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jacobsaunders

"It never rains, but it pours" Alban(i) D'Amore

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In German, one hears often enough the phrase “Gesetz der Serie” (law of the series) which I am struggling to adequately translate into English. “It never rains, but it pours” is about as close as I have got.

 

At the moment I am gradually getting the impression that it is starting to pour with nice instruments with broken off heads. First the Polish violin https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/342171-chamot-krakau/

then the Bellosio viola https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/342187-bellosio-decapitation/

and now a Viola D’amore by Alban from Graz with a broken off scroll/peg box from 1710, has invited herself.

 

I have very little experience with Viola D’Amores, in fact my experience confines itself to once in the early eighties, when my then boss in Munich handed me one by Bisiach, and told me to go and make a new top nut. At first I thought, “Good, a top nut, ok” and went to do it, but it was only when I sat down to start, that I realised what a fiendishly complicated contraption a D’Amore top nut is. It basically (to ignore exceptions) has twelve pegs. The bottom 6 of which are to tune the upstairs strings that go above the fingerboard, and the top 6 pegs are to tune the sub-terrainian bordon strings that go first behind the peg box, then beneath the fingerboard. This requires a double decker nut. I was extremely proud of myself having made a successful nut, but the next day, threading new strings on, without getting the sub-terrainian ones all tangled up, then tuning it, was almost more difficult. I couldn’t help thinking of Michael, a London session Violinist for whom I used to babysit for many years ago, who, upon returning from a session where a D’Amore was being played remarked; “Looks like a bloody chain-saw, takes about an hour to tune, and then it sounds like shit”

 

The scroll is not an Alban, but a recent replacement by a colleague of mine in Vienna, who I would not wish to criticise for his courageous effort, but I think he made a design mistake, which leaves it unsurprising that it broke off where it did. In my minibus full of “Geigenklumpert” which I spoke of before https://maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/342039-building-method-ribs-let-into-a-grove-on-the-back/&do=findComment&comment=836372 there were a number of old unvarnished 19th C. scrolls (one may certainly not speak of “white” any more) from the estate of Jaura, which even he might have scrounged somewhere as I did. Amongst these is an unused, unvarnished D’Amore scroll. I have been wondering if this ex-Jaura scroll wouldn’t do Alban proud, far more than the not particularly elegant broken modern one it has.

 

Amongst the immense multiple brain-teasers re. D’Amores, is the neck angle. The current one has IMHO a much to flat neck angle, so that the bordon strings that go through the middle of the bridge, hardly make an angle on their way through the bridge. This makes them more or less dummy strings, there for optical rather than musical reasons, since they exert practically no downward pressure on the bridge. I was wondering if anybody could point me to guidance re D’Amore neck angles?

 

To Alban:

Johannes Michael Alban was the second son and pupil of Mathias Alban (often called Albani). He was born in Bozen on the 27th September 1677, and worked in Graz from about 1700. He was succeed by his pupil and son in law Wolfgang Sagmayr about 1730. The details of the family are probably best summarised in the Österreichische Musiklexicon http://www.musiklexikon.ac.at/ml/musik_A/Alban_Familie.xml;internal&action=hilite.action&Parameter=Albanertrappe 

 

In a recent thread, which I couldn’t find, we had a long discussion about fake Albani labels, of which there are hundreds of thousands. Here is a real one, although it is hardly possible to photograph through the “Flame” (not F) hole. I will do my best to not have to open the body though, since these Gamba style instruments without edge overhang, are a nightmare to get back together again.

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The expert in on these instruments here in the US was always William Monical. I don't know how active he his anymore (I hope he's still with us). He would be the guy to ask. I believe some of his shop members are still around.

I've tinkered around with a few  of these instruments over the years (playing, not setting up). Maybe I can help a little bit. I think at least 50% of the instruments inexistence are "un-set-upable" because of combinations of width at the C-bouts as well as neck angle and other neck dimension issues.

All I can say is that the neck angle needs to give you a bridge with the height and curvature to play cleanly on all strings without hitting the C-bouts. I don't think I've seen any 2 instruments that had the same geometry. Take a look at the Vivaldi concertos to see what you need to be able to play.

You definitely want the sympathetics to be free and ringing, don't set them up as "dummies" thats what's fun about these instruments. Just looking at yours, I think you are correct, impossible to set it up with working symps, I think you need to reset the neck. What style of bridge do you plan to use?

Keep in mind that you need enough clearance in the sympathetic channel such that small neck angle changes don't result the strings touching the bottom of the fingerboard. Having 2 bridges with different symp holes heights might help.

For stringing  symps I use a .17 cal rifle cleaning rod, bent a bit to work. I used to thread the strings by attaching a small washer and sliding it past the other strings, so the don't get tangled, but I found a rod that works better. Some people just use a coat hanger.

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Thanks for all the photos, Jacob.

You mentioned that the current neck (a replacement} had some structural deficiencies. Upon a superficial look, it seems like your candidate for the next replacement neck might have the same deficiencies.

Would you be willing to expand on that a little more, including what you thing the best design for such a neck/scroll would be?

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Here's a few photos of viola d'amores from "European And American Musical Instruments," by Anthony Baines, 1966. I offer them because the captions list the museums they're in, most of which are in your part of the world.

 

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Jacob-  there's a saying (or superstition), over here, that says: "Everything happens in threes"

              Also, I believe William Monical is no longer with us.

 

Ron

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29 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Thanks for all the photos, Jacob.

You mentioned that the current neck (a replacement} had some structural deficiencies. Upon a superficial look, it seems like your candidate for the next replacement neck might have the same deficiencies.

Would you be willing to expand on that a little more, including what you thing the best design for such a neck/scroll would be?

We didn’t make an effort to highlight the new broken replacement scroll, because I primarily wanted to show an Alban from 1710, but if you put your extra strong reading glasses on, you will see that the fractured part is by the scroll shoulders, right next to the hole where the bourdon strings come through from the back of the peg box, leaving the whole thing relying on a tiny area of short grain, which must surely break sooner or later. As to the second part of your question, I am still thinking about it.

 

@ Deans & Mark

I agree, I will have to go and search for a few old D’Amores to look at. I just thought that someone might have some published specs. I will write to the Monical firm tomorrow.

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3 minutes ago, Ron1 said:

Jacob-  there's a saying (or superstition), over here, that says: "Everything happens in threes"

              Also, I believe William Monical is no longer with us.

 

Ron

Let hope only in threes:)

The Monical Website claims that the ex. workers still check it (wait & see)

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27 minutes ago, Ron1 said:

Jacob-  there's a saying (or superstition), over here, that says: "Everything happens in threes"

              Also, I believe William Monical is no longer with us.

 

Ron

Last I heard he was living in Salem, Oregon. Still with us, but lower profile.

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8 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

Amongst the immense multiple brain-teasers re. D’Amores, is the neck angle. The current one has IMHO a much to flat neck angle, so that the bordon strings that go through the middle of the bridge, hardly make an angle on their way through the bridge. This makes them more or less dummy strings, there for optical rather than musical reasons, since they exert practically no downward pressure on the bridge. I was wondering if anybody could point me to guidance re D’Amore neck angles?

Ugh...this makes my brain hurt thinking about it.  I have mashed this up in my brain ad nauseum.  I have extensive measurements of historical V'da's.  None of them have neck angle measurements.  .  I'm happy to share them with you if you'd like.  Historical examples are also all over the map. Monical's "Shapes of the Baroque" examines two examples but again no neck angle measurements.  Karl Roy list some measurements in his book, no neck angle measurements.  Daniel Ross wrote an interesting article about the Casadesus V'da, no neck angle measurements.  In correspondence with a prominent and prolific British maker of V'das, he mentions a neck angle of 82-84 degrees.  In my current V'da, I've used an apui of 7mm and a bridge height of 44mm.  Projection at the bridge of 35mm.  After drawing all this out, I come up with a string break angle over the bridge of about 153degrees ( which is right in line with at least one modern maker I know of) and a saddle height of about 9mm (total, not from the top of the edge).  Since I'm making the bridge myself, I plan to cut the aliquot holes in the bridge after the neck is set so that I can go with what I think will be optimal.  That string break angle is not too far off a modern viola and I'm thinking that with so many extra strings I'm happy to have SLIGHTLY less downward pressure on the top.  I'm the furthest thing from an expert as you can imagine but I have done extensive research and number crunching in regards to this.  Take all of the above and toss it or use it.  Thanks for the cool photos and also the photos of the Bellosio

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Just looking at my instrument, without taking any measurements the neck angle does not need to be very steep to get the symps to work. I think if you focus on the creating a situation where the bowed strings work, without a big wedged fingerboard, the symps will fall into place. But the neck will need to be angled at least a bit. Yes, worthless without numbers.

Now I'm going to spend the next two weeks farting around with this clumsy thing and wasting what little time I have to practice.

vda side 2.jpg

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This beautiful instrument would benefit very much  in appearance from  from a new fingerboard and tailpiece as the present one looks very crude. Most likely in ebony veneer??

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20 hours ago, duane88 said:

Last I heard he was living in Salem, Oregon. Still with us, but lower profile.

I wrote to Mr. Monical via the contact form on his web site this morning, and received a very helpful and friendly answer. Basically there are infinite varieties, but he showed some (with some measurements) in his book "Shapes of the Baroque" beginning on page 30, which one may download from his website www.williammonical.com So I will spend my weekend reading his book.

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Speaking of the fingerboard: is that pear wood? I also have not heard anything about Bill, in the last few weeks, but I talked to him recently. He isn't getting around as much, but he is always sharp as a tack and doing research.

 

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On 3/25/2019 at 12:18 PM, jacobsaunders said:

Amongst the immense multiple brain-teasers re. D’Amores, is the neck angle. The current one has IMHO a much to flat neck angle, so that the bordon strings that go through the middle of the bridge, hardly make an angle on their way through the bridge. This makes them more or less dummy strings, there for optical rather than musical reasons, since they exert practically no downward pressure on the bridge. I was wondering if anybody could point me to guidance re D’Amore neck angles?

Did you ever find any relevant info concerning neck angles?  How is the project coming?

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25 minutes ago, Thomas Coleman said:

Did you ever find any relevant info concerning neck angles?  How is the project coming?

The “project” is kind of dormant at the moment, since I am still collecting information, and I have learned of a couple of old D’Amores, where I’m speculating that they be brought to me, rather than me having to travel to them. Summarized, up till now, there are all sorts of different measurements, and it seems that one is obliged to rely on common sense. There certainly isn’t any sort of DIN norm, and there certainly are D’Amores that don’t really work.

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If I remember correctly, Karel Vavra in Prague have one displayed in his shop as decoration, but I don't know how old or original it is.

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A few weeks ago, I very gingerly put the word around that I was looking for any good old 18th C. Viola d’Amores that I could borrow for research purposes. I have been astonished just how many d’amores there are. The Schloß Museum in Linz has, for instance eight of them! Even the next Bongartz Auction has two https://www.bongartz-auktionen.de/catalogue/1/index.html from Aman Augsburg and this one, https://www.bongartz-auktionen.de/catalogue/10/index.html described as Vienna 18th C. (I wonder why Vienna). In the workshop at the moment I also have a nice borrowed “Black” Michael Ignaz Stadlmann from 1787 which Bass Clef would kill for. The reason why one should be very careful, putting the word about that one is looking for D’Amores is a 1756 Prague Eberle. Which is also here, begging for attention

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12 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

I guess I will have to stick it back together

Please please post  pics!  Thanks for sharing.  *Jacob Saunders in 20 years*  "I never meant to become the leading expert on viola d'amore's, it just kinda happened"  :D

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4 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I have been astonished just how many d’amores there are. The Schloß Museum in Linz has, for instance eight of them!

A lot of museums here in the US also seem to be chock full of them, I think the Yale museum has about 8 too.

Although there are several notable 18th century works for these instruments, I'm surprised there isn't more, considering how many were made. I think a lot of players just spent time noodling around, it seems the perfect instrument for that.

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16 hours ago, deans said:

 I think a lot of players just spent time noodling around, it seems the perfect instrument for that.

"To noodle" sounds like an interesting verb. I spent my breakfast wondering about all the things one could describe with it:)

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