Bruce Tai

Secrets in the wood (Stradivari's maple)

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6 hours ago, Janito said:

Wow - very transparent.

Or is it opaque?

Martin's post inspired me to write a mildly uncharitable comment (not directed at him), to which I subsequently applied Thumper's golden rule and decided to retract.

And then I made a cockup of the editing. :rolleyes:

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Why so coy?:rolleyes:

Bruce's research is surely controversial. I have already locked horns with him over the sample size, particularly since one of the 3 samples came from the alleged "Brancaccio" neck which was bought at Bongartz a few years back along with a very credible possiby Strad tailpiece. Since there is no conclusive proof that this neck (sans scroll) is original or was ever attached to a Strad, I feel it should be excluded. 

The absence of testing of other non-Strad or non-Cremonese instruments of the same period (circa 1700) means that for me there are no conclusions to be drawn, or at least, no conclusions that relate in any way to Stradivari or Cremonese violins in general.

I wouldn't dispute the scientific rigour with which the samples were tested, or the conclusions as to what they contain. i just can't see how this information advances our understanding of violin-making in any way. 

Maybe Carl can explain it to me :lol:

 

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15 minutes ago, martin swan said:

I wouldn't dispute the scientific rigour with which the samples were tested, or the conclusions as to what they contain. i just can't see how this information advances our understanding of violin-making in any way. 

Maybe Carl can explain it to me :lol:

 

Sure.

Everybody here seems to over-worry about the conclusions/speculations. That's pretty irrelevant. For a great deal of Cremonese instruments we can not be absolutely sure as to their provenance. What is important here is that some data has been gathered. When more data will be coming things will become clearer one way or the other. Either way, it'll be better than before. For the moment, we know nothing and just gathering some data, reliably measured, is SUPER. 

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32 minutes ago, carl stross said:

Sure.

Everybody here seems to over-worry about the conclusions/speculations. That's pretty irrelevant.

Haven't you yourself spent quite a bit of effort on over-worrying about the "Fritz" testings and conclusions?

Nothin' wrong with doing that, but please try to be consistent with your worry level, lest people start to notice incongruities, suggesting prejudice and bias on your end. ;)

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35 minutes ago, carl stross said:

For a great deal of Cremonese instruments we can not be absolutely sure as to their provenance. What is important here is that some data has been gathered. 

You are out on a major limb here ...

Either we can be sure an instrument is Cremonese, in which case it's worth building some kind of a case around that certainty, or we can't be sure, in which case we have nothing (not even the centuries' old preferences of TOP SOLOISTS).

Personally I am pretty satisfied with the current state of expertise, and with the canon of reference examples, particularly when we can involve dendrochronology in corroboration.

My point (a pretty simple point I would have thought) is that we would need to take samples from many contemporaneous instruments to find out if there is in fact anything unusual about the "treatment" of Stradivari wood. Even if Cremonese violins as a group (as distinct from early 18th century Florentine or Venetian violins) could be shown to have a unique mineral signature, that would make me wake up. But for now I will continue snoozing ...

To go from "two/three samples from Stradivari wood show a consistently unique chemical signature" to "Stradivari was treating wood for acoustic reasons" seems to me to be a huge leap, and since we don't even have evidence for the former I don't see how we could even begin to speculate about the latter.

 

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

My point (a pretty simple point I would have thought) is that we would need to take samples from many contemporaneous instruments to find out if there is in fact anything unusual about the "treatment" of Stradivari wood. Even if Cremonese violins as a group (as distinct from early 18th century Florentine or Venetian violins) could be shown to have a unique mineral signature, that would make me wake up. But for now I will continue snoozing ...

Your point is clear. My point is that "we" can do nothing about this lacking both equipment and expertise. Neither is trivial - not like I'd ask some buddy to use his electronic microscope. This is cutting edge stuff.  I think we should say "Thank you very much" for whatever we get and ignore speculations/theories etc from researchers. At this very incipient stage, anything is better than nothing. I don't think Bruce worries about waking "us" up. 

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Haven't you yourself spent quite a bit of effort on over-worrying about the "Fritz" testings and conclusions?

Nothin' wrong with doing that, but please try to be consistent with your worry level, lest people start to notice incongruities, suggesting prejudice and bias on your end. ;)

But didn't I tell you more than once that I am a snob packed with prejudice and bias ??? :lol: 

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7 hours ago, carl stross said:

But didn't I tell you more than once that I am a snob packed with prejudice and bias ??? :lol: 

Thanks for clearing that up.  Some of us here figured you were filled with something else entirely.  :ph34r:;)

9 hours ago, martin swan said:

My point (a pretty simple point I would have thought) is that we would need to take samples from many contemporaneous instruments to find out if there is in fact anything unusual about the "treatment" of Stradivari wood. Even if Cremonese violins as a group (as distinct from early 18th century Florentine or Venetian violins) could be shown to have a unique mineral signature, that would make me wake up. But for now I will continue snoozing ...

To go from "two/three samples from Stradivari wood show a consistently unique chemical signature" to "Stradivari was treating wood for acoustic reasons" seems to me to be a huge leap, and since we don't even have evidence for the former I don't see how we could even begin to speculate about the latter.

 

To have an unquestionably fair study, I feel that Bruce should sample and publish control groups of Saxon and Mirecourt fiddles to compare with his Cremonese.  He should have no problem finding examples to test.  :lol:

Oh, and I found an excellent quote to toss into this discussion.  "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." -Sherlock Holmes :)

 

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3 hours ago, Violadamore said:

To have an unquestionably fair study, I feel that Bruce should sample and publish control groups of Saxon and Mirecourt fiddles to compare with his Cremonese.  He should have no problem finding examples to test.  :lol:

Small sample is not always too critical if the results are VERY specific. Like I had tone bars measurements off two Lloyd Loar F-5 mandolins ("Strad" of mandolins for those who don't know) and the heights were exactly same on both (to 10th of mm). It's hard to get them measured so from sample of 2 mandolins out of ~250 in existence you can guess answer to question whether hey were tap-tuned by removing material from the bars or built to numbers.... When I calculated (or beter said estimated) probability that 2 random examples will have same (to 1/10 mm) thicknesses of both tonebars (bass was diferent than treble bar)  I found it would be way below 2% with typical ranges of stifness and density in mind. Anf if I took smaller range (better selection process) I found out that  the probablillity maxes at 5% when the range is diminished to extremely consistent wood choice (which was clearly not their best effort as tops often had each half from different tree (and glued up with arbitary edges -inside or outside of tree together).

Comparison of other fiddles may be interesting only in case he founds similar traces in tem, If he doesn't it shows nothing at all as the minerals may be result of unintentional treatment of one certain wood supplier. Nothing Strad could control.

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4 hours ago, Violadamore said:

Thanks for clearing that up.  Some of us here figured you were filled with something else entirely:ph34r:;)

 

Really not the case. I'm fool of crap - no space left for "something else entirely", whatever that is.

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As Martin pointed out, the "Brancaccio" neck should be assumed fake as there is no verifiable evidence whatsoever to prove that it is from a Strad. The extraordinary claim that it is from a (conveniently) "lost" Strad requires extraordinary proof, and there is no proof of its origin. Since tens of thousands of grafted necks have been manufactured over the centuries, the chances that this particular neck came from a long lost Strad are infinity small.

The other actual source instruments are deliberately kept secret, so it is impossible to independently verify the provenance and history of the alleged instruments or even if the wood actually came from Cremonese instruments or if the wood samples were part of the original construction these instruments. 

Real science is based on verifiable facts that can be independently confirmed and/or tested. Tai's pseudoscience fails this test of genuine science from the very start. And it gets increasingly worse from there. Tai's analyses and conclusions are riddled with confirmation bias to support his extraordinary claims to have found some "secrets" of Stradivari. 

People who believe that Tai's "data" and conclusions do so only because they want to believe them, not because there is any credible science to support them. 

 

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From looking at the "metals" analyses, what I see is that the old samples varied wildly, not that they indicate any "lost" treatment. Indeed I would like to see the silica content too, as that signature could also match pozzolano in one sample and garnet in another. Both were used for sanding before commercial sandpapers came along.

So I agree with those who want more data before the null hypothesis can be discarded. That means similar analyses of nore instruments of similar age, from different regions.

Caveat: I am not a luthier nor a musician, my degrees are in chemistry and geology.

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On 29 septembre 2017 at 2:05 AM, Don Noon said:

I'm just being a stickler for word usage.  "Superior" implies an intrinsic, objective quality better than others, whereas it is really a preference... which can change depending on what sound is in vogue.  As Addie posted, other makers have been preferred at other times.  So, although I agree that currently the Cremonese sound is widely preferred, I disagree with the use of "superior".

For what it's worth: 

last saturday at Mondomusica, an orchestra of a dozen young talents was performing (one of them seemingly on a Gagliano 1773).

Acoustic conditions were not optimal for a concert (background noise, moquette, etc) but the music was enjoyable

At one point, someone started to play a Niccolo Amati 1665 violin in the J & A Beare booth behind us.

 

You could hear the Amati's voice clear above the orchestra and the fair's background noise, to the point that people in the front rows were looking at their backs to check what was disturbing the concert so distinctly .

Amazing experience!

ciao,

sug

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This is quite an interesting demonstration of what might be considered an objective measure of violin quality.

Obviously Zuckerman may have a more aggressive tone, but in this recording be appears to be playing down quite deliberately. And yet his sound is right on top of the orchestra, always articulate and discernible. Adamyan's sound just gets lost, unless there's a suitable hole in the orchestration ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJS1TAxbChg

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

And yet his sound is right on top of the orchestra, always articulate and discernible. Adamyan's sound just gets lost, unless there's a suitable hole in the orchestration ...

Funny, I found exactly the opposite listening to this.  But, either way, the recording setup could be playing a large influence.

I saw Zuckerman and someone else playing this exact piece about a year ago in concert locally.  I couldn't hear him then, either.

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

This is quite an interesting demonstration of what might be considered an objective measure of violin quality.

Obviously Zuckerman may have a more aggressive tone, but in this recording be appears to be playing down quite deliberately. And yet his sound is right on top of the orchestra, always articulate and discernible. Adamyan's sound just gets lost, unless there's a suitable hole in the orchestration ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJS1TAxbChg

 

13 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Funny, I found exactly the opposite listening to this.  But, either way, the recording setup could be playing a large influence.

I saw Zuckerman and someone else playing this exact piece about a year ago in concert locally.  I couldn't hear him then, either.

I thought Adamyan was right up there and not drowned out. I also think that Zuckerman was holding back. 

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16 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Funny, I found exactly the opposite listening to this.  But, either way, the recording setup could be playing a large influence.

I saw Zuckerman and someone else playing this exact piece about a year ago in concert locally.  I couldn't hear him then, either.

http://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/fulltext/2003/10000/Hearing_aids_and_room_acoustics.3.aspx

http://www.hearingreview.com/2013/05/the-acoustics-of-hearing-aids-standing-waves-damping-and-flared-tubes-2/

http://www.hearingreview.com/2013/05/the-acoustics-of-hearing-aids-part-2-a-closer-look-at-boyle-s-law/

:ph34r:;) [Scampers away hurriedly]

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In this case I think the recording set-up is pretty good for making a comparison. it's a loose stereo image which doesn't favour either player.

I know this piece pretty well (both voices) and am really struggling to hear Adamyan when it's both violins and full orchestra. Zuckerman's part on the other hand is always audible in every detail, particularly in the midrange.

Adamyan has a really nice tone, but her instrument isn't distinctive and sounds narrow and airy. Plenty of power when there are holes in the orchestration, but it really doesn't cut through in the tuttis.

Or maybe this just proves that my idea of an objective criterion (audibility) isn't so objective after all :lol:

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

Adamyan's sound just gets lost, unless there's a suitable hole in the orchestration ...

 

She plays timidly and has an ineffective vibrato - no conclusion to be drawn there, she's very young.

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16 minutes ago, carl stross said:

She plays timidly and has an ineffective vibrato - no conclusion to be drawn there, she's very young.

Disagree - she looks a bit timid but her playing is quite strong, and she has a big bold vibrato.

Maybe this illustrates how difficult it is to assess projection while simultaneously using one's eyes.

However, this isn't really what the thread is about ... sorry for the distraction! 

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25 minutes ago, martin swan said:

In this case I think the recording set-up is pretty good for making a comparison. it's a loose stereo image which doesn't favour either player.

I know this piece pretty well (both voices) and am really struggling to hear Adamyan when it's both violins and full orchestra. Zuckerman's part on the other hand is always audible in every detail, particularly in the midrange.

Adamyan has a really nice tone, but her instrument isn't distinctive and sounds narrow and airy. Plenty of power when there are holes in the orchestration, but it really doesn't cut through in the tuttis.

Or maybe this just proves that my idea of an objective criterion (audibility) isn't so objective after all :lol:

Or that different people have hearing loss at different frequencies and severity. :unsure:

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54 minutes ago, Jim Bress said:

Or that different people have hearing loss at different frequencies and severity. :unsure:

Do you mind speaking up a bit ...?

:D

I can't hear anything above 5kHz other than the rustle of banknotes.

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19 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Do you mind speaking up a bit ...?

:D

I can't hear anything above 5kHz other than the rustle of banknotes.

The high ones go first.  Banknotes and hearing frequencies.

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3 hours ago, carl stross said:

She plays timidly and has an ineffective vibrato - no conclusion to be drawn there, she's very young.

 

3 hours ago, martin swan said:

Disagree - she looks a bit timid but her playing is quite strong, and she has a big bold vibrato.

 

:lol:

2nd Mov is slow enough for you to get the vibrato thingy...  

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