The Indianapolis Experiment

The Indianapolis Experiment

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, November 2012

Two years before Guadagnini’s death in 1786, King Louis XVI of France appointed a committee directed by Benjamin Franklin to investigate Franz Mesmer’s claims for the healing powers of “animal magnetism,” then being used to treat Marie Antoinette.  “Mesmerists” were asked to identify trees, flasks of water, and other objects previously ...Read more


Carleen Hutchins, 1911-2009

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, November 2009

When I met Carleen Hutchins in the mid-eighties, she was already something of a legend, having co-founded the Catgut Acoustical Society, developed a system for tuning violin plates, invented a new family of stringed instruments, and published a Scientific American cover story on the physics of the violin. Like many ...Read more


Good Vibrations : Signature modes of Old Italian violins & violas - part 2

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, July 2009

In 1680, the year that Stradivari moved into his shop on the Piazza San Domenico, the English scientist Robert Hooke dusted a plate of glass with flour and then drew a violin bow across its edge. The bow set the glass into vibration, and the flour migrated to the areas ...Read more


Scent of a Violin : Signature modes of Old Italian violins & violas - part 1

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, June 2009

A perfume, like a violin, is designed to evoke an emotional response. Though the response may vary wildly from one person to the next, the perfume itself can be fully characterised by the essential oils from which it is made. Provided these are known, the perfume – along with its ...Read more


Double Acts

By Nick Shave, The Strad, Dec. 2007

In 1984 Gregg Alf and I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, with thoughts of setting up shop there. A University of Michigan professor took us to the laboratory of his colleague Gabriel Weinreich, a physicist who was researching violin acoustics. I’d only recently become interested in the subject, and I had ...Read more


Man With a Van : Profile of Oliver Rodgers

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, November 2006

One Saturday morning in the 1994, retired engineer and violin acoustics researcher Oliver Rodgers parked his Ford pickup outside the renowned Philadelphia firm of William Moennig & Son. The shop was closed that day, but a violinmaker friend, Pamela Anderson, had spoken about Rodgers with Moennig salesman Phillip Kass. Kass ...Read more


Bridging the Divide : A Conversation with Professor Jim Woodhouse

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad

At the stately, historical William Penn Hotel in the once-sooty, now cleanly-scrubbed city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, members of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers gather for their 2005 convention: three days of lectures, exhibitions, panel discussions, and banquets. A distinctly British voice among the generally North American mix ...Read more


Domestic Bliss : Violin Acoustics, Part 4

By J. Curtin & M. Schleske, The Strad, July 2004

It is easy to get discouraged by the many obstacles on the way to getting clean measurements, or to fall into a never-ending search for the perfect measurement system. There is no such system. It is simply a matter of finding the kind of workable compromise that allows you to ...Read more


Man and the Machine : Violin Acoustics, Part 3

By J. Curtin & M. Schleske, The Strad, April 2004

Most violin shops have a computer in their office. As most computers have sound cards, they stand ready to process audio signals. With the addition of a microphone and about €100 worth of sound analysis software, we now have a workshop tool with the same day-to-day usefulness as a thickness ...Read more


A World Apart? : Violin Acoustics, Part 2

By J. Curtin & M. Schleske, The Strad, January 2004

Are there tonal differences between old Italian violins and those built at other times in other places? Can these differences be measured? In the last article (Oct. 2003) we saw that a violin’s ability to radiate sound in two particular frequency regions determined its projection. In this article we will ...Read more


Can You Hear Me? : Violin Acoustics, Part 1

By J. Curtin & M. Schleske, The Strad, October 2003

Why do some violins carry so much better than others? And what, in acoustical terms, allows them to do this? Let¹s go first to the Rhineland, in Germany, where researcher Ute Loos carried out a series of experiments in a small Dusseldorf concert hall. Loos began by asking six violin ...Read more


Gabriel Weinreich and Directional Tone Color

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, April 2000

“When I say I study violin acoustics, ” says Gabriel Weinreich, Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan and pre-eminent figure in the world of musical acoustics, “people ask me if I’ve found the ‘Secret of Stradivari’. Well, I suppose it was the instrument’s mystique that drew me to it ...Read more


Innovation in Violinmaking

By Joseph Curtin, Proceedings, International Symposium of Musical Acoustics (ISMA), July 1998

Abstract: The violin is a cultural icon as well as a working tool, and departures from its traditional form have been variously regarded as impossible (it would no longer be a violin), unnecessary (the violin is already perfect), and unacceptable (players would not play it). Is it possible to change, ...Read more


The Reciprocal Bow As A Workshop Tool

By Joseph Curtin, Journal of the Catgut Acoustical Society, May 1997

Introduction The obvious way to test a violin is to give it to a good violinist, then sit back and listen, just as, I suppose, the obvious way to test a race-car is to give it to a race-car driver and see how fast he can go. The trouble is ...Read more