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Scientific investigations of Stradivarius violins--an updated review article


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4 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

You chickened out ! I.Q under 80 ??? Which one ?

By the way, I remember you did pick up some flack a while ago for commenting on ( Jewish ! ) people's dead mothers ? Are you an IMBECILE ? Some sort of IDIOT ? Leave my mother out of this you bloody cretin. 

It must be your imagination, because I have no issue whatsoever with Jewish people. My father, who was adopted, might even have been Jewish.

One more time, I am not your Momma. :lol:

 

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

1. Then I would suggest rather than atomizing wood structures it would be time to elaborate on a scientific background concepts for designing the sound in a workshop using methods of the past as a basis.

2. Science has a bit the frenzy to use last available technology to find something new, literally storming to the next 'media-spectacular' result. In the meantime testing what has been found so far gets largely neglected.

3. We may ask ourselves too, why we need to use I-don't-know-what-sort-of sophisticated technology to find out what makers in Cremona did with no scientific knowledge just with their hands and mind.

4. It reminds me ALWAYS of the search for the recipe of tyrenian purple. chemists were able to establish the molecular formula but failed to find the recipe how to do make it. Apparently even the last available lab technology failed to reproduce the molecule. Only after going into old procedures one scientist finally found the recipe by understanding the concept behind it.

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5. With all respect for your work and publications I think it is a bit like fighting the windmills when trying to find the universal Cremonese formula for violin sound. This would IMO basically require a good number of literally untouched instruments as if they were fresh from the shop.  

6. What we do in the end is trying to find results on a number of equations with too many unknown factors coming from afterward alterations.

7. If you take for example Vengerovs quote, it is pretty clear that it took two skilled violin makers to adjust his instrument the way it would work perfectly for his specific artistic needs.

8. On this background can we really see the 'sound secret' as coming entirely from the maker 300 years ago?

 

 

1. That's being worked on for a long time, with minor success and Bruce is into that, too. 

2. I'm sure this does happen but in this case researchers don't neglect anything. There isn't that much to neglect either i.e. not major chore to keep in mind what has been already found.

3. Sure we may. But then, why not ? They may not've had sophisticated scientific knowledge - they might've simply stepped over something accidentally. Maybe, the wood was treated with Cremonium. Bruce's methods MIGHT show that. If the use Cremonium is consistent only with Cremonese instruments then we have something to work with. N.B. - it does not mean that's the secret.

4. That's a maybe useful lesson but only that. We don't know what those researchers knew. Not a clue.

5. Probably not a good number or even "untouched". There must be some bits and pieces around.... Some pretty large bits...

6. I don't think that is the case here. Of course, there are many other opinions. 

7. Yes, for his specific needs. It worked just fine for other players' specific needs as it was.

8. Good question. I don't know. In my opinion, yes. But always good to hear what others are saying and look at their arguments, too. They might be right, who knows ?

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10 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

It must be your imagination, because I have no issue whatsoever with Jewish people. My father, who was adopted, might even have been Jewish.

One more time, I am not your Momma. :lol:

 

I know.

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3 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

.........In the meantime testing what has been found so far gets largely neglected. We may ask ourselves too, why we need to use I-don't-know-what-sort-of sophisticated technology to find out what makers in Cremona did with no scientific knowledge just with their hands and mind.............

 

 

I wouldn't be surprised if the makers paid to have Masses said over their instruments.  How do you test for that?  Anybody tried it experimentally? 

Just what can persist through centuries of iterative restorations?    Whatever they did has to pass that criterion.  :huh:

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

Sure is hard to follow any technical discussion with all the mud gunking up the works.

[Squirts disinfectant over her rubber boots]  That ain't mud, Don.     :lol:

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Many of you may be wondering what modern science can really do for violin making? 

Scientific research is not about making advanced products or giving instructions on how to make advanced products. When is the last time you bought an advanced product by an academic lab. 

The most powerful thing about science is providing conceptual frameworks.

Allow me to explain. 

The concept of LASER (light amplification by stimulated emission radiation) came from Einstein's prediction of stimulated emission in 1917. The first functional laser was only built in 1960. There is a very long way from concept to reality. However, there is no denying that new concepts can guide us to new achievements. Columbus had a concept of the orient, and the concept the earth being round. So he sailed west thinking that he would reach India.  

So what concepts have emerged from the scientific examination of Stradivarius violins? There are plenty. 

1. There is no secret ingredient in the varnish, nothing beyond the normal stuff that painters and varnishers used, all sold at the apothecary. We are finally sure that it is an oil-resin medium. So no need to worry about mysterious animal bloods or rare plant juices. 

2. The varnishing procedures of Stradivarius was complex, not simple. First smoothing the wood, then sealing the wood, applying the ground layer, and finally color varnish. There is no shortcut for reproducing the visual appearance of Stradivari's varnish.  

3. The varnish is not the magic bullet for favorable acoustics. So Hill, Vuillaume, and Sacconi were wrong. Stradivari's varnish may look special due to his skills and tricks, but it is not fundamentally different from what some copyists have tried.  

4. The wood used by Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri were treated with diverse chemical recipes. Whatever the intentions or the final effects of such treatments, old masters were clearly conducting chemical experiments. My next paper will show that spruce and maple were both treated. Cremonese simply did not use natural wood (air-dried) for violin plates. 

For those who wish to pursue the recreation of Stradivarius violins, the paths are now much better defined compared to 50 years ago. No need to try the crazy stuff or listen to crazy theories. Scientific data can tell you that Stradivari did not spray the alcohol solution of dragon's blood over nitric acid-treated wood.  Scientific data can provide a conceptual boundary of what can be tried, but that's very different from actual technical instructions.  

Psychoacoustics is a very immature field. Black boxes everywhere. After I published the first formant study of Stradivarius recordings in 2012 in Savart Journal (inspired by Nagyvary's unpublished works), several other groups have started to investigate the analogies between violin sounds and human voices in a quantitative way. I think this may be a useful concept for understanding violin psychoacoustics. But such knowledge is just the tip of the iceberg. There has to be be fundamental breakthroughs in measuring real-time brain activities before we can unlock the many mysteries of psychoacoustics. Regardless of whether Strads are the best, we know that there are super nice violins and bad violins. But we don't understand the acoustics signatures that set them apart. 

Currently there is no good way to link these four different things using available science:

Material properties => Body vibrations => Acoustics output => Auditory perception  

Hence, don't expect modern science to provide instructions on how to build superlative violins. Only great makers will be able to make great violins. I don't know how that works. 

   

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The idea that Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri did not use natural spruce and maple to build violins is a scary concept. But it is true. Our manuscript is still under review. It may be published this summer.  

But I am sorry to say that modern science can only tell us very little about what happened to a piece of wood 300 years ago. Reverse engineering is impossible, not even close. 

So we know what Cremonese masters did not use but not what they really used. That creates a huge problem for violin makers. I am sorry about this. But we are getting closer to the forgotten truths about Cremonese violin making. What happened happened, no matter how it was kept so secretive. 

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1 hour ago, Bruce Tai said:

Many of you may be wondering what modern science can really do for violin making? 

Scientific research is not about making advanced products or giving instructions on how to make advanced products. When is the last time you bought an advanced product by an academic lab. 

The most powerful thing about science is providing conceptual frameworks.

Allow me to explain. 

The concept of LASER (light amplification by stimulated emission radiation) came from Einstein's prediction of stimulated emission in 1917. The first functional laser was only built in 1960. There is a very long way from concept to reality. However, there is no denying that new concepts can guide us to new achievements. Columbus had a concept of the orient, and the concept the earth being round. So he sailed west thinking that he would reach India.  

So what concepts have emerged from the scientific examination of Stradivarius violins? There are plenty. 

1. There is no secret ingredient in the varnish, nothing beyond the normal stuff that painters and varnishers used, all sold at the apothecary. We are finally sure that it is an oil-resin medium. So no need to worry about mysterious animal bloods or rare plant juices. 

2. The varnishing procedures of Stradivarius was complex, not simple. First smoothing the wood, then sealing the wood, applying the ground layer, and finally color varnish. There is no shortcut for reproducing the visual appearance of Stradivari's varnish.  

3. The varnish is not the magic bullet for favorable acoustics. So Hill, Vuillaume, and Sacconi were wrong. Stradivari's varnish may look special due to his skills and tricks, but it is not fundamentally different from what some copyists have tried.  

4. The wood used by Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri were treated with diverse chemical recipes. Whatever the intentions or the final effects of such treatments, old masters were clearly conducting chemical experiments. My next paper will show that spruce and maple were both treated. Cremonese simply did not use natural wood (air-dried) for violin plates. 

For those who wish to pursue the recreation of Stradivarius violins, the paths are now much better defined compared to 50 years ago. No need to try the crazy stuff or listen to crazy theories. Scientific data can tell you that Stradivari did not spray the alcohol solution of dragon's blood over nitric acid-treated wood.  Scientific data can provide a conceptual boundary of what can be tried, but that's very different from actual technical instructions.  

Psychoacoustics is a very immature field. Black boxes everywhere. After I published the first formant study of Stradivarius recordings in 2012 in Savart Journal (inspired by Nagyvary's unpublished works), several other groups have started to investigate the analogies between violin sounds and human voices in a quantitative way. I think this may be a useful concept for understanding violin psychoacoustics. But such knowledge is just the tip of the iceberg. There has to be be fundamental breakthroughs in measuring real-time brain activities before we can unlock the many mysteries of psychoacoustics. Regardless of whether Strads are the best, we know that there are super nice violins and bad violins. But we don't understand the acoustics signatures that set them apart. 

Currently there is no good way to link these four different things using available science:

Material properties => Body vibrations => Acoustics output => Auditory perception  

Hence, don't expect modern science to provide instructions on how to build superlative violins. Only great makers will be able to make great violins. I don't know how that works. 

   

These are your opinions. They are not facts. You are presenting these opinions as facts. That is not good science.

You also abuse the term theory when you mean hypothesis. This is mot good science.

You also have this obsession with supposedly trying to "Prove" that Stradivari's violins have the best sound.

This is very bad science.

You continually ignore these criticisms as if you are either unaware of basic Scientific Principles or you just don't care for them.

 

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3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

It must be your imagination, because I have no issue whatsoever with Jewish people.

It is not in his imagination because you had problems  over years with Jews , Armenians (!), East Europeans, Muslims, Chinese etc. 

BE CAREFUL ! STOP THE STUPID BEHAVIOR !  

(The deleting and modifing of the posts does not help because MN is arhived in real time. )

 

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17 minutes ago, VicM said:

It is not in his imagination because you had problems  over years with Jews , Armenians (!), East Europeans, Muslims, Chinese etc.

Why did you stop there? I have probably had a problem with at least one person of every race and creed, at some point in my lifetime. :lol:  But most certainly, more Caucasian Americans than anyone else. :P

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3 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Why did you stop there? I have probably had a problem with at least one person of every race and creed, at some point in my lifetime. :lol:

BE CAREFUL ! STOP THE STUPID BEHAVIOR !   

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3 hours ago, Bruce Tai said:

1. The wood used by Amati, Stradivari, and Guarneri were treated with diverse chemical recipes. Whatever the intentions or the final effects of such treatments, old masters were clearly conducting chemical experiments.

2. Only great makers will be able to make great violins. I don't know how that works. 

   

1.  It is not clear to me that they were conducting chemical experiments until you can prove that they didn't use these chemicals as preservatives to defend against bugs, mold, and fungus during the air drying.  Or maybe that's an "experiment".  In any case, holding out that these trace chemicals would somehow instantly transform new wood into magical Cremonese wood seems fanciful in the extreme.

2.  I think I DO know how that works:  learn as much as possible from existing makers who make great violins, work diligently at it for 10 years (as a minimum), and get feedback from great players and makers.  i.e. trial-and-error and experience, with some shortcuts from history.  At least, these are my observations from noting who ends up at the top of major violinmaking competitions.  As yet I haven't noticed any scientists emerging from the acoustics lab with a tone winner.

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Chemical treatment is an interesting thought and quite possible too. (considering all discussions and publications over the years, where there is smoke there is usually fire)

It would be a mistake to repeat the same like

-> Varnish is the secret to the sound

-> Chemical treatment is the secret to sound

The real secret is, making a great violin is the secret to sound.

 

 

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12 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

1.  It is not clear to me that they were conducting chemical experiments until you can prove that they didn't use these chemicals as preservatives to defend against bugs, mold, and fungus during the air drying.  Or maybe that's an "experiment".  In any case, holding out that these trace chemicals would somehow instantly transform new wood into magical Cremonese wood seems fanciful in the extreme.

2.  I think I DO know how that works:  learn as much as possible from existing makers who make great violins, work diligently at it for 10 years (as a minimum), and get feedback from great players and makers.  i.e. trial-and-error and experience, with some shortcuts from history.  At least, these are my observations from noting who ends up at the top of major violinmaking competitions.  As yet I haven't noticed any scientists emerging from the acoustics lab with a tone winner.

Except for you Don

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14 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

As yet I haven't noticed any scientists emerging from the acoustics lab with a tone winner.

2 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

Except for you Don

Not yet... I'm still working on the trial-and-error and experience part, which I had initially hoped I could bypass... but no.  Reality doesn't work that way.

 

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

Why did you stop there? I have probably had a problem with at least one person of every race and creed, at some point in my lifetime. :lol:  But most certainly, more Caucasian Americans than anyone else. :P

specially those damn swiss.

 

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7 hours ago, sospiri said:

You also abuse the term theory when you mean hypothesis. This is mot good science.

From my favorite English dictionary, Random House Webster's

Theory

1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena: Einstein's theory of relativity.
2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
3. Mathematics. a body of principles, theorems, or the like, belonging to one subject: number theory.
4. the branch of a science or art that deals with its principles or methods, as distinguished from its practice: music theory.
5. a particular conception or view of something to be done or of the method of doing it; a system of rules or principles: conflicting theories of how children best learn to read.
6. contemplation or speculation: the theory that there is life on other planets.
7. guess or conjecture: My theory is that he never stops to think words have consequences.

------------------------------------

Some people may think only meaning #1 applies to science, probably because they are influenced by physicists, whose work often can be formulated in advanced math. In messy fields like biology, we have little math model to rely on and lots of exceptions to almost every rule. So we often use the word "theory" in the sense of #2, #5, #6, and #7. Most of the science being done today is pretty messy. 

 

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5 hours ago, Don Noon said:

1.  It is not clear to me that they were conducting chemical experiments until you can prove that they didn't use these chemicals as preservatives to defend against bugs, mold, and fungus during the air drying.  Or maybe that's an "experiment".  In any case, holding out that these trace chemicals would somehow instantly transform new wood into magical Cremonese wood seems fanciful in the extreme.

Our Cremonese samples ranged from 1619 to 1741. The chemical formulation became increasingly diverse and complex. Do you think it is only for finding better and better anti-fungal anti-worm recipes? Professional violin makers, then and now, don't want to waste time testing unproven chemical treatments and would rather focus on producing more instruments to generate sales.

They had other goals in mind. And they were willing to experiment for a century to meet those goals. Guarneri del Gesu was pretty desperate when he soaked his wood into something like 5% alum solution to get a lot of aluminum ion to penetrate his spruce and maple. That's not  just for anti-fungi. The Guarneri family business was doing poorly compared to Stradivari. I guess del Gesu was desperate for a competitive edge. 

 

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On 4/30/2021 at 11:41 AM, GeorgeH said:

You're welcome. But deflect when you can't defend. We're not discussing my work; we are discussing yours. 

This article is pure pseudoscientific nonsense. There is not a single objective measurable fact in the whole thing. All beliefs about some quack theory of "waking up" old instruments, which is something that can not be defined, measured, or even proven to exist. 

Your remark is shockingly unprofessional.  Bruce Tai has shown you a small sample of his data, and only that.  To think that you could judge his work from about 1 square inch of the paper is astonishing.

It's a shame that we can't see the paper yet, and I frankly have no idea what it shows.  But neither do you.

As I recall, you have used the word "pseudoscientific" very liberally when describing anything Bruce Tai has ever written.  He is a well-qualified researcher.  Whether or not he is correct, he has done a lot of work on this difficult subject.  As far as I know, you have published no knowledge at all on this subject.

Informed scientific opinions sometimes differ, but there are rules and careful forums for those opinions.  You claim that Tai's published papers are all nonsense.  Since you are disputing statistics, you have ample opportunity to publish a valid response in the same journals that published his papers.

It's telling that you claim to have published "numerous" scientific papers, but apparently have never published a response to one of Tai's papers.  That's how it works.  I'm sure you will supply the references if you actually have.  Valid scientific criticism does not come from internet trolling.

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