Woodworms are the secret behind Stradivarius violin’’s unique sound

January 30th, 2009 - 2:11 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jan 30 (ANI): After spending 33 years researching Stradivarius violins, a boffin has claimed that a chemical preservative, which was used to deter the worms three centuries ago, might be giving the Italian instruments their unique tonal quality.

Professor Joseph Nagyvary made the claim after analysing minute samples of the instruments given to him by restorers.

He burned the slivers and found numerous chemicals in the ash, including borax, fluorides, chromium and iron salts, reports New Scientist.

Nagyvary, a chemist and violin maker at Texas A&M University in College Station, has said that uncovering the chemistry of the wood used by Stradivari in his creations, might open doors for affordable, Stradivarius-quality modern instruments that could handle a bit of rough treatment.

Most high-end violins fail to make a violin like Stradivari, because they are built out of unadulterated wood.

Nagyvary had earlier suggested that salt water can impart superior acoustic qualities to wooden instruments.

Also, he found that maple used by Stradivari in a violin and a cello three centuries ago seemed to contain chemicals not found in natural wood instruments.

In fact, two violins made by Guarneri del Gesu, an instrument maker from the same Italian city as Stradivarius, also had similar signatures.

And now, further chemical analysis of wood shavings from these instruments has revealed the additives used in Stradivarius wood, which include borate an insecticide used by Egyptians for mummification plus various salts of barium, silicon and calcium, as well as zircon minerals.

Nagyvary said that these chemicals could affect the wood’’s internal structure and therefore its acoustic properties.

He also said that the master instrument makers worked with wood that had been pre-treated by others and not necessarily intended for violins.

Also, chemicals were found to vary from instrument to instrument, suggesting that Stradivari and Guarneri did not have a set recipe for treating their wood.

“You get your wood here and start carving. It did not begin with: get a board and put in chemicals, he said.

Thus he speculated that this could be the reason why these masters did not pass on any recipes to later generations and also why furniture from the same region has not succumb to woodworm, as Milanese furniture has. (ANI)

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