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Everything posted by skiingfiddler

  1. There are lots of posts above that deserve a thoughtful response. But before the idea slips away, it would be helpful to outline a course, called "Violin Essentials," cribbing a bit from Rue, which would be taught at the university, especially targeted toward string majors, but also open to anyone interested in the violin. This would be a 16 week, full semester course, meeting 1 to 3 hours a week. Violin Essentials, an outline of topics to cover: 1. Maintenance Essentials: a. Keeping the bridge upright. b. Winding strings on pegs. c. Doping pegs. d. The varnish: Do nothing! e. Mounting a chinrest. f. Inspecting your instrument; looking for open seams and cracks. g. Selecting a repairer. This would be a one maybe 2 hour session at the very beginning of the semester. 2. History of the violin: The anatomy of the violin and a very superficial explanation of building using an inside mold. Emphasis on the modernization in the 19th century. Focus on 4 essential models: Maggini, Nicolo Amati grand pattern, Stradivari post 1700, Late del Gesu. The treatment of these models would be very superficial, looking at general outline and maybe arching a bit. 3. The "standard" dimensions of today's violins. The typical dimensions of today's violas, cellos, and basses. How to take measurements of back length and widths, neck length, body stop, string clearance over fingerboard, bridge height. How important is it to get a violin of the "standard" dimensions? 4. The violin market --a. Today's prices of the 4 models, above, as authentic violins. --b. Factors in pricing: Provenance, condition. The role of tone. Antique vs contemporary prices. --c. Authentication and Certificates. Who does it. What a certificate contains. The value of older certificates. --d. Buying and selling your violin: Old vs new in buying, pros and cons. Buying "as is," from pawn shops, ebay, garage sales, etc, vs a dealer. Wholesale vs retail prices. Consignment selling. Commission you can expect to pay in selling. I think this course might attract violin amateurs as well as violin majors and just some people who don't play but who are interested in violins. Frankly, if we want to get a violin knowledge curriculum into the university, we have to start small with one course, and I think the course outlined above would be that course. Depending on the interest and success of this course, one could introduce another course, perhaps under art history: The violin models of 16th, 17th, and 18th century Cremona, Brescia, Venice and Stainer. This would be a full semester course, at least 3 hours a week, looking at Andrea Amati, the Brothers Amati, Nicolo Amati (small and large pattern), Maggini and da Salo, Stainer, Stradivari (Amatise, Long Pattern, post 1700), Andrea Guarneri, Joseph filius Andrea, del Gesu (early, middle and late), the Venetians with their Stainer and Cremona influence. Hope one semester is enough. Might have to leave Venice for another course. You get the idea, which is to introduce one course, gauge interest, and introduce one more, then another, then another until you've covered violin history in classical Italy and the rest of Europe up to the present time. One could also introduce courses in "the science of the violin" looking at problems in physics, acoustics, chemistry, wood dating, physiology of playing, psychology of aural perception, etc, the same way. The idea is to build from the ground up, one course at a time, not top down. We don't want, in one fell swoop, to propose and impose some 12 course degree program leading to some degree. The university administrators will reject such a proposal. But building curriculum, one course at a time, as student interest shows itself, could lead, in a natural and organic way, to a full curriculum.
  2. I've gathered all of these posts into one post because they all seem to show the same concern: The violin student needs to understand the violin in a larger, practical, non-musical context. One of those contexts would be the violin market. Students, certainly at the college level and beyond, should understand how violins are priced and how that might affect their selection of a violin. I think there might be wide spread agreement that every violin (family) college student would profit from an auxiliary course which offers some insight into violin pricing vs quality, in addition to their courses in musical training.
  3. That's an interesting idea, especially interesting because some major universities are very proud of the fact that all of their courses, every last one, is available on-line. If the hoarding of fine violins into private collections continues to deplete the violins available for first hand viewing, then potential violin scholars may have to settle for photos over the real thing. Then courses on line, not just databases, would be the only practical means of studying the details of violin form generally available. The barrier to the authoritative database idea might be the tradition among violin dealers that you can't be wrong. If you over-attribute a violin in terms of origin, the customer has lost money. If you under-attribute, the dealer has lost money. Dealers putting detailed information with some substance to it onto an online database for all the world to see any errors are thus running a risk. Dealers might not want to participate. Somehow a system needs to be put in place in which to be dead wrong is ok, because the correction process is a positive one. Academic scholars in all other discipline, ie, university faculty, have that freedom to be dead wrong and know that the correction process leads to better information. Violin scholars need that freedom.
  4. Martin, Give me time. I'll try to respond to as many posts as I can. I'm just one person, trying to respond to quite of number of people. The topic is important enough to give some thought to replies. The violins I own are contemporary instruments, some brand new where I'm the original owner and some removed from me by one previous owner: Tshu Ho Lee, year 2000 (that was a commissioned instrument); Tschu Ho Lee, year 1967, bought from the first owner; Mark Hollinger, 1993, bought from Mark after the fiddle came back into his shop; Ray Leicht, year 2000, bought directly from Ray. Buying new or nearly new instruments from living makers makes the provenance issue a non-issue.
  5. I hope I made it clear that my relegating provenance to the very bottom of criteria for violin selection is my own personal attitude. I know very well that that's not the attitude of the violin trade in general. Therefore, if provenance is going to be the most important factor in a violin's price, then the violin trade needs a system to ensure that provenance is as objective, as accurate, as up-to-date as possible. I think the university is the setting to promote that.
  6. I didn't say anything of the sort. However, I do believe, in your disagreement with Jacob over Stainer, Jacob's position was the better supported one, and I stated as much on that thread. And no, I do not agree with people to curry favors. Jacob offered the favor to show me around the KHM in Vienna unsolicited, and he offered it publicly. I won't be trying to collect on the offer. Getting back to the topic of this thread, I see dissatisfaction about the violin trade, even from those who disagree with me about the possible role of the university. My position is that a university setting has considerable advantages to the current situation in the violin world. I'm certainly willing to listen to refutations of that position. I'd even be willing to listen to assertions that everything is fine the way it is, if that assertion can be supported.
  7. The most important features for me about a violin is its tone, its appearance, the care and craft in its initial construction, its current state, the cost of any additional repairs, and its price. If Jeffrey would help me in that kind of comparison, and I definitely do need help with the quality of construction and current state, and I thought the charges for his services were fair, he'd be at the top of my list if our proximities were favorable. I am not going to pay extra for information on provenance. Provenance doesn't change the playing qualities of the fiddle one bit, but provenance itself might change over time. Jacob could be helpful in the same manner, but I doubt he wants to be.
  8. Well, now I know not to bother coming to you. I guess that invitation, in the thread about Stainer, to show me around the Kunst Historisches Museum in Vienna no longer stands. Being nice to me was a lot easier for you when I agreed with you in your disagreement with Ben Hebbert. My positions are always dependent on what the substance of people's posts are, not who they are. So, take heart. I may agree with you again, and disagree with whomever you're disagreeing with (assuming that I believe in your position), and you can like me again.
  9. There's nothing wrong with intuition if it brings you what you want. However, if it doesn't, then some understanding of science may be helpful in getting what you want. And for some people, even when intuition works, they want to know why.
  10. I've come to the conclusion that paying for a violin based on its origins and provenance is not worth doing. On old violins, designated origins and provenance are the most insecure, potentially changeable characteristics of the instrument. Yet the major determiner of the cost of an instrument is origin and provenance. On the other hand, I can, for myself, judge tone. I can for myself decide whether I like the appearance. I can find a large number of makers and repairers within a day's drive even from isolated Idaho whom I trust to tell me if a violin is well made or not and what kind of condition it's in and what kind of repairs it needs. All of those characteristics are clearly in front of me. Origin and provenance of an old violin are ephemeral, possibly mythical, in my mind, unverifiable, and I'm not going to pay for it. I'm not going to put origin and provenance at the top of my list as a reason for buying a specific instrument. With that frame of mind, the most troublesome part of appraising -- origin and provenance -- disappears, and the group of people who can give me an appraisal that I value is quite accessible. But that's me, and I realize that the violin trade and many buyers aren't of that frame of mind. In Martin Swan's dichotomy of viewing the violin as a tool (a visually pleasing one, well made, in good condition, in addition to pleasing tone) vs violin as an investment shopper, I lean toward looking at it as a tool.
  11. John, Your research is rather technical, and I won't pretend to understand it. But it is clear to me that it is relevant to a question every violin player raises, after some years of experience with the violin: If I change to a string with a higher or lower string tension, what can I expect the tonal consequences to be? My experience is that the old belief of higher tension equals louder sound is not true. I have personally found that moving to lower tension strings would have no detrimental effect in terms of volume of sound. Indeed, moving to a lower tension string might improve response while not inhibiting volume. But that is my very subjective feeling, and it may or may not accord with scientific measurements you can make. Please feel encouraged that your findings would be relevant to the average player, and are not just esoteric facts that have no direct consequences for the typical player. That typical player can gain insight into the question about string tension and tone, and better understand what kind of strings to try. That's exactly the kind of feedback from physics that the typical player needs. There's no better place for physics than the university, and the information thus gained is readily accessible and at no charge to the violin playing public.
  12. Ben, Let's take your Coke example. Let's say you are an individual who is concerned about the possible personal health effects, personal economic effects, the larger societal effects such as trash and environment, the history of Coke, the domination of Coke in the beverage industry, etc. Where would you go to get your questions answered? To the Coke company? To its distributers? To the avid consumer? Yes, you might go to all of those places for the information and data they can offer. But you'd be foolish to take that information at face value. All of those entities have a vested interest in Coke. If you really wanted objective information about Coke, you'd go to the independent entities which could answer your questions without having a financial interest in the answers. You might well go to a dozen university departments to see what they have to say about what they know. If they knew nothing directly about Coke, they may know something about something similar, or maybe they'd take your question to get back to you. Everyone interested in something doesn't need to get a degree in that something, but they do need a factual, unbiased place to go for their information. And they do need to know that the latest and past, accumulated information about that something resides with the entities. I don't believe that the person interested in violins, today, has a place to go for factual, unbiased information. I think that the university, which is set up to house and create the latest factual, unbiased information, would be the place to go, if it were supplied with the proper faculty. But I'm certainly open to listening to proposals for other mechanisms or institutions for supplying the latest factual, unbiased information on violins.
  13. Martin, You've identified part of the problem: "Conflicts of interest and potential for corruption and rank dishonesty within the antique violin trade." But there are more shortcomings in the information concerning violins. On another thread, I asked what I thought was a rather straightforward question about how a violin functions: If the rocking motion of the bridge is the main manner by which the plates are put in motion, then what would happen if the pressure on the bridge were increased or decreased? Would the rocking motion increase with increased pressure, or would the additional pressure suppress the rocking motion? Similarly, what happens if the pressure is decreased? Apparently, that's a rather complicated question that doesn't currently have a clear answer. It looks to me like the physical mechanics of the violin are far from understood after 500 years of the existence of the violin. What can be done about that? Maybe more minds need to work on the problem. Where will we find those minds? A university physics department would be a good place to look. Similarly, the chemistry of classic Italian varnish seems to be an on going mystery. Again more minds from a university chemistry department might speed understanding. Dating wood, dendrochronology, has been a university based discipline for some time. There seem to be a number of problems in the violin world that universities are already set up to look at. If they haven't, it might be because the problems haven't been brought to their attention. There are also some issues that universities are currently not prepared to look at because the faculty may be lacking, such as the history of the violin, violin construction, violin restoration. Having the history of the violin in a university setting seems reasonable, but why, one might ask, would one want to have violin construction in a university setting? Because if students of violin making knew, for example, the underlying physics and chemistry of the violin and its varnish, they could build with a full understanding of what is actually happening, rather than just "making by the numbers," ie, doing what tradition has established. I believe that understanding why one is doing something, rather than just how to do something, leads to better results, because one then understands how to adapt to varying conditions. Once there are faculty at a university into the physics and chemistry of the violin, violin history, construction, restoration, wood dating, history of Europe from the Renaissance to the present, you have the components for training someone in the beginnings of violin connoisseurship. It's then up to that student after graduation to take that beginning and turn it into expertise. But you may be right. That may be way too ambitious. It may be plenty to wring the "conflicts of interest and potential for corruption and rank dishonesty" out of the violin trade, specifically the antique trade. That would be a very worthwhile goal. To me, that means finding some independent and separate institution from the violin trade to do authentication and attribution. That might be achieved by dealers setting up such a separate institution or using an existing institution, such as a university. Alternatively, dealers might agree that no instrument gets an attribution unless at least 2 separate dealers agree. That at least would have inhibited the Machold wrongdoings. Please feel free to pursue other possibilities. Your post continues on: I would agree that there is an unhealthy disparity of knowledge between the sellers of violins and the purchasers of violins. The first thing that can be done to rectify this is for conservatoire students to further their understanding of violins and bows and how they are traded and valued. I meet with profound ignorance and prejudice from players on a daily basis - very strongly held beliefs which have never been tested or questioned. These beliefs all lead violinists in the direction of spending more money, so they are very convenient for the trade. I think players should apply much more thought and study to how to choose and how to genuinely hear instruments and to distinguish their qualities. I rarely see anyone go about it with reason and intelligence. I would like to see a far greater separation between violins which are valuable and/or interesting and violins which work as musical tools. From my point of view, the more violins that end up in the hands of private collectors or museums the better - I would like to see an end to the confusion between tone and investment. End quote. That's absolutely true. It sounds like there's more of a need to educate players and public about violins. I can see a role for the university in that, certainly those universities with violin majors.
  14. Ben, I understand your post and your defense of the Hills in simplifying the market. Their decision was correct from a business point of view. How can we account for the fact that the Hills were very ready to attribute the hands of Andrea Guarneri, Francesco Rugeri, and JB Rogeri to the genuine works of Nicolo Amati (indeed, the Hills attribute entire instruments made by those three as genuine Nicolo Amatis), but couldn't attribute others hands to Antonio Stradivari? How is the Stradivari situation different from the Amati one?
  15. Sorry about your cold. Yes, I have introduced the topic of the university as a place for violin knowledge before. I think it needs to be brought up more often because the validity of knowledge in the violin world is the most important topic in the violin world. People are paying huge sums of money based on that knowledge. As far as being a non-starter, it's great to see some former supporters of the idea, here, again (Thanks, Ron), and some new support for the idea from those with stronger arguments than I am presenting. Jacob, Get used to seeing this topic again when the occasion calls for it. As I noted, the validity of knowledge in the violin world is the most important topic there is for the violin world. And there are reasons to question it: --People who authenticate are the same people who sell, creating a conflict of interest. --The opinion of a very small group of experts is viewed as fact, and the violin world wants to be collegial and not disagree, certainly not publicly. It takes the actions as blatantly wrong as those of Machold to break that collegiality. --Getting something wrong in the violin world, as it's structured now, costs somebody money; so there's very little room for speculation. Speculation in all the sciences is encouraged. Wrong steps are part of taking the right steps in the sciences, and nobody's penalized. --There have been a couple hundred years of writing about violins that is quite inaccurate, a point you often make, yourself. How do you undo that tradition of inaccuracy? As far as my personal feelings go, please cite the posts in which I've gotten upset. I'll have no trouble citing those in which you've gotten upset. Concerning my ambitions, I'm past retirement age and harbor no ambitions beyond getting a good night's sleep and losing weight. To all, I greatly appreciate the greater civility this thread has shown. Hope we can keep it that way and deal with the facts and ideas of the issue and not poster's personal feelings and ambitions. With that in mind, I'll retract my request to Jacob to support his claims about my personal feelings and ambitions. Going that direction would really be a non-starter of no interest to anyone.
  16. Concerning "the Hills, Eric Blot, Carlo Chiesa, Charles Beare, Sacconi, and the dozens of others": Yes, there are violin people who publish an article here and there, even a complete book, and they do it without much financial support, maybe none. Imagine what those people could do if permanent institutions existed where that kind of research were their main activity, not just a side interest, and they were in fact appropriately paid for their production. Imagine them lecturing on a weekly basis, eight months a year, instead of a few times every few years. Concerning the Hills: I think the 1902 Hill book on Stradivari is ground breaking violin information. It's absolutely mandatory reading for anybody interested in violins, and in the Dover edit it's very inexpensive. The Hills did a great service for the violin world in putting out that book and the subsequent Guarneri book. But that Hill book on Stradivari has a surprising short coming. A fundamental tenet of that book is that Antonio, right up to the end of his life, got very little substantial help from anybody else, including his sons. That Hill book would lead you to believe that the work you see in an authentic Antonio Stradivari, regardless of year, is the work of Antonio's hands, and sons Francesco and Omobono contributed very little to the finished appearance of those instruments. From the posts of Ben Hebbert, along with Roger Hargrave's writings and statements in Toby Faber's book, I gather that's just not true. For example, the hand of Francesco is, apparently, visible in numerous works. Why did the Hills miss that? This is a guess based on an interpretation of others' postings as I remember them: The Hills, at the end of the 19th century, had an interest in portraying Antonio Stradivari as an extraordinary maker. They had a steady supply of Strads to sell and giving Antonio's sons the credit they deserve would have detracted from Antonio Stradivari, the name on the labels. Or maybe the Hills missed the importance of the sons' work in the shop for some other reason. Whatever the reason was, the point is the Hills missed it, and it took the better part of a 100 years to correct it, to properly recognize the sons' contributions to the instruments we regard as Antonio Stradivaris. If the environment for research and questioning and validation of expert opinion in the violin world had been more open, maybe it wouldn't have taken 100 years to correct that rather glaring oversight. A university setting can give us that objectivity.
  17. Martin, Yes, true violin experts, especially in violin identification, are a very small group of people. That leads to this question: What happens when one of those people reaches the end of his/her career? Death comes to all, even experts. Where does that knowledge go? They're not pouring their knowledge into writing. Yes, I know, there are some experts which do write an article here and there for inclusion in some books or The Strad. But the books and articles are rather rare in occurrence. (Before I get jumped on, I will admit that Roger Hargrave may well be the exception in generating a great many articles, and he values their dissemination enough to offer them for free. But he's just one person.) The violin expert, winding down his/her career, shares only what they want to share with the larger world when they want to share it, and, most probably, share their most prized expertise with the heir to the business. After all, your offspring or a favorite colleague deserves an advantage, if you can give it to them. How different that is from the academic model where your knowledge isn't worth anything unless it's made public, and made public as soon as you feel certain about it so others can evaluate it. If one of the top physicists in the world dies, that may be a personal loss to that person's family and friends, but it's not a loss to physics. In order to become a top expert in physics, that physicist had to publish their knowledge throughout their career. There's no holding privileged information back, giving it only to the deserving few. The violin world, like any field of knowledge, needs a place where knowledge can reside, can be collected, regardless of whether the experts are now alive or not or whether they are still mentally at their peak. That's what a university is. Your second point, that to become an expert one needs to see a great number of instruments, also deserves some consideration. It's undoubtedly true. But, I believe it was Roger Hargrave who pointed out in a post that getting access to that stream of instruments, especially the top end instruments, like the classic Italians, is getting harder and harder for anybody interested in violins because those instruments are disappearing into large private collections where access is very limited. The instruments are not going into public museums or staying among players and thus appearing regularly on the market. How will expertise in the classic Italians be maintained if you can't see the instruments no matter who you are? You might as well move the study of the classic Italians to the university from dealers. The university, in its institutional influence, might be able to arrange seeing those classic Italians better than a private dealer can.
  18. Violadamore's comment from another thread: "Before this issue is totally dropped, I would like to note that probably nobody's kicking around similar proposals with regard to clarinets, snare drums, glockenspiels, or whatever. That, to me, says something unique about the violin. :)" That's an important observation. The violin is more than just another insignificant cultural artifact. It is unique in some important ways: -- For most musical instruments -- clarinets, snare drums, glockenspiels, oboes, bassoons, pianos, guitars -- new is better than old. In the violin world, for many people, that's not true; the opposite is. How justified is that? There have been various tests to shed light on the preference for old violins, and nobody seems convinced one way or another. Maybe more academic rigor in tests is needed. Couldn't hurt. -- Old violins now cost millions. How justified is that? How justified are the origins and provenances assigned to some of these instruments? When a violin enthusiast spends millions for an Antonio Stradivari that's been certified as such for centuries with the best of certificates, would that enthusiast still be willing to pay millions if he knew that son Francesco, not father Antonio, made the scroll, as some have asserted about most scrolls after 1700? Maybe it wouldn't matter to the enthusiast. Or maybe it would drive him from the purchase since the fiddle wasn't entirely made by the hands of Antonio Stradivari. The general public is ignorant of the nuances in the statement "made by X" where X is some famous maker's name. The general public needs the opportunity to know those nuances. A more open and public repository of knowledge about violins would do that.
  19. This is a revisit of a topic that was quite contentious a few years back. The old thread on this issue is here and is worth a look. That old thread dealt in large part with the benefits for students interested in violin connoisseurship of having the various aspects of violin knowledge available at universities. Those topics are definitely worth revisiting. In addition, it might be worth while to look at what benefits might come for all in the field, professionals and the interested general public, by establishing universities (or some other public institutions) as the repository of violin information. What would happen if experts on the violin shared their knowledge as freely with the public as knowledge is shared in any other valued knowledge field? A lot of good.
  20. With that insight, you are way ahead of the typical violin buyer.
  21. I thought #4s were still around and being made. I remember playing on Scott Cao instruments a few years back that might qualify. They were a Cao model (I think it was called a 1500, but am no longer sure) each made by just two makers in California. One maker did the construction; the other, the varnishing. I may be remembering this wrong, but the labels carried the names of the 2 makers, along with some identification as from the Scott Cao shop. The ones I played were great playing and looking, professional quality instruments at a fraction of the cost of the personal work of Scott Cao, himself. Gregg Alf also sells instruments in his workshop made by his apprentices, and they are designated as such. Later edit: It looks like the current signature series from Scott Cao might be a better example of #4 than the 1500 series.
  22. My apologies to Manfio for taking this thread off course. If someone wants to pursue a renewed discussion of the possible benefits of a university setting for violin knowledge, please start a new Pegbox thread on that topic. I would gladly post there. It's an important topic that deserves multiple hearings. Posting here isn't fair to Manfio's topic.
  23. Not at all different worlds, any more than micro biology, cellular biology, anatomy, physiology, genetics, etc, are different worlds. They're all different fields in the same world, biology. Violin making, violin restoration, violin identification, violin history and the history of music, violin physics, the chemistry of violin varnish, the scientific dating of wood, the physiology of hearing, the psychology of hearing, and others, are all important fields in the violin world. Anyone interested in any of those fields will profit from having some knowledge of the others in order to develop their own special interest. The university, offering a range of courses, would be the most convenient place to study one's specific violin interest. If you need to know something about another field in the violin world, you can take the appropriate course or talk to the professor across campus. Just as important, if not more so, the knowledge in that university setting is knowledge available to any interested person and is scrutinized for its validity by any interested person. It's not knowledge that's kept personal for personal benefit.
  24. You've convinced me that setting up the workshop takes a lot of effort. It's also obvious that someone or some group is putting in that effort year after year. Why doesn't that someone or some group put that effort into a larger public setting? If the setting were more public and larger, the group of people who can help, who might volunteer to help, might be larger. Then maybe the strain on any small group to organize and keep the effort going could be less. You won't know unless you try. Later edit: Actually my interest is placing something like the Oberlin Workshop as a seminar in a larger setting of "violin knowledge," which would be a course of study in a university setting. A lot of the administrative tasks you're concerned about would be taken care of by university staff who is already doing such tasks for any university course.
  25. Manfio, Great response. You are a gentleman of the highest order, in any hemisphere, who knows how to express his displeasure judiciously.
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