Fungi make violin sound like a Stradivarius


This video is called Yehudi Menuhin plays rare Stradivarius violin.

From the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres:

Treatment with fungi makes a modern violin sound like a Stradiavarius

A good violin depends not only on the expertise of the violin maker, but also on the quality of the wood that is used. The Swiss wood researcher Professor Francis W. M. R. Schwarze (Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, St. Gallen, Switzerland) has succeeded in modifying the wood for a violin through treatment with special fungi. This treatment alters the acoustic properties of the instrument, making it sound indistinguishably similar to a Stradivarius. In his dinner talk at the 1st ECRC “Franz-Volhard” Symposium of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin on September 7, 2012 in Berlin-Buch, Schwarze reported on his research and gave a preview of what his wood treatment method could mean, particularly for young violinists.

Low density, high speed of sound and a high modulus of elasticity – these qualities are essential for ideal violin tone wood. In the late 17th and early 18th century the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari used a special wood that had grown in the cold period between 1645 and 1715. In the long winters and the cool summers, the wood grew especially slowly and evenly, creating low density and a high modulus of elasticity. Until now, modern violin makers could only dream of wood with such tonal qualities.

Professor Schwarze’s developments could soon make similarly good wood available for violin making. He discovered two species of fungi (Physisporinus vitreus and Xylaria longipes), which decay Norway spruce and sycamore – the two important kinds of wood used for violin making – to such an extent that their tonal quality is improved. “Normally fungi reduce the density of the wood, but at the same time they unfortunately reduce the speed with which the sound waves travel through the wood,” the researcher explained. “The unique feature of these fungi is that they gradually degrade the cell walls, thus inducing a thinning of the walls. But even in the late stages of the wood decomposition, a stiff scaffold structure remains via which the sound waves can still travel directly.” Even the modulus of elasticity is not compromised; the wood remains just as resistant to strain as before the fungal treatment – an important criterion for violin making. Before the wood is further processed to a violin, it is treated with ethylene oxide gas. “No fungus can survive that,” Professor Schwarze said. That ensures that fungal growth in the wood of the violin is completely stopped.

Physisporinus vitreus

Though a new instrument might play just as well, violinists still prefer old-school violins made by Italian masters: here.

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7 thoughts on “Fungi make violin sound like a Stradivarius

  1. Physicists have attributed the sound of a Stradivarius to many things in the past, including saturation by salt, the drying process, varnish, exotic methods of conditioning, and the list goes on. Each one is convinced that they’ve found the answer. This is the first time anything about treating the wood with a fungus. It’s an interesting idea, but for now I’ll put it on the stack with everything else until I find some way to sort them all out.

    Thanks for the post.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Violinist Paganini, new film | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Violin strings from spider silk | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Violinist forgets Stradivarius on train | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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