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Followup to the Indianapolis blind study


David Burgess
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She doesn't claim such thing. And actually the test was set to determine which violin a player would decide to take home for further trial, not to find out which one was old or new, or Strad or Guarnerius.... the players didn't even know there was new and old ones, only that they would play fine violins and at least one Stradivarius... there are many important information in the Material and Methods. Forget about these 30% whatever they are!

For example the two persons who gave one of the Strad and the Guarneri, who are both members of the jury for the Indianapolis competition (now I don't know how well regarded is this competition, but it's not exactly an amateur contest), actually ended up choosing a new violin (obviously the most favoured violin of the test).

Again, and the author insists, there were limitations in the test, and the results are to be seen in the light of these limitations.

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in reading what doesnt look like a scientific paper at all but a short overview, im struck by a complete absence of information which was quoted in the old npr article, which surprisingly the link to has dissapeared from this thread, basically what theyre saying is there was one bad violin, a strad, that skewed the results toward the moderns, if the worst strad and the worst modern had been eliminated from the test it would be basically a dead tie. the npr article claimed what was tested was the ability to tell old from new, this article says it was all a preference test, actually the original article stated there were two tests, one to pick old vs new, and one which you would like to take home(preference) i dont know about the rest of you, but i would prefer to take home the strad, whether i liked its sound the best or not!!!

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She doesn't claim such thing. And actually the test was set to determine which violin a player would decide to take home for further trial, not to find out which one was old or new, or Strad or Guarnerius....

From the paper:

According to Langhoff (13), “any musician will tell you immediately whether an instrument he is playing on is an antique instrument or a modern one.”..........

............Our second set of test conditions, designed with the statements of Weinreich and Langhoff in mind, asked subjects to assess instruments rather quickly.

ie the "quickfire" section of the study was designed in part to test Langhoff's assertion that players could instantly tell old from new, so I think you are mistaken, Robert.

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Yes, I agree with you that the starting idea for test 2 might have been an answer to this question, but what I wrote was an answer the line from Lyndon post saying C.F claimed she had demonstrated there was no difference between old and new. But she didn't say that.

Even in test 2 the blindfold players were not asked to say which one was new or old, or which one was a strad or a modern one, just to chose the one they liked best on each set. they didn't even know they were playing a new one and a Cremonese. And I think the nature of the question makes quite a difference.

For example if the "question" was stated like this: You will play 2 violins by pair. In each pair there is a old violin worth $2m and a Modern. If you can find out which one is the old one then it's yours!

Well in this case I am pretty sure players would not look for the better sounding to their ears but for some clue (if they exist) that would define a old violin... :(

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lyndon's point about that Strad dog is something I too thought about.

It may have skewed the results as he suggests.

It may skew things a bit...But it also rather proves the point that age and-or maker alone do not constitute tonal quality....It rather begs the question ...what of the lost Strads? Did any of these go away because they just did not work? Also, that IF after 300 years of playing, working, tuning,new necks bass bars and ect. there are still dogs left in the heard, that the owners will allow to be scrutinized,then there must be less of a difference between old and new than previously assumed.

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If I would critique the test in one way ....it seems to me that by saying that at least one Strad is present in the test group,that this information could potentially give an edgy quality to the test.....we know that CT scans of the brain show more enjoyment of wine when the subject knows(or thinks they know) the wine is a such and such from the fertile valley of some exotic place...So while I can honestly say that I would try to test objectively for tone alone, knowing there's a Strad in the bunch,I could not honestly say that I could be completely objective in my choice. I don't know if there are ethical considerations with doing a test with less information available to the player...I do know that tests similar to the basket ball counting/ gorilla test are commonly conducted....and are very effective at uncovering bias and prejudge.just thoughts.

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It's difficult to say which is O1 violin, but if really it was made in 1700 and belonged to a well known 20th century violinist, belongs to a fundation and is loaned to gifted students, you can probably find out which one it is. I went to the list of Stradivarius instruments and there is one violin that matches this. Now whether it is a good or bad violin, I can't say.

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If I would critique the test in one way ....it seems to me that by saying that at least one Strad is present in the test group,that this information could potentially give an edgy quality to the test.....

I agree and I did write it on my previous post and erased it. But if one believes what is written it was really to attract good players. Yes it would be better to be completely anonymous. And actually one of the test players knew there was a Stradivarius and a Guarnerius, that is the one who lent the Guarnerius. Funnily he/she picked Modern N2 as the best sounding in this test... :)

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Sorry, I was such in a rush to answer Lyndon's unfair attacks, that I forgot to thank the others for your nice messages and your answers about projection.

And I hope more people will enter the conversation about that topic (projection, not old vs new! ;)).

Hi Claudia,

Here's a few comments that might help:

1. Oberlin's Warner Hall probably isn't very suitable for testing violin projection. We need a big hall that a good orchestra uses.

I've witnessed professional players evaluating projection in Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo NY while they were helping a fellow player choose which instrument to purchase.

The differences in "projection" were very apparent to them (even to me).

2. "Projection" might be related to how close to the bridge that an instrument can be played. Playing close emphasizes the higher harmonic frequencies and increases loudness, both of which might help projection.

Players often experiment to find how close to the bridge they can play an apparently it's important in making their choice. I would like to understand how violin construction influences this.

3. It would be interesting to have a double blind experiment done where all of the violins were new. "Expert" players and listeners would be asked if the violins were new or old.

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If you want to know exactly about the study, then read the scientific paper, which was published in a prestigious high impact journal (PNAS), after a double peer review.

This paper is available here (as it appeared in PNAS, except for the photos of course! ;-)):

http://www.lam.jussieu.fr/Membres/Fritz/HomePage/Indianapolis_paper.html

Everything else you can read in the media (for instance NPR) should be taken with a (large!) pinch of thought: it is not necessarily true, making often crude generalisations and twisting our results in a way I'm not responsible for (neither happy about!).

So if you criticize the study, fine, but please, do it based on the real paper which will tell you exactly what was done (and more importantly what was not done)! Otherwise, criticize the journalists.

Regarding John Cockburn post: you stopped the quote too quickly. "Assess" could refer to many different things. In our case, the question we asked the participants was, for each pair, "Which violin of the two do you prefer?" So the assessment was in terms of preference (~ overall quality), not in terms of age of the violin. Though this first part of the experiment was designed with the statements of Weinreich and Langhoff in mind, we didn't address the same issues. We kept their statement in mind to choose the duration, ie 1 min playing for each violin. But we neither asked them whether it was a student or a professional violin, nor we asked them whether they were old and new. They didn't even know that each pair was constituted by an old and a new violins.

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Regarding the recognition, most expert players are convinced that they can tell whether a violin is very old or new. It proved to be wrong in the conditions of the Indy experiment...(where does the study prove this??? it only "proved" that less than 50% of participants could tell the difference under the studies conditions)

However i'm ready to change my views if I find people who can consistently discriminate old violins from new ones. So I challenge you guys (in particular Lyndon :rolleyes: ) to come to my next experiment to show me that you can tell violins apart regarding their age! If you can't, they you'll be like basically everyone else, but if you can, then it will be a challenge for me to find what you're hearing and feeling to make your judgement. But before spending time and energy on this question (especially that many researchers and makers ahave already devoted their time to this, without success), I prefer to check first whether people can indeed really tell the difference. :)

roberto, if this isnt a clear statement from claudia that she believes there are no testable sound differences between old and new, i dont know what is, she obviously doesnt expect anyone to prove her wrong

claudia i graciously turn down your invitation to participate and suggest you contact joshua bell, or hillary hahn to take my place, my guess is they would not have much trouble seperating a strad from a modern.......

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Lyndon, she is open minded and that is why she is doing these kind of tests. She doesn't say there is no difference, simply that it's far from being so evident to everybody.

And she is nice enough to invite you to hear by yourself. You should go and make friend, and at the same time show that you have a good ear... ;)

As for me I don't have trouble to admit some people can hear many things I can't, including some minute differences in violins. But again, the real question will always be : Does different mean better?

Edit: Since you talked about H. Hahn or Bell, you could also add P. Zukerman and the late Stern... :rolleyes:

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youre putting words in her mouth, roberto, she said many players believe they can hear the difference, her study proved them wrong, i can only interpret that one way, that she doesnt think their are any differences, as to open mindedness, i dont agree, theres plenty of evidence for differences, including studies shes quoted but she ignores them just as i assume she ignores other people like me that hear differences,

i dont have a shop full of stradivaris, and im almost sold out of 1700s violins, but i know when i have them, 1700s violins dont sound anything like moderns, neither do 1900 violins sound like modern, usually, sound matures and often improves with age just like wine, why are all these xxiots so intent on denying it.....

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Hi Claudia and a hearty "welcome" to you.

Here are a few questions that I'd love to see discussed on this forum as that could be very constructive and fruitful:

* What is projection for you as a maker? as a player? as a listener?

As a maker, projection is simply getting played string frequencies [aka "music"] from Point A to Point B [the audience] preferably with both rich harmonic content & clarity.

As a player, same as above except I'd rather not hear any under-ear 'noise'. I want to hear what my audience hears.

As a listener, same as for maker above.

* What is the influence of the player on the projection of an instrument?

Substantial due to bow placement and attack. Due to differences in violin geometry [f-hole location, arching, etc.] I'll propose an additional Control Round be tested whereby the Player must bow glissandi with one important caveat - the bow must play directly across both upper f-hole eyes [NOT toward the fingerboard nor bridge]. This way, both players & listeners will be more readily exposed to inherent acoustic strengths & weaknesses projected by the different violins.

* What is the influence of the venue on the projection of an instrument?

The venue will not 'help' a crappy-sounding violin. ;)

* What is the influence on what is played?

The best-of-the-best violins can project both slow & uptempo equally well.

* What are the valid conditions to evaluate the projection of an instrument (for instance, what kind of accompaniment?) from the player's point of view? From the listener's point of view?

Just stay away from John Philip Sousa music accompaniment and everything will be alright. :lol:

* Do you think listeners would agree on projection when hearing different violins played by the same player?

If you have them focus on listening for rich harmonic content & clarity, perhaps so.

* Do you think the listeners' evaluation would agree with what the player thinks/estimates from what he hears under his ear?

For violins which require a Player to play in such a manner to compensate for under-ear noise, no.

* What are the elements to make a violin project? (for instance brightness?)

A well designed violin, decent strings and a competent Player.

* Do you think that instruments that are quiet under the ear can indeed project well?

Absolutely!

And one more question which does no relate to projection:

* Do you think you can recognize when a violinist plays on his own violin compared to other violins, behind a screen of course (so no body language!)?

IF they haven't practiced with a different fiddle AND the Player too is blindfolded, then maybe.

I wish you and your fellow researchers much success! :)

Jim

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And I hope more people will enter the conversation about that topic (projection, not old vs new! ;)).

I'm sure you are thinking in this direction ....but if not,

Perhaps some of the audio guys will have more/better input, but it seems that in order to thoroughly test for projection, an arrangement of Microphones and spectrum grabs from different areas of the room would be in order ...as well as an acoustic idea of the room it's self,what supportive elements are already present in the room...by being able to compare side by side different inputs of electronic origin you could reduce listener fatigue error...not to eliminate listener-player input from the results, but as an augmentation. I have no idea what types of mic's to use,CARLO? but for capturing amplitude and frequency, they do a good job.

My question is ...given a set energy input what freq's carry furthest.....my intuit says higher :blink:

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i dont want to get personal with ms fritz, but shes calling me a coward for not being able to travel to france for her test, for one thing, medical issues keep me from traveling, for another thing im not an expert on stradivaris

what claudia, david and all these testers dont seem to understand, is theyre waging war on antique violin dealers like me, and theyre surrounded by parrots, who think because a modern tested better than a strad, that a 500 chinese eastman is better than a 100 year old lowendal, if you have a distaste for antiques and antique violin dealers like me, why do you have to step it up a notch and basically fabricate data to prove your assertion that modern makers are better than 1700s one, whole bunch of hookah, i could easily devise a study that would give opposite results favouring antiques with the same shady psuedo science that goes into these studies

its not that your making up data so much, as your fabricating a scenario based on which violins you choose for the test, you werent allowed to set up the strads optimally, you were allowed to set up the moderns, you had a huge base to choose which modern and a very small base of strads to choose from, youre totally ignoring all the top soloists who pick stradivaris, accuseing them of being delusional idiots who just think their strad sounds better because of the name, well im calling your xxxx, you've done nothing but make things harder for restorers in the business, and so you expect me to be polite and civil

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i dont want to get personal with ms fritz, but shes calling me a coward for not being able to travel to france for her test, for one thing, medical issues keep me from traveling, for another thing im not an expert on stradivaris

what claudia, david and all these testers dont seem to understand, is theyre waging war on antique violin dealers like me, and theyre surrounded by parrots, who think because a modern tested better than a strad, that a 500 chinese eastman is better than a 100 year old lowendal, if you have a distaste for antiques and antique violin dealers like me, why do you have to step it up a notch and basically fabricate data to prove your assertion that modern makers are better than 1700s one, whole bunch of hookah, i could easily devise a study that would give opposite results favouring antiques with the same shady psuedo science that goes into these studies

its not that your making up data so much, as your fabricating a scenario based on which violins you choose for the test, you werent allowed to set up the strads optimally, you were allowed to set up the moderns, you had a huge base to choose which modern and a very small base of strads to choose from, youre totally ignoring all the top soloists who pick stradivaris, accuseing them of being delusional idiots who just think their strad sound better because of the name, well im calling your xxxx, you've done nothing but make things harder for restorers in the business, and so you expect me to be polite and civil

Lyndon : too many words...and you worry for nothing. The test did not show that moderns are better than Strads. That "betterness" can be assesed only by the soloists as a group. The test showed that some players of nondescript ability and familiarity with Cremonas and/or moderns might choose modern violins to take home for further trial and there is nothing either wrong or new about this. It is rather the norm. It can take a very long while for one to figure out why a violin pleasant to one's ear might not be quite as nice in front of a 100 strong orchestra, a 2500 people auditorium and the Tchaikovsky concerto to go.

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Lyndon, you have an incredible propensity for twisting Claudia's words to suit your objectives. :blink:

i can only interpret that one way, that she doesnt think their are any differences,

Then you are obviously not qualified to interpret either her words or her thoughts. :lol:

theres plenty of evidence for differences, including studies shes quoted but she ignores them just as i assume she ignores other people like me that hear differences,

Quoting a study is ignoring it? Oh good grief! :lol:

You were not ignored. On the contrary, you were invited to participate. But that's just one more example of the large gap between reality and your perceptions.

1700s violins dont sound anything like moderns, neither do 1900 violins sound like modern, usually, sound matures and often improves with age just like wine, why are all these xxiots so intent on denying it.....

If they are the idiots, rather than you, then accept the invitation and show what you can do. Incessant sniping from behind your keyboard isn't a substitute, and just isn't going to cut it!

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