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joerobson

2014 Inianapolis VSA Non-winners

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Ms. Ngwenyama was also the listening judge for the quartet competition.

 

She sounds like a fine musician.

 

By the way, Jerry : what's the procedure when scores from two different judges differ past a certain margin ? Basically, how is the tone judging done ?

Also, what criteria make a tone judgment ?

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But then there's the little anomaly of Jeff Phillips scoring a gold medal in violin for 3 years in a row.  Such a feat should be virtually impossible if true randomness was a dominating factor

Don,

This isn't the state lottery where nothing but dumb luck counts. We have no reason to expect "true randomness." This is supposed to be a meritocracy, and winning three years in a row shouldn't cause any doubts about the fairness of it.

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This is the first time the entire spreadsheet of scores is available to VSA members and competitors, not just personal scores. I am curious if the competitors feel the extra figures give more insight towards their future making.

 

 

I have never participated in the VSA, only to Cremona Triennale where the scores are always made ​​public on the internet but without the names of the jurors.

For me it is useful to compare personal scores with those of the instruments awarded, to see the gap that separates them from winners, trying to learn something from what the jury did not like about my work.

It is also useful to know the name of the juror, in this the VSA is definitely better than the Cremona Triennale : I think this empowers more the members of the jury on the scores that they give.

 

Davide

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Don,

This isn't the state lottery where nothing but dumb luck counts. We have no reason to expect "true randomness." This is supposed to be a meritocracy, and winning three years in a row shouldn't cause any doubts about the fairness of it.

 

I definitely agree, and brought up Phillips' accomplishment as evidence to refute the idea that the tone judging is dominated by randomness.

 

This is the first time the entire spreadsheet of scores is available to VSA members and competitors, not just personal scores. I am curious if the competitors feel the extra figures give more insight towards their future making.

 

For me it is useful to compare personal scores with those of the instruments awarded, to see the gap that separates them from winners, trying to learn something from what the jury did not like about my work.

 

Jerry, this is definitely a great step forward, and I wonder if the score postings were instigated by my recommendations (or complaints) after the 2012 competition, where I noted that scores were not that informative without knowing what curve you were being graded on.  Unfortunately, a "Did Not Advance" grade only vaguely says you need to do a lot more work... although I understand that giving everyone numerical scores this year was out of the question, due to the number of instruments and the reduction of time (this year) available for the judging process.  So I'm not complaining; it's as good a system as I think is humanly possible.  Thanks.

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She sounds like a fine musician.

By the way, Jerry : what's the procedure when scores from two different judges differ past a certain margin ? Basically, how is the tone judging done ?

Also, what criteria make a tone judgment ?

Carl,

The tone judging is done in three rounds: Preliminary, Evaluation, and Medal.

In the Preliminary round each judge plays every instrument and scores them independently on an "advance", "do not advance" basis. Any instrument that earns at least 2 "do not advance" votes in this round is out of the competition. No instrument is out without the votes of at least 2 out of the 3 judges.

In the Evaluation round, instruments that made it through the preliminaries are again scored by each judge independently. In this round they are scored on a point system from 1-3, 3 being the best.

The Medal round is the final, in this round the judges work together. They are given the results from the evaluation round sorted from highest score to not so highest score, and are tasked with drawing a line between unlike scores. Instruments above the line will all receive at least a certificate of merit, but more importantly will be in consideration for a gold medal recommendation. This means that the judges cannot draw the cut off line between two instruments that both scored a "7" but would have to draw the line between scores of "7" and "8" or scores of "6" and "7".

Once this cutoff line is drawn, any instrument above the line is considered for a gold medal recommendation regardless of numerical score. The judges play for each other, discuss, argue, kick and scratch to come up with instruments they all agree are deserving of gold recommendations. There is NO protocol on how many golds can be recommended or if any should be recommended, it is the judges group decision entirely.

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and gets a certificate in workmanship, it is a gold medal.

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and does not get a certificate in workmanship, it is a silver medal for tone.

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and by the workmanship judges it is a double gold....this is very, very rare.

I hope this was clear.

Jerry

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Jerry, this is definitely a great step forward, and I wonder if the score postings were instigated by my recommendations (or complaints) after the 2012 competition, where I noted that scores were not that informative without knowing what curve you were being graded on. Unfortunately, a "Did Not Advance" grade only vaguely says you need to do a lot more work... although I understand that giving everyone numerical scores this year was out of the question, due to the number of instruments and the reduction of time (this year) available for the judging process. So I'm not complaining; it's as good a system as I think is humanly possible. Thanks.

Don,

It has always been an issue as to what the scores really mean if they are not in context. Yes your voice as well as others helped with this decision. I also wanted to give makers as much information on where they need improvement as we possibly could. If you parse the numbers and see that your varnish was in the top 10 percent but your scroll was in the bottom 20 percent you would know it is time to start some practice scrolls.

The competition has grown to a point that we had to either change the preliminary round scoring protocol, or limit the number of entries. I do not believe it is consistent with the VSA mission to block anyone from competing.

Jp

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The quality of all the instruments in the exhibit room (hors display) was fantastic.  I went through there several times.  I hear about famous makers and see their adds and wonder how much better they are than my work.  Well this was a chance to see and hear, first hand, how good their work is.  This was the best exhibit the VSA has ever had of this type of new stuff.  This room and the competition instruments were of the highest quality. 

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Carl,

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and gets a certificate in workmanship, it is a gold medal.

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and does not get a certificate in workmanship, it is a silver medal for tone.

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and by the workmanship judges it is a double gold....this is very, very rare.

I hope this was clear.

Jerry

Does the reverse also apply?

 

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the worksmanship judges and gets a certificate in tone, it is a gold medal.

 

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the worksmanship judges and does not get a certificate in tone, it is a silver medal for worksmanship.

 

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and by the workmanship judges it is a double gold....this is very, very rare.

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Does the reverse also apply?

 

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the worksmanship judges and gets a certificate in tone, it is a gold medal.

 

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the worksmanship judges and does not get a certificate in tone, it is a silver medal for worksmanship.

 

If an instrument is recommended for gold by the tone judges and by the workmanship judges it is a double gold....this is very, very rare.

Yes, Carl was asking about the tone judging, but the reverse applies. The judging protocol however is different.

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I found the trip well worth while.  I haven't seen violins anywhere first hand, and handled them, and really examined them.  I've only worked from photos.  I was somewhat surprised that many had guitar like smooth finishes, or else they went the other way and had antiquing.  Some of the antiquing was really believable, some wasn't.  I noticed that center mount chin rests are preferred, and a strange looking tailpiece with rollers was on a few violas.  It looked kind of cool.  There was a lot of cool looking instruments.

I also noticed that if anything is out of place, it stands out like a sore thumb.

The Peter of Mantua in the exhibition room was very nice.  The edge work is quite deep, but somehow the roundness of the edge, and how small it actually is, makes it look almost dainty, and it doesn't really stand out.  But at the same time other instruments from Mantua had absolutely no undercut at all, and it looked like the edge was 4.5 mm or more thick. There was more variance on that one table, than the entire competition.

Some of the wood was outstanding.  I like when the spruce comes through to steal some of the glory from the maple.  I have a preference for the more 'floaty' looking maple; the stuff that has deep wide curl that looks like clouds.  That is just my personal preference though.

It was fun.

Ken

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Now that the dust has settled around the competition the real impact of the meeting emerges.  Congratulations are due to those who rightfully took home prizes.  However the real work of VSA is education.  Seeing all that amazing work in the Competition Room, the range of discussions in the rooms and lobby, the formal discussions, the displayed instruments both new and old are what will sustain and encourage the work of violin making.

Aside from the "winners" what caught your eye, inspired you, or fired your imagination while you were attending the convention?

For me?  The back of Stephan von Baehr' cello....daring antiquing.  The ribs on Antoine Nedelec's violin..he can do more with less material than anyone.  Benjamin Ruth's latest violin...not in the competion room, but in the lobby.  A Santo Seraphin violin by a student from the Cremona School: Melina Polizzi...great varnish and great application.

on we go,

Joe

 

I wasn't there, and will not be at any other meetings, of any kind, anywhere. (unless they decide that Roswell is THE place to hold their competition...) 

And so, I cannot comment on anything done or held recently, from firsthand knowledge or from my own observations.

However, I have been to enough of them, to comment in general, which, of course, I will do here.

 

Joe - I believe that you are correct. I always learned much more from the surrounding people, and their violins viewed and tried in person, than I did from the judging and competition. Though the competitions always did seem to weed through the necessary glut of stuff, and come up with the best of the best. I have never had a complaint with the judging at any of the competitions I've been to.

 

But the various meetings, lectures, and classroom events were always most instructive - the dealers there, were also an interesting addendum to the event - and it was always very very interesting to talk with them. It seemed that much of the "dope" regarding the violin world, could be gotten from them.

Tone wood suppliers - parts suppliers - varnish suppliers/makers, and etc. it was always the high point of... my well, my life, back in those years, going to and participating in such events.

 

Even though there are the occasional complaints from various participants - even such things were interesting to deal with. I have no regrets, either just traveling to and being a part of such things as this or even being a member of the staff dealing with the instruments and the judging.

It's all good. 

When and if the VSA ever decides to come back to Albuquerque, I'll be there and meet some of you face to face.

I promise.

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At least the instruments are played by actual musicians in an ATTEMPT to evaluate tone at VSA competitions. The bows are simply in what amounts to a beauty pagent - no one plays them and consequently there are no tone or playability awards for bowmakers.

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I noticed a substantial crater (~0.5cm) in the varnish layer of the back of one of the Balestrieris showing the substantial thickness of the varnish.

 

I was struck by the marked contrast to the majority of competition instruments that had very thin varnish layers.

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Is a brand new violin (viola, cello etc) supposed to sound great?

 

Isn't it supposed to improve,get better as you play it and get aged?

 

I've seen many instruments 'sounded great'  for a few years when it was new but not so great

,say 5 years later,especially if the top and back are  made too thin.

 

I'm wondering how the gold (or tone certificates) winning instruments of the past sound now.

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At least the instruments are played by actual musicians in an ATTEMPT to evaluate tone at VSA competitions. The bows are simply in what amounts to a beauty pagent - no one plays them and consequently there are no tone or playability awards for bowmakers.

 

Well, perhaps in the future there will be a bow making competition, specifically - One that also includes such things as "playability" ?

Since I was never into making bows, I have never really noticed if there was a specific event dedicated to bows, and not to violins.

 

The fact that there are bows at a violin making competition - you're right about that, it is almost incidental, and the "beauty pageant" analogy is near a correct attribution to the fact of such awards .

There are enough bow makers, that if they were to get together and start something like this, regarding their attempts, their accomplishments, and their products, well then, such a thing would occur. I mean judging these qualities. And I do believe that there is enough interest in bow making today to make such an idea, such an event work.

So, I'm thinking that if there is no such event, there could well be one...

Even if it is a sidekick (of sorts) to the violin making events.

 

I'm going to start bow making now.

Perhaps I'll attempt to get something like a bow making competition going, after I make a few.

It's a great idea, and I'm a bit at a disadvantage regarding my ability to do anything that might entail that much travel or "in person" appearances, these days, simply because of my age, and my dialysis schedule, and all that, but this is a great idea.

Something that a few years ago I would definitely have 'bit on' and followed through just for the he double l of it.

Perhaps this aspect of a bow making competition and such thorough judging, CAN be accomplished now.

I see no reason why not. All somebody needs to do, is to start something like this, and recruit enough people with enough interest, and ability to travel, and all the rest of the ect.'s necessary...

After something like this is started, the inertia will usually carry it on in the future, if enough people are interested and involved.

 

Great post and great idea, Eric.

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At least the instruments are played by actual musicians in an ATTEMPT to evaluate tone at VSA competitions. The bows are simply in what amounts to a beauty pagent - no one plays them and consequently there are no tone or playability awards for bowmakers.

The bows are in fact judged on playability, just not by being played.

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How is this accomplished?

 

I'm just curious, as I've never really been in the "bow" arena.

Good makers will be able to tell by looking and feeling a bow if it will play well, all of the judges are Great makers.  Tone will change depending on which player is playing and on which instrument.  If you take a half a dozen bows and chose which one sounds best, then change either the player or the instrument, more likely than not a different winner would be chosen.

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