That Stradivarius violin sound?

Headline of article in today's Cleveland, Ohio Plain Dealer, sub-headlined, Experts trace it to Mother Nature's 'Little Ice Age'
Knoxville, Tenn.- The secret of a Stradivarius violin's heavenly sound may actually have celestial origins.
For centuries, experts have debated whether special varnishes or wood treatments were the secret to the instrument's rich resonance.
Now a tree-ring dating expert at the University of Tennessee and a climatologist at Columbia University offer a new theory- the wood developed special acoustic properties as it was growing because of an extended period of long winters and cool summers.
" It just amazed me that no one had thought of this before," Dr. Henri Grissino-Mayer said. "The relationship between the violins, the trees that they were made from, the climate that existed when the trees grew and how it affected wood density to create a superior tonal quality."
Grissino-Mayer at Tennessee and Dr. Lloyd Burckle at Columbia suggest a "Little Ice Age" that gripped Europe from the mid 1400s until the 1800s slowed tree growth and yielded uncommonly dense Alpine spruce for Antonnio Stradivari and other famous 17th-century Italian violinmakers.
The ice age reached its coldest point from 1645 to1715.
Stradivari was born a year before this period began. and he produced his most prized and valued instruments as the period ended- his "golden period from 1700-1720.
Burckle, who studies global climate change through the lives of tiny sea creatures at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observation in Palisades, N. Y. compared the dates and wondered if there was a connection.
He contacted Grissino-Mayer at Tennessee's Labortory of Tree-Ring Science, who two years ago authenticated the world's most venerated Stradivarius violin, known as "The Messiah" in England.
Grissino-Mayer developed a 500-year chonology, from 1500 to the present, for 16 high-elevation forests of larch, spruce and pine in five countries from western France to southern Germany. He discovered an unprecedented period of slow growth from 1625-1720 characterized by compact, narrow tree rings.
Grissino-Mayer and Burckle noted that "narrow tree rings would not only strengthen the violin but would increase the wood's density."
Stewart
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All these theories on the sound of strads are plausible. A prominent and recent theory that the logs had been floated downriver during that period and had remained submerged for some time before use. IIRC, a few years back a scientist/violin maker in central Texas was doing something similar to logs and getting a sound that fooled some "experts".
The sound of an any instrument is very subjective, and it is absolutely amazing how much the particular sound of an instrument has to do with the hands and touch of the player.
Good post!
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Duh!
Violin Making from Lee Valley first published in 1885.
A pretty bold and self promoting statement, "no one had thought of this before"
I don't know if I should bang my head against a wall, just shake it or go cry.
Man lets all go grab headlines discovering "new" things.
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I bet a lot of people thought about it and then after a few seconds of extra thought they realized that anyone making violins from wood harvested a bit further North (today) would have the same qualities. Since this doesn't seem to be the case, they would go back to the drawing board.
Ken Muldrew snipped-for-privacy@ucalgazry.ca (remove all letters after y in the alphabet)
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(snip)
The real secret? 500 years of editing. The violin was invented during his lifetime, or shortly before, iirc.
At some point, he learned how to make violins. At some LATER point, he learned how to make a World Class violin.
After a Century or so, all of his clunkers became firewood. Only the Very Best of his Very Best remain, and are in the hands of the Very Best of the Very Best players.
Does wonders for ones reputation.
There are lesser-known makers of whom far fewer examples remain, but which are extremely well regarded, not to mention a number of modern makers who have an excellent reputation among players.
Isn't there a surgeon who makes one or two world-class violins per year, and has a five year long waiting list?
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