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Fungivarius Beats $2 Million Stradivarius Violin 210

Posted by samzenpus
from the dinner-and-a-song dept.
Fluffeh writes "Violins made by the Italian master Antonio Giacomo Stradivarius are regarded as being of unparalleled quality even today, with enthusiasts being prepared to pay millions for a single example. Stradivarius himself knew nothing of fungi which attack wood, but he received inadvertent help from the Little Ice Age which occurred from 1645 to 1715. During this period Central Europe suffered long winters and cool summers which caused trees to grow slowly and uniformly ideal conditions in fact for producing wood with excellent acoustic qualities. Now scientists are turning to fungi to recreate some of these amazing sounding instruments."

*

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Fungivarius Beats $2 Million Stradivarius Violin

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  • Violins (Score:5, Funny)

    by Spazztastic (814296) <(spazztastic) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:33PM (#29441827)

    Any time I see someone playing a violin I ask if they can play "Devil Went Down to Georgia." I usually don't get positive responses...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's more of a fiddle player's song. No difference in the instrument, necessarily, but definitely a difference in the player/technique.
      • by Itninja (937614)
        Yeah kind of like playing a trumpet, saxophone, etc...or simply playing a 'horn'. The horn players produce a completely different style of music.
        • by treeves (963993)
          Yeah, especially the hand horn [google.com] players.
        • I am thinking more the difference between, say, jazz trumpet and classical trumpet. You can use the same horn, but different playing style, and sometimes different techniques. Definitely a different sound is desired...

    • I've almost wanted to learn the song, just so I could do it when asked. Fortunately, I stopped playing after college, so I don't get the request anymore ;-)
    • I can, and it's a fantastic and fun song. You should've asked me! :3

      I'm classically trained but thoroughly enjoy fiddle music. Nothing is quite as crowd pleasing in a pinch, and it's great at parties. If I could play some Paganini perhaps, then maybe I'd stick to straight classical, but that stuff is bloody difficult. :)

  • Hatori Hanzo and his amazing swords.

    As interesting as this is, I still think I'd rather watch Kill Bill then listen to classical music.

    • Re:Reminds me of (Score:5, Informative)

      by raddan (519638) * on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:06PM (#29442403)
      That's too bad. There's some really amazing classical music. You'd probably be surprised to find that many tunes are already familiar to you.

      I listened to quite a bit of classical music when I was a kid, but during high school I switch to rock. During college I rekindled my interest in it when I found that classical had the same-- if not better-- calming effect on my brain that some kinds of metal music had. In particular, almost everything by J.S. Bach and Girolamo Frescobaldi. I especially like Glenn Gould's Bach recordings (piano) and Colin Tilney's Frescobaldi recordings (harpischord).

      I've found that the structure and depth of much classical music is much more complex and satisfying than most contemporary music. Don't get me wrong, I still listen to rock music, rap, folk, and electronica music, and I do like a good amount of what I hear-- but I think for many "artists", making a living is more important to them than making art, and this is really where a lot of the old masters excel.

      Here are some good "beginner" pieces to listen to. They're accessible, and have catchy tunes, and they run the whole spectrum of expression. They're not dull at all!
      • Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (I like the Boston Symphony Orchestra recording with Ozawa conducting)
      • J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations (I like Glenn Gould's second recording, from 1988) or Brandenburg Concertos
      • I'm not a huge Mozart fan, but you've probably heard (and might) like much of his stuff
      • pretty much anything by Beethoven
      • Niccolo Paganini's 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (I like Midori's recording-- wow!)
      • Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (the orchestral re-work done by Ashkenazy is amazing)
      • G. F. Handel's Water Music (Hogwood/Academy of Ancient Music recording is my favorite)

      Anyhow, give it an honest try. You might like it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by amplt1337 (707922)

        when I found that classical had the same-- if not better-- calming effect on my brain that some kinds of metal music had.

        I suspect that many people who don't listen to much metal would not find this statement surprising. (That's their oversight, of course.)

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        There's a lot of modern music which borrows heavily from classics and is as rich as most of classical pieces.

        For example: Nightwish, Falconer, Rhapsody, Aina, ...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mhajicek (1582795)
        Check out Emilie Autumn, and her two disk album "Laced / Unlaced". The first disk is some impressively technical classical, the second modernizes and goes industrial.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I still think I'd rather watch Kill Bill then listen to classical music.

      So, which classical pieces do you intend to listen to after you've watched Kill Bill?

  • by purduephotog (218304) <hirsch@@@inorbit...com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:37PM (#29441879) Homepage Journal

    When I was much much younger I was purchasing a violin. While at this shop the owner had a 'cheap' Stradivarius. After I had selected the instrument I wanted (this had been going on for weeks of trying them) the owner let me hold, and play, his 'cheap' Stradivarius.

    The sound that effused out of that instrument can not be put into words to hear and feel... it made the one I selected sound as if it were a cheap knockoff made of plastic. The tones could not even be compared in the same room- one was transmitted through steel cups and a string, the other was singing in front of you.

    To this day that is one of the more emotional feelings of music I have ever felt.

    To have that sacred sound reproduced for everyone to have access to- I don't know. It is such a beautiful instrument that, currently, only the elite can have and play (most instruments are endowed to players- on 'loan'). Should everyone have access... would it be the same?

    • by Utini420 (444935) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:46PM (#29442047)

      The fact that you even wonder if it would be the same if it was "common" strikes a blow to your assessment that it actually sounded different. I'm sure good ones sound better than cheep ones, but all you convinced me of was that elitism has a note all its own.

      • by popeye44 (929152)
        As I play and listen to various guitars. I can unequivocally say that different woods and builds sound exceptionally better. Violins are no different. The better made ones do have better tonal qualities. I'm a lamp cord user over monster cable so i'm not an elitist :-]
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MBGMorden (803437)

          I don't think the actual quality was being called into question, but rather the fact that the original poster specificed wondered if the sound would be as good if it was common.

          That itself basically states that to some degree, the poster was prizing not the actual sound (which should be good aside from rarity), but rather the fact that he was hearing what was described as a rare instrument.

          Personally, I agree on the quality issue, but I've never been much for "rarity" alone making something sound better. A

          • by amplt1337 (707922)

            Not to mention that if someone were really concerned with good music, he'd want everyone to play on the best instruments possible. How would the world be any less rich if it were full of more beautiful sounds?

          • by ArsonSmith (13997)

            I think he was more concerned that if the quality was always that good if he would get the same emotional response every time, or if it would water itself down to the mundane.

            • Just as the honey-delicious manna from heaven eventually tasted like stale dust to the Israelies who had nothing but manna to eat, an awe-inspiring sound will eventually turn into pure noise without variety. Any violinist worth their resin can tell the difference between a $200 violin and a $200,000 violin -- and to them, the $200,000 violin has a sweet, full resonant tone to it. To someone who hates listening to his sister practice violin for 2 hours a day, a $200,000 violin sounds like a dopier at low n
          • by Joce640k (829181)

            In an electric guitar the wood doesn't do an awful lot, it's just there to hold the strings and pickups in place.

            An acoustic instrument is different....

            • by MBGMorden (803437)

              You will find that wood choice does make a difference in electric guitars as well (ash being very popular for example), though I'll readily admit that it doesn't make AS MUCH of a difference as in acoustical instruments. However, you completely missed my point. There are other things at work with electrics that makeup for wood differences (namely, quality of the pickups). You're back to arguing about a quality difference. Again, the whole point of my post was to say that a quality instrument is a quality

    • by LitelySalted (1348425) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:48PM (#29442073)

      I imagine there might be some of that Placebo effect taking place.

      They did a study a while back where they gave cheap wine to ordinary people and labeled it as expensive wine. Then they did the opposite, labeling the expensive wine as cheap wine. When people were asked which wine they liked better, guess what? they liked the "cheap" wine labeled as expensive wine the best.

      While I don't doubt that the Stradivari violins may be top notch, I doubt there is that much variance between a "modern" top notch violin and what he created.

      • by mpapet (761907)

        I doubt there is that much variance between a "modern" top notch violin and what he created.

        There's actually lots of differences. The listening scenario is playing the same song on two different instruments by the same player. It's obvious then, but that doesn't make a good performance that people are willing to pay for. NPR did a story like that one Sunday morning.

        Also remember that modern violins are played at a higher pitch with modern strings that appeal more to listeners than really old violins. O

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A listener might attribute "better" sound to a more expensive violin, *and* the player might play the more expensive violin with more care, resulting in a "better" sound.

        A real double blind test would require a robot player that played each instrument exactly the same.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jc42 (318812)

          A listener might attribute "better" sound to a more expensive violin, *and* the player might play the more expensive violin with more care, resulting in a "better" sound. A real double blind test would require a robot player that played each instrument exactly the same.
          Some years back, I read of an interesting "double blind" test that showed another interesting complication.

          The test setup was a violinist hidden behind a screen, playing the same pieces of music on several instruments. The listeners were a

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by badasscat (563442)

            However, the listeners were highly inconsistent in their ratings of the sounds of the various instruments. How good a given piece of music sounded was different for different listeners, and unrelated to the commercial "value" of the instruments. It was also not very well corellated with the player's opinion of the instrument's quality.

            The main conclusion I drew from it is that the significant difference in an instrument's "quality" is how well it plays (and that could well be different for different musical

      • by Krneki (1192201)
        While I know jack shit about violins I do feel the difference for stuff I know and like. Of course the world is full of wannabes, but those who love one thing, can spot the difference easily.
        • by KC1P (907742)

          Exactly! It's painful to see all the slashdotters making final pronouncements about stuff they don't care about. I mean I'm sure plenty of violinists think MS-DOS is just as good as Unix.

          To a life-long musician, differences between instances of the instrument they play are really obvious. You'd think that all this wonderful space-age technology would make every modern instrument perfect but it's just not being applied. I mean, why doesn't artificially flavored food taste exactly like the real th

      • This is why one ought to have more than double blind tests.

        I suggest Quad blind semiblind and misleading tests, to test the placebo effect AND the real. For each sample, double it; one blind, one with clearly marked labels which may or may not be correct. Then measure and compare the results of all.

        One of the things I suggest that might be happening is that certain things do have a "difference" that one cannot measure accurately with scientific equipment.

        Let us say for the sake of argument that it is not fu

        • by Skweetis (46377)

          Let us say for the sake of argument that it is not fully possible to measure all the subtleties of a AUTHENTIC Stradivarius verses an otherwise high grade violin. Then what? What if humans CAN detect things like "warmth" that a scientific measuring instrument can't fully quantify because we aren't able to measure it with scientific instruments?

          I once spent several hours helping someone to modify a guitar amplifier to sound "warmer". We achieved what he wanted eventually, and I came to the conclusion that "warmth" is a combination of a smooth, peakless frequency response in the range of 150-1500 Hz, a little attenuation of the frequencies above 2 kHz, and a slight attenuation of odd-order harmonics in the signal. At least in the case of this particular amplifier. Of course, a sample size of one amplifier doesn't make a scientific study, and th

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        The cheap wine thing would fool the average wannabe wine snob but it wouldn't fool a real expert.

        The audio cable thing - NOBODY can tell the difference.

        The wooden instrument thing, there's very little difference between the best modern instruments and a Strad. But ... a Strad is a Strad. If it's a Strad you know you've got the best and it doesn't get any better. No need to get into any arguments with people over which is the best brand, western vs. oriental, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550)

      To have that sacred sound reproduced for everyone to have access to- I don't know. It is such a beautiful instrument that, currently, only the elite can have and play (most instruments are endowed to players- on 'loan'). Should everyone have access... would it be the same?

      Should everyone have the privilege of having access to cheap books? Should everyone have access to quality medical care? Oh, I see, they should not...or should they?

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      I know it sounds strange, but I had a similar experience comparing the tone of an old Martin guitar to the ones I could actually afford. I'm not a good guitar player and don't have a really good ear, but dammit, it just sounds better!

      As far as your last question, ultimately it is the sound that matters, not how it is produced. So if they can build a modern instrument with the sound of a Stradivarius or of Pachelbel's violin, they absolutely should. And don't worry -- it still won't be cheap; it'll just cos
  • There's an implication in there that it makes the wood more uniform, as if it had grown in that mini ice age, but there's no explicit mention, and all I can find at the minute are links to the same story.
    Is that what it does, or is it something else to do with the acoustic properties of the wood?
    • by raddan (519638) *
      Last two lines in TFA:

      The fungal attack changes the cell structure of the wood, reducing its density and simultaneously increasing its homogeneity. "Compared to a conventional instrument, a violin made of wood treated with the fungus has a warmer, more rounded sound," explains Francis Schwarze.

      But other than that, you're right, not much to go on.

  • Methodology (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:48PM (#29442079)

    The test was with 5 violins, which consisted of one Strad, two made recently by biotech, and two made recently in the traditional way. The audience had 180 members. If you were to guess at random, you'd have a 20% chance of picking the Strad, and a 40% chance of picking out one of the biotech productions.

    Some comments on the methodology:

    • The tested was done blind, but seemingly not double-blind. The player was behind a curtain, but could probably have picked out some visual differences between the instruments (a notch here, certain wood grain pattern there, etc.), which in turn could have affected his playing, consciously or unconsciously. It'd be preferable to get a pair of Strads on loan and have a master violinist play them without seeing them beforehand.
    • 180 seems a small sample size to me, especially when you have a fairly high chance of guessing the Strad.
    • Was the curtain acoustically transparent?

    As it happens, one of the biotech productions got 50% of the vote for the best sounding one, and 63% thought it was the Strad. That beats random guessing by a good margin, but I think this could have been done better.

    • by raddan (519638) *
      Also, importantly, it appears that the audience members could talk to each other.
    • "Of the more than 180 attendees, an overwhelming number â" 90 persons â" felt the tone of the fungally treated violin "Opus 58" to be the best. Truslerâ(TM)s stradivarius reached second place with 39 votes, but amazingly enough 113 members of the audience thought that "Opus 58" was actually the strad! "Opus 58" is made from wood which had been treated with fungus for the longest time, nine months."

      It appears that two 'fungus violins' were used and that the longest treated one was picked out (

  • Hmm. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Trayal (592715)
    This would be rather more convincing to me if the listeners were not part of a group where they could possibly confer with each other (groups of people discussing a subjective subject are likely to come to the same conclusion), and/or if the results have been shown to be consistently repeatable.

    Still an interesting start, though. Definitely merits further investigation.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For example, the wood for the Stradivarius violins were transported by floating them in salt water behind the boat. And there are theories about the varnish.

    The top of a violin has decorative purling trim placed in a groove carved around the outer edge. The groove is thinner than the rest of the violin, and it eventually cracks, causing the face of the violin to resonate better.

    Violins that are played sound better than new violins. This can be duplicated by placing a violin in a chamber with speakers, and p

  • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfr ... t ['om.' in gap]> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:53PM (#29442167) Homepage Journal

    Give me six months and a soundboard and I'll reproduce and then better the best violin you've ever heard. Only problem is, you'll never accept the results.

    You want to know why Stradivarius violins are regarded as being of unparalleled? It's because they are regarded as being unparalleled. Do you seriously think that in over 300 years of violin making that noone has yet beaten what must be by now ancient and squeaky artifacts?

    This kind of "Golden Age" worship is not based on any objective assessment of quality or sound harmonics or anything else. When violins are so good that there is no realistic way to tell the difference, people need to make up myths and stick to accepted scripts in order to be accepted as "knowladgeable". It's like how in blind tastings no-one can tell the difference between cheap and expensive wines. Blind test it and I guarantee you that 99.99% of professional music lovers wouldn't be able to tell a Stradivarius from a cubase.

    You're telling me that one guy in the 1600 managed to get his hands on all the fungus infested trees in Europe brought on by the cold and "that's" what's making these things sound so good? When people have to resort to such Grade A bullshit like that, you know they're getting desperate. I find it far more plausible that the Emperor has no clothes, and that violins can only approach a theoretical limit of sound quality before physical forces, feedback, etc become dominant over the diminishing returns.

    There's no secret to Stradivarius violins. If people want to throw money away on mythical violins, let them. The ones from your local dealer will sound just as good, and in any case, violins don't have any effect on human penis size.

    • I'll bet you don't use these cables [pearcable.com] on your stereo.

      And you probably aren't much fun at parties.
    • by hardburn (141468)

      Do you seriously think that in over 300 years of violin making that noone has yet beaten what must be by now ancient and squeaky artifacts?

      I'm willing to believe it's possible, with a caveat. In many artistic disciplines, the master may die without imparting all his knowledge to a student. When the student becomes the new master, he too later dies without passing on everything he knows. Thus, the knowledge base eventually dwindles. In part, the rigor in scientific fields of writing down everything in detail is an important part of fighting against this tendency.

      You're telling me that one guy in the 1600 managed to get his hands on all the fungus infested trees in Europe brought on by the cold and "that's" what's making these things sound so good?

      It wasn't the fungus that made Strads good (though I originally read it that way, t

      • by amplt1337 (707922)

        I'm willing to believe it's possible, with a caveat. In many artistic disciplines, the master may die without imparting all his knowledge to a student. When the student becomes the new master, he too later dies without passing on everything he knows. Thus, the knowledge base eventually dwindles.

        This is one theory of knowledge transmission, and it deserves to be taken seriously; however, we're at the head of a four-thousand-year-long counterexample in our current technological progress. Many students learn things that their masters never knew, and the overall state of the art advances. So while I think it's possible that Stradivarius knew more about violin-making than his students, it also seems very unlikely to me that we've never recovered his knowledge.

        If the difference is in materials (as is

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ZekoMal (1404259)
      The digital age hath clouded thine judgment.

      Mass produced violins will tend to sound tinny due to their mass-production. Placing immense care into an instrument that'll be in the hands of a 6th grader who really wants to skip school to smoke pot would be a waste of time, so they churn out low quality instruments.

      Individually built violins have a warmer tone, as more care is put into them. But that's just on the outer rim of effort put in. The type of wood, the location of the tree it was cut from, how i

      • by Whorhay (1319089)
        I can't vouch for the mass produced vs. individually crafted bit. But I played the violin for eight years when I was in grade school. I had three different violins in that time and I can testify to the varying quality of sound that each put out. The one I liked best seemed to be older than the others. It had a label inside it that I believe claimed it was made in 1879 or something. Anyways my point is that even an amateur can tell the difference in quality of many violins. I don't know that I could detect t
    • I had a wine tasting instructor that claimed that any bottle of wine over $25 was $25 worth of wine and $N - $25 worth of "rare". Sound and wine, it's easy to spot the crap, but the difference between a great violin and a priceless violin is less than the difference in your ears on a cold dry day, vs. your ears on a hot humid day. (b.t.w. I'm done some programming for an audiologist, so I've seen just how variable human hearing can be.)
    • by RedBear (207369)

      Do you seriously think that in over 300 years of violin making that noone has yet beaten what must be by now ancient and squeaky artifacts?

      Do you seriously think you're so much smarter than everyone else that you're the only one who would notice an instrument sounding like crap? The Strads may not be perceptibly better than the best modern violins, but I'm pretty sure people didn't save them carefully for 300 years based on absolutely no positive attributes. And exactly why "must" they be squeaky just because they are old? Making statements like that might give others the idea that you have no idea what you're talking about.

      You're telling me that one guy in the 1600 managed to get his hands on all the fungus infested trees in Europe brought on by the cold and "that's" what's making these things sound so good? When people have to resort to such Grade A bullshit like that, you know they're getting desperate.

      No, that's not what

  • I'm not convinced (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bzzfzz (1542813) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @12:56PM (#29442219)
    Blind tests of violins and bows are notoriously difficult to conduct effectively. Much of the problem is that players become accustomed to particular instruments and unconsciously adjust their playing, and indeed their artistry, to the response of a particular instrument. Instruments have off days due to changes in humidity or string wear. The bow has to match the instrument and the performer. Differences among great violins are subtle. Selection of music to be played has a role. Performers, too, are variable, and rarely give three or more great performances of a work in a row.

    Nonetheless, this is promising work. A modern violin by the best makers is typically a $25,000 instrument, while professional players in major orchestras are expected to spend several times that for an older instrument. It's like having an extra house payment. If the quality of the modern instruments starts to rival and surpass those of lesser makers in antiquity, it will help young players immensely as well as giving speculators in such instruments a well-deserved comeuppance.

    • If this response to the 'fungus violin' was consistent, they would still be better than the strad, no matter what the reason.

  • by thatseattleguy (897282) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:03PM (#29442361) Homepage

    I'm old enough to have seen that a breathless "the real secret to Stradivarius's violins discovered!!!" story comes up about once ever ten years, then fades away, making way for the next iteration.

    When I was in high school it was that the wood he used was floated down rivers before it got to him, and therefore picked up minerals - which a modern maker claimed to have duplicated by boiling the wood in a broth made from shrimp shells. (I'm not making this up.) Earlier, it was something to do with the exact composition of the varnish. And no doubt numerous others that I never heard of.

    Somehow, through it all, Strads are still prized above all other instruments, and keep increasing in value each year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Shout it out brother! Every few years there is some "new method" to replicate Strads. You missed the one about soaking wood in urine, making one out of ceramic, and countless others. Kinda sad, really.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:26PM (#29442749)

      There's no question, the man made great violins. However, they are not some amazing, "Oh my god you can hear a huge difference no matter what," kind of thing. High quality modern instruments. It isn't as though there haven't been blind tests and acoustic analysis done, and they haven't shown any difference between high quality current instruments and Stradivarius.

      It basically is just a sort of self sustaining mythology, and thus is likely to continue. Even if we produced a violin with nanotechnology that was provably atom-for-atom identical, people would claim the Stradivarius sounded better.

      You see this in other high end audio all the time. Cables would be the best example. You can, and people do, pay prices like $50,000 for speaker cables. However there is no research anywhere that shows that they do anything for sound. Yet people claim they can hear the difference, despite none being measurable, and shell out the money.

      Also there's simply the status symbol. Stradivarius instruments aren't something everyone can own. As such owning one is a massive status symbol. This will remain true, no matter what replicas are produced.

      So it won't matter. They'll be "the gold standard" forever, however in reality we've already matched them acoustically.

      • Yep. An authentic Picasso is worth millions, but an exact reproduction might be too ugly to put in your living room.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Mr. Slippery (47854)

        You see this in other high end audio all the time. Cables would be the best example.

        My favorite example: Denon's AK-DL1: "Ultra Premium", a $499 5-foot Ethernet cable. [denon.com] It's so premium that "signal directional markings are provided for optimum signal transfer" -- presumably the electrons read the markings to figure out which way to go, because moving under a voltage is just so out of style.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ArsonSmith (13997)

        When you're stuck carrying around large piles of cash, of course things sound better when a company like monster unloads some of that from you.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Museums used to have a term for this effect:"The Power of the Authentic." People value something authentic over a reproduction even if they can't objectively tell the difference between the two. So someone who can't even tell the difference between an actual Picasso and a reproduction will still bask in awe of whichever one he or she BELIEVES is the real one, and think that it looks better than the one they think is the reproduction (based soley on what some authority figure TELLS them is the real one and w
      • by Skweetis (46377)

        You see this in other high end audio all the time. Cables would be the best example. You can, and people do, pay prices like $50,000 for speaker cables. However there is no research anywhere that shows that they do anything for sound. Yet people claim they can hear the difference, despite none being measurable, and shell out the money.

        In my misspent youth, I was in a band. I remember a show we played, at an outdoor venue, we were asked to put a speaker near a concession stand. We had a speaker and an amplifier to drive it, but the concession stand was about a hundred feet from the stage, and we didn't have a long enough cable. So, we used two sets of booster cables and a rusty barbed-wire fence that happened to be in the right place. I couldn't detect any sonic difference, and I haven't used anything but cheap lamp cords for speaker

    • Authentic Picasso's keep going up in value, but I doubt anyone really believes they look better than a great reproduction.

      A guitar used and signed by Pete Townsend would be more valuable than the same type unsigned and unused.

      There's really nothing about a Stradivarius that you can't get by spending $25000 or so. Except the provenance and prestige.
  • long winters and cool summers which caused trees to grow slowly and uniformly ideal conditions in fact for producing wood with excellent acoustic qualities.

    So it was the trees that created the conditions?

  • by Z8 (1602647) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:09PM (#29442495)

    The "unparalleled" sound of Stradivarii is probably mostly the placebo effect---the Stradivarius myth [telegraph.co.uk].

    Here's a quote from the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]:

    Above all, these instruments are famous for the quality of sound they produce. However, the many blind tests from 1817 to the present (as of 2000) have never found any difference in sound between Stradivarii and high-quality violins in comparable style of other makers and periods, nor has acoustic analysis.[2] In a particularly famous test on a BBC Radio 3 program in 1977, the great violinists Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman and the violin expert and dealer Charles Beare tried to distinguish among the "Chaconne" Stradivarius, a 1739 Guarneri del GesÃ, an 1846 Vuillaume, and a 1976 British violin played behind a screen by a professional soloist. The two violinists were allowed to play all the instruments first. None of the listeners identified more than two of the four instruments; two of the listeners identified the 20th-century violin as the Stradivarius.[3]

  • Seems like it wouldn't be that difficult to find a place in Canada that has a climate approximating that of "Little Ice Age", plant some trees, wait a few years, and then harvest Stradivarius-quality wood.
  • Perfectly believable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:54PM (#29443163) Homepage

    I’m really a trumpeter...the computer thing is just to pay the bills.

    Last night at a rehearsal, for an incredibly stupid reason (I mean, really, how do you walk out the door without grabbing that big yellow Pelican case?) I had to borrow an instrument.

    The one I would have been playing on was owned by both Harry Glantz and Bill Vacchiano, perhaps the two greatest trumpeters ever to play with the New York Philharmonic. It’s a magical instrument, and the only C trumpet I ever want to play on again. Not perfect — it has its quirks — but it’s perfect for me.

    The instrument I played on last night was barely adequate, and the mouthpiece was the polar opposite of mine.

    It only took a measure or two for me to produce a sound that I considered acceptable. By the end of the first piece, only a trained musician who knows my playing very well would have been able to tell that I wasn’t using my own equipment.

    Of course, I had to work a lot harder than normal to get to that point, and I still wasn’t achieving the results I consider optimal. But very, very few people reading these words would be able to tell that.

    I learned that lesson decades ago at a master class with Charlie Schlueter, the principal trumpeter of the Boston Symphony. He wanted to demonstrate something but had left his horns at the hotel. So, he picked up whatever was closest, played a couple phrases, looked askance at the trumpet, set it down, and continued with the class. Everybody’s jaw dropped; the horn was the worst piece of shit I’ve ever played on — it leaked, sounded awful, and you couldn’t play it in tune to save your life. But Charlie still sounded like Charlie when he played it.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • by digsbo (1292334)
      Charlie still sounded like Charlie, but he was working far harder to do it, and the things he could marginally do with a good instrument would be impossible or difficult with the crappy one. If you don't play acoustic instruments for at least several hours a day for a significant part of your life, you really have no idea of what level of depth of aural perception your ear is capable of, or how a defect of a thousandth of an inch on a particular part of an instrument can radically affect your ability to pl
      • I think this is probably especially true with instruments that don't have frets - the musicians put the note where it should be - and isn't always there.
        Violins, slide trombones, that sort of thing.

        I'll take my frets any day ;)

  • Music is music (Score:2, Insightful)

    It's honestly REALLY fun to read dozens of people trying to rationalize the appeal of Stradivarius violins as being some sort of grand, elitist, social experiment. They're fantastic instruments, they're old, they're relatively rare, and they have a lot of history and legends behind them. Music is the full emotional effect. You can make an instrument that sounds as a good as a Stradivarius, but there are plenty of people that are swept away by the romanticism and mysticism of the original.
  • And if you lick it, you have an awesome shroom trip.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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