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What Will Be the Next Violin or Fortepiano?

Artist Olafur Eliasson, architect Andreas Eggertsen, and violin maker Hans Johannsson have been collaborating on the creation of a new type of electric stringed instrument as part of an art project at the Serpentine Gallery. Alice Rawsthorne had an article (Crafting instruments for the 21st century, October 14) about it in the International Herald Tribune on Sunday:

The violinist held a bow and the top of an electric violin with strings, but no body. Facing him were five resonators, small wooden objects in strangely curved shapes. One looked like a sack; the others like seed pods. Each resonator was punctured by oddly shaped holes, and emitted a rather beautiful, but unusual sound, like a classical violin, but somehow different. [...]

Each of the three collaborators has a different agenda for the stringed instrument project, which began five years ago. Eliasson is interested in exploring the relationship between sound and architecture, and Eggertsen in that of sound and shape. Johannsson hopes to create an entirely new type of instrument to embrace contemporary technology and aesthetics, as classical violins did when they were invented in the 17th and 18th centuries by the Guarneris and Stradivaris. "Those great masters created something that was 100 percent in keeping with the sensibility of their time," said Johannsson. "There's an aura of magic and perfection about what they did. Traditional instrument making is still wonderful, but when you're constantly looking backwards, there's something missing."
There are a dozen pictures here. It is worth thinking about: the violin and the fortepiano, instruments that we now think of as timeless and classic, are only a few hundred years old. When will they be replaced by newer instruments?


Mike Licht, said...

Actually, the violin was the first instrument to be electrified, and the SI has several examples, along with mechanically-amplified fiddles (think gramophone) that sound loud but truly awful.

Charles T. Downey said...

Mike, thanks for the information. The post does not imply that this project is creating the first electric violin, does it? It should not.