On why Gutenberg is the first typographer and its relationship to music:
[Letters] have a shape and life of their own outside of legibility. This is the birth of typography as a profession, which is akin to the birth of recorded music. Before music could be captured and reproduced, musical performances were heard once by whoever was present, just as typographic works could only be performed once by the scribe and had a limited audience. After recorded music, one performance could be distributed and heard by millions of people. After Gutenberg, one typographer could create letters that made content for millions of people to read.
Over at Lined & Unlined, there’s reference to a 1960s debate that raged over records versus live music, and a famous radio documentary and article by Glenn Gould, “The Prospects of Recording.” Gould relates live concert musicians to the protests of the typesetters’ union:
Automation: a crusade which musicians’ union leaders currently share with typesetters and which they affirm with the fine disdain of featherbedding firemen for the diesel locomotive. In the midst of a proliferation of recorded sound which virtually erases earlier listening patterns, the American Federation of Musicians promotes that challenging motto “LIVE MUSIC IS BEST.”
Back to McSweeney’s, and the possibilities:
This all means that a lone designer can draw a letter, put it on her blog and have the world see it instantly. She is part of the massive design and typography explosion, and also part of a long conversation. Every stroke she makes is an evocation of history and a direct ode to Gutenberg taking the hand-inked letters of his time, and turning them into lead soldiers that print and print and print and print, five-hundred and fifty-four years and counting.