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Doesn't get much uglier than this, folks...


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But that is a very interesting piece - maybe even worthy of a spot in the Smithsonian. Years ago, I saw a display there of old musical instruments and other objects made by people with more determination than skill. They were tenant farmers and such who lived in poverty and had very little beyond what they could make for themselves.

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But man, this thing is homely. Imagine someone actually playing it. Amazing.


Konnichiwa, toc

There's a film "The End of an Old Song" by John Cohen. You can see and hear ols man Ernest Franklin plays "Barbra Allen" on his home-made fiddle. Oh boy, that thing is even uglier than the one on e-bay. And the music he pulls out from that box is WONDERFULL!

The film (together with other John's films) available on DVD from Shanachie, titled "That High Lonesome Sound".

Bosco

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I'm glad you posted the link to those photos, my prototypes don't look to bad in comparison, I'd love to hear what sound it produces.

How proud of it the maker must have been, seeing that everthing has been hand made and the time and effort it must have taken to complete, most probably with very primitive tools.

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I actually had one not much different from that, carved by someone who maybe had seen a real violin from a distance. The sides and the back seemed to be one piece of wood. It felt like a 4X4 post, but the sound was surprisingly bright -- just proving that a good set of strings can make almost anything sound like a violin. I tried hard to donate it to a couple regional museums (I had a good idea where it came from), but they had little interest. Alas. Even the Smithsonian and Library of Congress don't have a single American-made fiddle in their collectioins.

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Alas. Even the Smithsonian and Library of Congress don't have a single American-made fiddle in their collectioins.


I believe you are incorrect; Although it may be true that an Amarican instrument is not currently on display, the Smithsonian does not display a major portion of their collection.

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"I believe you are incorrect."

I'll check it out and report back. There must be a list of their complete collection somewhere.

Marie, the art of antique reproduction in some Asian countries is indeed impressive. I never suspected that the market in country fiddles was big enough to attract their attention, but could be.

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> Is this oak?

The back is not oak. The color and variation therein is one clue, but the clincher for me is that the end-gain visible in the c's does not show the annual rings of pores that oak would. Flecks aren't right either.

So, given the claimed origin, what might it be? I'd go with walnut or black locust.

If, as has been suggested, it is of Chinese origin then I haven't a clue,

I'd be happy to read the thoughts of someone more familiar with Appalachian hardwoods....

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I love old country handmade fiddles and have had a number pass through my hands. The most interesting was a fiddle made by Horace Griffin. I sold it to a woman who is a professor of musicology who has begun a major piece of research on the maker. So far, despite her contact with the Historical society of Bentin PA and scouring of old general store records and chrch records has been unable to find any record that this man ever existed. We are speculating that perhaps an escaped slave on a stop on the underground railroad was the maker. Anyway, she says it has a wonderful tone and gets more powerful everyday.

For those nterested I am posting some photos, I hope.

Jesse HoraceGriffin.jpg

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Whether the violin pictured is what it is purported to be or not, the Bohemian/Tyrolean characteristics are unmistakable. I wonder whether the neck root and top block are integrated in the Tyrolean manner.

Which somehow reminds me, with reference to the "fiddler's" setup, of the theory that the flat bridge traditional for fiddlers is derived from the Baroque bridge, and that the technique of playing (lower positions predominating) is a hangover of 18th-century violin playing technique.

Like the theory which goes that the modern American English accent is directly derived from the way the earliest settlers spoke, and is therefore in that sense a closer approximation of 18th-century spoken English than modern (British) English.

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Nothing about the item featured in the first posting looks Chinese to me. It would be hard work to abuse Missouri walnut into such an unlovely state. Though I don't know what locust looks like other than when it's alive, I wouldn't harm one giant thorn on any tree in search of that glorious grain. I think our friend originated farther south in the western hemisphere.

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There is no telling what it would sound like. I have seen plenty of homely instruments that sounded really good.

I have also worked on some instruments that were well loved. In the age before T.V. people used to sit on there front porches during the hot summers and play music. They were miners or farmers and worked very hard for a living and money was scarce.

Some would make their own instruments, or buy old beat up instruments, or sing a combination of blues and gospel. In my home town of Clifton Forge Virgina Bluegrass was born.

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I was unsuccessful in bidding on this item, which I feel is a contender in this category. It was found in a West Texas second-hand shop. Imagine that cowpoke carving this out evenings in the bunkhouse. It has top, back, & ribs, and a steer's head, complete with horns, in place of a scroll. I bet the bow hair didn't come from any fancy Mongolian nag either! Can't you just hear the strains of "Red River Valley" mixing with the sound of lowing cattle at night on the open range? I wish I had bid higher. Ron.

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Does anyone see in the subject of this post anything reminiscent of the kind of Indian/Pakistani/Asian produced 'new antiques' and rustic instruments which people sell in the streets for a dollar or two? You also find them in all shapes and forms in 'junque' shops in Europe, they even do full size kiddie carts which look quite convincing and 200 years old at first sight. This violin has several things that suggest that to me - the style of wood and varnish, rubbing in mud as 'antiqueing', oxidation on all the metal parts, the shape and overhang of the pegs, and the kind of iron wire you don't get in the West any more. If this really is old, why is there little or no wear on the body varnish even though it's strung up and with a bridge like it's been played?

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