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Will L

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Everything posted by Will L

  1. As I recall, Helen Keller would put her hands on a piano when someone was playing. And seemed to get something from it. I think it's an interesting question whether vibrations of a perfectly in tune note would translate to a "perfect" vibration that could be learned or memorized. We all know that the blind and deaf develop maybe what could be call compensatory abilities. See the fourth and fifth pictures here: helen keller touching piano
  2. Victor, I enjoyed your post very much. Can you recall anything at all your father-in-law told you about their experiences in the theater?
  3. It is said that a tortoise went into a very high-end violin shop to have his bow re-hared. He was shocked when he asked how much it would cost. The shop owner explained why the prices were so ridiculous: I now have to use two hares. "What!" the tortoise shouted in amazement and dismay. The shop owner said, "Well, you see, just as an old farmer once told me, 'After my fourth child was born, I found I just couldn't go hunting and make a hare stretch as far as it used to.'" (I hope that isn't too painful, Rue.)
  4. For a while, and there are probably still makers choosing to do this, people were scraping in such a way as to add to the "ripple" of the entire top. It can be over done, IMO. But when it's just in one place, like your violin seems to be, it's obviously either natural or intentional antiquing. If there's "new" varnish that could be a protective coat added after the damage was done. I wouldn't expect any original varnish left from 200 years of natural wear. The varnish has to go, to some extent, before the wear of the grain can even start, unless there is some mechanism I don't understand; so if someone can argue that point it would be interesting. Is the violin supposed to be old? BTW, I can imagine a great cartoon where some factory has hired 100 Rasputin-looking fellows and they are all off in a corner rubbing their beards into new instruments. Perhaps a little arcane to make the New Yorker.
  5. Are you asking if it could also be antiquing? Some people are very good at duplicating what was from chin wear in actually old violins. I don't know if anyone else can look at your picture and tell whether it's real or antiquing. I can't. But it certainly looks pretty natural.
  6. It's an actual person, though dead for some years now. Maybe I'm the only one who sees it. But I have the book and it's easier to see.
  7. Anyone else think that the image of John Lott in this picture looks like someone very famous we all know of? Take a guess, before I say who I think it looks like. I realize the picture isn't very clear on this posting. BTW, the caption is wonderful: "He took it up, gave it one swirl around, and satisfied himself it was a fiddle."
  8. Once upon a time, years ago I used to joke that eventually ALLLLLL music would be written, composed, orchestrated, and recording by one little guy that the "powers that be" kept locked up in a little apartment with a very big computer. Huge riches for them, no muss no fuss, no payroll department. Only a small stipend to the little guy, maybe a weekly trip to a chiropractor, and medical coverage (if they were feeling altruistic); after all, a REAL musician will do it for the love of music. That, boys and girls, is why they call it "playing." And the moral of the story: Get a degree in something else that really pays. Then you can afford a great violin, and no matter how badly you play, every Wednesday night you can put out an inexpensive buffet and find three poor musicians who will happily come and play chamber music with you. The one drawback is sometimes a violinist will get cocky and want to play first violin. But you simply don't invite him back. (I tried to fit the tortoise and hare into this in homage to Aesop, but wasn't good enough. The old boy really knew what he was doing.)
  9. There may be a few in this, if anyone chooses to point out a few authentic examples it might help: images of hopf violins
  10. I think it's an interesting question. I don't know too much on the subject, but I remember one friend of mine with a lovely Strad who told me a certain restorer had just reworked it (about 1980) and reworked all the old cracks. I don't know how many it had because it always looked like it didn't have any. Certainly it looked like it didn't have any after the restoration. I knew someone with a Ruggieri which looked mint condition; I don't remember that you could see a crack in it (circa 1960). He made the mistake of taking it on tour to Malaysia and the humidity caused all the beautiful old restoration work to open up and he had no idea how many cracks had already been there, and had to have it reworked. So looks, I suppose, can be deceiving. Personally, once an old crack looks like it is "getting tired," I would think it is better to firm it up, but I assume that requires at least more touch up work. So I don't know what the current thought is. The last I heard is many are trying to be more conservative, and if something shows, it shows. Someone please fill us in on the latest attitudes.
  11. I notice Martha describes the "coating of mineral oil and then a 'resin CONCOCTION.'" That there sounds mighty proprietary, IMO. Probably would sell for a good deal more than the artificial saliva recently discussed. By the way, from the prices quoted, that must be a pretty old video.
  12. I've noticed little hints from time to time, but fortunately they fizzle pretty fast. HEY! Maybe it's not music that is the "international language," but violins! Imagine if interest in violins brought peace love and togetherness to mankind.
  13. YES! The nature of the beast! And thanks. I also wonder how much damage was done in the past even by notable people, just because the area of cleaning and polishing (for want of an ideal word) was relatively primitive by comparison to recent times. At least I assume it was. I think I'll try to find the time to reread the IPCI and maybe give a synopsis of it on MN. Or if someone else has the time that would be even better.
  14. See, I think this is what it all boils down to. The trouble is that it tells us in the hinterlands what not to do—which is worth it's weight in gold, for sure—but doesn't give anything concrete about what TO DO . IMO, that's because it seems there isn't any sure-fire simple way, and any of us who hope to never harm an instrument just have to work at it instead of settling on some "one method fits all." I'm afraid we are all at the mercy of ourselves, how patient we are, and if we can ally with more knowledgable people without driving them crazy. I remember once watching one of my mentors using xylene on a violin, and all the while he was saying that even as relatively safe as it was it would still take off some varnishes. Just as he finished saying this, all of a sudden he looks at the rag and says, "I t h i n k THIS is varnish..." I guess that alone gives us one serious method: always start in some hard to observe place, not the middle of the back!
  15. When I first signed on, I had never been on line in my life. I asked a respected member his opinion and he had mixed opinions. So I decided to split the difference and just not give my last name. The idea being that people that know me can guess and have asked in person. I'm still scared to death of the internet and will just assume that what I say will be taken for what it's worth rather than who I am or am not. I'm not afraid of many people on MN knowing who I am, I'm just afraid of EVERYONE IN THE WORLD knowing. I respect most those who give their name freely, but don't disrespect those who feel better using pseudonyms.
  16. I wasn't referring specifically to this example. Just making a guesstimate that at the beginnings of showing movies with actual stories, I can't imagine it wasn't a time of invention and experimentation. Surely no one, just like today, wanted to pay musicians unless they had to. So someone hires a pianist, who rotates through every piece of music his professor ever taught him, and makes up a few things, then maybe they add a violin, and it got more sophisticated with time. In my most recent sad incarnation into the musical universe, the Vegas style casino "house bands," the minute they figured out how to get rid of them they did. It fizzled slowly and steadily and now it's just legend. I expect the theater orchestras started as small as possible, grew according to taste and demand, then of course disappeared once the soundtrack could include a musical score. And of course there was the theatre organ. I don't know much about them except they were a big deal for a while and I'd bet my salary from my next wedding that the organ salesmen pointed out that the organ would rid the theater of that horde of pesky, troublesome musicians. At least there would now be only ONE pesky musician. I bet if we looked long enough we'd find a photo of some marquee in Chicago or Pittsburg saying, "Enjoy our famous 25 piece orchestra." And of course, as soon as it was possible: "Enjoy our Organ which sounds like a full symphony orchestra." And finally: "Enjoy our air conditioning."
  17. I find it interesting that the movie-makers apparently very quickly found they needed a musical accompaniment, even if it was not much more than musical gibberish. Then it was just carried over bigger and grander when sound came in, eventually leading to great studio orchestras and internationally known composers writing scores. I'm guessing that smaller cities or smaller theaters would have only one or two musicians, who probably brought in all their sheet music and alternated between played from that and improvising. Probably the bigger venues had small orchestras and eventually scored music. About 15 years ago someone was touring with an orchestra and showing silent films. I they carried a core of musicians and hired locally when they could to fill in. I was lucky to get to do this one time. It was fun and gave a sense of what it would have been like. But it would have become boring really fast. I assume they gave a lecture on the subject but unfortunately I don't remember anything said. There surely must be some books telling what this experience was like by long dead musicians. I don't recall ever talking to one who did this for a living. Needing musicians must have irritated a lot of bean counters, but had to have been a blessing to hungry musicians. I hope someone can tell us more. There is a very fine book by Oscar Levant about his association with Gershin. I believe it was titled: "A Smattering of Ignorance." A must read, IMO.. In it he talks about the ridiculous scoring and some of the cliches. For example, a solo bassoon became the "go to guy" for "pratfalls" Must have kept many a bassoonist in pocket change for decades; and he probably made more per note than Heifetz himself.
  18. I only use shochu for cleaning violins. But based on the thread I started on cleaning instruments, I realize I did the right thing by testing it first, yes THE OLD FASHIONED WAY. Under the theory that if it won't kill me it shouldn't hurt varnish.
  19. Yes, it all helps, and thanks to you and everyone else. It leaves me thinking I'm better off turning down the job on a fine instrument. Mainly because I don't have the time or patience—or even the knowledge—to "test on the 'subject.'" Incidentally, I found the articles on cleaning in the IPCI to be thorough and they discussed testing. As I recall even xylene could take off some varnishes, and what someone might think was dirt was really valuable varnish. With the particular violin I mentioned in the OP, I have no idea what has been done to it over years of "cleanings" from a variety of repair persons, not all of whom were highly qualified.
  20. The more I read on this subject, the more confused and fearful I get. Seriously, I have a friend who has a rather nice Bisiach which is definitely getting dirty and needs something. The question is, "What?" The last time I cleaned a violin we were still using xylene and I was happy enough. I went to the fairly recent IPCI book and after reading about 4 long pages, I became convinced I'll need to get an advanced degree in chemistry before considering myself qualified to clean even a "Lark." Then I read a bit further and found the recommendation that saliva is about as good as it gets for safety and effectiveness. But the idea of taking in a nice violin and returning it with an honest description of the work, and materials used, makes me queasy. Then—and this gets BETTER—the IPCI article talks about artificial saliva. So I screwed up my courage and approached my pharmacist, with a very long and curious line of dying people behind me, and not one of them had been diagnosed with hearing loss. I asked her if her pharmacy had artificial saliva. Like a real pro, she didn't bat an eyelash—probably relieved I wasn't asking about sexually transmitted diseases— and went to work on a very slow computer. Interestingly, there were two listed: One was a lozenge! Go figure! Perhaps the lozenge could be added to distilled water. The other was in liquid form; but it sold for $250 per ounce. I did some quick math and wondered if an ounce would do more than one violin. If an ounce was a lifetime supply, perhaps I might mortgage the house and make an investment. Now the IPCI article did mention a couple of ingredients, so I thought maybe could make my own; but by now I was losing interest fast. So, it seems that cleaning a violin is anything but a simple, agreed-to procedure. After all, there are different amounts and types of dirt, grime, old polishes and waxes on every violin. Then there is the nature and condition of the varnish on each instrument; and then there are cracks, touch up varnish, and spots with little or no varnish or ground. It doesn't seem to me there could be one material or method which would cover all the bases. The question: can anyone recommend something simple and safe in 99% of all cases? If not, how can anyone really trust anyone to clean a violin?
  21. After days and pages of verbiage, I am heartened to finally grasp why I am having such trouble: "What would be a better violin?" is not a question! It is a koan. I can see it clearly: The master asking the pupil, "What would be a better violin?" And finally, after years of failure, the pupil answers perfectly, instantly, and without a trace of self awareness: "Crickets chirp in the corner. I am thirsty." The master's eyes say more than do his lips, "Yes. How simple and poetic your answer! And a lesser master would be fooled. But in my wisdom I see your intent is still as wrong as it was when you first entrusted yourself to me thirty winters ago. Come again tomorrow, and this time bring orange wrapping paper." The pupil ritually bows three times without turning his eyes from the master. He seeks to leave without discomfiting the old man, though defeated yet again—knowing he will always leave defeated unless he dies in the process. But in an instant of great courage born of the greatest of all Rinzai teaching aids— exasperation— he plants himself across the master's being so there is no way out for either of them. "Master, I have never once asked a further question of you in all these years, not wishing to waste your time; and also because there are others shivering against the winter winds, not caring whether I find Nirvana or fail, as long as I succeed or fail quickly so they might come in from the cold as soon as possible. And they are all infinitely more worthy than I. But I beg: Tell me! Should the wrapping paper be orange in color or should it be for wrapping oranges?" The master, at long last seeing progress from his most recalcitrant pupil, answers, "Of course!" And instantly the pupil is enlightened... but only to a low and perilously temporary degree. Many more opportunities will be needed before hoping to sit permanently beside a master or the Buddha. Nothing is different, nothing has changed. Once more, freezing with his fellow seekers, the pupil stamps his feet and blows warm breath onto icy fingers... and mouths his koan as he hears others mumbling theirs. Only two more hours until rejuvenating rice bowls and pickles strengthen him for five more hours of evening meditations. How he wishes he had been asked something simple like, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" But no! It was his sad lot to find out "what would be a better violin?" And this koan, though only a trifling 500 years old, had not yet been solved. But his sorrow for himself is suddenly gone, and in its place a great warmth fills all time and space. The master believed in him. The master knew him capable! Why else would the master have burdened him so? And this little seed of faith from the wisest of masters gave him more sustenance than all the rice and pickles in China...or Japan...or wherever the hell he was. And he wept that another could trust him so completely. A chance of solving the one koan which had eluded all. Thousands had come to enlightenment merely knowing that Joshu said, "Mu!" But no one had a clue "what would be a better violin?" And, a more pressing practical problem faces the student: With the strictest rules of silence in effect for two more days of sesshin, how to find wrapping paper—orange or otherwise—this time of evening on the shortest day of the year in a darkened, foggy Kyoto.
  22. Assuming your violin's maker is still alive, I'd ask him or her about it. I don't think you need to be concerned. But it would be interesting to hear what the maker says. And we'd all like to know, or at least I would. I'd like to know if he uses 5.6mm on every instrument or adjusts the diameter for each violin differently. And, if so, what is his standard: is it how it sounds and feels to him or is it by some measuring device? Since you suggest he is a careful maker, then my example doesn't fit your situation. But I'll just reiterate that the one violin I had which had the most remarkable sound for its class of make was 5mm and was hardly fitting at all and very crooked in every direction. Once I got a 6+mm post which was well fitting, the violin lost all that had made it remarkable.
  23. IMO, unfortunately you had more than one thing changed at the same time, so it's going to be hard to know what is the culprit in causing the violin to be worse. One thing I am sure of is that violins can sound amazingly good with surprisingly thin (diameter) posts. When a post is too small by the standard numbers, and not fitting well, and in an odd place, you would assume it ought to be better with a more standard and professional set up. But that just isn't always the case. The question—which I have never heard a good answer for—is why? Because we know darned well that a bad post in an odd place was probably NOT put in by a genius who knew exactly what he was doing! Seriously, just think about it. So the answer is one of two things: One, pure luck; or two, a violin manages somehow to adjust to bad work if it is left alone long enough. The latter possibility is my guess based on my own experiences. I've two great playing and sounding instruments which were so ridiculously set up when I got them that I assumed they SHOULD be even better with a fine, professional set up. But they weren't. I don't intend to sound like I'm putting down your luthier, because she no doubt assumed what most of us would. And many times improved, professional posts, bridges, and adjustments WILL, and logically should, make a violin better. It's just that there is never a guarantee, sadly. All I can recommend is that you get the violin as close as possible to how you like it then give it a few years to settle in. I might get arguments from others on this, but on this matter I consider my guess as good as anyone else's. I've seen too many self-styled adjustment wizards who have clever tricks or think they have a knack, but none of them have made a problem violin adequately better for me.
  24. After we have had to live through this, then the next big play will be a computer program which will test a violin and tell us exactly how much wrapping to add or subtract for each violin, each string, and both ends. That should bring in another $60,000 a year to every shop in the world. I can see the next generation of Juilliard graduate claiming that by adding .04 mm of silver wrapping to his D string behind the bridge and .17 mm of silk wrapping at the peg end, he has now been offered not only one concertmaster position with a major orchestra but two! One ignores super-sophisticated adjustments at his own peril. I'd hate to show up for an audition to find the guy warming up in the next room had recently found that the .00656 mm wrapping addition was not quite perfect and he had settled, temporarily, on .00654mm. Now, how in the heck could I compete against such a discerning artist? I might as well slink on home and buy a kazoo. (Actually perhaps a blessing, since to my knowledge no one has started trying to perfect the kazoo...yet.) In the mean time, the fact that said Juilliard graduate dropped his violin and he only lost ONE concertmaster offering is encouraging. Nice to know we can solve a broken bridge and fallen sound post with a mere hair's breadth of added material to the non-playing part of a string. We live in remarkable times. Yeah, I'm being sarcastic. Next someone will suggest that by getting pretty patterns with metal filings on vibrated loose plates we will soon have nothing but great violins. Or, maybe building them in space, where gravity is not a factor will make us all better-n-Strad. I see the possibilities as limitless. Gee, maybe we should start trying to find a varnish which will make all this other stuff obsolete.
  25. Hans, who taught at the U of New Hampshire for many years. His father, I believe was at Wurlitzer before him, or somewhere.
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