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The Dangers of Interpreting Information from the Past Based on the Present


Rue
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This keeps happening in MN. ^_^

It is fun to try to sleuth out a violin puzzle!  :) Why is there this hole?  Why is this thingy crooked?  Why doesn't this align the way it should?

But I am certain, in most instances, we're just overthinking it all - and we're coming to erroneous conclusions based on what we know from our current existence.

While there may not be overly-realistic reports of what life was like in every city, town and village back in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, etc., we still have a reasonably good idea of what life was like, or we should.

And we shouldn't forget the effects of time on any object.  Things get distorted over 300 years.  How could they not?

I think sometimes that mysterious 2 mm measurement that can't obviously be accounted for, was likely just an 'oopsie' at the time it happened...and then it aged! :D

Just because we may be obsessing about some minutiae now...doesn't mean they were obsessing about it back then.  Maybe they had better things to do than repair a minor error that didn't affect function...like avoiding the plague...or the taxman...or yet another long-term visit from the in-laws...

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50 minutes ago, Rue said:

This keeps happening in MN. ^_^

It is fun to try to sleuth out a violin puzzle!  :) Why is there this hole?  Why is this thingy crooked?  Why doesn't this align the way it should?

But I am certain, in most instances, we're just overthinking it all - and we're coming to erroneous conclusions based on what we know from our current existence.

While there may not be overly-realistic reports of what life was like in every city, town and village back in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, etc., we still have a reasonably good idea of what life was like, or we should.

And we shouldn't forget the effects of time on any object.  Things get distorted over 300 years.  How could they not?

I think sometimes that mysterious 2 mm measurement that can't obviously be accounted for, was likely just an 'oopsie' at the time it happened...and then it aged! :D

Just because we may be obsessing about some minutiae now...doesn't mean they were obsessing about it back then.  Maybe they had better things to do than repair a minor error that didn't affect function...like avoiding the plague...or the taxman...or yet another long-term visit from the in-laws...

Are you feeling all right?

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You might be correct.

Suppositions are great, if we have some evidence, some fodder, to chew on?

I remember a while back where a "Scarampella" was ID'd. Photos are meaningless compared to the real thing. But there are times, despite the shortcomings of the type of media, this becomes an interesting place.

If it were a lovely, bug- free, July evening with gentle drinks, I would love to be sitting there, in a circle with all of you, on a slightly sloped meadow that requires a bit of care to the loo. I would pay for the drinks and the ice to haul up onto a swell in the fields, sunset and stars and all.

We do get it wrong. But not 2.0mm. Maybe 0.2mm.

 

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This is reminding me a little of Nietzsche’s book On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life, a work well worth reading. History is a complicated subject, both in terms of our own attempts to objectively read it and in terms of our attempts to find a definitive meaning in an assortment of subjective accounts of the period.

It’s very easy to overthink things while trying to reconstruct working methods. It seems likely that a lot of the irregularities that we see on instruments now are the result of wear and deformation. I’m a bit leery of the argument that the great old makers didn’t measure things closely, though. Perhaps the measurement tools weren’t as precise as what we have available to us now, but the fineness of execution in the work shows great attention to exactitude. A great eye and hand will detect almost infinitesimal differences. 

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Since Andreas Preuss has chimed in, I will share something that is even more dangerous:

The Dangers of Interpreting the Present Based on the Information from the Past

We hardly know how to interpret the reality presented right before our eyes. How foolish to think that we can understand the past. But I love historical research because I am a fool.   

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21 hours ago, Rue said:

This keeps happening in MN. ^_^

It is fun to try to sleuth out a violin puzzle!  :) Why is there this hole?  Why is this thingy crooked?  Why doesn't this align the way it should?

But I am certain, in most instances, we're just overthinking it all - and we're coming to erroneous conclusions based on what we know from our current existence.

While there may not be overly-realistic reports of what life was like in every city, town and village back in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, etc., we still have a reasonably good idea of what life was like, or we should.

And we shouldn't forget the effects of time on any object.  Things get distorted over 300 years.  How could they not?

I think sometimes that mysterious 2 mm measurement that can't obviously be accounted for, was likely just an 'oopsie' at the time it happened...and then it aged! :D

Just because we may be obsessing about some minutiae now...doesn't mean they were obsessing about it back then.  Maybe they had better things to do than repair a minor error that didn't affect function...like avoiding the plague...or the taxman...or yet another long-term visit from the in-laws...

Yup.  You are supposed to interpret the present using the past for perspective, not the other way around.  For the full Santayana quote on the subject, in context for a change:

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted; it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in which instinct has learned nothing from experience."

George Santayana

:)

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One thing that I always forget about whilst conducting research, is that in Britain they were still using the Julian Calendar up to 1752 until they switched to the Gregorian Calendar. Up until that point the legal year started on the 15th March and it was only after 1752 that it changed to be 1st January. Of course the populus were already following the 1st January as the beginning of the year at this point, but it's important to note this fact from a legal point of view when looking at certain historical documents.

There are so many of these important little things that are easy to miss or not account for when looking at historical sources. It's easy for us to impart modern systems and thinking onto historical information without thinking things through.

 

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3 hours ago, Bruce Tai said:

Since Andreas Preuss has chimed in, I will share something that is even more dangerous:

The Dangers of Interpreting the Present Based on the Information from the Past

We hardly know how to interpret the reality presented right before our eyes. How foolish to think that we can understand the past. But I love historical research because I am a fool.   

I'm a big fool too.

 

19 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Especially if we consider that the ‘millimeter’ didn’t exist 300 years ago. 
 

We should learn how to square the circle. 

(Hi, Andreas)

They did however have the braccio, oncia, and point.   (1 Braccio = 12 Oncia, 1 Oncia = 12 Points)

It seems fairly safe to claim that the oncias for instrument in Brescia, Cremona, and Venice were in a range of 40.05mm +/- .1mm.   In practice, I simply use 40.07mm =≈ oncia of Strad

This range comports well with explicit historical evidence like the Capra book and reports of the carved stone reference in old Cremona.   It also leads to a rather interesting scheme of interpreting lengths of instruments and moulds from Cremona, and a related scheme to the sizing of purfling insets.

In this schema, insets at the edge are taken as points (3.34mm) and parts of points.  So, i.e. 1 1/4 point or 2 1/3 point etc.

Body lengths are taken as Oncia +/- a part of an Oncia.  And, some standard patterns are associated with different instrument types.  So tenors run in the 12 oncia minus a part or 11 oncia plus a part range.   Contraltos use 10 oncia plus a part.  Standard violins run 9 oncia less a part.  Very small violins base off 7 or 8 Oncia.  

Body length also relates to mould length, and there is intrinsically a difference between body outer edge length and mould length. So an inset is tied to body length.  These insets are taken by the same scheme as purf insets, points and parts of points.  Sometimes set the 'scheme' body length as the outer edge body length, but sometimes as the mould line body length.

The mould insets and purf insets are historically related but not equal. They have separate purposes and were chosen independantly.  

The mould inset (or I think of it as a framing inset) is chosen earlier, at the same time as the intended body length.  The purfling inset is then chosen later for decorative purpose. It is chosen so that the actual mould inset falls somewhere in the span of the purfling, and so that the white wood to the outer edge ans the width of the purfling will make a pretty ratio. ( typically 2:1 in Amati style and 3:4 in the later 'Strad' style.)

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1 hour ago, David Beard said:

I'm a big fool too.

 

(Hi, Andreas)

They did however have the braccio, oncia, and point.   (1 Braccio = 12 Oncia, 1 Oncia = 12 Points)

It seems fairly safe to claim that the oncias for instrument in Brescia, Cremona, and Venice were in a range of 40.05mm +/- .1mm.   In practice, I simply use 40.07mm =≈ oncia of Strad

This range comports well with explicit historical evidence like the Capra book and reports of the carved stone reference in old Cremona.   It also leads to a rather interesting scheme of interpreting lengths of instruments and moulds from Cremona, and a related scheme to the sizing of purfling insets.

In this schema, insets at the edge are taken as points (3.34mm) and parts of points.  So, i.e. 1 1/4 point or 2 1/3 point etc.

Body lengths are taken as Oncia +/- a part of an Oncia.  And, some standard patterns are associated with different instrument types.  So tenors run in the 12 oncia minus a part or 11 oncia plus a part range.   Contraltos use 10 oncia plus a part.  Standard violins run 9 oncia less a part.  Very small violins base off 7 or 8 Oncia.  

Body length also relates to mould length, and there is intrinsically a difference between body outer edge length and mould length. So an inset is tied to body length.  These insets are taken by the same scheme as purf insets, points and parts of points.  Sometimes set the 'scheme' body length as the outer edge body length, but sometimes as the mould line body length.

The mould insets and purf insets are historically related but not equal. They have separate purposes and were chosen independantly.  

The mould inset (or I think of it as a framing inset) is chosen earlier, at the same time as the intended body length.  The purfling inset is then chosen later for decorative purpose. It is chosen so that the actual mould inset falls somewhere in the span of the purfling, and so that the white wood to the outer edge ans the width of the purfling will make a pretty ratio. ( typically 2:1 in Amati style and 3:4 in the later 'Strad' style.)

Hi David,

Regardless I don’t see anywhere in the old times the obsession for precision we have nowadays. 

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On 8/22/2022 at 7:45 PM, Rue said:

This keeps happening in MN. ^_^

It is fun to try to sleuth out a violin puzzle!  :) Why is there this hole?  Why is this thingy crooked?  Why doesn't this align the way it should?

But I am certain, in most instances, we're just overthinking it all - and we're coming to erroneous conclusions based on what we know from our current existence.

While there may not be overly-realistic reports of what life was like in every city, town and village back in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, etc., we still have a reasonably good idea of what life was like, or we should.

And we shouldn't forget the effects of time on any object.  Things get distorted over 300 years.  How could they not?

I think sometimes that mysterious 2 mm measurement that can't obviously be accounted for, was likely just an 'oopsie' at the time it happened...and then it aged! :D

Just because we may be obsessing about some minutiae now...doesn't mean they were obsessing about it back then.  Maybe they had better things to do than repair a minor error that didn't affect function...like avoiding the plague...or the taxman...or yet another long-term visit from the in-laws...

One thing which is very, very, very hard to imagine for us is a world without modern science. 

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On 8/22/2022 at 1:45 PM, Rue said:

But I am certain, in most instances, we're just overthinking it all - and we're coming to erroneous conclusions based on what we know from our current existence.

This navel... is.....how profoundly deep...how perfectly smooth and round.... Ommmmmmmmm

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I think Rue is really on to something, though I'm not sure exactly what. The cartoon helped me understand a bit. 

What if we tried to conceive of violin making as an a-historical process, as per Sausurre?  One way to do that is to see it as a conversation, that's been going on for 400 years. The content of the conversation -- the statements made by the partipents --  consists of the instrument themselves.

I kind of like that. Stradivari said this. Guarneri said that. Then David Burgess and Jackson Marberry said some other things.

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13 minutes ago, Al Cramer said:

I think Rue is really on to something, though I'm not sure exactly what. The cartoon helped me understand a bit. 

What if we tried to conceive of violin making as an a-historical process, as per Sausurre?  One way to do that is to see it as a conversation, that's been going on for 400 years. The content of the conversation -- the statements made by the partipents --  consists of the instrument themselves.

I kind of like that. Stradivari said this. Guarneri said that. Then David Burgess and Jackson Marberry said some other things.

It is my sincere hope that history will forget anything David and I have ever said. 

Oh wait, you said the instruments! In that case I hope we'll be remembered.

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