Dutch doc pinpoints why Stradivarius sound so good

July 2nd, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  


London, July 2 (IANS) An innovative Dutch doctor has scanned the premium Stradivarius violins for wood density in a bid to find why they are so matchlessly melodious. Experts have long been intrigued by the great sound quality of classical violins from famous masters like Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu.

However, it was thought impossible to study these instruments, valued at several million dollars apiece, without risking them.

But radiologist Berend Stoel of the Leiden University Medical Centre found a way around the problem.

Based on his knowledge of measuring lung densities non-invasively, he designed a computer programme to study wood densities from CT scans.

Stoel and Terry Borman, a luthier (someone who makes or repairs stringed musical instruments), used the programme to scan five Cremonese and seven contemporary violins at Mount Sinai Hospital, and analysed their wood densities.

The homogeneity in wood densities from which the classical violins were fashioned were in marked contrast to their modern counterparts, explaining their superior sound production.

The average wood density of the classical and modern violins did not differ significantly. However, the differences in wood density between early and late growth were significantly lower in the ancient violins.

Since differentials in wood density impact vibrational efficacy and thereby the production of sound, it is possible that this discovery may explain the superiority of these violins.

This insight offers new possibilities into replicating the tonal qualities of these ancient instruments, the researchers concluded in an article in PLoSONE online.

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