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Stradivari's secret was a concept?


Andreas Preuss
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3 hours ago, martin swan said:

I have to say, this thread has come alive for me ... please don't leave!

 

2 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

If you want him back, than you are the one that has to feed, water, and clean up after him.

 

37 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

To other members; I've removed a number of posts from sight while I try and figure out how best to edit them...  Sorry for the disruption.

And that is what happens Martin, Jeffery ends up cleaning up the mess.:D

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1 hour ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I have no idea why

Neither do I, but...a horrible thought has occurred to me. As there is an actual Alfons Vavra, selling violins, and teaching how to play them, at 2100 Bigler Street in Fort Lee, New Jersey, perhaps there is also an actual Richard Muller who worked for him. But that doesn't mean that he is necessarily the poster Rmueller9. Forged posts to blacken someone's reputation are an all-too-common occurrence on the Internet.

Of course, Alzheimer's is a thing too. And there may be violin restorers out there who do feel that current modern makers who question the pre-eminence of Stradivari don't know what they're talking about, but are capable of expressing it in a civil manner.

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10 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

Richard, are you asking me to identify an instrument from bad photographs, from an unknown “restorer”, after happy hour, on an internet web site, without measurements, and you will be the judge of my accuracy?  You claim to have been in the business for how long?

Well, although I don't know much about violins, looking at the scrollwork, I can say it's definitely not a Stradivarius.

A little searching suggests to me that this violin, if not a Gagliano, is at least based on a Gagliano model, since this particular squashed style of scroll seems to be present in the violins of more than one generation of the Gagliano family.

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14 hours ago, Rmueller9 said:

Burgess,

   Would you ever smack the side of a Strad neck with your fist to remove it? Preuss says you would That’s the way we do it in America!

I would choose the removal method, on a case-by-case basis, depending on which removal method I thought was least likely to result in post-part-'em depression. :D

Factors would include things like: Whether the neck is to be re-used or grafted; whether the fingerboard is to be removed, or is off already; what parts are loose already; whether the top or back is to be removed; whether the violin has the original upper block, or if it's OK to carve it away; whether the wood of the ribs closest to each side of the heel is still original.

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4 hours ago, martin swan said:

I think Violadamore should decide - strains of Serge Gainsbourg and Whitney Houston there!

 

4 hours ago, Jerry Pasewicz said:

Okay, that is hilarious!

:P

1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

I would choose the removal method, on a case-by-case basis, depending on which removal method I thought was least likely to result in post-part-'em depression. :D

While I have little sympathy for such conduct because, as we all know, I've never gotten pasted and made an ass of myself around here (and only a cad would suggest otherwise :ph34r:;):lol:), I'll leave the verdict to Jeffrey. :)

However, as Quadi pointed out, on the Internet, what looks like an open-and-shut-case of drunk posting, could actually be a vicious hoax to besmear V & M's reputations.  If so, I'd favor having the subhuman troll responsible hung out to dry in any way Jeffrey can accomplish.

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This thread has run so long that I don't know if it is worth posting new concepts here. 

But I just got one yesterday.

So at least I want to share it openly with Andreas Preuss instead of just sending him a private message.  

While we have only anecdotal evidence on how aging alters violin and bow properties, from what we know about the physico-chemical changes of wood during aging, I think that aging really matters. Chinese people made guqins for 300 years in a continuous tradition, and after 2000 years they start to insist that 500 years of wood aging is critical. That number may not apply to violins and bows, though. 

Aging is not a new concept. 18th century violins from France and Germany don't carry the Cremonese quality. Aging is not some magic bullet, either. I even suspect that 300 years of aging will make violins lose their brilliance. 

 So where is the new concept? I will put a new bold hypothesis here. 

I think Stradivari and del Gesu may had started to contemplate about managing the process of wood aging. They don't want it to just age and go bad or go soft. Their way of managing it is to treat the wood in special ways first. We now have evidence that some minerals were added. What else was done (steaming, soaking, re-soaking, boiling)? We can't be sure. We are starting to see that the aluminum put in by Stradivari and del Gesu are surrounded by five oxygen atoms in maples. New maples only have four and six oxygen coordination sites for aluminum to bind. The five-coordination sites are generated by aging, probably lignin oxidation, and aluminum has relocated to such sites. The aluminum could promote the bonding between lignin and hemicellulose, after the breakdown of original hemicellulose-lignin bonds by aging. So, in this sense, aluminum alters how the wood ages, compensating for the breakdown. So Stradivari and del Gesu could somehow regulate the aging process. Was this their original intention? I don't know. But it seems to be the result of whatever it was that they tried to do.      

The making of mummies is a concept about managing body decay and afterlife, by adding preservatives. So why can't violin makers contemplate about managing wood decay by adding preservatives? We know for sure that wood decays. We could repeatedly see spectroscopic changes related to hemicellulose breakdown after 200 years in maples from old instruments.  

To me, this seems like a new concept--to add preservatives to manage wood aging and decay. If someone else has already proposed it, I apologize for not knowing it before. 

 

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I prefer the idea that the benign decay is a bi-product of some anti-fungal or anti-woodworm treatment. This has been discussed a lot.

I dont suppose Stradivari was any more concerned with his reputation after a couple of hundred years than any contemporary maker is ... putting bread on the table is the most urgent priority.

 

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I apologize if I sound like a charlatan who is trying to add mysticism to the  mystique that already surrounds Antonio Stradivari. This thread is all about grandiose concepts. So I tried to propose something bold, but still based on our new data which will be published next year. 

I have been on this forum for 12 years and published 5 scholarly articles on violin research since then. Could not have done it without the help and criticism that I receive here. So some of you already know what I am doing and my track record. Those who don't know me may just think I am promoting some kind of chemical wizardry about Cremona. Many have tried to do that before and failed miserably. But what we are doing is truly academic research.  

Scientific research is a just working method that could go wrong like everything else in life. But it can teach us some knowledge that could not be obtained otherwise. So I am still trying to take what limited resources we have and try to learn something about Cremonese violins. We could be very wrong, but we need to start somewhere somehow. 

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

I prefer the idea that the benign decay is a bi-product of some anti-fungal or anti-woodworm treatment. This has been discussed a lot.

I dont suppose Stradivari was any more concerned with his reputation after a couple of hundred years than any contemporary maker is ... putting bread on the table is the most urgent priority.

 

 


Since wood treatments have been around for all of history, it seems likely that longlasting treatments were already known... so it's not that you would pursue the technique for posterity, but of course a maker would find it appealing if such a treatment was known, just as you would chose other aspects...It seems at odds with human nature for Stradivari to have not cared or thought much about it as a making consideration...

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6 minutes ago, Bruce Tai said:

I apologize if I sound like a charlatan who is trying to add mysticism to the  mystique that already surrounds Antonio Stradivari. This thread is all about grandiose concepts. So I tried to propose something bold, but still based on our new data which will be published next year. 

I have been on this forum for 12 years and published 5 scholarly articles on violin research since then. Could not have done it without the help and criticism that I receive here. So some of you already know what I am doing and my track record. Those who don't know me may just think I am promoting some kind of chemical wizardry about Cremona. Many have tried to do that before and failed miserably. But what we are doing is truly academic research.  

Scientific research is a just working method that could go wrong like everything else in life. But it can teach us some knowledge that could not be obtained otherwise. So I am still trying to take what limited resources we have and try to learn something about Cremonese violins. We could be very wrong, but we need to start somewhere somehow. 

I think it would be helpful to identify the signature of the aluminum, perhaps the mines in Tolfa? Also, the five Oxygen structure, can it be acheived outside of aging? The pentagonal arrangement could be like a geometrical resonator favoring fifths perhaps? Just some questions I would like to see addressed...

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3 minutes ago, Pylorius said:

 


Since wood treatments have been around for all of history, it seems likely that longlasting treatments were already known... so it's not that you would pursue the technique for posterity, but of course a maker would find it appealing if such a treatment was known, just as you would chose other aspects...It seems at odds with human nature for Stradivari to have not cared or thought much about it as a making consideration...

 

I don't know, I think this is ROMANTIC THINKING! We see Stradivari through the filter of 300 years of illustrious history, so we imagine him as inhabiting that concept. I think he was probably much more likely to be concerned that his violins wouldn't come back to him in a few years with worm or other problems, just as a contemporary maker would be.

Really he is much more likely to have been motivated by a desire to maintain his commercial edge and his reputation amongst his clients than to be planning his posthumous fame.

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1 hour ago, Bruce Tai said:

While we have only anecdotal evidence on how aging alters violin and bow properties, from what we know about the physico-chemical changes of wood during aging, I think that aging really matters.

I think from your previous measurements of ~40% lower EMC in aged wood, the conclusion is inescapable that the acoustic properties are significantly changed (assuming the measurements are accurate and consistent).

1 hour ago, martin swan said:

I prefer the idea that the benign decay is a bi-product of some anti-fungal or anti-woodworm treatment. This has been discussed a lot.

I dont suppose Stradivari was any more concerned with his reputation after a couple of hundred years than any contemporary maker is ... putting bread on the table is the most urgent priority.

This is my opinion as well.

Regarding the basic idea of this thread, it appears there is always the romance and mystery (and hype) of Strad, and the allure of finding some long-lost secret that will somehow transform the ordinary fiddles we make into phenomenal masterpieces of tone and power.  The more time I spend looking into these things, the less likely such a game-changing Cremonese secret appears to be.

If the "benign decay" ... or prevention of destructive decay... gives wood a lower EMC and the expected damping reduction, we do have non-Cremonese treatments today that can do that.   Or you can put some trace preservatives in your wood and wait 300 years.

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1 hour ago, Bruce Tai said:

I apologize if I sound like a charlatan who is trying to add mysticism to the  mystique that already surrounds Antonio Stradivari. This thread is all about grandiose concepts. So I tried to propose something bold, but still based on our new data which will be published next year....

Of course it is good to have the courage to try out daring ideas.

Was Stradivarius using naturally older wood than his predecessors? Did the age of wood he used change during his career? If he wanted older wood, then he might have used the oldest suitable and naturally aged wood he could obtain?

Is there documentary evidence for the value of aged woods in making instruments?

Just to deal with a minor point on that last quesiton for a moment, in your article Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jan 3; 114(1): 27–32. you refer to Gug R. Salted soundboards and sweet sounds. Strad. 1991;102(1214):506–511 for the proposition "Writings from the 16th century about the positive effect of mineral treatments on instrument acoustics have been recently rediscovered. " I have not seen the Strad version but according to the FoMRHI version of the same article, this is in fact a reference not to writings but to a single sentence in a single source, viz. B. Palissy, Discours admirables de la nature des eaux et fontaines, 1580, p194. The nice thing about this is that is, essentially, alchemy. However, I do not think it offers the support for your statement which Gug suggests. The page he relies on can be read online: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1050822/f210.image

The difficulties are, 1. this is 1580, so if Stradivarius knew the idea, it was not new (though it may have been new to him); 2. it reads, according to my translation, "It aids the voice of all living things, and even of all types of metals, and musical instruments." This is a pretty odd statement! why would common salt improve the voice of living things? or of metals? and 3. Palissy is plainly talking about common salt, not about mineral treatments generally.

It would be nice to find some better sources :-)

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2 hours ago, Pylorius said:

I think it would be helpful to identify the signature of the aluminum, perhaps the mines in Tolfa? Also, the five Oxygen structure, can it be acheived outside of aging? The pentagonal arrangement could be like a geometrical resonator favoring fifths perhaps? Just some questions I would like to see addressed...

It's easy to be overly enamoured with numerology. Much more fantasy lives down that road than fact.

First, accoustic resonantors need to be physically on a larger scale than individual atoms.  Second, human names of things don't count when you get down to physical behavior. Our naming of intervals is based on counting scale step names in a western culture scale. This is many steps removed from the underlying physical nature of the interval.  The integer behind perfect fifths in a harmonic series is actually 3.  And pretty much by coincidence, the number behind the major 3rd is 5.   

 

Just a word of caution. If you find yourself going on a flight of numerological fancy, best to stop and back away from any notion it relates to reality.

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2 hours ago, martin swan said:

I don't know, I think this is ROMANTIC THINKING! We see Stradivari through the filter of 300 years of illustrious history, so we imagine him as inhabiting that concept. I think he was probably much more likely to be concerned that his violins wouldn't come back to him in a few years with worm or other problems, just as a contemporary maker would be.

Really he is much more likely to have been motivated by a desire to maintain his commercial edge and his reputation amongst his clients than to be planning his posthumous fame.

I basically agree with you Martin.  But its interesting to note that there are written historical comments from the Italian arts of the time commenting on the virtue of using the best and most durable materials and methods. And here and there comments are made about durability of practices.  

But then along the lines you emphasize, I believe Cennini presented such concerns as good for reputation and a successful career.   

 

I don't think Bruce's suggestion of an artisan becoming interested in long term durabilty or change of materials and then try to create solutions to a problem with such long evaluation periods.

But it does seem plausible to believe that artisans would notice and care about which techniques did and didn't fair well across generations looking backwards. 

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2 hours ago, John_London said:

Of course it is good to have the courage to try out daring ideas.

Just to deal with a minor point on that last quesiton for a moment, in your article Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jan 3; 114(1): 27–32. you refer to Gug R. Salted soundboards and sweet sounds. Strad. 1991;102(1214):506–511 for the proposition "Writings from the 16th century about the positive effect of mineral treatments on instrument acoustics have been recently rediscovered. " I have not seen the Stad version but according to the FoMRHI version of the same article, this is in fact a reference not to writings but to a single sentence in a single source, viz. B. Palissy, Discours admirables de la nature des eaux et fontaines, 1580, p194. The nice thing about this is that is, essentially, alchemy. However, I do not think it offers the support for your statement which Gug suggests. The page he relies on can be read online: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1050822/f210.image

The difficulties are, 1. this is 1580, so if Stradivarius knew the idea, it was not new (though it may have been new to him); 2. it reads, according to my translation, "It aids the voice of all living things, and even of all types of metals, and musical instruments." This is a pretty odd statement! why would common salt improve the voice of living things? or of metals? and 3. Palissy is plainly talking about common salt, not about mineral treatments generally.

It would be nice to find some better sources :-)

1.  I discovered this early, but added the proviso, "as long as your parents don't find out.....".

2.  Misquotation, mistranslation, paraphrasing, creatively interpreting, exaggerating, or diminishing primary source material in secondary publication pollutes the wells of scholarship.  One must be awfully careful how one describes one's sources.

3.  In the same publication as Gug, I found "A Reminder on the Principles of Scholarly Choice", by Ephraim Segerman, which I believe may be of interest, particularly in the context of this thread:

4.  Gug makes it very plain, that by "salts", he is referring to "Bodies that, when totally dissolved in water, swim invisibly therein, combine to Sharp needles or permanent shapes, melt on the tongue with a biting taste, become fluid or volatile in fire, are called salts", as stated in Halle, Johann Samuel, "Werkstätte der heutigen Künste", Brandenburg und Leipzig, 1765, vol.3, p.214, which includes all manner of water-soluble chemicals besides sodium chloride.  Palissy, OTOH, makes it obvious that, in the chapter of his work cited, when he says "common salt", that's the only substance that he means, but in his talking about all the effects it has on all things, he seems to lapse into referring to (or confusing common salt with) alchemical salt.  IMHO, this leaves some question as to exactly what was meant.  Gug also stresses that is the only Palissy reference on the matter of musical instruments.  At this point, I consider Palissy a weak, but suggestive reference, which might lead elsewhere, but wider reading of his work might find more material of use.  His full title page is rather comprehensive:

image.thumb.png.0fe879d32bbae1c56d02d3cefa88d684.png

5.  Gug has a long section on the soaking and floating of wood which is worth reading.  So is most of the rest of the journal issue in the linked PDF, IMHO. :)

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After we finally discover everything Strad did  and begin to use it, how exactly do we determine if our violins are as good as his?:

1.  As good as a mediocre Srads.

2.  As good as good Strads.

3.  As good as the best Strads.

I might be a science skeptic but I don't think of these questions that can be answered in any widely accepted way.  So why bother trying to discover what he did?

 

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