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Stradofear inspired epiphany and a question...


robedney
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I for one am quite happy to not understand. It seems the less I analyze and the more I just "do", the more intuitive I become and the better results I get, especially in setups and getting sound out of an instrument, but in other things, too.

Sometimes its good not to let one's intellect get in the way of one's intelligence.

Well said. I'm thinking about the "middle way", wherein we seek understanding to guide us in the process of making, wherever that understanding comes from -- be it spectral analysis or tapping with the fingers. All the understanding in the world, however, is functionally irrelevant unless applied to making. Yes, the intellectual exercise is informative, fun and probably good for the brain -- helping to put off senile dementia don't-you-know -- and is helpful to me -- but only when taken to the bench. Otherwise it's all an intellectual exercise.

An engineer who combines technology with keen intuition and common sense if probably less likely to design a bridge that fails than one who relies on technology alone. :)

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What about my earlier question about spontanaity and sincere workmanship (according to one's ability) vs. studied copies of old violins? I accept using patterns of old violins, I mean about artificial aging etc.

I don't know, mate. All I can say is that most of the violinists I know have a strong preference for artificially aged violins, no matter how contrived and unnatural the execution.

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I don't know, mate. All I can say is that most of the violinists I know have a strong preference for artificially aged violins, no matter how contrived and unnatural the execution.

I know, so why all the precious discussion about graceful art and assymmetry ? If people want to make what the market asks for, forget the discussions and just make what THEY will buy. Flatter yourself about being an artist in some other way.

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Well, if Burgess' hermaphrodite didn't kill this thread, I suppose John's heartlessly accurate reality check ought to do it, along with Stradofear's agreement by proxy :)

Art in violin making is clearly irrelevant, being as we one-off makers have so little in the way of competition... At the rate of 600,000 a year:

image3120465g.jpg

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Hey, that was Stradofear's 1000th post! Any thoughts on how to celebrate that???

How about with a fun caption for the photo? Something like:

"Yep, them guys like Charles Beare, Bernard Millant, Max Moller. Zenon Petesh, Etienne Vatelot, Carl Becker Jr, Vahakn Nigogosian, Andrew Hill, Walter Hamma, Rene Morel, Hans Weisshaar, Kenneth Warren, Dario D'Attili, Bruce Carlson, and William Moennig got it all wrong when they were judging them there violin making competitions. Trust me." :)

two%20thumbs%20up.jpeg

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How about with a fun caption for the photo? Something like:

"Yep, them guys like Charles Beare, Bernard Millant, Max Moller. Zenon Petesh, Etienne Vatelot, Carl Becker Jr, Vahakn Nigogosian, Andrew Hill, Walter Hamma, Rene Morel, Hans Weisshaar, Kenneth Warren, Dario D'Attili, Bruce Carlson, and William Moennig got it all wrong when they were judging them there{I believe its "dem thar} violin making competitions. Trust me." :)

But who am I to judge :):)

two%20thumbs%20up.jpeg

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How about with a fun caption for the photo? Something like:

"Yep, them guys like Charles Beare, Bernard Millant, Max Moller. Zenon Petesh, Etienne Vatelot, Carl Becker Jr, Vahakn Nigogosian, Andrew Hill, Walter Hamma, Rene Morel, Hans Weisshaar, Kenneth Warren, Dario D'Attili, Bruce Carlson, and William Moennig got it all wrong when they were judging them there violin making competitions. Trust me." :)

I don’t understand the irreverent post David? Why ridicule all those people who have contributed so much?

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I'm alittle confused. Maybe our definition of "art" is different, but if I am not mistaken all the following responses from this thread seems to indicate to me that what is being labled as "art" or "artistic sensibility" is not only relevant" but vital to the discussion for some violin makers.

Hi Robert,

Good question....

Almost imperceptibly asymmetric and avoid straight lines at all costs. Every time I try for high finish I ruin any spontaneity. :)

Bruce

You have expressed a more organic bias, and this serves as good example of why it's important to select competition judges who aren't locked into a particular point of view. Should "clean" instruments be unworthy of awards? Some of us might wish to see more "organic" instruments represented amongst the awards, but remember, judges can only choose from what is entered. If someone implies that "clean" instruments are more likely to win awards, it only exacerbates the problem.

There are several threads on this, including one from people here who have actually judged competitions, attempting to dispel some of the myths.

HERE IS ONE

Despite an under-representation of such instruments, things in a looser style reminiscent of Techler or Del Gesu have won awards, probably in proportion to the number of skilled entries.

Me too.
That's where I've settled as well. There may be more power in what is natural to the maker, than in what is contrived.

One thing to note about the major violin making competitions is that a definition of "flawless execution", if in fact the term is ever used, might not be the same as in other types of competitions. If I were given such a category to work with, I'd be looking for a style which "hangs together well", or has continuity of theme, and would not be looking at purfling corners with a microscope. Sure, I don't think judges want to give a workmanship award to an instrument which looks like it's about to fall apart. :)

Example from the most recent VSA Competition:

There was one instrument which was probably the cleanest and most meticulous I have ever seen. I think we all marveled over someone just being able to do work like that.

Did the instrument make it to the top?

Nope.

I don't know any of those judges personally that are listed, but I would have to imagine that if you sat them down over a beer, and asked them about some things that are being put into this category of "artistic" I would have to imagine at least a few would have to admidt (or want to admit) that some of their judgement is based on Artistic considerations.

The initial question of this thread was in effect what camp are you in. The progress of the thread demonstrated not only to some degree what "camp" people are in, but also to some degree the mindset of the people in those camps (for some). There is very few threads where people try to purposefully close off discussion of others, especially when the thread is energized and vital for those who are interested in the topic. Why does this thread raise such passions in some people?

So to say that those things related to "artistic" matters (and I am not sure if this is the right word but somehow word has shown up) is not relevant seems incorrect. It is like someone saying that the physics of acustics can't be relevant to violinmaking in any way, having been said by someone who not only has no knowledge of the subjuct but also for some personal or philosophical reason is against the idea entirely. That would not be the kind of person to be in a position to make that kind of judgement, I mean if you want to apprach it from a scientific perspective. So for those who are interested int he topic, shouldn't Maestronet be a place where there can be threads on this topic. I mean how may threads are there on the most beautiful or favorite scrolls, f-holes, varnish job and what view do you have out your window etc. There wasn't may people chiming in saying why are you wasting your time putting up these pictures. Stop it, it is irrelevant to what we are really doing, let's just get out our calipers, or develop some computer software that can calculate all this stuff and see which one is most perfect and and symetrical, see what varnish had the most flawless surface and be done with it.

Obviously not all people in "one camp of the other" fits what I am saying, but I think my post has validity none the less.

-Peter

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Peter, I can't speak for others, but one reason I mostly stayed out of the discussion is that "art" is one of those Dunning-Kruger things: the people who don't have it are probably the ones who are the most certain they do; the ones who do are the ones who are the least certain and are perpetually trying harder to get it right. That makes any real discussion about "what is art" confusing and non productive, and that's why my thumbs-up for John's opinion that what sells is at least an objective standard that we all can recognize.

It's easier to make a list of things that can't be used as objective markers because virtually everything qualifies (the issue of symmetry is a good one: something which is symmetrical is not necessarily art; something which isn't symmetrical is not necessarily art; art may be either symmetrical or asymmetrical.) There's no checklist.

My wife and I used to do art fairs, and yes, people really do say "I don't know about art, but I know what I like", and even more often "I don't know why that's so much money: I [my kid, my dog] could do that." Everyone's a critic.

I should own up to an opinion, since I'm on record with a speech and a long article about it, that I think a lot of the charm (not necessarily art) of Cremonse violins comes from the constant use of the most understandable and recognizable of geometric forms, the circle. Circles are all over nice Cremonese violins, and when makers who are "copying" them blend the circles and their junctions into a wandering (read "visually meaningless") mess I personally think the aesthetics suffer. Take one of my bridges apart, and you'll see that it's built from many circles (there are two big ones on opposite sides of the kidneys, for instance). Pounding a dead horse here, but the "beautiful" thing about curtate cycloid arching is that it's a breath away from being a circle, and when made carefully to spec (using templates is imperative, I think, to assure that it's unified and consistent--the same as templates are not optional for a Cremonese outline) the result can be called "beautiful". There's also the issue of why many circles are more attractive to us than using just one big one for the top and a bigger one for the bottom; that's where the issues of visual texture and which types of texture are desirable or undesirable come in and the question becomes more difficult (impossible?)

I can't say that this is "art" but I think it's an important component of the elegance of Cremonese design. What goes beyond that to further please one is a difficult question for me. Artists have maintained to me that the only artist violin maker was Andrea Amati, and that all subsequent makers are copyist/craftsmen rather than artists. That might be a valid point.

Should this discussion have been about beauty, rather than art?

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Should this discussion have been about beauty, rather than art?

That's an even bigger can of worms.

Have at it (troublemaker!), it'd be interesting, but basically it would be a rehash of what has been said here about art.

What I like about discussions such as this, is that, since there really are no correct or incorrect arguments, but only diverse individual opinions, the various replies become a window into the vastly different basic world views of those involved.

These discussions reveal virtually nothing about art or violins, but they reveal much about the posters.

And people are much more interesting than violins.

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I can't remember what kind of face I liked as a baby. Besides, it doesn't matter any more to me at this stage of my life.

On the other hand, I know an acquired taste when I encounter it. "Art" or "beauty" in whatever form are surely acquired tastes, in the sense that it is not mainly a product of genetics, but of cultural background and - most importantly - training/exposure.

Hock and good cognac can get one equally intoxicated. If the point of the exercise is to get intoxicated, it's probably better to stick to the hock. If imbibing such a type of beverage has higher aims than simply to get intoxicated, "acquiring" a "taste", amongst others, is a vital requirement for the civilized enjoyment of a substance which chemical analysis will show to consist to a large degree of an intoxicating drug. Its other attributes depend on a consensual verdict of "connoisseurs".

I myself would much rather be an expert on cognac than be a mindless imbiber of hock. Apart from other considerations, a glass of cognac might inspire one to ponder one's shortcomings in a not-too-painful manner, whereas a jug of hock might convince oneself of one's omniscience.

I don't know why I chose to talk about booze. I could have talked about women - or painting - or literature - or (heaven forbid) lutherie.

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That's an even bigger can of worms.

Have at it (troublemaker!), it'd be interesting, but basically it would be a rehash of what has been said here about art.

What I like about discussions such as this, is that, since there really are no correct or incorrect arguments, but only diverse individual opinions, the various replies become a window into the vastly different basic world views of those involved.

These discussions reveal virtually nothing about art or violins, but they reveal much about the posters.

And people are much more interesting than violins.

Hi ct,

For me the straight line is always a problem. Any part of an outline, an f hole or a scroll I like to see in continuous movement or flow from one point to another. It creates tension and movement. About the only things I ever do straight and flat are the ends of the f hole wings (not always), gluing surfaces in general and the sides of the pegbox. Even a totally flat chamfer, although it appears to be more definite and precise, gets on my nerves. It's nice to see just a trace of softness or roundness in the work.

Just a thought on the subject.

Bruce

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Hi ct,

For me the straight line is always a problem. Any part of an outline, an f hole or a scroll I like to see in continuous movement or flow from one point to another. It creates tension and movement. About the only things I ever do straight and flat are the ends of the f hole wings (not always), gluing surfaces in general and the sides of the pegbox. Even a totally flat chamfer, although it appears to be more definite and precise, gets on my nerves. It's nice to see just a trace of softness or roundness in the work.

Just a thought on the subject.

Bruce

Yes, there are specific things which we come to appreciate with regard to artistic refinement, in every field. With violins, it may be that the whole, is not really understood in terms of all the particulars required to impart a specific artistic impression, (as with Roman and Greek architecture) without intense study and exposure to the most artistic examples.

On the other hand, it is a personal journey.

Utter beauty may also present itself as only straight lines, where any curvature would weaken the impression of the whole.

The "illusions" incorporated by the early Italians, regarding construction minutia of the violin form, in order to bring such a cohesive result, which go beyond simple construction necessities, can only be the result of great artistic sensibilities. There are few accidents in such achievements.

post-3950-1265398234.jpg

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Yes, there are specific things which we come to appreciate with regard to artistic refinement, in every field. With violins, it may be that the whole, is not really understood in terms of all the particulars required to impart a specific artistic impression, (as with Roman and Greek architecture) without intense study and exposure to the most artistic examples.

On the other hand, it is a personal journey.

Utter beauty may also present itself as only straight lines, where any curvature would weaken the impression of the whole.

The "illusions" incorporated by the early Italians, regarding construction minutia of the violin form, in order to bring such a cohesive result, which go beyond simple construction necessities, can only be the result of great artistic sensibilities. There are few accidents in such achievements.

I forgot about crystalline forms but here's a round one I like. It's a Brothers Amati viola, cut down tenor, but the sondhole is spectacular, to my eye.

Bruce

post-29446-1265399197.jpg

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I forgot about crystalline forms but here's a round one I like. It's a Brothers Amati viola, cut down tenor, but the sondhole is spectacular, to my eye.

Bruce

I agree.

The absolute mastery of form/proportion is amazing. Not only the execution, but the placement - how it relates to everything around it, everything.

For many years when I looked at such things, I knew I liked them, but was never sure exactly what it was that I liked.

Only recenty have I come to the conclusion that, for me, it is as simple as the successful execution of an aesthetic idea, with the very fewest possible visual mistakes.

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Uh oh. My earlier post was meant to be light-hearted, and targeted at concepts, rather than the views of any one person. And it certainly wasn't intended to belittle all those experts in our field. Quite the contrary.

Plenty of people have criticized competitions…. see the reaction of some Italian makers in the quote earlier from Bruce, and note how their complaints seem to come from the opposite direction from what is usually seen here!

If something serious is to be taken from it, it might be that in our rather small and unique world of violin making, it’s useful to consider the views, and also the intent, of some of the people who have been considered “kingpins” or experts in the field (those I mentioned happen to have also served as VSA Competition judges). Hopefully, the views considered would be their real views, and not what we assume them to be, and not what we think they should be. Otherwise one could be lead down the wrong path. What one then does with that information is a matter of personal choice, depending on one’s personal taste, and objectives.

But what you might have noticed is that these people seem to have been criticized both for favoring work which is super clean, and also for failing to give it enough importance. So dang it, which is it? :) Probably neither. If it points anywhere, it’s probably back at the critics.

Is it possible to make instruments which are “too clean” to be embraced by this group? I suspect so, but the instrument I mentioned earlier which was “the cleanest I had ever seen”, which didn’t make it to the top, certainly had personality in its own way…. effectively conveying the personality of an extremely meticulous person, and this was done in a way to make it stand out from the group, and say, “Look at me”, without being a blatant departure from our craft. That alone is quite an accomplishment! No, no one I talked to had the impression that it was reminiscent of commercial or machine-made instruments.

What I personally encourage are some artifacts of individuality incorporated into a fiddle, so it’s not just “another jelly bean in the jar”. In my view, this can be pulled off on clean fiddles and rougher fiddles. I think it can be done with copies too. Copying really well is rare enough that it has an individuality of its own.

One maker comes to mind, who has done well in competitions, who does a “copy” by trying to work in the spirit, or mindset, or technique of a maker, rather than obsessing with details. Very nice stuff. Some of it’s pretty rough. He admires clean stuff too, but says that it’s “not really him” when it comes to his own making. I think he’s found his own “best fit” with the craft, and I think it shows.

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Only recenty have I come to the conclusion that, for me, it is as simple as the successful execution of an aesthetic idea, with the very fewest possible visual mistakes.

So then, in theory;

Regarding this Amati ff design.

If you could, and you can if you want to, what lines/proportions would you change?

How would you refine this further, that would result in an aesthetic improvement?

I've tried - (with Strad also) and the best I can do is different.

But in no way "better".

So, if this is an acquired taste, and I truly believe it is, then I guess I may have learned it “too well”

Which does not preclude the possibility of stepping completely outside of the classic Cremonese ideal, in order to accomplish something artistic.

Perhaps even "modern". Well, wait a minute, make that post-post-modern, since modern and post-modern have now both become passé...

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That's very similar to the Bros Amati cello f that I have used for everything from violin piccolos to the one cello I've made. It magnifies or reduces perfectly to fit anything I need it for:

amati-f.jpg

...................................

Beautiful F hole pics that you and Bruce show...No coincidence I think that they are Amati. Strado I have a similar Bros Amati F that I use exactly in the way you describe.

When I try to copy Bros Amati work I try to immerse myself in everything Amati I can find....After a few weeks of that, coming back to mature works of Strad , Bergonzi, and late DG I find they all look incredibly modern in style and are almost as detached from the Amati as we modern makers are.

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