I’ve always owned and used classic bows made of pernambuco wood from Brazil and horsehair from long haired horses in the colder parts of China and Russia. I’ve heard about and tried Baroque bows and carbon fiber bows, but I didn’t really understand why people use them until recently, when I test drove an Incredibow owned by one of my students. It’s fascinating to me as both a scientist and a violinist/fiddler. Incredibows are made by Ed and Carolyn Wilcox of Serenity Mountain, Arkansas. As they explain on their website, http://incredibow.com
Consider this: relatively little has changed in bowmaking in at least the past 250 years!... What other technology stopped changing it's product 250 years ago?
The stick is made of a hollow, tapered graphite/epoxy (carbon fiber) tube, and the “hair” is made of an undisclosed “space age” material. The hair is pretensioned and is not tightened and slackened before and after playing as the hair of a conventional bow is. The Incredibow weighs much less than a conventional bow, never needs to be rehaired, is guaranteed to last for at least three years, and is “nearly indestructible.” As befits a space age bow, the stick of the bow comes in many different colors, including pseudo-wood, brilliant solid colors, various bright colors with sparkles, and stunning holographic patterns of colors.
Most important, though, is the ease of handling. Here are my strictly subjective perceptions: The Incredibow feels different from the conventional bow partly because it weighs so much less. It is easy to play quick notes, as in jigs and reels, and to do string crossings, as are common in Scottish fiddle music. In these ways, the Incredibow is similar to a Baroque bow or a carbon fiber bow, which are used fairly frequently by players of Irish and Scottish fiddle tunes. It is very easy to produce a smooth, even sound with the Incredibow. It does not squeak or squawk if you press down too hard on it, and this is a great boon to beginning students and anyone who must listen to them. The sound quality is just as smooth and even at the lower half of the bow as it is at the upper half. I found myself venturing closer to the frog with the Incredibow than I would with my own bow. However, I did have trouble playing crescendo and decrescendo; there are times when you don’t want a very smooth, steady tone. After playing for a while, the thumb of my bowing hand started to hurt, and I realized that this happened because I was pressing down hard on the bow when I wanted to play loud. I tried staccato, spiccato, dashed slurs, dotted slurs, and Scottish snaps, and, at first, I found it more difficult to bounce with this space age bow than with my old fashioned bow. Other violinists have had the same experience. However, after playing with it for a while, I was able to get a good, controlled bounce. Beginning students should find it easier to play with an Incredibow than with a conventional bow because there is less technique for them to learn. If they want to switch to a conventional bow later, it would be difficult for them. This is not necessarily a problem, since they can do almost everything they need with the Incredibow. I’ll stick with my old fashioned bow, though. I don’t mind missing out on holographic shimmers and psychedelic colors, and I like the greater range of expression that my own bow gives me.
Aside from my parents, the person who had the biggest effect on me as a child was my violin teacher. He was such a dear man. He was like a grandfather to me. He was tough at times, but he was uplifting. He believed in me. I have such warm memories of his home, where I had my lessons. His dog would sit next to me during my lessons, and when he yelled at me, she’d bark at home. She died of an overdose of dog biscuits, I believe. He spoiled her with them. The song “Leader of the Band,” by Dan Fogelberg, describes so well my feelings about him.
He earned his love through discipline, a thundering velvet hand
So many times in my life, music has saved my mortal soul. I know that it affects other people that way, too. I have no children of my own, but I have my students. They, like everyone, come from home environments filled with both good and bad things. I try very hard to give them the strength, warmth, fascination, challenges, and rewards that only music can bring. Music is the strongest message. It survives, and it enables us to survive.
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band.
Here are some of my butterfly photos for you to see.
I read an interesting thread on this site about Ravel’s brain injury and how it affected him musically. Then I stayed up half the night reading more about it. It’s fascinating. In Artistry and Aphasia, which I highly recommend, the authors noted that aphasia, the language dysfunction of the brain, is similar to amusia, music dysfunction of the brain. I also recommend http://www.drunkenboat.com/db7/statement_right.html . From the latter reference, I learned that after Ravel’s auto accident in 1933, he developed Wernicke's aphasia, which "gradually eroded his ability to write music. Still, he retained the ability to recognize notes and rhythmical patterns, choose his scores, even perceive that his doctor's piano had gone out of tune due to the damp winter weather. As he was to report near the end of his life, the music was trapped in his head." The authors of Artistry and Aphasia explained that "he could not translate his auditory imagery of a
after the surgeries. Now he is gaining weight and growing well. I remarked that the medical term for this type of problem is “failure to thrive.” She told me that she first heard this term when she was in India years ago, doing volunteer work at an orphanage. The attendants there had not had a lot of physical contact with the infants, not because they were cold or uncaring, but because they simply didn’t know that this is very important. Cultural factors played a role, too. The attendants at the hospital believed that the karma the babies had brought with them from their previous lives would make them strong. The small children who had not received much physical contact as babies were pathetic, she told me. They would sit alone, rocking themselves back and forth while staring ahead with vacant eyes. They just couldn’t have social interactions. I told her about some of the classic studies on monkeys who were separated from their mothers at birth. They, too, grew up to be pathetic individuals without the ability to socialize. She told me that she had seen a film about these children in India. One scene that she found especially moving showed a young boy alone outdoors playing a very mournful tune on a flute. She said that he was doing well to be able to play the flute. I told her that a song or a tune can save a person’s mortal soul. She agreed heartily. We both knew of plenty of people who had had this experience. (One of them was me.) She said that the conversation was getting too depressing for her. Then I told her something that brightened her spirit. Recently, I heard a CD with a song written and sung by a friend of one of my students. He wrote this song while awaiting the birth of his first child, a girl whom he nicknamed “New Moon Girl.” The repeating motif of the song was “Waiting for the New Moon Girl,” and part of the song was
All winter long
My friend really liked that. I told her, “Next comes something even better.”
Every day is an act of faith
My friend told me that now she was feeling very good. I told her that I believe that the song is true for everyone. None of us has guarantees about our future. For all of us, every day is an act of faith.
Revisit Violinist.com editor Laurie Niles' coverage from Canada of the 2013 Montreal International Musical Competition, including her interview with gold medalist Marc Bouchkov.
Pauline Lerner is from Rockville, Maryland. Biography
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