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Physics - Radiology and Medical Imaging

Wood Densitometry in 17th and 18th Century Dutch, German, Austrian and French Violins, Compared to Classical Cremonese and Modern Violins
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Author: Berend C. Stoel et al.

by Berend C. Stoel, Terry M. Borman, Ronald de Jongh

Classical violins produced by makers such as Antonio Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu have long been considered the epitome of the luthier's art and the expressive tool of choice for the most celebrated violinists. It has been speculated these makers had access to wood that was unique in some way and that this was responsible for their acclaimed tonal characteristics. In an attempt to discern whether the above conjecture is true, we analyzed 17 modern and classical Dutch, German, Austrian and French violins by wood densitometry using computed tomography and correlated these results with our previous study of modern and Cremonese violins; in all studying 30 instruments of the violin family. In order to make this comparison possible we developed methods to cross calibrate results from different CT manufacturers using calibration wood pieces. We found no significant differences in median densities between modern and classical violins, or between classical violins from different origins. These results suggest that it is unlikely classical Cremonese makers had access to wood with significantly different wood density characteristics than that available to contemporaneous or modern makers.