David Sanderson

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  1. Whatever the Norwegians were doing a couple of centuries ago can't have had much influence in Cremona, or even Germany (unless someone has documentation otherwise...). More interesting would be tree harvesting practices from the actual sources of that old wood - maybe the Alps, Transylvania etc., if we're thinking about Stradivari and other early makers. One might consider detailed analysis of the various examples of wood used for good violins, which would be something of a project, and might or might not reveal anything interesting. The fact is that good violins are made from wood from widely varied sources, and there may not be anything special to be identified.
  2. OK, can't resist. Years ago we had a small cat who disliked fiddling intensely. I was practicing one day, looking at myself in a mirror to watch technique etc. The cat was around somewhere, but not in my thoughts at all. She was, however, thoroughly provoked. She took a flying leap at me, landed with all four feet on my back, and grabbed on with her claws. And yes, I dropped the violin. Kept the cat, too; she eventually mellowed some, though never a music lover. The violin had landed on its face, it seems, and was still playable but had a sound post crack. It was hardly worth repairing by my friend Kevin's standards, but I had him do it anyway, it being locally made here in Maine and not a bad instrument for ordinary purposes. While it was open they ended up regraduating it, which was worthwhile, because it improved the instrument dramatically. So a happy ending, and a memorable mischance.
  3. There is a Maine list of about 150 makers, compiled originally by a man who spent his summer vacation searching for them. The Maine Historical Society in Portland has a copy, I believe. Dates go back to about 1850, I think. Nor is the list complete - new makers continue to crop up. For better makers, the Boston market seems to have been the preferred target, where money and customers were more plentiful. For example, Orin Weeman moved to Boston from Maine, and of course the Stanley operation ended up there when they started the car company. Let me suggest that Brad's comment about New Hampshire, and by implication the rest of northern New England being "too rural" might be precisely backwards - the flood of cheap German instruments in the late 19th century most likely went first to the cities, where it was easy to find a violin. Later the instruments filtered out to the rest of the country, via the Sears catalog among other things, to New Hampshire and Maine, where there wasn't necessarily money but there was plenty of woodworking expertise and initiative (here in western Maine we invented the snowshoe industry and much of the manufactured wood products industry). Building a violin was cheaper than buying one, and once hooked by the iconic craft makers kept at it. And it was wonderful, surely, to be able to make something that would play music, and even to experiment with design, like Eugene Andrews of Norway, Maine, a left-hander who made a dozen or so violins for lefties, with a very narrow but deep body, which apparently sounded just fine. The newspaper stories say he started out in Stow, Maine, near the NH border, with his father's instrument, then tried to make his own using clapboards. There is room here for a decent history, and I think a need for it, chronicling what might be described as a high art becoming also a folk art, without losing its connection between a local artisan and Stradivarius, though this may be an overstatement.
  4. I am most impressed by her touch with the bow - watch how light her right hand is.
  5. Here's a personal favorite - a French-Canadian country music album. US country music was and is hugely popular in Canada, so the cross-cultural connection is not unexpected. We can only speculate as to the decision process that resulted in the cover....
  6. Here's one I like, from Holman F. Day, a Maine writer of poetry and novels. His vernacular poems use a version of Maine dialect he invented himself; being a fiddler of sorts and confirmed ruralian I find it evocative. Holman F. Day, Kin Of Ktaadn, 1904 THEN the long shadows creep up over the barn rafters, and the plaintive whummle of horses and moist sufflings of impatient cattle hint that fodder-time is at hand. Unskilled volunteers toss down the hay and dish out the meal, for the holiday folks are at home from the city, and father has an officious little army to bother him in his chores. But now the old barn's astonished inmates must surrender themselves to even more remarkable distractions, for Uncle Pettigrew has come with THE ROSINED BOW Crispy days and sparkly nights, bulging bins and heaped-up mow And all of the cattle a-clankin' their chains and nuzzlin' deep in the fodder; Days of the Season o' Plenty-to-eat are hoverin' over us now,- The mellowin' days Of the sun in the haze, And the winter abreast of the border. And the winds sigh Snow, There's a bank down low Around the southern rim of the rocky-edged horizon; Ah, my little children, though Our heads lie low, They rest easier by far than a head a king's crown lies on. For there's bounty in the cellars and there's plenty on the mows; And Contentment with her treasures all our humble peace endows. The threshing floor is shining where the flashing flails have beat, And it's smooth enough, my children, for our honest country feet. For no waxen floor is needed when we shake the festive toe If there's only Uncle Pettigrew to yank the rosined bow. Balance all and ladies' chain, for'ard and back and swing to place, With the shadows dancing in double time on the mows a-hanging over; Swing to the yeak of the violin in a swift and warm embrace, While Star and Bright In the lantern light Look on with nose in the clover. There's no gay garb here, There's no rich, rare gear, But, my children, there's content and it's better far than glory; How my heart beats, dear, With your face so near, And I cannot think of words but my eyes can tell the story. Ah, I haven't honeyed language, for I haven't gift of speech, But our fingers as we're dancing clasp with meaning clear to each, And the rough old floor seems waxen where the wooden flails have beat, It's smooth enough, my sweetheart, for our honest country feet. For no ball-room gloss is needed when we shake the festive toe If there's only Uncle Pettigrew to yank the rosined bow.
  7. Let me refer participants in this discussion to "A Visit To The Asylum For Aged And Decayed Punsters", Oliver Wendell Holmes' description of the ultimate fate of persons in thrall to this form of wordplay. His picture of the seriousness of long-term addiction should be a warning especially to those of us who find ourselves somehow in a state threatening age and decay. QED, as Roman punsters no doubt said.
  8. The effort to distinguish between the "engineered" and the "vernacular" is actually recent. A century ago the word "mechanic" was commonly used to refer to persons of ability who would be treated as in separate categories today. What we see in the old use of "mechanic" is a view that someone who is good at designing and constructing objects that work well has a fundamental set of skills that are effective regardless of the methodology or combination of methodologies he uses to accomplish his goal. What brought this home to me was a newspaper article about Mellie Dunham, the Maine fiddler who became monstrously famous when invited by Henry Ford to visit Dearborn in late 1925: "Mellie Dunham is a master mechanic. He makes the best snowshoes in the world. As such he is on a par with Henry Ford who makes the best cheap automobile and one of the best high-priced cars also. They both came up from that workshop which is named 'Thorough.'" Here is a link that makes sense, but not a link that anyone is likely to make today. I like it as it applies to the present discussion focused on violin making. If you read throuhg the comments that have already been posted, it seems obvious that the group generally is comfortable selecting from the full range of methodologies available for addressing a particular problem. Shaping and joining violin parts is surely a vernacular kind of task, but that does not prevent the use of mechanical devices by some makers, and it certainly does not rule out the use of engineering tools to analyze sound and vibration characteristics in order to improve the results of skillful hand work. The comments include a number of examples of vernacular workers who were not very good mechanics, emphasizing the value of engineering tools properly applied; one can easily find an equal number of engineering workers who were also poor mechanics because they lacked the vernacular skills they needed. A friend of mine whose machinist skills were of the vernacular variety used to laugh at the engineers who brought him drawings of parts that simply would not work; this did not change the engineers' conviction that they were right, of course. Then there is the famous Hubble telescope mirror, where the mirror grinder got the template reversed, as elementary a vernacular mistake as one could make. I don't know what his experience might have been, but I'll bet he never tried to make a violin.
  9. The clipping I've attached is a bit off the subject, but illustrates something that has never been missing - experimentation. However precise and detailed the perceived wisdom of violin design, there are always people who can't keep themselves from trying out their own ideas. Certainly Stradivari and his colleagues were experimenters, and might be surprised to discover that their experiments became the rule for a few hundred years. I hope the clippping is readable, since most of the attachments here are photos, not text. Anyway, this is Eugene Andrews, of Norway, Maine USA, and the violin he designed, built, and played successfully for many years. He was left-handed, so it's a lefty fiddle, made, according to Andrews, half as wide and twice as deep as the conventional design. He was a self-taught fiddler and craftsman, ran an antique business in the small town, not so different from local violin makers everywhere, I think (someone's documented 150 or so makers in Maine, back to about 1850). Andrews claimed he made three instruments; no sign so far that any of them still exist, although it's possible. I quite like the story.
  10. Lynn Hannings in Maine is a good source for both hair and tools: https://www.lahbows.com/productList.aspx?_categoryID=37 She also teaches bow making and rehairing.
  11. Another comment: as to the pine, it's pretty bad, surely not acceptable to most craftsmen when it has that many knots. In the 1850's nobody needed to settle for that grade of lumber. At the same time, if one intended to paint the box completely then the knotty lumber would be hidden, and you could get away with it. That paint over black ground is something I associate with 19th century American furniture - think Boston rockers, for example. Decoration could be paint, stenciling with powder, and include striping. To me the decoration has a definite American flavor, for what it's worth. The name: I make the first name Sojuer, the "o" with a diacritical over it (as German umlaut). Compare the "s" and "e" in "Johnsen." I would identify the stroke that rises into the latch as a middle initial, likely "i". A guess, anyway. One might also try to zero in on provenance from the style of the lettering, comparing commonly used fonts and painting styles, American and Norwegian. You might look particularly at the capital "S".
  12. Dan, your report of the secret Rufus Porter murals is interesting. I live in the area (Waterford), and I expect that you are aware of the Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton, probably the best place to check on such art.
  13. Here's an interesting photo of a violin maker's shop, from Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/C1905-Stereoview-SV-Country-Violin-Maker-Workshop-Mercer-Maine-by-W-H-Harris-/390855990659 It is comfortably cluttered, and will perhaps look familiar, one of the eternal verities of the luthier's profession. This man will be one of the two hundred or so violin makers who proliferated in Maine between about 1880 and 1910, and produced at times some very nice instruments. He may have a real bench, but it doesn't show here; the low bench to his right seems to me very much like one of the common shoemakers' benches of the period, and I wonder if this was not a workbench. Then again, he looks comfortable in his chair, and may have done a lot just sitting there. What I find especially interesting is the caliper in his right hand, which looks like a commercial product, not homemade. It's a stereo view, and the starting price is too much for me, though I have to say I would dearly love to have it.
  14. The nibbling on the right hand side of the treble f hole is surely the result of extended sound post wrestling, by someone with an impressive degree of determination. And it seems to me from the photos that the whole instrument is variably off-center, everything slightly tweaked, most notably the off-center back at the neck joint. One imagines that rarest of instruments, the M.C. Escher violin.
  15. It may be that if you can name one favorite, you haven't listened enough. The proliferation of reissues and digital transfers has left us inundated, and we are hearing a range of traditional music that was unimaginable not so long ago. I tend to favor older styles and authentic performers - so we have Stepp and Salyer from Kentucky, French Carpenter and Burl Hammons from West Virginia, Tommy Jarrell and his circle from the Virginia/North Carolina border country, Eck Robertson, and so on. A particular favorite generally neglected is Kahle Brewer, who recorded with Ernest Stoneman, lovely original settings of standard tunes that are well worth seeking out. And one must mention the contribution of Henry Reed via Alan Jabbour, a huge repertoire, though Henry's playing itself was by that time suffering the effects of his age.