Contemporary chemical clues emerge for the distinctive sound of Stradivari violins

Violin against a red background.

Enlarge / A 1729 Stradivari often known as the “Solomon, Ex-Lambert” on show at Christie’s in New York in March 2007. (credit score: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Pictures)

Musicians and music aficionados alike have lengthy savored the wealthy sound high quality of the violins created by Antonio Stradivari, notably on the daybreak of the 18th century (the so-called “golden interval”). Scientists have been equally fascinated by why Stradivari violins appear to sound so significantly better than fashionable devices; it has been an lively space of analysis for many years.

A current paper revealed within the journal Analytical Chemistry reported that nanoscale imaging of two such devices revealed a protein-based layer on the interface of the wooden and the varnish, which can affect the wooden’s pure resonance, and therefore the ensuing sound. In the meantime, one other paper revealed within the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America confirmed that the higher resonance of older violins produces stronger mixture tones, which might additionally have an effect on the notion of musical tones.

I’ve written extensively about this matter prior to now, and you’ll learn a useful abstract of among the analysis on this space so far right here. Per my 2021 article, the (perceived) distinctive sound cannot simply be because of the instrument’s geometry, though Stradivari’s geometrical strategy gave us the violin’s signature form. One speculation is that Stradivari could have used Alpine spruce that grew throughout a interval of uncommonly chilly climate, which prompted the annual progress rings to be nearer collectively, making the wooden abnormally dense. One other in style concept has to do with the varnish: particularly, that Stradivari used an ingenious cocktail of honey, egg whites, and gum arabic from sub-Saharan timber—or maybe salts or different chemical substances.

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