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I don't think attention to detail is the enemy of creativity.  Rather, the slavish adherence to some formula "because it's always been done that way"  should be avoided.  For the impulse to creativity to yield successful ( read: functional and aesthetically pleasing) results, there must be attention to detail.  I don't believe that all formulae are wrong or bad.  There are plenty of things we do that we do because they work and they may have a long history of working.

The juxtaposition of time attending to detail and creativity is a bit of a red herring, in my view.  Creativity takes time no less than does attention to detail.  This is not an either-or choice, but rather a matter of giving both the time and energy they require in order to achieve the desired result.   Can we obsess over the joint of a purfling mitre?  If that means a butt joint is verboten, then the answer is yes.  The mitres of some of the ancients whose work we consider archetypal are butt joints -- clean ones, but butt nonetheless.  Was the maker insufficiently attentive to detail?  No, the end result is beautiful -- making a beautiful and almost imperceptible butt joint takes time and talent -- and therefore spending more time in pursuit of a different joint was considered an unnecessary use of time made precious by commercial considerations.

If the internet is responsible for stifling creativity, it would be by contributing to a culture of one-size-fits-all, e.g. there is an ideal and deviations are not welcome.  And if that's the case, the internet is not alone responsible.  One could argue -- and some have -- that competitions contribute to a great homogenization.  My own belief is that both have promoted an elevated standard for our output and continue to do so.  While that standard may favor the work of certain of the ancients as models, it has not squeezed out other models.  If anything, the internet and competitions have made it possible to incorporate the work of non-Cremonese schools, e.g. Brescian, Venetian, in notions of the ideal (not the same thing as establishing parity in the awarding of recognition) which in turn broadens the field of creativity as makers seek to find their own "voice" in a personal design.  And the latter dynamic is the antithesis of leading to a consensus that there is only one right way.

Thanks to Rue for the OP.  Happily the juxtaposition of time spent on detail and creativity has not stifled the creativity in this discussion!

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2 hours ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

If the internet is responsible for stifling creativity, it would be by contributing to a culture of one-size-fits-all, e.g. there is an ideal and deviations are not welcome.  And if that's the case, the internet is not alone responsible.  One could argue -- and some have -- that competitions contribute to a great homogenization.

Competitions certainly can, depending on the judges involved, and how people interpret the outcomes. If the bulk of the better instruments entered in a particular competition happen to be Strad styled, sure, one could easily default to the belief that to win a competition, one needs to make something Strad-styled. It can turn into a vicious circle, resulting in even fewer non-Strad style instruments being entered, and may have to some extent. But defaulting to such a belief wouldn't be the most useful or accurate interpretation of major competition outcomes.

Birdhouses are unlikely to win a major violinmaking competiton. This doesn't mean that they are not very much admired and appreciated in the right context.

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I think that details  do matter and that it is very easy for beginners to fool themselves into thinking that lack of skill is actually creativity. By deciding what you want to do and then executing your ideas with attention to the details you learn what works for you and if you prefer a free style of work you will still recognize what looks good and what does not. As Manfio says there are certain things on the violin that jump out to a trained eye and it is important to make them look right.

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3 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

I think that details  do matter and that it is very easy for beginners to fool themselves into thinking that lack of skill is actually creativity. By deciding what you want to do and then executing your ideas with attention to the details you learn what works for you and if you prefer a free style of work you will still recognize what looks good and what does not. As Manfio says there are certain things on the violin that jump out to a trained eye and it is important to make them look right.

Absolute truth.  Making (or restoring) violins, like playing violins (as well as all performance arts), visual and plastic arts, writing, martial arts, performing close order drill, any academic pursuit, athletics, and a great many other things in life, is a discipline, in which mastery is achieved by forcing the mind and body to obey the will as flawlessly as possible.  A beginner in anything has to perform with intense attention to detail, which then becomes internalized habit, eventually performed without conscious thought.  One becomes increasingly skilled, with practice.

To answer the OP question, the necessity for conscious attention to detail varies according to where you are in the learning process, and eventually frees one's creativity to produce what you envision to the extent of one's talent, rather than what ignorance and lack of control force one to accept.  The Internet aids in freeing creativity by providing a nearly limitless well of information on how to perform things.

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13 hours ago, Rue said:

[...] rather humorous...since what sparked my question (this time around) was the lengthy debate regarding what ultimately amounts to differences of micromillmetres at violin corners...

[...]

Yes, micromillimeters on a quantitative level. But what's driving that debate is a qualitative difference. Are the curves expressed through logically placed and chosen arcs and lines? Yes or no?

This kind of visual logic can come through as clearly in a maker whose precision is +/- 1mm as in one who never strays more than .1mm. 

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There is actually a lot of room for variation in making good violins.  Just consider the differences in Stradivari's work e.g. the Falmouth (long period), the Baron Knoop 1715 (golden period), and the Habaneck (1734?).  All of these, or instruments like them, are considered great violins.  Then, of course, there is late Guarneri del Gesu.  The "details" differ greatly between any two of these.  So the question is not whether the "rules" should be observed but rather what are the rules that must be observed.

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8 hours ago, Violadamore said:

Absolute truth.  Making (or restoring) violins, like playing violins (as well as all performance arts), visual and plastic arts, writing, martial arts, performing close order drill, any academic pursuit, athletics, and a great many other things in life, is a discipline, in which mastery is achieved by forcing the mind and body to obey the will as flawlessly as possible. >

In high school I was in a marching band and I learned it was not a good idea to be out of step. 

Now when I see the truly flawless precision marching in huge North Korean army parades I feel repulsion. 

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Yes.  The whole thing is complicated in the arts.   You may well want to express a unique thing in a unique way.   And there might be some body of rules you wish to express rebellion against.   And you might want to express something that is in general against conformity, that express the bind submission of sheep that mindlessly submit to some body of rules, etc.

But as an artist, ultimately you will produce some vehicle for you communication, and this vehicle will have some sort of integrity to it, and it will have its own rules of some kind.  As an artist, there is power in seeing and being able to manipulate rules that make your chosen expression effective.

There is a bondage in being incompetent with a medium, and a freedom from engaging with and transcending its strictures.   I truly believe that we don't have to all follow the same rules, but also that there is an empowered freedom of creation available when an artist conquers or transcends the challenges of their chosen medium, rather than taking the quick freedom of dodging the challenges.

But each to their own.   The only rule I believe applies to all art work is that the artist must honestly and deeply satisfy something they personally want or need to see in the work.  That thing they personally need in the work is what an artist actually gives and shares with the world.

     

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19 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Competitions certainly can, depending on the judges involved, and how people interpret the outcomes. If the bulk of the better instruments entered in a particular competition happen to be Strad styled, sure, one could easily default to the belief that to win a competition, one needs to make something Strad-styled. It can turn into a vicious circle, resulting in even fewer non-Strad style instruments being entered, and may have to some extent. But defaulting to such a belief wouldn't be the most useful or accurate interpretation of major competition outcomes.

Birdhouses are unlikely to win a major violinmaking competiton. This doesn't mean that they are not very much admired and appreciated in the right context.

This raised some questions from me.  I've never competed in a large competition yet, but I've looked at some modern prize winning instruments, and read about competitions and watched videos about them as well.  I was just wondering what judges typically look at in each instrument, and how that might be affected if say your instrument is the 11th Messie model the judge has looked at in a row, or if it's the first Testore model the judge has seen all day.  Are there some makers and models that simply wouldn't fair well at a modern competition...say as example a faithful attempt of a GdG Lord Wilton model.  Do some instruments ever lose points for looking too "fussed with?"  Are some competitions more diverse than others in what they're looking to see?

 

As a related topic, I've talked with some other makers about how interesting a competition like this would be:

Have a sign up period, and then 4-6 weeks before the instruments must be shipped to the competition, the model to be made would be announced, and in the mail to each competitor would come some full size photographs of the instrument, and maybe some more photographs available online.  Then just have a competition based on comparing to the original (which would be at the event).  It would be a cool way to celebrate some beautiful instruments out there, and the diverse methods and schools all over the globe.  And the only way competitors could really prepare for it is to study different schools of violin making, and be mentally prepared in case they have to make a Maginni model when the announcement comes.

If it sounds like the kind of idea that might emerge from having pints of beer...well, there's a good reason for that <_<

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1 hour ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

In high school I was in a marching band and I learned it was not a good idea to be out of step. 

Now when I see the truly flawless precision marching in huge North Korean army parades I feel repulsion. 

"Location, location, location." :lol:  That raises some philosophical issues about "intent" as well as a large-economy-size political can of red wigglers.  Just because someone's darned good at something doesn't mean that their head isn't otherwise "up and locked".

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24 minutes ago, Matthew Hannafin said:

This raised some questions from me.  I've never competed in a large competition yet, but I've looked at some modern prize winning instruments, and read about competitions and watched videos about them as well.  I was just wondering what judges typically look at in each instrument, and how that might be affected if say your instrument is the 11th Messie model the judge has looked at in a row, or if it's the first Testore model the judge has seen all day.  Are there some makers and models that simply wouldn't fair well at a modern competition...say as example a faithful attempt of a GdG Lord Wilton model.  Do some instruments ever lose points for looking too "fussed with?"  Are some competitions more diverse than others in what they're looking to see?

 

As a related topic, I've talked with some other makers about how interesting a competition like this would be:

Have a sign up period, and then 4-6 weeks before the instruments must be shipped to the competition, the model to be made would be announced, and in the mail to each competitor would come some full size photographs of the instrument, and maybe some more photographs available online.  Then just have a competition based on comparing to the original (which would be at the event).  It would be a cool way to celebrate some beautiful instruments out there, and the diverse methods and schools all over the globe.  And the only way competitors could really prepare for it is to study different schools of violin making, and be mentally prepared in case they have to make a Maginni model when the announcement comes.

If it sounds like the kind of idea that might emerge from having pints of beer...well, there's a good reason for that <_<

I have often thought that it would be interesting to have a competition where entrants were judged on a compulsory violin based on a set of plans and specs as we'll as  a second instrument in a free style category. Unfortunately it would be difficult for most makers to afford that kind of time but it surely would be a way to winnow out the chaff!

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2 hours ago, David Beard said:

Yes.  The whole thing is complicated in the arts.   You may well want to express a unique thing in a unique way.   And there might be some body of rules you wish to express rebellion against.   And you might want to express something that is in general against conformity, that express the bind submission of sheep that mindlessly submit to some body of rules, etc.

But as an artist, ultimately you will produce some vehicle for you communication, and this vehicle will have some sort of integrity to it, and it will have its own rules of some kind.  As an artist, there is power in seeing and being able to manipulate rules that make your chosen expression effective.

There is a bondage in being incompetent with a medium, and a freedom from engaging with and transcending its strictures.   I truly believe that we don't have to all follow the same rules, but also that there is an empowered freedom of creation available when an artist conquers or transcends the challenges of their chosen medium, rather than taking the quick freedom of dodging the challenges.

But each to their own.   The only rule I believe applies to all art work is that the artist must honestly and deeply satisfy something they personally want or need to see in the work.  That thing they personally need in the work is what an artist actually gives and shares with the world.

     

I am not too proud to admit that I once was enamored of the "freedom from engaging with and transcending its strictures."  I soon found my work so offensive that I moved on more fully to embrace the strictures.  Saved me the trouble of choosing free verse over iambic pentameter in my embryonic efforts in writing poetry.

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

Poem please! :)

 

54 minutes ago, Julian Cossmann Cooke said:

Working on one, but suspect Jeff would have to create a separate forum.  Maybe Non-violin Making/Repairing/Restoring Creative Endeavors of MNers?  NoMaRCEM?

Ooooooooooh.  How about a "Desecrations of Shakespeare, Vandalizations of Kipling, and Other Salacious Doggerel" forum?  [Turns toward a large filing cabinet with obvious glee.] ;):lol:

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4 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

 

Ooooooooooh.  How about a "Desecrations of Shakespeare, Vandalizations of Kipling, and Other Salacious Doggerel" forum?  [Turns toward a large filing cabinet with obvious glee.] ;):lol:

william.gif.eb9e16367025a751daf197071f3c34cc.gif

 

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On 3/3/2018 at 10:15 AM, nathan slobodkin said:

I have often thought that it would be interesting to have a competition where entrants were judged on a compulsory violin based on a set of plans and specs as we'll as  a second instrument in a free style category. Unfortunately it would be difficult for most makers to afford that kind of time but it surely would be a way to winnow out the chaff!

I like the idea.  It brings to mind the Oberlin viola project where all the makers were provided the same form then left to make as they saw fit.  I'm sure there where more parameters but I don't recall them (and I wasn't involved).  The train wreck of these two thoughts colliding brings the following idea to mind (as if someone would make competition rules based on my idea).

1.  All entries are provided a form drawing to scale.

2.  When entering you choose whether you will be making a copy or a free style model based on the form.

3.  If entering a copy you will be given the specs needed or a way of accessing the information needed to make a copy of that instrument.

4.  Judging will be based on the category you entered, copy or free style.

I actually like Nathan's idea as better competition.  My idea was just an attempt to make the competition less of a time commitment for makers. 

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I see some merit to the idea of having everyone follow one pattern  as far as measuring carving and varnishing ability, and perhaps setup and sound adjustment ability, but I think you would have to be very  careful not to fall into the same problems the current competitions face.

Maybe we need to start by identifying the purpose of these competitions. If we want to see who can make the most convincing copy, the method Nathan mentioned might be a refinement. However, if the purpose is to identify the best playing violins, then that method will do nothing to show whose instruments are the best for players. I think that professional players in search of new Violins assume (correctly or incorrectly) that gold medal winners will be the best sounding of the bunch, and that’s what drives many of them to buy.

It seems to me that there are two positions represented here on Maestronet:

1) Competitions should exist to identify the makers whose Violins have the best sound and response to players with an expectation that the skill in construction must be at a masterful level tp begin with. 

2) Judging tone and playing characteristics in Violins is just too subjective and problematic an endeavor. Rather than worrying about trying to find the elusive solution to the problem of objectivity, competitions should just focus on the tangible aspects of the craft. To determine the best Violins, judges can focus completely on the workmanship or scientific equipment can be used to help in the process. 

I don’t know which way is the better of the two, but I think one needs to be chosen clearly if we want to make any changes. 

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On 3/3/2018 at 6:17 AM, gowan said:

There is actually a lot of room for variation in making good violins.  Just consider the differences in Stradivari's work e.g. the Falmouth (long period), the Baron Knoop 1715 (golden period), and the Habaneck (1734?).  All of these, or instruments like them, are considered great violins.  Then, of course, there is late Guarneri del Gesu.  The "details" differ greatly between any two of these.  So the question is not whether the "rules" should be observed but rather what are the rules that must be observed.

This sometimes leads to something I have mentioned before, where if Strad or one of the other great makers did it, it's respectable and worthy of near-worship status, but if someone else deviates from this accepted norm, it's unacceptable and counterproductive. This way of thinking probably comes from the 19th century, when The Cremonese were elevated on a pedestal of near- infallibility. Unfortunately this way of thinking precludes any thought of advancement or development. If Strad though this way, I wonder how differently his work would have developed, if at all.

Years ago when my  first few instruments were based on a body length of about 361mm, some local established makers were distressed and chastised me because I wasn't adhering to what they considered acceptable dimensions. Creativity can certainly be suppressed by blind copying.

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In my professional field, it generally follows that the more sophisticated the design, then the more important are the details.

 It is important that details support the intent of the overall design concept.  There is a lot of creativity in designing details, and it is usually the details that actually tell a knowledgeable observer how skilled is the designer.   

 Note that designing and making are entirely separate activities and having skill in one does not mean you will have skill in the other, although they do tend to blend in crafts.

 What may be an appropriate detail in one situation may be quite inappropriate for another very similar object when the underlying design concept of the two is significantly different.  As an example that ties this to back to violins you will find on first generation asymmetric design violins that have a symmetric outlines, (eg an Amati) that part of the appropriated edge detail is having an even overhang all round.  First generation asymmetry has become the basic design concept for modern makers.

 But when you come to third generation asymmetric design, which Strad adopted (he didn’t invent it) for his golden age instruments, you have a significantly different design concept driving design decisions and these instruments  exhibit varying width of edge overhang, as this is the appropriate detail for this design concept.

 You find the same details being repeated in instrument after instrument within each generation of asymmetric design because they are the appropriate solution.  If you do not understand the underlying concept behind an asymmetric designed violin then the appropriate details may look to be wrong simply because you are not seeing them in the correct context. 

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3 hours ago, johnms said:

 

In my professional field, it generally follows that the more sophisticated the design, then the more important are the details.

 It is important that details support the intent of the overall design concept.  There is a lot of creativity in designing details, and it is usually the details that actually tell a knowledgeable observer how skilled is the designer.   

 Note that designing and making are entirely separate activities and having skill in one does not mean you will have skill in the other, although they do tend to blend in crafts.

 What may be an appropriate detail in one situation may be quite inappropriate for another very similar object when the underlying design concept of the two is significantly different.  As an example that ties this to back to violins you will find on first generation asymmetric design violins that have a symmetric outlines, (eg an Amati) that part of the appropriated edge detail is having an even overhang all round.  First generation asymmetry has become the basic design concept for modern makers.

 But when you come to third generation asymmetric design, which Strad adopted (he didn’t invent it) for his golden age instruments, you have a significantly different design concept driving design decisions and these instruments  exhibit varying width of edge overhang, as this is the appropriate detail for this design concept.

 You find the same details being repeated in instrument after instrument within each generation of asymmetric design because they are the appropriate solution.  If you do not understand the underlying concept behind an asymmetric designed violin then the appropriate details may look to be wrong simply because you are not seeing them in the correct context. 

 

I never saw Amati violins as being asymmetric any more than Stradivari's, and none of them deliberately so.

I'm not sure what you mean by first and third generation asymmetry. Can you explain?

I don't understand when you say that 'first generation asymmetry has become the basic design concept for modern makers'. Asymmetry isn't something that I plan at all. It may creep in as part of the process, but it isn't essential to the design of the instrument.

Reading this whole thread, it seems that many assume that modern makers, if they want to excell, must bass the work on specific examples of best Cremonese makers. My approach is quite different. I, and many more like me, try to understand the concepts and rules by which the masters worked. We make a form and scroll template, and make our own violins. 

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What about the effect on the arts of combining stifled detail with inattentive creativity?  :huh::ph34r:

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19 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

What about the effect on the arts of combining stifled detail with inattentive creativity?  :huh::ph34r:

^_^

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In reply to Connors question

I'm not sure what you mean by first and third generation asymmetry. Can you explain?

Sorry, I should have realized that this statement would not make sense.

In  the very first known violins the sound post is positioned on the centerline.  

By Amati the post had moved off the centre line to todays modern position, and for me this was the first of 3 major design changes aimed at modifying the sound.   All three changes were a deliberate move away from symmetry.

In my definition for asymmetry it is not the widely adopted visual appearance aspect that I was referring to.   Rather it is the fundamental design concept changes that were introduced to modify the sound output of the instrument that is my determinant for asymmetry,  

Whether or not these design modifications produced better sounding violins may be a moot point, but the asymmetric design in the later Cremonese era does set a standard.   The fact that the underlying design asymmetry is not appreciated does not mean it is not there. The resultant visual aspects that can be readily observed are generally dismissed  as being not intended. 

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