Ratcliffiddles

Messiah wood (again....)

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5 hours ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

 

Sorry about the music...

 

I wouldn't be too worried about the remarks - there are many different preferences in reception of information, some are distracted by music, others it helps. So It's always a compromise solution. The advantage here is that it's possible to listen several times if something isn't understood in the first place.

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The sound has distortion in it if we're going to be sticklers on the soundtrack.   It's no big deal unless production quality is real important.   It left me curious about a few things in dendrochronolgy you might address in the video, like how well one end of the tree coincides with the other, and it must be a lot more involved than the simple formula you showed.  In fact it would be interesting to make a video on dendrochronology itself, in enough detail to satisfy a statistically sophisticated viewer.

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I've sacked the soundtrack "engineer" ....


Bill, regarding your question, it depends entirely on the tree's environment. I actually believe that the tree that was used to make the Messiah, and very likely the others I talk about, had seriously disturbed growth.  The oldest rings at the centre of the tree are often unrepresentative of any common signal, as the factors that drive juvenile growth are only vaguely related to the ones driving later, more mature growth.  Many spruce trees suffer from compression on one side of the log. This would often be caused by inclination of the terrain. This would result in one side producing generally narrower rings, sometimes substantially different, especially in the centre of the tree.  The results of this eccentric growth would naturally be more rings over the same distance.  


In terms of stats, I use the t-value according to Baillie and Pilcher (1973).  Prior to calculate this t-value, the Pearson's correlation r is determined after normalizing the data (a formula that they devised which also removes autocorrelation.) It is not perfect, but really does identify a good proportion of tree-ring patterns of kindred, contemporaneous growth. As mentioned, this formula is use in professional tree-ring cross-dating software.
Since as it is an accepted and widely used formula, I have no qualms in using it as it was devised, and also in its more advanced form, using techniques which involves testing individual segments of data, such as two consecutive halves of the same series, in order to identify consistent, consecutive dates for those separate segments.  This further reduces the possibility of spurious correlations over the whole series.  


The point of the video is to show that using this accepted formula against the whole database, the most significant results are with data from instruments, not Master references, or any others. Furthermore all refer to instruments made in the early 18th century, and several are by Stradivari.  It is not absolute proof that all these instruments are from the same log, but my question surrounds the coincidences, both statistical and what these overall most significant results refer to.  Why are those other 4 Stradivari made in the year 1717? Did Stradivari acquire 5 portions of 5 different trees to manufacture these 5 violins (including the Messiah), considering that they were all made at the same period? I suspect that, as he appears to have done on most of his other instruments, certainly from about 1695, that he produced multiple instruments from a single log. 

The comparison between the two sides of the Messiah is interesting.  I make the assumption that the two halves are from the same tree, based on the fact that their data correlate significantly, and that out of the whole database, although it is not the most significant result, it is amongst them.  The curves or ring patterns of these two sides show some differences, which I believe indicate significant inner tree variations rather than wood from a different tree.  As can be seen on the graphical comparison between the treble side of the Messiah and that of the ex-Wilhelmj, the curves are far more closely related and the t-value significantly superior.  The overall conclusions are based on the extent of the population and I think are reasonable in view on the context.    
   

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7 hours ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

 I suspect that, as he appears to have done on most of his other instruments, certainly from about 1695, that he produced multiple instruments from a single log. 

  
   

This only makes the most logical sense. If you procure a large quantity of good wood, all from the same tree, I believe you have a better chance of producing consistent quality instruments from exclusively using this wood.

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On 19/12/2017 at 9:33 AM, Ratcliffiddles said:

 


The point of the video is to show that using this accepted formula against the whole database, the most significant results are with data from instruments, not Master references, or any others. Furthermore all refer to instruments made in the early 18th century, and several are by Stradivari.  It is not absolute proof that all these instruments are from the same log, but my question surrounds the coincidences, both statistical and what these overall most significant results refer to.  Why are those other 4 Stradivari made in the year 1717? Did Stradivari acquire 5 portions of 5 different trees to manufacture these 5 violins (including the Messiah), considering that they were all made at the same period? I suspect that, as he appears to have done on most of his other instruments, certainly from about 1695, that he produced multiple instruments from a single log. 


   

Peter, 

I'm being a pain to ask this on Maestronet, but there can often be a problem in forensic science where it becomes "too precise". For example, if one used absolute precision in identifying a person's face, you would probably come to the conclusion that each half would have to have come from a different person because of their dissimilarity. 

In the case of dendrochronology, I'm aware that the graphs drawn from two book-matched sides of the same billet will give slightly different readings because a tree is not a perfect cylinder and subject to all kind of tensions, so this will be the case even when I categorically can prove the adjacency of two halves of a front. 

With maple, we can be certifiably certain that an old instrument was made with adjacent wood because the flames mirror each other. In the same vein, we can be certifiably certain that the two sides of the Messiah are the most related that two pieces of wood can possibly be owing to the mirroring of the band of narrow tree rings in centre of the front, let alone the mirroring of the broadening of the grain throughout the belly. These things are all common sense... 

So is there a point where essentially dendrochronology is too precise?

By using some kind of filter that makes the results less finely tuned, would we actually produce more interpretable results? Are some of the relationships that appear inconclusive actually a factor of over magnification?  

 

 

 

MessieFrontMiddle.thumb.JPG.cfdb8e7bcbe66a224159f52b90275db4.JPG

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Generally, I don't think so Ben.

In the case of the Messiah wood, the fact is that the highly probable (for the reasons explained throughout the documentary) same tree relationships do not obtain the same level of crossmatching significance seen  between, for example, the other batch of Strads mentioned (Alard, Titian Reifenberg, Fontaine etc....).  Typically, these have t-value results of between 12 and 18 between each other, whilst the Messiah "batch" are between 7 and just over 11.

You said: “In the same vein, we can be certifiably certain that the two sides of the Messiah are the most related that two pieces of wood can possibly be owing to the mirroring of the band of narrow tree rings in centre of the front, let alone the mirroring of the broadening of the grain throughout the belly”.   But one of the significant points is that they are not the most related!   Again, as shown in the video, the relationship between the 2 halves of the Messiah is not the most important recorded during the analysis and it seems obvious to me that the other, matching piece from the 1724 Ex-Wilhelmj is graphically (and statistically) a far better match, therefore originally situated much closer within the log.  In practical terms, what this means is that the Messiah halves are not book-matched.  This situation which, for many modern makers is inconceivable (only as a result of present-day tonewood processing) is extremely common in classical Italian instruments (and from some other provenances), including those of the Stradivari workshop.

Sometimes these statistical results are driven and boosted by a number of key, signature years, characterized by contemporaneous rings of relatively wide or narrow amplitude compared to their neighboring rings.   Essentially, this means that the differences between tree ring patterns from one batch are more pronounced than those from another batch.  Why? we can only speculate here, but I suspect the Messiah batch (as we can reasonably, although not certifiably assume, that the various pieces are from the same tree, see documentary if you haven't..) is from a tree with significant growing issues, which include eccentricity/ reaction wood etc.. which, inevitably caused discrepancies throughout the tree, whereas the other tree had a much more even growth behaviour throughout the log. 

Interestingly, one of the pieces from one of the 1717 Stradivari instruments does show an overall and significant physical deviation of the grain at its lower end, which supports the hypothesis of reaction wood, whereby the tree-growth was striving for verticality, with all the tree-ring growth anomalies that this situation would produce.

Ultimately, statistical criteria for a same tree match are guidelines and, to me, it is the context in which these potential same-tree associations find themselves in (ie the most significant results out of the entire database) which is more relevant than actual levels of t-value. 

Incidentally, I received a very gratifying email from one of the most eminent European dendrochronologists, wishing to use the contents of the documentary for his lectures.

 

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8 minutes ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

In practical terms, what this means is that the Messiah halves are not book-matched. 

Putting aside the technical reasons you have given, could it be as simple as someone knocking the pile of seasoning wood over ?

That would mean that they had not been tied together or marked as matched pairs after they were first cut ?

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5 minutes ago, Delabo said:

Putting aside the technical reasons you have given, could it be as simple as someone knocking the pile of seasoning wood over ?

That would mean that they had not been tied together or marked as matched pairs after they were first cut ?

Mis-matches are very common, so clearly indicate that, as you suggest, after splitting the required wedges for 1/2 a belly, they ended up on the shelves arranged in a fairly random fashion

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59 minutes ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

 Typically, these have t-value results of between 12 and 18 between each other, whilst the Messiah "batch" are between 7 and just over 11.

 Why? we can only speculate here, but I suspect the Messiah batch (as we can reasonably, although not certifiably assume, that the various pieces are from the same tree

...... which, inevitably caused discrepancies throughout the tree, whereas the other tree had a much more even growth behaviour throughout the log. 

Just more speculation here.  Can it be possible that there was a third wedge made from the original Wilhelmj wedge?  Just enough for one side of a belly - an orphan piece. 

  Or the maker of the belly decided to take a cello wedge half or plank, cut it in half and then just make a belly?   That could explain the sapwood appearing the same. 

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I wonder if one side of the belly wood was flipped end-for-end from the same billet, as was/is sometimes done to better match the quarter cut to the arching.  Would that be a potential reason for the dendro differences between the two halves?  Just conjecture of course...

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If we assume that they didn't use saws to open the wedge like modern makers (where the outside surfaces grew within 3-4 cm apart within tree) but instead split the halves right from the raw log billet like shingles? Splitting would be simpler faster process and nice spruce wood was not expensive or precious commodity beck then.

You start at one  edge of halved billet and cut two pieces mark or tie them then next two etc. If there is a knot or other defect right where the other half would be you will split that away, throw it in fireplace and split the other half after that. I believe they were not at all anal about the wood matching etc. Even without such defect using splitting may result in the outside of plates be more than 5-6 cm apart within tree and the next pair's bass (or treble) side can easily be closer to one of the previous pair than they are with each other.

Now imagine if you start by splitting into quarters and from one you cut 5 pieces out of that and grab the next quarter that may not be the exact consecutive one... I don't think they would have problem with that (especially when done by apprentices)

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13 hours ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

Interestingly, one of the pieces from one of the 1717 Stradivari instruments does show an overall and significant physical deviation of the grain at its lower end, 

Interesting point!

Have you taken the Strads (or other instruments) in your database and compared systematically the ring patterns in the top and lower bouts on one side to assess the degree of variation seen over ~14" of wood?

If so, (i) what is the degree of variation for a given side, and (ii) would an 'averaged' tree ring pattern be a better way to compare pieces? [I noticed some hazelfichte in the lower bout of the Messiah, presumably avoided in the analyses).

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I agree that alpine spruce would have been a finite commodity in Cremona back then, and therefore however you quantify finite - as precious or expensive, it would be wrong to automatically assume that it was easy to come by. Certainly many of the B-grade Cremonese instruments - Andrea Guarneri, 1660-1670 Strads with knots in the wood and other defects would seem to be justified by spruce being scarce enough to drive an economy that justified use of such wood. 

I see where HoGo is going on this... I wish we had a better grasp of the supply chain between the mountains and the workbench. What is important as a principle is that along any supply chain, each part should try to maximise the profit and efficiency of what it does... hence in an extreme, the chiltern bodgers who you can watch below, evolved green wood furniture making to the point that the trees would be felled and all the work except assembly would be done on site in the woods so no waste material was taken out of the woods... you can see them in the 1930s here. 

 

 

.... but here in the 1950s you can see how the industrial premise of chair making changed completely, and how it became necessary to extract whole logs from the forest to be rendered and seasoned down the line... 

 

If we extend this to Cremona, it seems pretty likely that wood arrived in log form by river, but who took responsibility for its delivery - arguably whoever had the monopoly on tone wood also controlled the quality standards to which different makers were able to work, reserving the best wood for the best makers. In the absence of a musical instrument guild, this actually has the economic control over the industry which may explain how we are able to delineate makers based on quality - it follows that the Amati family probably had direct or indirect control over wood as da facto heads of the community, followed by Stradivari, whether as an agreement with a wood merchant or an extension of their overall business. 

If this involve purchase and storage of wood, it also involves maximising profit from it, so if the woodsman had the option, he would want to split the wood to sell the billets separately if he could, and even potentially do preparation work including jointing and flattening the wood... if he had control of a finite supply, then to an extent he could dictate how the wood left the premises. The more work done on it the higher the charge, and the more economically viable the operation.... I'd love to have tighter evidence, that's my working hypothesis at least... and it may help to explain anomalies between sides of the front, with someone working through batches of wood and slightly less invested in the finished product, selecting wood for a visual match rather than a physical adjacency... thoughts only... 

 

 

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Why, and most of all how, would logs get from the alpine forests to Cremona by river? The forest where the wood is said to come from is nowhere near the river running through Cremona, the closest you could get is Verona if you take the logs down the north side of the mountain and trust that they would survive torrents and waterfalls. The other side of the mountain is even worse and the rivers there go straight to the Adriatic.

I would think that the trees were felled for general use, and the best parts sawed off and sold to merchants who sent them off by oxcart or similar to where there was a market for it. There is also a large and thriving woodcarving tradition up there in the Dolomiti, they certainly knew the value of good wood too well to toss it over a waterfall!

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32 minutes ago, Felefar said:

 The forest where the wood is said to come from is nowhere near the river running through Cremona,

Which forest is that and do you know of any evidence  to back it up? ( I don't)

33 minutes ago, Felefar said:

I would think that the trees were felled for general use, and the best parts sawed off and sold to merchants who sent them off by oxcart or similar to where there was a market for it. There is also a large and thriving woodcarving tradition up there in the Dolomiti, they certainly knew the value of good wood too well to toss it over a waterfall!

The way wood was transported from the growing locations to the plains and the various stages of its travels is well documented, and you will find that waterways were the main routes by which timber was transported, often gathering at a purpose built dam, then tied up into zattere (hence the Fondamente delle Zattere in Venice, where many ended up to be dismantled). 

If you read Italian, Katia Occhi's wonderfully researched papers and books are very revealing and informative.

 

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57 minutes ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

Which forest is that and do you know of any evidence  to back it up? ( I don't)

The way wood was transported from the growing locations to the plains and the various stages of its travels is well documented, and you will find that waterways were the main routes by which timber was transported, often gathering at a purpose built dam, then tied up into zattere (hence the Fondamente delle Zattere in Venice, where many ended up to be dismantled). 

If you read Italian, Katia Occhi's wonderfully researched papers and books are very revealing and informative.

 

The Paneveggio Pale di San Martino in Castrozza is said to be the source of much if the tonewood - of course I only have the website of the Parco Naturale di Paneveggio etc. to back that up.

I am very familiar with timber «fløting» on rivers, that is how it was done all over Norway until mid 20th century. I have seen big rafts of timber on lakes and calm parts of rivers - but I also know that some parts of some rivers are not good for that.

I only read enough Italian to order a meal or get the gist of an opera libretto, unfortunately. Very technical texts are possible though, so I will look for Katia Occhi’s papers.

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24 minutes ago, Felefar said:

The Paneveggio Pale di San Martino in Castrozza is said to be the source of much if the tonewood - of course I only have the website of the Parco Naturale di Paneveggio etc. to back that up.

I have no evidence that this was the case through my research, and would love to know if anybody has credible evidence that wood from the locations mentioned was used on instruments before about 1960? Italian makers certainly didn't seem to use it either in the 19th and early 20th century.

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Peter, I seem to recall occasional dendro matches having emerged between wood in various Cremonese instruments, at least one old alpine building of uncertain location and that used in other Italian workshops outside of Cremona.  Also hasn't there been a match shown between wood used by Jose Contreras and wood used by one of the Cremonese makers?

If this is correct, might this be a possible argument in favour of the involvement of a wood dealer distributing wood other than via waterways?

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7 hours ago, John Harte said:

Peter, I seem to recall occasional dendro matches having emerged between wood in various Cremonese instruments, at least one old alpine building of uncertain location and that used in other Italian workshops outside of Cremona.  Also hasn't there been a match shown between wood used by Jose Contreras and wood used by one of the Cremonese makers?

If this is correct, might this be a possible argument in favour of the involvement of a wood dealer distributing wood other than via waterways?

John,

The building you are talking about, only highlights a specific geographical location (not Val di Fiemme or Panaveggio) where some of the wood used in instruments in Italy at the time was felled. I would have described it as having "a ring pattern typical, or bearing similar signatures to the ones found on a many classical Italian instruments, denoting a shared location for the tree growth".

There are highly significant crossmatches between wood used by Jose Contreras on just about all of his instruments, and that used on classical Italian instruments, from just about the whole length of the Peninsula, including some extremely strong one, almost certainly from the same tree (although used 25/30 years apart).  There is no evidence that Contreras traveled to Italy, and evidence that he received this wood on many different occasions throughout his career, so he knew who to ask, although who this person/s is/was remains a mystery. 

I am now totally convinced by the existence of a very few tonewood dealers, possibly a father and son team,  somehow reaching (possibly not in person, but maybe through an important violin workshop who would have acted as a re-seller) locations as far south as Naples.  Curently I favour the idea that they bought logs downstream, where selection would have been made easier with the end grain is visible, then doing some processing, cutting into billets, possibly splitting into quarters, or more wedges, depending on who they were visiting next, and by then, yes, I totally agree, a distribution by other ways than water.

I just cannot contemplate some guy ( as legend would have it) tapping some wood, listening to it "singing", high up in the Dolomites under the full moon, after walking several days to reach the favoured and "secret" locations, and saying "I'll have this one, please, this tree will make a wonderful  violin, can you wrap it up for me?"  

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Of interest, we have several British sources that state in the seventeenth century the use of “Cullen cleff” (depending on the spelling). “Cleff” is etymologically quite easy and relates to “Clap”, “Cleft” and other similar words used to describe split wood and the process of splitting - “Clap boards” on the outside of a house are split. 

“Cullen” is Cologne, which we also see in the sixteenth century as a source of Lutes, citterns and such like in British customs documents and as an identifier that extends into personal property in wills and such like. All this despite no real centre of instrument making or forests to yield wood. 

 

The explanation is that Cologne is the Market at the bottom of the Rhine where goods from upriver would have been traded. “Cullen” instruments are those from Fussen and with them came a trade in alpine spruce that is backed up not just by dendro of English instruments but of various low-countries and Northern European schools. John Dowland’s 1610 letter about lute strings gives valuable detail about the market. We have an equally interesting source from Matthew Hardie in Edinburgh around 1800 implicating Hamburg as a source of tonewood, which also implicated the wood being brought down to Hamburg as a complete log.

This is a different alpine source from Northern European woods, but it is very likely that the same rules apply. 

I do remember that John Topham observed that Stradivari guitars don’t fit with violins, but seemed to have a better relationship with Venetian guitars (although this was very early on, and increased databases may yield a different perspective). It makes sense in this case that Stradivari would have obtained his wood from this important centre of guitar making with interesting implications about his unwillingness to plain down a cello top to provide wood for a guitar, and interesting implications echoing 16th century Venetian inventories of the factory-like conditions that led to thousands of lute parts existing at any one time.  

 

The article I wrote here was based on very very early dendro from the 1990s when databases ran to a few hundred instruments at Best, and I would be happy to see a revised view taken in it, but in the main it holds and explains what I know of the Cologne market.

http://www.academia.edu/149095/The_Common_Wood_Supply_for_London_and_Cremona

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20 hours ago, Ratcliffiddles said:

I just cannot contemplate some guy ( as legend would have it) tapping some wood, listening to it "singing", high up in the Dolomites under the full moon, after walking several days to reach the favoured and "secret" locations, and saying "I'll have this one, please, this tree will make a wonderful  violin, can you wrap it up for me?"  

Peter, thank you very much for your very interesting comments!

I agree with the above quote lifted out of your full reply.  At best I can imagine a point in some valley where logs were stored before further distribution and maybe a wood dealer selecting a log or partial log at that point.  I simply can't imagine any of the old Cremonese violin makers trekking up into some mountain region and selecting individual trees for felling.  Strad's wood was not always of the highest quality and his spruce clearly came from a number of different logs which suggests to me that he was likely in a situation where he was having to choose out of whatever turned up at his workshop door.  If particularly good wood turned up, he may have been able to request and buy more, but that clearly wasn't always the case.

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17 hours ago, John Harte said:

>>

 I simply can't imagine any of the old Cremonese violin makers trekking up into some mountain region and selecting individual trees for felling.  

>>

Luca Primon had told me that he did exactly that for getting his spruce wood.

He also said that he chose not to go to Bosnia for his maple because he was worried about the land mines in the forests left from the Bosnia war.

 

 

 

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On 12/14/2017 at 11:25 AM, jezzupe said:

Peter thank you very much for taking the time to make this presentation. I think it will be helpful explaining the basis for the findings, which statistically seem quite air tight.

What you need to do now is market a "violin dendro dna kit" that can be sold online. That way people can dendro their own violins then send you the data in the hopes of finding something that may be attributed to a great maker or wood supplier to a great maker:)  and at the same time increases the data base for violins specifically.

 

Better yet, have them send you the samples and you test them a la the latest colon health screening product.  Those commercials are just cringe-worthy.  :)

 

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22 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Luca Primon had told me that he did exactly that for getting his spruce wood.

I knew Luca really well and he did admit to doing that but only on a test basis (Luca was a born experimenter).

On another occasion, he went into the forest on the longest night of the year with no moon and cut a tree that turned out to be fantastic. The following year he did the same thing and he told me the tree he cut was worthless. Go figure. There's more to it than that.

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