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Down a Rabbit Hole


Jeny Mahon

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The two very interesting threads about the ID of a fiddle offered on T2 that went for well over the estimate, and the discussion about "What makes a Cremonese?" sent me down a rabbit hole with one particular fiddle that was unsold at T2.  

This was because I went to look at the originally posted T2 fiddle and of course got distracted by the unsold lots!  Before anyone chides me I realize that way lies madness :lol:

I got as far as unsold lot #2.  

https://t2-auctions.com/auctions/lot/?csid=2199912448&cpid=3904192512&filter_key=

It looks exactly like what it should, being an autodidact American fiddle made in 1902.  Just for fun I searched the maker's name to see what would come up. 

One other fiddle sold at a police seizure auction that definitely was by the same maker.

https://www.propertyroom.com/l/orazio-raffa-violin-with-case/15806605

The more interesting hit was an interview with the maker himself in a June 1901 edition of "The Candenza" an American periodical dedicated to stringed instruments. 

The maker, Orazio Raffa, an American living in San Francisco, was "an old man" at the time of the interview.  He went into extensive detail about how he spent 35 years studying exactly why the Cremonese fiddles were superior, decided it was the wood, and had traveled to Cremona several times to "learn their secrets". 

Raffa goes on to say he "discovered" the secret about the alpine wood being transported by chutes into streams and eventually to the River Po, and that being in water for the 6 month trip,  and the subsequent effects on the wood is what made it special.   After much study he made his own fiddles, some from this precious wood that he obtained in his travels, some from wood treated differently, and espouses upon the amazing quality of his fiddles made with the "good wood".  

Of course we all know about this.  Read the interview; it gets better. He states that Stainer and Stradivari had "no idea" about soaked or non soaked wood and both died not knowing why some fiddles came out better than others!  I suspect they did know.  I suspect this was common knowledge for a long time in Cremona and our friend Raffa learned this, and just took the opportunity to blast this "new information" to the world as his own discovery because in 1901, who would be able to prove otherwise?  

Aaannd he goes on about discovering Strad's secret varnish recipe with the help of "an expert chemist" and used this varnish on his fiddles.  Really, it's worth a read!

Anyway, I thought it was interesting and wanted to share.  And the utterly pure and lovely Nouveau art on the cover is worth a look on its own. 

P.S.  Is that a one-piece top?  

P.P.S. Not a German scroll?

 

 

 

 

raffa 1902.jpg

orazio raffa.pdf

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Not being one to want to throw rabbit pellets in ones salad, I kinda have a problem with the "soaked in Po"  theory and that is the science of displacement.

You see when a log is freshly cut, limbed but still barked, there is some water loss, but for the most part there is still a massive amount of water in there in both "free" and "bound" water. Now because there is already water, a cambium layer and other water resistant fluids such as saps, there really is no way for the log to "suck in" any fluids from the external water sources as it is already full of water and thus any "magical trace elements" if there were any absorption, would be very minimal and be residing in the outer layers that would be shucked off in the milling process.

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3 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

Not being one to want to throw rabbit pellets in ones salad, I kinda have a problem with the "soaked in Po"  theory and that is the science of displacement.

You see when a log is freshly cut, limbed but still barked, there is some water loss, but for the most part there is still a massive amount of water in there in both "free" and "bound" water. Now because there is already water, a cambium layer and other water resistant fluids such as saps, there really is no way for the log to "suck in" any fluids from the external water sources as it is already full of water and thus any "magical trace elements" if there were any absorption, would be very minimal and be residing in the outer layers that would be shucked off in the milling process.

It was 1901 and some unknown American just did an interview claiming he discovered the secret of the wood.  I have zero idea or opinion as to whether it's legitimate.  I wanted to share this example of how "facts" of all kinds were advanced in 1901; just by somebody giving an interview and nobody had any reason to dispute them.  It seemed a bit relevant to current discussions.  

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8 hours ago, Jeny Mahon said:

It was 1901 and some unknown American just did an interview claiming he discovered the secret of the wood.  I have zero idea or opinion as to whether it's legitimate.  I wanted to share this example of how "facts" of all kinds were advanced in 1901; just by somebody giving an interview and nobody had any reason to dispute them.  It seemed a bit relevant to current discussions.  

Oh I know, no one should feel bad, I can recall hearing such claims about such things in the 2010's, stated as if this were revolutionary....and true.

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9 hours ago, Jeny Mahon said:

It was 1901 and some unknown American just did an interview claiming he discovered the secret of the wood.

39 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

Since he had Stradivari’s secret, it seems a little demoralising that nobody wanted to bid $400:)

Isn't Bruce Tai the 21st century version of this? He keeps coming up with Stradivari’s secrets. :lol:

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3 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

Since he had Stradivari’s secret, it seems a little demoralising that nobody wanted to bid $400:)

:lol: I know!  Apparently the "leaders of prominent minstrel troupes" were all on leave last week!

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I love this (Cadenza  No. 10, vol. 7, June (1901), p. 14):


'Has the Lost Art of Stradivarius been. Rediscovered?
Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle.
When he crossed the .Alps and led his
conquering hosts down into Italy, Napo-
leon kiIled the art of violin-making. He
did it by building a 'wagon road'.
Before that date all of the grand instru-
ments of the world were made, since then
not one worthy to be compared with those
of old Stradivarius, Amati, Bergonzi or
Stainer. Ask any man wise in the lore of
the king of instruments and he will assure
you, with a sigh, that violin-making is a
lost art-though "fiddles" are still made by
the thousand-all but one man. He will
tell you, "Lost-yes-once, but rediscov-
ered. Napoleon took the violin from the
world-yes. I give it back to the world.
A thousand artisans have sought the secret,
but for precisely a hundred years the
Sphinx has not spoken. For thirty-five
years I have studied, dreamed, tried experi-
ments. Now I have overthrown Napo-
.leon. I have discovered the lost art of
making the Stradivarius violin ."'

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2 hours ago, Dr. Mark said:

I love this (Cadenza  No. 10, vol. 7, June (1901), p. 14):


'Has the Lost Art of Stradivarius been. Rediscovered?
Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle.
When he crossed the .Alps and led his
conquering hosts down into Italy, Napo-
leon kiIled the art of violin-making. He
did it by building a 'wagon road'.
Before that date all of the grand instru-
ments of the world were made, since then
not one worthy to be compared with those
of old Stradivarius, Amati, Bergonzi or
Stainer. Ask any man wise in the lore of
the king of instruments and he will assure
you, with a sigh, that violin-making is a
lost art-though "fiddles" are still emade by
the thousand-all but one man. He will
tell you, "Lost-yes-once, but rediscov-
ered. Napoleon took the violin from the
world-yes. I give it back to the world.
A thousand artisans have sought the secret,
but for precisely a hundred years the
Sphinx has not spoken. For thirty-five
years I have studied, dreamed, tried experi-
ments. Now I have overthrown Napo-
.leon. I have discovered the lost art of
making the Stradivarius violin ."'

Yes well this is proof of how it came to be. Apparently brainwashing through repeating the same flowery sounding crap for over 200 years

Think about how it would be that this would "make it's way" into a major legacy "news" paper and who would be behind such things and gee, golly what's the motivation?

I know,I know, I just "don't get it" :lol:

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2 hours ago, JacksonMaberry said:

Dr. Tai's work is a bit more nuanced than that and he's a good scientist. Also a very nice fellow. 

Ya but the motivations are somewhat the same, and well, don't forget to follow the science , especially well funded science that couldn't possibly have ulterior motives, but well he does seem like a nice guy, just like Bill Gates seems nice.:)

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2 minutes ago, jezzupe said:

Ya but the motivations are somewhat the same, and well, don't forget to follow the science , especially well funded science that couldn't possibly have ulterior motives, but well he does seem like a nice guy, just like Bill Gates seems nice.:)

I know him personally, the comparison with Gates is untrue and unkind. 

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3 hours ago, Dr. Mark said:

I love this (Cadenza  No. 10, vol. 7, June (1901), p. 14):


'Has the Lost Art of Stradivarius been. Rediscovered?
Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle.
When he crossed the .Alps and led his
conquering hosts down into Italy, Napo-
leon kiIled the art of violin-making. He
did it by building a 'wagon road'.
Before that date all of the grand instru-
ments of the world were made, since then
not one worthy to be compared with those
of old Stradivarius, Amati, Bergonzi or
Stainer. Ask any man wise in the lore of
the king of instruments and he will assure
you, with a sigh, that violin-making is a
lost art-though "fiddles" are still made by
the thousand-all but one man. He will
tell you, "Lost-yes-once, but rediscov-
ered. Napoleon took the violin from the
world-yes. I give it back to the world.
A thousand artisans have sought the secret,
but for precisely a hundred years the
Sphinx has not spoken. For thirty-five
years I have studied, dreamed, tried experi-
ments. Now I have overthrown Napo-
.leon. I have discovered the lost art of
making the Stradivarius violin ."'

 Me too!  That's some pretty grandiose stuff :lol:

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12 hours ago, Dr. Mark said:

I love this (Cadenza  No. 10, vol. 7, June (1901), p. 14):


'Has the Lost Art of Stradivarius been. Rediscovered?
Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle.
When he crossed the .Alps and led his
conquering hosts down into Italy, Napo-
leon kiIled the art of violin-making. He
did it by building a 'wagon road'.
Before that date all of the grand instru-
ments of the world were made, since then
not one worthy to be compared with those
of old Stradivarius, Amati, Bergonzi or
Stainer. Ask any man wise in the lore of
the king of instruments and he will assure
you, with a sigh, that violin-making is a
lost art-though "fiddles" are still made by
the thousand-all but one man. He will
tell you, "Lost-yes-once, but rediscov-
ered. Napoleon took the violin from the
world-yes. I give it back to the world.
A thousand artisans have sought the secret,
but for precisely a hundred years the
Sphinx has not spoken. For thirty-five
years I have studied, dreamed, tried experi-
ments. Now I have overthrown Napo-
.leon. I have discovered the lost art of
making the Stradivarius violin ."'

 

8 hours ago, Jeny Mahon said:

 Me too!  That's some pretty grandiose stuff :lol:

It's a vicious, but funny satire. He thinks the man is a complete crank.

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14 hours ago, sospiri said:

It's a vicious, but funny satire. He thinks the man is a complete crank.

lol -

'Behold - the brimming bowl of meat and meal

That has been sent to ease our hunger!

Behold - the flowing flagon moist and sweet

That has been sent to slake our thirst!

             Snoopy, waxing rhapsodic over his supper dish

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15 hours ago, sospiri said:

 

It's a vicious, but funny satire. He thinks the man is a complete crank.

Yep, newspapers sure knew how to entertain the public back then!  I feel sorry for the guy but I imagine this wasn't the first time he was lambasted.  Of course I've heard it before this but I don't know who originally started it.  I read about the wood theory in an old reference book years ago, but can't remember which.  And that was probably passed down also. 

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1 hour ago, Dr. Mark said:

lol -

'Behold - the brimming bowl of meat and meal

That has been sent to ease our hunger!

Behold - the flowing flagon moist and sweet

That has been sent to slake our thirst!

             Snoopy, waxing rhapsodic over his supper dish

 

behold.jpg

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