Jan 26, 2009

Texas A&M Professor And His Love For Stradivarius Instruments

The world of music is an intensely subjective one. It seems that there is not much that most everyone can agree upon. In the world of stringed instruments, however, there are two names that stands out among the Masters, and those are the names of Antonio Stradivari, and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, with Stradivari barely edging out Guarneri.
The great Master made harps, violas, cellos, and guitars, but he is most remembered for the fine quality and superb, untouchable tone of his violins. Through the centuries since his passing, scientists and musical instrument makers have tried to crack the secrets to his perfect tone, and to his highly prized instruments.
The rarity of these instruments makes the effort very difficult. While he is estimated to have completed over 1100 instruments of the aforementioned types, only around 640 are known to exist today. That is an amazing number considering the fragility of wooden instruments.

Of all the people who have tried to analyze why Stradivarius instruments are so wonderful, Texas A&M professor emeritus of biochemistry, Joseph Nagyvary, has been at it for 30 years! His original idea, which was repeatedly ridiculed by many people, was that the wood for these fine instruments was chemically treated before-hand, and this is why they sound the way they do. It appears that his hypothesis was true!

Nagyvary, a native of Hungary who learned to play the violin by using an instrument that once belonged to Albert Einstein, has wondered for decades how Stradivari, with his rudimentary education and no scientific training, could have produced musical instruments with such an unequaled sound.
“These current research results are highly gratifying for me because they prove what I first proposed 33 years ago, that – contrary to common wisdom – the wood of the great masters was not natural (unadulterated) but chemically treated by certain minerals, some of which I had predicted at the outset. Based on my lifetime experimentations with similar chemicals, we have reason to believe that they could have played a major role in the great tonal refinement of the antique instruments,” Nagyvary says.
They found numerous chemicals in the wood, among them borax, fluorides, chromium and iron salts.
( Science Daily )
-FUPPETS- is always ready to praise scientists who stick to their guns and produce quantifiable data, whether it proves or disproves their theories, because it is that rigor which allows for honest understanding of the universe we live in. It takes away none of the majesty or grandeur or beauty experienced by enjoying such a fine instrument in the hands of a master musician to know how the quality of the instrument was achieved.
Mystery for mystery's sake is a fool's past-time. Mystery of any kind exists solely to let us know where to shine our "lights." Once a mystery is enlightened, other mysteries pop up. The universe will never run out and we should never tire of illuminating the dark areas in our collective knowledge.

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