What’s be­hind the in­com­pa­ra­ble sound of a Stradi­var­ius?

Modern Healthcare - - Modern Healthcare -

Let’s ask the CT scan­ner

In the 18th cen­tury a few Ital­ian vi­olin­mak­ers crafted in­stru­ments so strik­ing in tone that the sur­viv­ing ones are highly prized—and to­day worth mil­lions. Mod­ern luthiers still quest for what­ever alchemy would recre­ate that magic from the same ba­sic as­sem­bly of wood and strings. Now they are try­ing what a physi­cian might in or­der to grasp what can’t be ob­served through or­di­nary means.

Last month re­searchers con­vened at North­west­ern Memo­rial Hospi­tal in Chicago to send four vi­o­lins through a 64-slice CT scan­ner. They in­cluded a 1741 mas­ter­piece by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu called Vieux­temps, val­ued at $18 mil­lion, and one known as Cathe­dral made in 1707 by An­toni Stradi­vari.

Vi­olin­maker Terry Bor­man, whose shop is in Fayet­teville, Ark., is among lovers of the in­stru­ment who are ap­ply­ing hard sci­ence to their art. It’s a process he says his mu­si­cian clients don’t care to know much about it, but say, “What­ever you’re do­ing, keep do­ing it.”

Sev­eral years ago while pe­rus­ing the jour­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Ra­di­ol­ogy, Bor­man stum­bled upon the work of Dutch re­searcher Berend Stoel, who spe­cial­izes in em­phy­sema and pub­lished an ar­ti­cle deal­ing with the con­ver­sion of vis­ual data to quan­ti­ta­tive data to mea­sure den­sity. The two col­lab­o­rated on a study com­par­ing the wood den­si­ties of 18th cen­tury and mod­ern vi­o­lins. Pre­vi­ously, Bor­man says, the stan­dard method for quan­ti­fy­ing the wood den­sity would be to re­move the top plate, wrap it in a bag, and dunk it in a bucket of wa­ter to mea­sure the dis­place­ment.

At the in­vi­ta­tion of Chicago vi­o­lin dealer Bein & Fushi, the pair now are col­lab­o­rat­ing with vi­olin­maker and re­searcher Joseph Curtin of Ann Ar­bor, Mich., and a team of sci­en­tists to com­bine their den­sity map­ping with cut­ting-edge mea­sure­ment of the acous­ti­cal and dy­namic prop­er­ties of the in­stru­ments.

The re­sult, Bor­man says, could be a math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion that re­veals how the char­ac­ter­is­tics re­late to one an­other to pro­duce that elu­sive sound. If you’re in Chicago and would like to hear it, Ilya Kaler will play the vi­o­lins in recital April 7 at the Fine Arts Build­ing.

Don’t move, Mr. Vi­o­lin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.