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Texas A&M Central Texas researchers unlock mystery behind centuries-old violins

Texas A&M researchers unlocking mystery behind centuries-old violins.JPG
Posted at 9:45 PM, May 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-22 10:15:29-04

KILLEEN, TX — A team of experts at Texas A&M Central Texas are examining prized violins and other string instruments on the molecular level.

Using high powered microscopes, they are able to analyze the wood, varnish and adhesives that impact the sound.

The Italian family Stradivari was known for making the highest quality violins, violas, cellos and other string instruments back in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Experts say the legendary sound it produces has never been replicated. There is little known about the construction of the instruments. Researchers say through careful analysis they are working to decipher Stradivari’s processes, as well as his contemporaries.

"There is very little reliable historical information available from Stradivari and his methods. So the only way really to figure out what he did is by getting small chips of wood from his violins and small chips of varnish from his instruments and analyze them by modern methods of material analysis,” said Joseph Nagyvary, professor emeritus at Texas A&M.

Nagyvary is collaborating with fellow Texas A&M professors in the science discipline to further the study. The microscope the team is using allows them to gather critical data.

"We are able to zoom in a lot further than a typical microscope. This one is able to go into one million times magnification, and our ability to do that is because we use an electron beam to look at the samples,” said Taylor Harvey, an assistant professor.

This research may change how modern stringed instruments are made in the future. The team of researchers say that collaboration is the key to the project’s success.

"There needs to be this dedication and commitment and willingness where it’s not just about one’s self, but combining the knowledge of others in the sciences can really add to what’s offered in the arts,” said Francis Leger, an artist in residence.