The divinity of the violin
When I started my violin making apprenticeship with a local Luthier, I considered it a hobby - like the model airplanes I was also making. After I went to a four-year violin making school the hobby became a craft. Then I worked for two years in New York restoring rare instruments and the craft turned into a profession. Now my shop, KRUTZ, has thousands of clients and over a dozen craftsmen. The instruments we make are sold to professionals and students all over the country. My instruments are used in orchestras from the Boston Symphony to the N.Y. Philharmonic. They are being played now and will be played for centuries to come. Now my profession is turning into a legacy and that leads one to reflection.
In this world there are things that are invented and there are things that are discovered. For instance cell phones and battery chargers are invented. Technology gave birth to these concepts and will continue to change both. On the other hand math and metrics were discovered because they are natural concepts of nature. Future advancements will make greater use of both but time will not change their core concepts. Therefore, those concepts that have been discovered I call divine. For most of my career I thought the violin family of instruments was invented. But after thirty-five years of making, restoring and experimenting with violins I am beginning to see that they are a concept of nature.
The ideal violin model with arch, graduations and other acoustic aspects perfected by Stradivari are made with proportions and spirals based on Golden Ratio geometry. The Golden Ratio has historically been called the “divine proportion” because light, sound and aspects of the human body (to name a few) are laid out by it. All things that are beautiful to the human ear and eye have this proportion involved. Any deviations from these ideal proportions cause a decline in the visual beauty and sound of the violin. In fact the violin bridge position, where the string vibrations coalesces into sound is located in the same proportion to the violin body as the naval is to the human body.
In the modern world technology has been able to synthesize the sounds of other types of mechanical instruments but the complex sound of the violin still cannot be duplicated. The violin is the closest man-made object that imitates a singing human voice. But what it lacks in not being a real voice it makes up for in amazing sound characterization and coloration versatility. I have seen the look in a soloist’s eyes as they get completely lost in the sound they are making.
They are at a level in their ability where they no longer have to think about what their hands are doing. They merely think about the sound they want to make and the hands do it automatically. The violin in turn sings back to them. Unlike other instruments the sound is being produced. With the violin it’s a duet.
In a hall where vibrations are not confined, the sound coming from a great violin played by master Musicians' Touches the deepest part of human emotion. Even listening to recordings can evoke strong emotions that influence a person’s mood. On the surface it seems mysterious for a man-made wooden box being vibrated by man-made steel strings to influence emotions in such a dramatic way. Quantum physics may have the answer in its unified string theory. The concept of this unified theory, which is accepted by most physicists, states that the absolute smallest particle at the core of all matter and energy is a vibration that most resembles a vibrating string. Since a violin is formed to maximize all aspects of a vibrating string it is logical to see how we humans interact more intimately with the sympathetic vibrations that touch the core of everything within us and surrounding us.
School orchestras do not always impart to the audience the full emotional intensity of what string instruments can do. But the classical music they perform has been documented to have a strong academic, intellectual and emotional impact on the students themselves. These orchestra students are also the building blocks for professional orchestras who have a major influence on the image and culture of our society as a whole. The vibrations, and in turn the music that our orchestras produce, open the mind to innovation. That innovation is what leads the economic and cultural growth of our country. It is also worth noting that the birth of incredible innovation during the renaissance happened right after the first violin family of string instruments appeared in Europe. So the divinity of the violin maybe an opinion but its relevance to the western world and our humanity is a fact.
Stay tuned for the next article where we look at two, identically made, three hundred year old violins from Europe. One violin has a German sound and is now selling for a few thousand dollars while the other violin has an Italian sound and is selling for a few hundred thousand dollars. We’ll examine what causes that sound difference.