Pasquale Scala working in his laboratory in Praiano, courtesy of Liuteria Scala
From generation to generation
The luthiers are finishing a hurdy-gurdy, a musical stringed instrument of medieval origin, placed on the counter next to the entrance door. Like all the models here, it is a unique piece that a collector from northern Europe asked them to make. “It’s one of the most complex and challenging instruments we’ve made. We’ve been working on it for about four months, and we’re almost finished,” explains Leonardo, 38, who has been working alongside his father in the workshop since he was a child. “I used to come here after school to help my father. I was very good at the little things, all the finishing touches that had to be done inside the tools that require hands like mine to do them. It’s a craft that I’ve always been passionate about. I’ve always enjoyed working with wood, and it is difficult to say when it became a full-time job. The line is so blurred.”
Dedication and research
Each piece brings a lot of research, materials, like wood, for example, and study. “We have an endless amount of old books on instruments and drawings of designs that we found at museums. Many instruments no longer exist today, such as some types of hurdy-gurdy that you find them carved on rock, on frescoes or paintings,” says Leonardo. And while he explains the dedication, patience, and precision work behind each specimen, Pasquale pulls out a guitar that was a copy from the family of Benedetto Croce, an Italian philosopher, historian, politician, literary critic, and writer. “They brought us an original, and we made a copy of it with small touches,” explains Mr. Scala.
The attention to the details, courtesy of Liuteria Scala
Since violin making is an ancient art dating back to the 16th-18th centuries, it has not undergone significant changes since the classical era, except in the choice of materials and craftsmanship technology at the hands of contemporary masters. “Ancient lutherie – tells Leonardo – was an incredible artist but also very fragile in its structure. We have tried to make it more solid by strengthening the internal mechanisms. For example, the Battenti guitar, typical of the Amalfi Coast, has a rounded shape. They used to put the paper inside it in the past, which did not last long. We have substituted it with raw linen, which, when soaked in glue, becomes like a carbon fiber that does not tear and maintains its lightness.
A constant challenge
In addition to design and creation, much of the work is also devoted to restoration. “For us, every project is a challenge. We don’t create instruments in series but only exclusively unique pieces. And this is what we love to do. It’s our passion, our job,” says Leonardo showing his first electric guitar. “I started making this kind of guitar to experiment. When I finished, I put it on our website, and two musicians saw it and asked me to make one for each of them.”
Leonardo Scala with one of his instruments, courtesy of Liuteria Scala
Not just music
The meticulousness in the details translates into making inlays, finishing touches, or composing entire musical projects and into creating knives. “We both have a hobby of designing antique knives. We made copies of models from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Japanese,” says Leonardo. A hobby that has turned into a job as many collectors request them. “Last year, I was in Livorno at the Fortezza Vecchia to participate in a cutlery competition. I won first prize in the section of fixed blade knives,” says the young man. The art of the Scala family retraces ancient gestures in perfect harmony with the vibrations of our time.
Liuteria Scala: Via Umberto I, 68, Praiano (SA), tel. + 39.089.87.48.94, email: email@example.com, liuteriascala.com