The Paris double-blind experiment
I'm currently watching a video of this on Youtube:
I'm sorry if this ground has been gone over before but before posting any conclusions of my own I'd love to hear what others think
The modern violin fascists strike again!!!
Double-deaf would be a more appropriate title. Sorry, could not resist the temptation.
Keep in mind, what media said is not what the researchers said. If you are interested, read the papers originally published and lauries blog.
Not an emotional topic for me. I always think most comparison test (specially something old to something new) are no more reasonable than comparing apples to oranges. In this example, how many of the old violins are actually the old violins anyway. Meaning- how many are still 100% original parts. I don't know, but it is probably a safe guess that most if not all have had some kind of work since they were originally made. How can anyone make sound claims on a broken then fixed instrument in a comparison to something new. I guess you could always add a few cracks, worn spots, re-glues, sweat, and what not to the new ones then fix them and see how all this nonsense works out. But then that wouldn't work either since there is such a thing as natural decay. They are not therefore the original instruments and we will never know how the new violins would compare to the masters. Less maybe wait 300 years and compare from recordings.
It's been at least two weeks since we had a good antique-vs-modern battle, so might as well plow through it all again.
It is obvious that well build modern instruments can equate or even exceed some of the best old master instruments. The differences are more related to subjective personal taste than anything else objectively quantifiable. Put any quality built modern instrument through the numerous adjustments and fine tuning by the world's most renowned luthier's that the average old master's instruments were subjected to over several centuries, and they too will sound pretty darn good!
I'm more interested in what people think about the design and conduct of the experiment. I thought it a prime example of headline-grabbing bad science. The criteria the audience members were asked to judge by were too many and too vague. It would be nice to know if they showed any consistency in their judgement of relatively concrete properties such as brightness, warmth, power between ANY violins, not necessarily "great" ones played by "great" players. I believe some of the players themselves hinted at just how many other factors could have interfered with and muddied the findings, for example the hall and the choice of bow. The most obvious defect for me is that nobody can be expected to get the best out of an unfamiliar violin in a brief acquaintance.
How many modern fanatics, are only so because they cannot afford a good 17th or 18th century Italian instrument? IMHO, they believe, even subconsciously, "I don't like antique instruments because I don't/can't have one" and "because I have a new violin, what I have must be as good as old.. no wait, it is even better.. "
Unfortunately it appears we can't actually read the latest paper without subscribing to PNAS. Does anyone have a PDF they could legitimately share if I post my email address?
Sorry Michael, am I blind? I see no reason not to give mine which is email@example.com
On two of my browsers that link (to the paper) results in a "URL not found" message. I'd guess it has been withdrawn.
Thanks Sung Han - I did find that paper which covers the players' assessment. I'm hoping to see the latest 2017 paper in PNAS which analyses the listener assessment. The older papers can be read in full on the PNAS site but the latest is only available as an abstract. Call me a socialist, but I'm actually more interested in what the mob thinks!
Trevor - we just lost the end of the address which in full is:
Trevor, it is because the commentator put the wrong link, not because it was withdrawn. The corrected link is included in my previous message.
Violins are like people, each one is unique. After having played hundreds of violins -- great old and great new -- I conclude that no generalizations can be made.
I think Carlo is wrong. Technology has improved in the past 300 years, and so have the quality of the instruments made by master makers.
The listed link still doesn't work! But what does work is,
I’ll probably never play an expensive modern instrument, and surely never play an old Italian instrument, but if someone told me I could only have one or the other, then I would pick the old Italian instrument. And it isn’t because of resale value. I would still pick the old instrument even if the modern one sounded better.
A hard-headed statistician reading the report of the player assessment would point out that none of the findings was statistically significant, causing the authors to resort to sneaky phrases and words like "on average" and "tended". Note the phrase the authors actually amended from the published version (which is cheating!): "The current study...found that experienced players..tended to prefer the new instruments". This is more nearly correct than the published phrase but if I'd been the reviewer I'd at least have insisted on insertion of "ten" before "experienced". Our hard-liner would have insisted that a statistically insignificant tendency isn't a result at all and had the sentence removed. The finding that the players "were unable to distinguish old from new at better than chance levels" might depend on a plethora of factors and is properly described as "no evidence" that they could make such a distinction. Then, of course, the sample of violins and players was completely unrepresentative of the overall population. Imagine if this was a drug trial!
@Bruno. Technology is not the reason Stradivari and Guarnieri del Gesu made the best violins. At best, technology helps to make better copies of original violins and is the reason that good faximilies of art works are produced. I want neither the technology, or a modern imitation of an orginal, be it art works or violins.
Many of the very good modern makers dont make exact copies, just take the outlines because of some respect to tradition. Arching, plateweights, platethickness, etc are mostly their own.
9/28 Roger St-Pierre said: "The differences are more related to subjective personal taste than anything else objectively quantifiable."
There's an experience factor as well. A contemporary luthier makes FAR fewer instruments than his 18th/19th century counterpart did. From what I understand, there is a higher technical standard in making -- the woodworking is more precise than it was in the past -- but that is not the same as the organic experience that's useful in making carving decisions.
If I focus on one finding only, I would choose Table S1 on page 17. Ten players were asked to choose the top four violins, and in 20 sessions total, they chose 15 modern instruments as the best. If there is no overall difference among the old and new instruments in player's preference, this or more extreme result would occur about 4% of the time, assuming a two-sided alternative hypothesis.
@Don Noon - Are you implying that there are scientific factors that make it absolutely impossible to attain particular acoustic properties in new instruments? If so, what acoustic properties are coupled to time?
Sung Han - you should have your name on the paper! But does that control for type 1 error...?
so who makes N5, that's the big question, next to how much is it
It should be noted that there's considerable overlap in the price range of fine top-tier contemporary instruments (which is what were used in these tests, with optimal set-ups and I assume the best specimens that their makers had), and the price range of antiques.
What's missing is how the violins were chosen for the experiment in the first place: I'm pretty sure they weren't chosen at random. No one walked into a large shop and said "just bring out all your modern violins and I'll grab 20 blindfolded and take them to a competition."
My questions are
A lot of people don't seem to understand that the study applies only to the instruments, players and listeners used in the study, extrapolating those results to modern instruments as a whole and antique instruments as a whole is a fallacy. All in all a not very scientifically done study, with poorly made over generalizing conclusions.
That's more than they did. But with so many loose factors hanging around Lyndon is quite right that what they found is all, and can't be generalised with any validity
Scott and Sean,
I'm still waiting for a new test to "prove" that OLD violins are better than new ones. Heaven knows there is a vested interest there too!
There can be one small conclusion made. Old and new are not a night and day comparison.
Isn't the more interesting fact that violinists couldn't accurately determine whether they were playing a new violin or an old violin?
Yes this is interesting. This would seem to say that differences exist that are scientifically proven, yet these differences aren't always heard depending on the comparison.
I think all of the players and listeners should be tested for tone deafness before participating!!
That's not a bad 21-hour response to my late-night impulse to start this thread. Does the world need to hear my opinion too? Certainly not, but here goes.
The length of time listening can also change a listeners perceptions. The frequency reception of our ears changes with extended listening, especially at higher volumes.
Steve Jones, that's an interesting observation. I would say that I've found contemporary instruments to be quite different from one another, but that contemporary Italian makers in the $10-20k price range in the wandering Cremona Exhibition seem to all have a certain tonal palette in mind -- loud, bright, quickly-responsive violins without much of a range of color. Superficially attractive to a student with well-off parents, basically.
"I'm still waiting for a new test to "prove" that OLD violins are better than new ones..."
Violin value is not the same thing as violin quality. If you want the biggest gain in a modern violin stay away from anything that is not made in Italy, by an Italian. History shows that whoever is flavour of the month now , it will be Italian violins that appreciate the most in value in the future.
It's not enough to say, "I think old Italian violins are the best." This is the 21st century. Anyone who disagrees must be insulted, debased, and utterly destroyed. They must be called fascists or zealots, accused of having an axe to grind, of being tone-deaf, ignorant, or jealous. Any study put forth to support an opposing view is automatically "bad science" regardless where it was published; and at best its findings cannot be generalized because the subjects were individuals; no value of N can ever be high enough.
There's a lot of people that want to believe newer and cheaper is better, along comes a study designed by modern makers, and guess what it seems to show modern makers coming out ahead, so everyone jumps on the band wagon.
An interesting thread. Arguments involving old vs. new instruments remind me of the controversies around Julian Hirsch at Stereo Review who published comparison results of HiFi audio equipments based on blind listening tests. It was just about impossible to convince people with "golden ears" to prove otherwise.
So you guys believe in a cremona 'secret' that died with its classical violin epoch?
The principal myth today is that modern violins are superior, and that modern makers understand more about how to make a great violin than the better old makers did, that's the fallacy IMHO
The fact of the matter is that there really isn't a way to totally generalize about any era of violin-making. There are good makers and bad makers, inconsistent output from many makers (both good and bad), higher quality and lower quality wood, and in the case of many older instruments, modifications and restorations of various sorts.
@Tammuz. I didn't say Italian violins are better as instruments, but that they have proved themselves to be better investments over time.
It's amazing to me that the old makers figured out how to make such superb instruments that require precision craftsmanship and set such a high standard with the technology and science available to them.
One thing seldom mentioned is that new instrument doesn't necessarily mean new wood. Some of the new instruments in the study could have been made with century old wood, it doesn't say. If the premise that wood tone production enhances over time holds truth, this isn't insignificant. Then there is the effect of vibration on cellular structure over time, and the mystical slow growing European wood over some past glaciation (as if we don't have slow growing wood in parts of Canada!), and the harvesting during Full Moon, chemical wood treatment and who knows what else! All that to say, there is more to the nature of the new instruments than the time of fabrication.
The violin business today (makers, teachers, players, dealers and all) is notably conformist. Watching a video of the VSA 2014 congress I was reminded of a horticultural show, vegetable section. The most prized quality seemed to be the build craftsmanship. A medal was also awarded for tone, but this appeared to be judged by one person in private session. No gongs were given out for innovation, not even to the violin made from a coconut.
Violin makers today want to tell us they are better than Stradivari, at the same time telling us how closely they copy Stradivari, seems like a contradiction.
I know exactly one of the great makers that actually goals to copy Strad, and he never claimed his were better.
Actually I deal in better quality German and French violins, not the cheap crap.
Steve wrote, "No gongs were given out for innovation, not even to the violin made from a coconut," and Lyndon wrote, "Violin makers today want to tell us they are better than Stradivari, at the same time telling us how closely they copy Stradivari, seems like a contradiction."
Sorry but one study as poorly done as this does not establish proof of anything, the strongest evidence seems to be what players prefer,and as of yet that hasn't changed much for top soloists. Do you think they haven't heard all about these studies and tried out the top modern makers, they do use modern makers for their back up violins, so that says something.
I agree with Paul, we've probably arrived at the limit and dispelled the myth. The violin has ceased to evolve but will long occupy a place as one of the defining icons of western culture.
"Modern violins are copies of antique instruments. How can an imitation be better than the original? "
Sorry, I spend my spare money on violins, not Louis Vuitton!!
Douglas Bevan on September 29, 2017, 7:54 AM: "@Don Noon - Are you implying that there are scientific factors that make it absolutely impossible to attain particular acoustic properties in new instruments? If so, what acoustic properties are coupled to time?"
A few observations on what has been posted so far, and also a few corrections:
Mention has been made here of some violins today having been made with"old wood". I'm not sure whether what I am now saying is entirely relevant, but many years ago my classical guitar teacher, himself a guitar luthier, told me that the best guitar makers in Spain were using wood that had been laid down by their fathers and grandfathers.
Interesting, Trevor. The Madrid maker of one of my violins, whom I finally visited in 1990, 20 years after he made my violin, told me that he had bought an old convent years ago that had a massive vertical beam that had been the main mast of an ancient galleon (sailing ship) - which is why he bought the convent (he said). He said he had used that piece of spruce for the tops of all the violins he made. (Fernando solar Gonzales)
Sometimes, the more "piercing" instruments (which sound objectionable under the ear), can do quite well to a listener in a hall, or have advantages when it comes to cutting through an orchestra.
I should also mention that these studies grew out of the decades-long investigation into why Strads sound "better", and an interest in how one would make instruments which sound like that. Since Strads have been so revered, they served as the most logical benchmark.
Very little ever seems to get said in these discussions about the tonal qualities that differentiate one violin from another. Surely different criteria apply in the case of a concerto instrument as compared with one whose major use will be in orchestras or chamber ensembles. A violin which plays mainly baroque music requires less penetrating power in the upper registers, but the ability to blend with others at relatively low volume.
Steve Jones: "Surely different criteria apply in the case of a concerto instrument as compared with one whose major use will be in orchestras or chamber ensembles."
Don - doesn't it often go the other way, the Strad possessing the projection but not so suitable for music demanding intimacy and tenderness?
As Don points out, the hemicellulose of wood degrades over time. There is also research that indicates the sound damping, frequently referred to in research literature as the "loss coefficient", is strongly related to the hemicellulose content.
"...After comparing the two, the soloist, concertmaster, and conductor all agreed that mine was more appropriate to use for the soloist, based on its power advantage..."
Here's another possible idea for a double-blind experiment which would be far better controlled than the Paris study. Has any maker ever produced two violins to the identical model, one using old wood and one new? We might actually learn something credible from that.
Steve, there can be so many variables in the construction of two violins (even when when made with wood from the same tree, and when the maker tries to make them exactly the same), that it can be hard to attribute differences to any single variable. They all come out a little different anyway.
In theory it sounds good, but one would have to make a sample of 30+ instruments to derive any significant statistical difference between old and new wood unfortunately. No maker can make 100% same sounding instruments. There's some degree of consistency from a given maker, but the difference between old wood and new wood likely to be less or equal to that of the random differences from one instrument to another, which is likely to make it impossible to draw any significant conclusion. At best you'll get anecdotal evidence. Analysis of the waveform of new vs old wood from a large selection of random instruments is perhaps more likely to show the difference if a large enough sample is used.
I'm assuming those makers who use ancient wood are hoping that their violins will share some qualities with old violins? So what if c.10 makers were asked to produce matched pairs and see if there's any consistency in the player and audience comparison of their richness, loudness etc. Statistically that would be pretty nearly bullet proof, although maybe the makers would need to be metaphorically blinded too..
The concertmaster's Strad cannot be assumed to be an instrument with a lot of projection, either -- and moreover, may not have been set up to optimize projection, given the concertmaster's playing needs. And I agree with Scott on technical approach; a lot of sensitively-responding violins require a player to adapt their tone production in order to get the best results.
Unfortunately those are the very qualities that I feel are lacking in a lot of modern performances of chamber music. String quartets, in particular, seem more and more intent on overwhelming the audience with sheer volume. Is that down to the players or their instruments? I really wish we could hear more chamber works played on the kind of instruments the composers expected them to be played on.
I doubt this has much to do with the instruments.
I've slightly got off topic here onto one of my hobby-horses, but in recent years there's been so much emphasis on loudness and projection I think other equally important aspects of violin design have been rather neglected. A common idea seems to have evolved of what constitutes a "great" violin, which I don't see as a positive development. I've superficially skimmed through another thread "Looking for a 10K-15K modern violin" and horse-power seems to be by far the most important factor under consideration
Only around amateurs I guess. After seriously testing no good player will choose a violin that is just loud and nothing else. There is a great palette of things a violin has to be able to do and those using it know to test for it.
I'm carrying a banner for vio-diversity. Does anyone know of a maker who's created a modern take on the Stainer model? Should be ideal for HIP baroque players of the German school I should have thought.
ALL baroque HIP players should be only on new tinstruments. They didn't have access to 3-400 year old masterpieces. Or, they could just take the soundpost out for that authentically thin tone...
It appears that students are often obsessed with getting loud violins, confusing superficial bright resonance with sound quality. Unfortunately, I suspect most new instruments are sold to students -- mostly in the form of workshop instruments, not contemporary master luthier-made instruments, but the preference also carries over to students who have the money to buy the latter.
A customer I have right now is concerned that his violin is too quiet to hear in the orchestra, he is considering a louder violin, but not soloist level, so volume can be a factor for orchestral players as well. Fortunately the violin he is considering is not just louder, but exceptional in tone as well.
I figure "loud enough to hear myself" is a pretty low bar to cross. :-)
His two violins are pretty feeble in volume, mine is a lot louder, but not quite what I would consider soloist volume. I'm not even sure soloist volume is the best thing for an orchestral player.
I'm with David, I don't ever remember having heard a chamber group go for sheer volume alone. Dynamic range? Yes. For which you need the softest pp's as well as loudest ff's possible. Some of the most exquisite, tender, intimate playing I've ever heard live was of the Tetzlaff Trio. I assume he was playing his Greiner.
I agree Lyndon, an orchestra player does not do well in choosing a solistic violin.
I think the pressure ruel for DG statistically applies to violins of him not beeing regraduated, not many of them out there.
I had the exact same experience as Marc a lot more recently! On my second rehearsal with a very poor orchestra (I thought I was doing them a favour) the conductor delivered a little homily, not directly to me but to the back wall, about "blending in" and not wanting any "heroes". Yes, I knew who I was. The violin section I was supposed to blend in with consisted of 5 players, 3 of them inaudible. Egomaniac? - maybe, but sometimes your face just doesn't fit.
Some of these stories remind me of the time about 40 years ago when her choir director asked my wife to sing flat like the rest of the sopranos in the group (my wife has an outstanding ear for intonation - but she married me anyway!).
For a while they were recovering old timber from the floors of shipping lanes in the Great Lakes. Giant logs. Not sure how much of that would have been spruce though. Michigan was known for white pine and some hardwoods I think.
Sung Han - you're quite right of course, but I believe in walking before running. It seems poor scientific practice to pose such a big question when we still don't know the answers to the small ones like what factors cause any objectively verifiable (put that in italics!) audible differences between new and old violins. I remember an early functional MRI study which attempted to demonstrate the pattern of brain metabolic activity elicited by listening to music with (I think the authors called it) the "tingle factor". Of course they got a result, but with many possible contributory factors left uncontrolled for or completely unconsidered their interpretation amounted to pure speculation.
Steve, the researchers have been collecting sonic data on all or most of the instruments tested, but have not digested/published it yet. There's an important question though:
I'd like to see a match-up between two current top makers. Six of David's violins vs. six of someone else's that are comparably priced.
I maintain that the most valuable thing to come out of this study is that top violinists couldn't tell great new violins from great old violins.
The more modest studies Paul suggests make better scientific sense, although as David says their appeal would be very limited and consequently funding hard to come by. The IVCI must have forked out a lot for the Paris study but I don't suppose they'd support any less publicity-generating research program. I'm stumped for an answer.
As the number of unobserved variables is immense when making violins this test (old wood vs new wood) would need more violins than a maker can build in his live to get any statisticly significant values. I have no idea how you would present such an amount of violins in a test that depends on people listening to it. Easily 10 000+ violins needed, as the model to decide to might have huge influence on old vs new too.
I keep hearing comparisons to antiques with price ranges as a factor to consider.
Sound isn't the reason they were testing, at least not specifically. Testing for the best sound might be tricky, since there are differing opinions on what is "best".
It's a matter of confining the comparison to one factor while holding all the others as near as possible constant. But when you've got Strads on one side of the net, price becomes fairly irrelevant on the other side!
I completly disagree. The possibility of holding the other factors constant does not exist. Thats the problem. Therefore the number of those pairs by a single maker have to be that high, that a livetime is to short to produce them.
I don't see how you can fault the theory, it's the practice that's difficult. I imagine getting makers to create identically dimensioned instruments is like, well you know. But if they're paid up front? I grant you even identically designed instruments are likely to sound "different" to the player but that's not the question. And I think the verdict of the audience is actually more important, since ultimately it's the audience that foots the bill.
Unfortunately, stats nerds, this isn't a black box scenario. Violin making doesn't work that way :-D
That I guess is why we'll never have scientific answers to any of these questions, which was the whole point of the exercise.
If anyone is interested in personally comparing contemporary instruments, this might be a pretty decent place to do it.
I intend to be at the exhibition. :-)
How about a paired old vs new wood comparison of otherwise identical factory- or workshop-made violins? I'm entirely neglecting the question about what makes a violin good, merely what factors contribute to various qualities of the sound.
@Lydia -- I went to the Reed Yeboah exhibit several years back -- definitely worth your time. I don't recall many bow makers at that one, but I see some excellent ones on the 2017 list.
Douglas, I'm not planning on attending, since exhibitions of this type are mostly financed by sales, and I don't have anything to offer for sale.
@David -- makes sense. I didn't think of it that way.
Another significant variable in the study is that the players used their own bows. The match between bow and violins, in any price category, significantly influences the tonal quality that results, hence player 1 with bow A, isn't listening to the same tone as player 2 with bow B, and bow A may be better matched to one given instrument than bow B, vice-versa. I think that each instrument should have been matched to a bow, and every player should have used the same bow on any given instrument.
Roger, that was one of those areas where no matter what method was chosen, there would be those who thought it was wrong, or less than ideal. Who should choose which bow should be paired with which instrument, and what if a bow chosen was way off for a particular player, so it put that instrument at a disadvantage that it would not have had otherwise? (There could easily be several different expert opinions about which bow was best for each instrument.) So after quite a bit of discussion and consultation, it was decided to have the violinists use bows they were most familiar with, and had the most experience with.. their own. And if they used a bow they knew, this would also allow them to better differentiate between which characteristics were attributable to the bow, and which were due to the fiddle.
There are always those such as Marc who believe that a useful study can never be done, others who say it will be too expensive, etc.
I suspect I'm behind the field on this one, but reflecting on David's posts of yesterday is he revealing insider information (potentially to his own cost) or is it a cunning ruse?
I have not been involved in the experiments, except that I was one of many people sitting in the audience section of the auditorium during one of them.
It does make you wonder, though, if another maker (involved or not in the trial) might see an opportunity for some naughty rumour-spreading? I hasten to say I don't actually believe this - no greedy person would ever take up such a monkish craft!
Paul, thanks for having me come out maybe slightly ahead, in your hypothetical comparison. ;-)
Personally I don't think using his/her own bow would pose a problem in the design of the experiment because each player used their own same bow to assess 12 different violins.
I guess there wouldn't have been so much publicity and we wouldn't still be wasting time over it!
The older instruments couldn't have come out ahead because of how the study was set up!!
How did you come to that conclusion, Lyndon?
Paul, science is to know what you can conclute from experiment / theory, an exact quantitative (!!) reliability of what you conclude and to know what you cannot conclude.
Sorry Marc, but you're way off there. The generally accepted minimum scientific standard of proof of difference is 1:20 that the two samples are drawn from the same population.
Steve Jones, in which world is 1:20 a proof? I dont know from which area this is comming / you are comming. I know that for example in the world of medical science the bounaries are way of.
I come from the world of neuroscience. As I said, the minimum acceptable criterion for publication here is generally considered to be 1:20. 1:100 is better, 1:1000 better still although seldom achieved, sometimes you can even get away with 1:10. The Paris study got away with "trend towards" and "on average" which I think we agree is insufficient. In comparing violins how much proof do you need? It's a matter of opinion.
solid like jello!!
This of course is the difference between "soft" and "hard" science. It isn't a matter of correct or incorrect, but that conclusions based on relatively lax criteria must be held more loosely. That mindset is familiar to me and I try to avoid hard statements of what can be considered "fact". But I can see that someone coming from the physical sciences might consider this way of thinking alien.
Sung, I think we are mostly on one line about this.
Soft science like jello!!
Thank you Lyndon, your grant application is being considered. Marc - I absolutely agree with one small addition. In between opinion (purely subjective) and fact (purely objective) we have imprecise but useful words like conjecture, hypothesis, theory, evidence suggesting, likelihood, probability exists and so on.
I don't think the researchers have claimed that their experiments PROVED something conclusively, nor have they expressed it that way when I've spoken with them. They did a series of experiments, and published their methods, and what they found.
Steve, of course I agree on this too.
Oh, Marc ... so you
In the 19th century Chanot developed a corner-less violin, with slits for sound holes, and a reversed scroll. He staged a series of promotional concerts with a real Strad and one of these new violins played behind a curtain. His new violin sounded best and so PROVED the superiority of his new design.
How have you determined that the studies are biased?
By reading their lowbrow application of science.
Studies like this are so ridiculous and more of a marketing ploy for a few people in the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers to sell their instruments. Without Stradivari there would be no modern hotshot makers. There's a world of a difference between Stradivari and some of these modern makers who submitted their instruments to this study. Stradivari or Amati didn't win a $500,000 prize from the MacArthur Foundation like Joseph Curtin did, but their instruments still sound better..
I'm curious what that Chanot design sounded like then, and what it sounds like now. :-)
Whoever said Stradivari instruments were the best sounding anyway, half of Stradivari's reputation was based on his perfectionist high level of quality construction. There have been instruments that sound as good as Stradivaris all throughout the history of the violin, blind tests done 100 and 200 years ago with much the same results, modern violin beats Strad, 50 years later modern violin is not half as well appreciated, I suspect much the same will happen today, except today, thanks to the duffuses that did this study, we won't know who the modern makers were, maybe Claudia Fritz will reveal the info on her death bed, who knows. All told its just a huge big modern violin propaganda effort, which is fine if you want a modern violin, but if you think a top modern violin will beat any historical instrument, you are sorely mistaken, IMHO
People seem to forget that Antonio himself was a contemporary violin maker of his day. Technology advances and what was a marvel of yesteryear becomes not so today.
Of course, and in three hundred years there maybe modern violins that sound as good, but they will still only be copies of the originals.
Nate, violin is a machine, not music. The fundamental difference between the two is the the former can enjoy the benefit of modern science and technology much more easily than the latter.
Stradivaris were basically copies of Amati, everyone copies to some extent, with rare exceptions everyone copies the original Amati shape of the violin.
Science and technology still doesn't have clue what made Stradivaris as good as they were/are.
This is the only place where I've ever seen a MacArthur Fellowship held against someone. Has it really come to that?
If you owned one of these modern violins by top makers, you might consider glueing on some feathers to tame the obnoxiously loud treble.
Lyndon, modern violins can be all over the place. I've played thousands, and out of that, would be highly reluctant to assign a set of characteristics.
I disagree very strongly, Lyndon. Plenty of modern (20th century) and contemporary (21st century) instruments have lovely tone.
That's where the feathers come in, if you want to be cheap you can just stuff them in the f holes, You can get them from an old down pillow, might even get me to like a Burgess violin, who knows!!
All being said, in my mind the experiment proves at least one thing, spending $3,000,000.00 on a violin for the sake of its tone and playability ain't worth it! Get the best of modern violin on planet earth, and you'll be equally happy for a tiny fraction of the price of the worst of old master's instruments, ... without the bragging rights however. How much is bragging worth to you?
Lyndon, I don't have any feathers around to stuff in the f holes, so would toilet paper work?
I use toilet paper to polish violins, and any cleaning, not to mention its conventional uses!!
No one has actually established how a top quality $30,000 antique, say 100 years old would compare to a $30,000 modern violin, or even a select $10,000 EH Roth from the 20s. Martin Swan gave his highest rating for tone to a 50s, I believe, EH Roth.
I wonder what special kind of hubris emboldens one to deny strong, and building evidence. What makes anyone think they have the super power to hear the difference between a great old instrument and a great new instrument when so many experts before them have failed, including Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman and Charles Beare on a 1977 BBC broadcast? Y'all must be so special.
I've been able to pick the Strad in all the online comparison's I've seen, and one live comparison, not sure what's so hard about it for some people, new violins might sound great but they don't sound like Strads, you might be one that prefers the new sound, but there's still a difference.
I guess you're special.
I make a living using my ears.
I mean only a small minority of people recognize differences between old and new violins, so how is that going to show up statistically, its not, people are going to think their favorite sound is their favourite type of violin be that old or new, so many people might prefer a modern, even because it is louder, and going to say they think that is the Strad, so you wouldn't expect more than a minority to get the old vs new right, and that's exactly what the study shows.
Lyndon's last paragraph conceals a good point - "scientificness" demands reproducibility which of course is impossible unless we know the exact conditions of the experiment. If another institute wanted to repeat the study they wouldn't use the same violins but maybe a different set FROM THE SAME MAKERS. Yes, of course it was a stunt which leaves all our prejudices firmly in place, but makers will take encouragement from the results (lack of).
Good, finally some facts rather than assertions and mudslinging.
This is like trying to convince an ultra religious person about the non existence of god. Nothing can beat faith.
The simple fact is the studies authors had much better examples of modern violins to chose from than they did Strads, they had to basically take whatever Strads they could get, there was no Strad shootout, where they picked the best Strads like they did with the modern violins. I think they said they started with some 30 moderns and picked the best out of that, not so with the Strads, and as everyone is aware, not all Strads are as good as others or in as good a condition, and the ones that are likely to be loaned to a competition may not be the most valuable, best condition ones.
No faith needed. Just years of playing top modern and superb old violins. I admire the muscularity of the young violins, but adore the colours available on old Italian violins. Just as I like the brashness of a young new world wine, and savour a mature Brunello or Barolo. They are both good in different ways, but they are in no way the same to anyone with either educated ears or palette.
Almost all the new violins I play seem to have an inbuilt rawness that is lacking from the old ones, the violins by my top maker friend in the blind listening test I did did not have that quality though, but it wasn't as rich and complex a sound as a good antique can have.
I am initially attracted to the sound of a good modern violin as there are huge reserves of power and volume. After about ten minutes, the initial attraction has been replaced with the realisation that the fiddle is a one trick pony and that power is all it has going for it. No subtlety, colour, or soulfulness.
The kind of questions true scientists would have tried to answer, a simple decibel metre on the violins would have told a lot.
I "tend" (in the word of the Paris study) to share Carlo's view, although only having sampled 20 or so contemporary makers, none priced at more than about 15K, I certainly wouldn't push it too hard. One violin in particular that came highly commended and I took away on loan I found to possess something like a "trumpet" quality which might be great in a large hall but had none of the rich subtlety and finesse that I'd look for in chamber music. Others that impressed in the showroom lost their appeal in the dry acoustic of my bedroom - that bow-dropping feeling "what can I do to make this sound alive".
Finally watched the OPs video, what crap, some lousy playing, some lousy sounding violins, a lot of boring stuff and absolutely no mention of what any instrument was that was being played, so they want to keep it all secret, their study isn't strong enough to let the general public compare old vs new. Also the criteria for judging violins, the only criteria was projection, basically volume, the participants were not even asked what they thought of the tonal qualities of the instruments, just whether they thought they were old or new. The telling thing is where they have Oliveri speak at the end, he speaks of glorious sounding Strads and Del Gesus he had played as if there weren't any in the study??
Steve wrote, "'scientificness' demands reproducibility which of course is impossible unless we know the exact conditions of the experiment."
Apt analogy indeed.
Of course nobody will ever try to reproduce the study exactly. I suspect that's only possible in the physical sciences where you can assume that one lepton is pretty much the same as another. My point is that without full disclosure the Paris study can unfortunately have no claim whatsoever to generality. As someone (you Paul?) pointed out above, the findings, insubstantial as they are, apply only to these instruments (whatever they were) playing this music by these players with these bows in this hall etc etc.
The paper explains how the violins were selected. They started with 9 old Italians and 13 new ones (submitted by invited makers) and selected the best 6 of each category in a blind test. I don't think you can say that they compared whatever old instrument they could get to the very best modern ones. (None of the violin owners knows whether their instruments were selected.) You can read it on pp. 3-4 and 15 of the manuscript.
No Han I had not heard the instrument before the test, I had held the Strad, does that count, maybe I sensed it vibrations and that's how I was able to tell.
Lyndon wrote, "[a]lmost all the new violins I play seem to have an inbuilt rawness that is lacking from the old ones..."
I'm not a player, but having worked designing audiophile loudspeakers I think I have discerning hearing, my main experience is comparing student and intermediate grade antiques to modern violins of similar value. I think if you overprice the antiques then the moderns are not that bad, but if you use competitive pricing on quality antiques, its hard to find a modern violin that sounds as good for a similar price, its not just me that feels this way, its my customers, and music teachers I work with.
i'm strictly a low brow business. My most expensive violin right now is $6,000, I can't afford to buy more expensive violins, and I have very few customers looking for high priced violins, I'm content to service the student to intermediate market, and have lots of options in the $1000-$3000 range. I also have some fractional sizes for $300-$600.
I agree with Jeewon Kim wholeheartedly. You cannot make such a broad sweeping assessment, frankly violins are all over the map.
There happens to be more players with educated ears too and with experience playing all kind of intruments as well that don't think like that. In fact, some of them with extremely educated ears,more than ours I would say.
Actually I would not give more to the word of most music teachers than to those of amateurs.
I agree with Douglas.
What amazed me about the paper is the author seems to think she is really talking about projection, when all she is talking about is volume. Quiet violins can project well, be relatively louder at a distance than other similarly quiet violins, loud violins can project poorly, be relatively quieter at a distance than similarly loud violins. But she seem to not get it at all, her whole premise is that projection doesn't exist, exactly how loud it is under the ear is exactly how loud it is at a distance. So why doesn't she just call it volume, she's having people rate the volume of the violins at a distance, not their projection, which would involve comparing their volume up close to the volume at a distance, and rating which ones are relatively louder at a distance, that would be projection, but all she's interested in is volume, because, guess what, modern violins tend to be loud, because if modern makers understand one thing about violin making, they seem to understand how to make loud violins, to hell with sound quality, warmth, sweetness, richness, complexity, clearness, no, its all about volume, so very boring, but that's what I got from reading the full abstract of the paper.
" What amazed me about the paper is the author seems to think she is really talking about projection, when all she is talking about is volume."
So, 0 new and 0 old fiddles played by master makers for Lyndon. How many heard?
Claudia Fritz tells players playing the instrument to rate it on projection, impossible, they can only rate it on under ear volume, she tells listeners to rate violins on projection, impossible, all they can do is rate it on volume at a distance, PROJECTION IS THE RATIO OF UNDER EAR VOLUME TO VOLUME AT A DISTANCE, she doesn't even know the definition of projection and confuses it with volume.
If recreating the Strad sound is the ultimate goal(whatever it may be), maybe the science and technology is not quite there. But there are a couple of things to consider.
Perceived projection is the under-ear sensation that the sound reaches the audience and cuts through other instruments (if present)
Sung Han Said "If recreating the Strad sound is the ultimate goal(whatever it may be), maybe the science and technology is not quite there."
Lyndon, Claudia Fritz asks the players to make a guess on the projection, based on their playing experience, and then compares that with the audience impressions. Is that bad?
Sung Han it looks like you are the one that didn't read the Paris study I linked to above, no one was asked which violin they preferred the sound of, that wasn't one of the questions, they were asked which violin projected best (insert; was the loudest), and which violin they thought was old or new, sound preference didn't enter into it, it was purely a study of volume, and people's perception of what old and new sounded like, a minority of listeners were able to distinguish old from new, or maybe they were guessing, some got it backwards, and others had hits and misses. This is what any educated person would expect, what they would not expect is the authors conclusion that there is no statistical evidence that anyone could tell old from new, which is sheer nonsense, along with most of the conclusion of the study.
Its the same with Guarneri vs Strad sound. Its a big thing amongst players, but actually in both (very unsientific, but it was never planed to be) blind tests I know people mixed it all over, which is the Strad and which is the Guarneri.
David, no one can guess the projection of any violin just by playing it under ear, because no one can be in two places at once, all the player can discern is under ear volume, or what they hear at a distance when someone plays the same violin.
Lyndon, people often do try to estimate the projection, as part of the initial selection process. Sometimes their estimates are correct, and sometimes they are not. The papers investigate this, and report what they found. Is that bad?
Sung Han I don't have the full article, just the abstract, are you sure you are not referring to the New York study, where preference was asked and was closely correlated with perceived volume, or projection as she calls it.
David, I don't think you get it, Claudia set out to do a study on projection, and she doesn't even understand what projection is and simply equates it with volume. I think that's a big deal, for all the people calling this cutting edge scientific research, and the researcher doesn't even bother to learn the definition of what she is studying. You tell me, can a listener at the back of a hall judge projection without ever hearing the violin up close, or can they only judge volume and perhaps venture a wild guess at its projection, like the players did
Shouldn't opinions on the studies be mostly based on what the studies actually say, and not on what we imagine them to say?
My comments are based directly on what the study says, she obviously has her own mistaken idea of what projection is, or maybe its deliberate, maybe her study wouldn't sound so good if they just came out and said modern violin in the study tend to be louder than Strads. Doesn't sound so incredible then, does it.
Sung Han, I see that was a survey only for the players, not the listeners, I was speaking of the questions they asked the listeners, if you look at that S1 survey of the players there were about as many old violins in the top four as modern, hardly a huge preference for modern.
In some cases, the soloists were left to decide for themselves what terms they commonly use, like "projection", mean. Their definitions may or may not be the same as your own.
Yeah but we've already established that the modern violins were louder, and the 4 out of 10 soloists that picked the Strad as their favorite said they did despite its lower volume, all this study demonstrates is that most people equate louder volume with quality. So the headline should read MODERN VIOLINS LOUDER THAN STRADS, that's the only thing they demonstrated, and it only applies to the 12 instruments they were sampling, so if you want to make a big deal and say modern violins are better, I'd say you're dead wrong, modern violins can be louder, end of story.
It's pretty clear there are differing opinions even on the nature of the tests.
@Lyndon - Wow, just wow. How many Strads and over $25k contemporaries have you evaluated up close, either played by a professional violinist or yourself (if you play at a level able to evaluate such things)?
If you read the thread rather than just popping in you would realize I've already answered all you questions, don't feel any need to repeat myself.
@ Lyndon - I'm not just popping out. My first comment was several after your first comment, which was I believe "The modern violin fascists strike again!!!"
So what's your take on this projection thing, do you think the term projection was being accurately used in the study??
I talked to my dad, a noted research Microbiologist about the PNAS journal this study was posted in, he said they post some very important articles, but they also have a reputation for publishing not properly vetted articles that after ten years or so are widely discredited, we'll see what category this study is in in some years when other, completely independent, non maker funded studies are done.
When I try a violin, sure I attempt to "estimate" the projection. It's hard to do that accurately up close, so I think it's good that they enlisted the audience point of view as well.
My dad says PNAS sometimes publishes for flash appeal, and he thinks this article is an example of that, I've talked to him at length about the article, He thinks the rigorous scientific protocol they usually use was bent a bit because of the high profile appeal of an article about Stradivari violins, and the resulting mass appeal, which has definitely been the case.
The publisher is irrelevant to the discussion. We're talking about the article, not the broad-ranging credibility of PNAS. Even then, PNAS is generally a well respected peer-reviewed journal.
Timothy, the more the interndt is consumed, the bigger it is. Amazing, isnt it?
Whew! Thanks Marc!!!
It says at the bottom of the study that they got funding from the Violin Society of America, an organization almost solely existing to promote modern makers, isn't that what's called a conflict of interest, kind of Like Monsanto funding a study on Roundup????
Wow! Some of the reactions to the study are like a little kid being told that Santa Claus isn't real. LOL
Lyndon, could you do a little better job of being accurate, and sticking to the truth?
@Jeewon. I will address your specific points when you put a biography about yourself on your profile. What I do for a job is on record, and yet you want to know more personal details about my own life and my access to top violins? I am sorry to read that your main experience with an old violin, was with the fake sold to your parents. Do you think that experience has coloured your views on antique violins?
Carlo owns a genuine Amati, Jeewan!!
@David. My wine pallete was educated from the age of seven. My father, being a diplomat, had access to top Italian wines provided as part of his job. In the Italian way, we were given wine at dinner, initially watered down, and we were educated as to variety and region. I would be happy to take part in any study, as often as necessary, to prove I can tell Italian wines from each other. In fact, I am free most evenings...
I just asked my dad if he has published in a more prestigious journal than PNAS, and his reply was PNAS was one of the more prestigious journals he has published in. Hope they didn't enlist my dad for flash appeal, not a lot of flash appeal to the mobility of bacteria, his specialty.
Oh heck no, a Carl Becker Sr. (Carl G Becker) is now in the $100k+ range. Your buddy got quite a deal, Jeewon.
At my level I'm quite content to listen to the CD of Ruggiero Ricci playing 18 violins by 18 modern makers, none of which I'm never likely to be allowed to buy ;-)
Sung, I will admit I have not had time to read the study, so my comments kinda skirt around the periphery, and I interject especially when there is some flagrant overstating flying around.
Carlo, the fake has not been my only experience as I mentioned above. I've had some access working summers at a couple of shops. I didn't realize your experience testing out fiddles was so personal to you. I can only assume you have relatively little experience with contemporary instruments.
Lydia, I don't know if I remember the figures correctly. But there's a Becker Sr. with Jeff Holmes. Pretty sure it's 55K but could be wrong.
An Anon mid 18th century Neapolitan violin would be worth something like $30,000, not $5,000, that's just ridiculously low price if it were genuine.. Obviously the shop that appraised it at $5000 didn't think it was Italian, or was not being honest with you.
Are you now, or have you ever been a member of The Violin Society of America? ;)
No, I'm not a violin maker, just a restorer, my making skills were for making historically accurate copies of German clavichords, you can see them on my website if you click on my name.
Carlo, the Paris paper DOES give information on categories like overall quality, articulation, timbre, and playability.
Lyndon, My question was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the direction this discussion is heading, not a question directed at you personally. I knew I should'a stayed out'a this. I should reiterate that you don't need to be a violin maker to be a member of the VSA.
Perhaps a more relevant question to ask is, "What are the great contemporary makers doing that their competitors are not?"
Lydia, my opinion is that great makers will share some things, but not everything. After all, it is their livelihood, and a very competitive business.
I've yet to try or hear a Zygmuntowicz that comes close to a Stradivarius. From a player's perspective, the best violin I ever played on was the 1709 Viotti Stradivarius. I encourage everyone to go try a great old Italian and make up your own mind. No one is paying me to make this post to plug Stradivarius. There were people involved in this 'study' with a vested interest to push modern violins and there are people on this discussion who also have skin in the game. You know who they are (and they know who they are).
David, would you take your secrets with you into your grave, like Stradivari did? Or less dramatically, would you keep your secrets when you retire?
Is there anyone here that has (honestly) played 2 or more instruments from the same maker?
Han, I'll probably take most of my "secrets" to the grave. But an important thing to consider is that what many holders consider to be valuable secrets, turn out to be rubbish. Mine might be too.
One possible reason why everyone things Stradivari took his secrets with him to the grave is because there weren't any. It seems quite possible that he himself didn't know why they were so good, so he just kept doing it the same way. And if he didn't just keep doing it the same way, honestly I think that underscores my point.
Carlo, Jeewon is too smart to play your game. LOL. Those who have established their authority and have gained wide respect on this site apparently do not need to hang their pedigree on the wall.
Isn't this getting a little bit petty?? The moderator can easily step in and shut down what is presumably the longest thread in violinist.com history. Is she reading this, or maybe she's on vacation, what a wild ride!!
Actually Yixi, Jeewon rather rudely asked for Carlo's pedigree, I think you're the one that's out of line here.
Timothy's point about sound perception is valid.
Thank you, Lyndon, for enlightening me! I have great respect for your thoughts, especially regarding manner of online discussion.
Wow how did this turn into an argument about pedigree?! Lyndon, you have that backwards. It was Carlo who asked first. I may have no respect for Carlo's opinions but it has nothing to do with his pedigree, but rather his dogmatism presented as authority.
Rocky, what is a "VSA laureate"? Is that someone who can no longer enter their competitions, from having already won their maximum number of awards, or someone who has entered one of their competitions, or someone who has been a member, or someone who has achieved some sort of award, or what?
Carlo, why did you buy 13 brash and one dimensional fiddles?
Fair to say very few in this thread will be convinced to change their bias/informed point of view. Humans like to argue and try to win pointless arguments too much rather than attempting to find common ground and agreeing to disagree.
Excellent post Comrade :)
Great post Adalberto. But I'm not trying to convince Carlo, Lyndon, and Nate of anything. Just trying to point out how ludicrous is their position. It's true the opposing views here will never convince each other, but I think some are trying to reason things out, whether regarding methodology of the present study, or regarding personal experience, and the usual suspects argue out of some kind of zealotry, which I find difficult to understand (but seems to prevail these days,) using logical fallacies to intimidate and suppress rational discussion.
If Strads are not better than modern violins, I am ready to exchange a couple of my modern ones for a Stradivari.
Even if we accept modern instruments are often of the same caliber as great antiques, the antiques will always be pricier due to a) scarcity of supply b) pedigree of past owners and c) brand recognition built up over centuries due to a and b.
Nate, your offer would be compelling absent the speculation market. We shouldn't confuse the money sloshing around with the issue of violins as musical instruments alone. So, I guess I can agree with you that Strads are verifiable by the laws of economics to be _better_ at one thing: attracting investor money!
I'd gladly trade my violin for a Mickey Mantle rookie card. Then with the $500,000 I get at auction for the baseball card, I could buy ten great violins or one crappy old Italian.
Laurie, lock the thread. With Paul's comment, we're done now=)
There goes Nate again, asserting 'Strads' are a monolithic and undifferentiated class, against 'modern violins' another such class.
Nate, you are offering to trade a couple of unspecified violins, with a probable market value of between zero and 125K, for a violin which typically goes for one to sixteen million dollars?
A few final thoughts. I realize we are not going to all agree on this hot topic but I feel strongly about these great Italian instruments. I have formed my opinion based on a lot of careful consideration and comparison.
Ah!!!!! We finally get a number: 1.
@Jeewon. You have clearly never been to the London auction houses. Three to four auctions a year at multiple auction houses. It takes two days of intense looking and playing to go through all the violins. I would have played and tried well over a thousand instruments a year for over ten years. When something really stood out, I would buy it and add it to my collection. Why modern Italian violins? Investment potential. What have Fiorini, Cappichioni, Poggi, etc prices done over the last twenty years? You may wish to reappraise your scoring system.
Carlo, as usual you miss the point of this whole thread, blinded by your own hubris, and the gist of my argument. Unlike you I'm not trying to prove my expertise or worthiness. I'm not even really trying to make fun... My only point is that by your own admission you have no experience, or very little, with
Heifetz's artistry should not be questioned-whatever artists one may prefer, old or young-and he has no part in this debate, in my strong opinion.
Han, I think you have me mixed up with one of those potentially 'somebody' Jeewon Kim's out there. Why there are so many young women and men with that name in music I will never know. I really am a nobody, really. I just don't like misinformation, and can't stand zealous, dogmatic, 'fundie' thinking and so I speak up from time to time.
Some of the soloists in the Fritz study have significant experience with Strads and other violins, more than anyone else commenting here, from a player perspective:
"Some people consume a luxury good for the name and enjoy it for that reason. Nothing wrong with that."
Yes, tammuz - I agree it is a waste of resources that could go to other uses. I guess I was thinking that if someone prefers to wear a $200 pair of jeans over something that's just as good at $30, and they are using their own money for it, that's their choice. But if they are relying on others to subsidize or promote that choice, you are right.
"I think as a benchmark, if one is paying more for an instrument than what a Strad went for on an inflation-adjusted basis in the 1950s when mostly only musicians were buying instruments, one may be making a mistake"
Scott, could you clarify: do the old Italians other than Stradivaris have a "maker sound"? Or do e.g. Amatis also vary between bright and dark, like different violins from the same contemporary maker?
Sorry, I've been on the road for 36 hours and missed a few posts. Anyone say anything important?
While Stradivari's are out of almost everyone's budget, you can still own a 18th or 19th Century violin by a top German maker for about the same or less than a top modern maker. Its not all about Strads, there were quality violins made in most countries in Europe, and the antique market isn't defined by Stradivari prices!!
This discussion is stalling. Only one person nibbled at my Heifetz bait. Can we get back to the personal attacks and emotional outbursts please? Lyndon?
Actually I'm not the one making personal attacks in this thread, though there have been quite few!!
To Steve's question. Don't know if this would be the current answer, but it is one:
Repeat after me:
Not wanting to turn up the heat again. I have read somewhere, and it might be total bullsh..., that some high end travelimg musicians swop there valuable old masters to propably as well but not as extremely valuable contemporary violins which are look alike copies of their old masters. By doing so the audience is happy believing in hearing the old master and the violinist is happy playing on an instrument which is not as sensitive to climate changes during traveling and so on.
David (Burgess) within the workings of this economic system, I can see the self evident rationale of investing in a Strad/Guarneri/etc. However, it is my belief that it is an unsustainable and injust system at its roots. A rather trivial symptom (trivial in comparison to climate change, wars and so on) is hoarding up by richer folk, driving prices up (not just of old instruments) for strugglong musicians (who fall in a serious gap of insecurity in this same economic background). Etc. We see the same (il)logic of commodity as investment in investing in homes by wealthy insiders or outsiders, driving prices up and poorer people out of their historic neighbourhoods.
Douglas Bevan asserts that two "specific" instruments must be compared. Okay, fine. Now, the more times you do that, the better, right? So suppose you do that N times, and each time you compare a "specific" old Italian violin with a "specific" contemporary violin. And suppose you find that about N/2 times, you found the "specific" contemporary violin comparable or a little better. The other N/2 times, you found the old Italian "specific" violin comparable or a little better. At what point do you say, "Hmm, top contemporary violins seem about as good as old Italian violins." That is, what does N have to be before you start to "draw your own conclusion"?
Adalberto, I didn't intend it that way, but now that you point it out, I can easily see how you or anyone else would think so. Perhaps I should retire from this thread, you know, to "spend more time with my family" as the politicians always say.
Douglas Bevan wrote: IT IS RIDICULOUS TO COMPARE BROAD CATEGORIES OF VIOLINS.
Tammuz, the only reason we still have some of our best-preserved Stradivaris is because they were taken out of circulation as regular playing instruments, and stashed away by museums and collectors. So it's a mixed bag. One could ask though how much a player will really be compromised by not having access to a 6 million dollar fiddle. The various experiments and studies suggest that there are viable less-expensive alternatives.
"Personally, I think using listening tests has too much human factor in it to reach any good conclusions, but with well-instrumented tests it could be more enlightening."
None of that technology is needed. Just the ears of musicians with no axe to grind and no prejudice either for or against modern instruments, questions that are set up not to lead the listener one way or the another, and enough time to get to really know the instrument.
I think there is a different take on all of this depending on if someone is a player or a maker. As a maker, it is most important to me to know what factors affect sound, so as to have those tools available in the making process. Most of the listening tests don't have that kind of usable information, and tend to focus on winners and losers, which then gets the headlines. Only occasionally there are details buried in the study that I find useful. In general, though, the perceptions and preferences of people add a lot of confusion to an already extremely complicated physical/acoustic problem (but I guess they're necessary, since they play and listen to the things).
It may sound like I'm shooting for a totally mechanized evaluation of violins, but that's far from it. Listening tests are extremely important, more than anything, and I get as many of them as I can. Putting that kind of thing into an article or report loses a huge amount of the value, I think, compared to actually being there.
I talked with my maker/dealer friend that played his $35,000 modern and 3 million Strad for me. He had basically the same take on the study I did. He found the fact that they refused to reveal which instruments were used very suspicious. He said it was set up by and for modern makers to promote modern makers, we have no idea how hard they tried to get really good sounding Strads if at all, and we know full well they went way out of their way to get particularly exceptional and loud sounding moderns, he even questioned whether they would have released the study if the STrads had won. As it was the Strads did better than they were predicting(with 4 out of 10 soloists picking a Strad as their favourite) and it took two years for the study results to be published. People want moderns to win because they can potentially afford them. But when they go to a concert they still want to hear Stradivaris.
I think to broadly categorize with obvious exceptions, there is an old and a new sound, as well as the preference for new things vs the preference for old things. Some people's preference leans towards the new, some people's preference leans towards the old, much like this highly flawed study demonstrated. Perhaps the most rational third group exists with no preferences either for old or new, and willing to extensively compare both old and new instruments when choosing their instrument.
I have trouble imagining a situation where a violinist is forced to play an old Italian Instrument when they want to play a modern.
Adalberto, your response is quite offensive, evidently you have not been reading this forum much, I base all my conclusions on the behaviour of posters on this forum, and I'm freely entitled to my opinions. There is a seeming war going on against antique violins, And I'm sick of it. If you don't support me then you are part of the problem. People need to try antique violins and stop being forced to go to stores that only sell modern violins in the affordable price range. You might think I'm being rude, so be it, I am quite rude when it comes to people recommending Jay Haide, Yita, Gliga etc with no mention of the fact that there are antique competitors in all these price ranges, also plenty of antique competitors for the high end modern maker violins, and informed choice considers alternatives. Only the close minded insist on this modern brand or that modern brand. Why do I care, because I make a living restoring and selling quality violins, I don't need some idiot saying they're better off to order some crap from China or Shar instead of visit a real shop like mine.
The original topic is about the percieved differences between the "Great Old" 300 years old and the high end of the contemporaries less than 20 years old. How did it derail into an argument on afforable intermediate violins, 150 years old versus factory-made new?
No, the original topic is about a biased and limited study with only twelve instruments set up to promote modern faximile violins over original antiques.
Is there now no end to threads on Vcom? Do they now go on forever? I, as the original poster, shut down the discussion on using nom-de-plumes on Vcom. I had had enough of the same circularity of argument displayed in this thread. That one had only got to two hundred. This one may never run out of steam.
"No, the original topic is about a biased and limited study with only twelve instruments set up to promote modern faximile violins over original antiques."
How do you shut these things down, Carlo? But why should anyone want to anyway, while the participants are still hot? I'm glad to have stimulated some "scholarly" debate.
@Steve. I'm not sure about the "scholarly" part either. Certainly a lot of hot air from some quarters.
Carlo if you're tired of it, you could of course stop reading and posting rather than trying to have the last word by reiterating what you've already said before. (I usually stop reading and posting in a topic if I don't like where the discussion is going.) The opinions of you and Lyndon are very clear at this point.
Some people have nothing of value to post and yet they still post.
Can I say as someone who buys an antique violin every few months I've really been enjoying reading this thread. Sadly, my best violin was made in Sweden between the wars (not the Paris double-blind experiment ones).
I had a really good about 100 yr old Swedish violin in my shop, on my website its pictured in the middle of the bottom of the first page. It was Johannes Brun, hand made by one maker, reputed to be worth about $10,000, though I only got about half that.
Lyndon, as I'm sure you are already aware, your dealer/maker friend and I know each other. He would have easy access to a couple of the people involved in the studies, should he have questions or want more information, should he desire to do so. Something else you also know: He loves and respects nice old violins, and this is not unique to him. This is almost universally true of makers, including those who only make.
I know it makes sense to you, David, but to a lot of us it doesn't make sense at all. Its not scientific to not reveal the makers and models of the instruments, otherwise we could have a study with 6 lousy Italians and the 6 best modern violins ever made; none of the modern makers submitted their mediocre models, they submitted their best, the same should have been done for the Italians, and no, I don't believe your argument that no great Italian violin owner would want their instrument revealed in the study, I just don't buy that. Revealing the instruments might actually foster competition among the owners that they want to submit their instrument to the competition in the hope that it might win.
If 6 lousy(ier) Old Italian violins were chosen to compete against good contemporary violin and thus this explains the results, doesn't that mean anyway that being an old and italian is not a sufficient condition to succeed in this test? And perhaps not a condition defining it as a better violin overall in a different context (say for chamber music)?
Lyndon, please tell us more about this supposed "huge involvement of modern makers in the study". Wouldn't we all be better off if you stuck more to facts, and relied less on flights of fancy?
Tammuz. Actually if we are to take this forum, and Maestronet.com as examples of the violin world today, the old is better days are long gone, at all price points the majority of posters recommend modern violins, and I don't think that position is rational.
In the science world (which is where we are here - this I think accounts in part for the lack of comprehension by those who don't have this background) you do occasionally come across instances of fraud and falsification, but these are extremely rare because in theory they can always be found out by repeating the study. When it comes to conspiracy amongst scientists to pervert the truth, the whole notion is frankly ridiculous because scientists like nothing more than to prove their colleagues wrong. So even if we have good grounds to criticise the study on conceptual and procedural grounds, perhaps including subconscious bias, when the study has been peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal I believe we have a duty to trust that the organizers are not guilty of deliberate deceit. If we have strong urge to prove otherwise we should keep our mouths shut until we have actual evidence.
Actually this is what is called the pseudo science world, and the pseudo science world is full of frauds and deceit.
Can you cite one? Evidence please?
I think that is to be explained by the fact that old italians are now so expensive, people on here or on maestronet are not looking at these high end instruments or bothering to inquire about them for the simple reason that the price is stratospherically out of their range. Given a choice, I think the overriding allure of being an old italian instrument has not diminished one bit, but rather been inflated to a gigantic extent. The mere mention of old italian (for instance, copies thereof,american, chinese, european, good or bad) instantly add an allure to an instrument to the consumer (who is equivalent in knowledge and experience to her or his choice of instrument),
What the study has demonstrated is that some people(not all) prefer some modern violins over some Old Italian violins of which some might be Stradivaris. When you really think about it, that's not saying much at all. And the conclusion that top modern violins are as good as Stradivaris is completely unwarranted and definitely not proven, in any way, means or form.
Lyndon, YOU may not understand why the owners of the Strads wouldn't want the identity disclosed, but you are not one of these owners, nor have you had nearly as much contact with them as some of us have.
In the science world, would a study with only twelve samples, carry much weight? Would not the sample need to be much greater to have any relevance at all?
What I'm saying is that by proposing to reveal the instruments you might appeal to a whole different type of owner that wants their instrument to be publicized, rather than is afraid it will be exposed as deficient. Maybe your owners know full well they don't own the top Strads, and don't want to make that situation worse, by revealing it.
Lyndon wrote, "There is a seeming war going on against antique violins, And I'm sick of it."
I am not the Enemy you make me to be. Differing opinions do not mean "fights to the death." Also, "disagreeing with you" doesn't make me part of any "problem" you are perceiving, nor should it make me your imagined "rival"-I have never said your shop offers no value (when, ever?), or that it should not thrive just because many people buy modern affordable instruments at the price range of the ones you offer (really, that has NOTHING to do with the current discussion.)
I also think the whole double blind stuff is a problem, it sounds scientific, but in practice its more of a problem. Everyone says new violins can be easier to play, so that gives the new violins an unfair advantage when the players don't have time to practice on them. The players need to see the instruments to play their best, they need to practice on them for days at least to familiarize themselves with the quirks and needs of each instrument.
I wouldn't say there is a "war going on against antique violins" but rather the views of many posters on Vcom don't match the reality of the real world. In every professional orchestra I have played in there is a large majority of string players using old instruments rather than new, except perhaps in the viola section.
It is an unfair advantage if it is easier to play?
Steve -- it's not hard to find cases of fraud and deceit. Vaccines and autism, people who erase the unwanted peaks from their NMR spectra, etc.
Adalberto, actually these studies claiming moderns are better than Strads, don't effect the market for Strads, their prices keep going up, they do effect the market for hand made moderns, their demand and prices keep going up. But believe it or not they do effect the whole market of violin sales, and less educated people make the assumption if a new hand made top modern maker violin is as good as a Strad, that a cheap factory made modern violin must be better than a cheap factory made antique. These attitudes weren't developed principally by the quality of the Modern cheap factory instruments, but by people getting the mistaken idea that people all over the world now know how to make violins better than they did 300,200,100 years ago. Which is simply not the case IMHO I don't see how it is off topic to make small mention of the old vs new debate which was started by these Modern vs Strad studies, it really is quite interrelated and relevant to the discussion.
Paul I don't trial multiple instruments at once, even for my local customers, I will send what I believe is the best violin in the price range you are looking for if you pay by paypal upfront(with buyer protection to be refunded in full on return) and pay shipping both ways(about $25 each way)
Then maybe it would be better to educate the people who are making these erroneous assumptions (including those who believe that new and old instruments each have a certain type of sound), than being admittedly rude? And if you keep copies of the studies at hand, you can easily show them that these tests did not involve the market segment in which you make your livelihood.
Yeah but it is a very positive portrayal of the market you make instruments in David, and since you don't deal in antiques I would expect your opinion to be at least as biased for the modern side, as mine is from the antique side, that's why its best to just agree to disagree.
While I am no longer involved in dealing in antiques, I love the better ones as much as the next guy. And I'm far from hurtin' for business, so my having a financial agenda is going to be a darned difficult case to try to make. I'm more concerned about whether I can get all these existing commissions out the door before I die.
Paul - yes of course there is that recent example of deceit in the medicoscience literature, but I could argue that it's still a tiny statistic. The perpetrator was exposed and run out of town - where is he now I wonder?
@ Lyndon - I think the assumption that any of us, player or maker, has a bias against old violins, is ridiculous. I have played and admired some amazing antique instruments. They are the examples that great contemporary makers learn from and are inspired by in many cases.
Can't reason with an irrational mind. All we can do is expose it.
Lyndon:"But believe it or not they do effect the whole market of violin sales, and less educated people make the assumption if a new hand made top modern maker violin is as good as a Strad, that a cheap factory made modern violin must be better than a cheap factory made antique. "
Lyndon, if you don't have as much business as you would like, would you be willing to entertain the possibility that it is YOU who are most responsible for this, rather than trying to blame Claudia Fritz, or contemporary makers, or Chinese instruments, or whatever other external factor?
I'm not convinced that modern makers need to prove anything or win over buyers. Price alone has done that, which is why I play a modern violin. Older violins in the range I could afford are simply not so great.
Thats the fun part. I have a few players in my range with bottom tier old Italiens. They are definately not a good buy when looking for a violin to play on, still the fact alone that Strad lived in the same area makes some of them really expensive and people buy them.
Tammuz, you don't seem to be very perceptive of what's going on in the violin market, and when you hear my critique of people's changing taste from old to new, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that its all in my head. I've been off and on in this business for 35 years. When I started out the WHOLE business was in antiques, except for a few expensive hand made modern instruments, and really crappy new German imports. A lot has changed in the business, when I started out everyone assumed and believed violins get better with age, why?? because older violins sounded better than new ones, at least in the same price range.
I recently decided to call time on my 1996 violin by a competent Florentine amateur, which had served me well throughout its lifetime but not evolved any mellowness to complement its clarity. One thing it has done is appreciate in value by maybe 200%. Over the same time period it seems that the value of good antique British violins has remained almost static.
Less famous and anonymous German violins can be a real bargain. I recently had a violin by a top Czech maker in great condition, I sold it for $1800, it was leagues better than a $4000 Jay Haide, but because it was Czech, and made in Schoenbach, it was much more affordable. If you're enamoured by famous brands, be prepared to pay the price. A medium quality hand made modern maker might sell for $10,000-$15,000, if you look at antiques you can find a similar quality, hand made by one maker for $5,000 or less easily, it just won't have that famous name recognition that people want, mistakenly thinking that is what means quality.
Then have a Jay Haide available in your shop, so your customers can compare. Pretty simple. Isn't most of your hand-wringing of your own making?
I don't tell you how to run your business, David.
Might you be able to learn a little bit from other people? I certainly have, and would highly recommend doing so!
I have close friends in the business I've learned very much from, and always look to for professional advice.
"In every professional orchestra I have played in there is a large majority of string players using old instruments rather than new..."
Gentlemen we are going slightly off topic and are in danger of turning this lively debate into a mud slinging match. May I respectfully remind you we were discussing the statisticly irrelevant “double blind” violin study that had been set up to disprove that original antique violins sound better than modern reproductions.
For new instrumwnts around 10k in western countries you have to keep following in mind:
In the modern market, you pay for the name, and instruments are rarely discounted so bargains are few and far between. In the antique market anonymous and even obviously fake labeled violins can be acquired for bargain prices, prices are way more flexible in the antique market, and while the average antique might be not much better than the average modern, the select bargain antiques far outnumber the select bargain moderns.
How many moderns and ultra-expensive antiques are you familiar with? As I asked before, have you attended even one of the VSA Conventions, or Julie Reed's or Metzler's exhibitions, or a VSA Competition, where there are around 400 contemporary instruments to peruse and try, and which also typically have an exhibit of around 20 high-value antique instruments? (a different exhibit with different instruments each time)
Lyndon, the study centers on the instruments by one of the best craftsperson of his age and those by the best craftspersons of this age...not on old german factory violins vs new chinese factory violins. The difference between the two tiers I think includes far too many other factors to warrant the intrrpretations that are rather forced on the study.
Actually David, my friends in the business deal in mostly antiques and many high end fiddles, and are quite closely in agreement with my opinions on old vs new, in fact they are one of the sources of many of my ideas about violins. They wouldn't take to kindly to some of the ideas you've presented in this thread.
I don't know if anyone mentioned this: what is the lifespan of a violin? What is the likelihood some Strads have poor-sounding due to reaching to the end of their lifespan?
"Finally, this kind of study is usually funded and organised by modern makers with a point to prove. It is no surprise they get the result they pay for."
Lyndon, horse pucky! As I've already mentioned, your dealer/maker friend and I know each other quite well, and both of us worked in the Weisshaar shop. More recently, we spent a week together at the Oberlin Restoration Workshop.
John If you're new to the violin you should be drawing your conclusions from playing and listening to old vs new violins, rather than believing possibly agenda driven and funded studies.
John, haha! Immortality of a wooden instrument is more than a fairytale at this point.
Yixi, true. But as long as really talented restorers continue to be involved, it may appear that way.
And on cue there goes Carlo admonishing us, well half of us anyways... for going off topic right after he goes off topic, including posts questioning how this site is run and how the OP should deal with his own thread.
Yixi, you're right. Anything organic will eventually decompose haha
"You pay the working time, not the quality."
there are Amati and Da Salo violins almost 150 years older than some Strads, and they're still doing well.
David, just for the record, my disabilty prevents me from being able to travel long distances, and my pocket book prevents me from being able to attend local workshops like with Mr.Darton in Claremont, I absolutely hate traveling,and am scared to death driving on the freeway and just driving the 70 miles to Los Angeles is a real struggle for me. If I had not had my illness my dream was to apprentice for Hans Weisshaar, just like you did, I used to visit him with my bosses fiddles.I was also torn between clavichords and violins, I didn't need an apprenticeship to build clavichords, so that's where a lot of my attention went, my clavichords have as good a reputation as your violins, among the few clavichordists in the USA.
Scott, there is a minimum amount of money a violin maker is taking, at least in Germany. That will be his working time*50€ plus the material costs. Thats the least they take, at least here. The reason those makers without succes dont build more violins is, that they dont find much customers in this price range and therefore stop making them. For repairs, even on cheap student vioins, thats what you get per hour, most times its more.
"It might take David Burgess the same amount of time as a less-known maker. But they can't charge the same price."
Lyndon, anybody can be full of excuses.
excuses,my ass!! I see you haven't learned you lesson about keeping up the personal attacks!!
Carlo wrote, "Gentlemen we are going slightly off topic and are in danger of turning this lively debate into a mud slinging match."
gosh this thread has so many replies - i'm not even going to bother read all this! i only left the website for 1 week and i come back to this! gosh. :)
Sorry Paul, my first post was said in jest, I have not been waging a campaign of personal attacks on posters that disagree with me, just commenting and disagreeing with their ideas, which is well within forum guidelines, David on the other hand has reverted to his lets attack Lyndon's character mode, call into question his experience, question his knowledge, instead of answer the real and obvious flaws I see in this study.
"If you don't support me then you are part of the problem."
That one comment taken out of context constitutes a campaign???
This is better than TV.
Paul Deck said on October 8, 2017, 5:12 PM · This is better than TV.
I think a large percent of the posters demonstrate just how ingrained the pro modern, anti antique sentiment has come to be. Its not just some thing I made up. The rude attacks on Carlo and Nate were particularly uncalled for.
I think a more practical question might be around the question of getting a professional fiddle on some kind of reasonable budget.
I never would attack Mr. Robinson. He's opinionated, but honest and sincere in his statements, and has zero stake in the discussion other than establishing his preference for "old italian" instruments (he also respects the old masters quite a bit, which is a plus.)
So you counter with yet another attack on Carlo!!
So anyone is that prefers the sound of antiques is a "fanatic". That's exactly the kind of crap I've been talking about.
Obviously everyone have their own reason to either like or dislike this study. I personally think the "scientists" who controlled that study cut a lot of corners, or at least would appear to based on their paper. Little effort if any was made to evaluate and quantify the human variability factor. For all we know they could have presented the same instrument multiple times randomly, and got different ratings each time. Also, while claiming to replicate a typical instrument selection process, it actually did not. Typically one would compare #1 to #2, and decide which they like best, then compare that one to #3, and so forth. Nobody would play 12 instruments in a row and try to remember how #1 compared to #12, it's an iterative process. Ditto for the audience who were asked to rate instruments as they were played. How could one possibly rate with some objectivity #1 relative to #12? Perhaps this is the many obvious idiosyncrasies that frustrate everyone who may have had hopes of a meaningful scientific process and conclusions. For instance, the video show recording of the sound profile of each instruments, yet not a word of it in the paper. Why not? If there was some scientific rigor applied to the study, it did not translate into the paper unfortunately.
Please don’t count me as one of the three having a bias against living makers. I have in my time commissioned two new violins and one bow. They are very good instruments. In 300 years they may even be great.
Me neither, my best friend in the business is a respected modern violin maker, and I really like his violins, my best customer's brother bought one.
I stand by my words-I will let Ms. Niles decide whether I was attacking Mr. Ballara.
the only scientific way to measure projection is with microphones, one under the ear, and one well back in the hall,the louder the hall mike picks up relative to the level of the under ear mike, the better the projection.
No, it's not the preference for antiques, it's the irrational rejection of scientific inquiry, the summary judgment of the Paris experiment as biased and limited without really understanding the scope of the study or the incremental nature of any study, accusing those interested in the possibility of great contemporary fiddles of being a "modern fanatic", insinuating those who find contemporaries to be indistinguishable from antiques are delusional because of financial limitations, suggesting current master makers are mere copyists with no artistic contributions to their work, because "[h]ow can an imitation be better than the original?", presumption of collusion with no evidence, and a whole bunch of weird stuff, and sweeping generalizations:
Guys... quoting myself.
May I help you out?
No no. It must end!
John, look, what's going on here is this: say no to bullshit if we want a better world:
John, return 1 will end with false.
@Adalberto. Maybe I am privileged. I was born into a culturally rich family and had an excellent education in NZ, Italy, and London. I have, and do, work very hard and every instrument I have bought is through my own earnings as a musician and teacher. I am certainly very lucky as I have good health, a wonderful wife, and two great kids. I have been called worse things than "dogmatic" in my time, and I take no offence at all :-)
It will be nice to see tests like that with violas.
Luis, would you expect the topic of violas beeing different from violins? I would have expected the pretty much same results (weather valid or not).
Adalberto wrote, "I never would attack Mr. Robinson. He's opinionated, but honest and sincere in his statements, and has zero stake in the discussion."
Taking a lead from Yixi, allow a former research physicist to cut through the bullsh1t being tossed about in this thread about the Paris Experiment.
On the question of "measuring" violin quality (including projection):
A little humor. Jack. Benny one said something to the effect of:
Douglas, the "branding" is an interesting piece of violin history. A couple of Paris fiddle dealers are generally credited with coming up with the clever idea of merging violins into the antiques/collectibles market, with was thriving in France around 1850. The currency was unstable, so people were looking for other places to put their money.
Here's the link I quoted above -- Jack Benny "shmoozing" about violins. He was a funny man.
"For instance, loudness (sound pressure) measurements on the decibel scale don't correlate all that well with human perception of loudness."
Our local luthier, Dan Foster, loaned me one of his violins when I was in the market. Dan was once a VSA medalist. He is a very warm-hearted gentleman, but unfortunately age has not been especially kind to him, and he has retired.
Paul, we makers often joke around about the possible marketing advantages of flaunting high-risk behavior, or faking our own death. LOL
Scott Cole said "What is a very slippery factor is "refinement." Refinement is why old instruments are expensive."
David Burgess Bio (adjusted for risk)
"Top soloists and players tended to disagree in this study, not being able to tell old from new based on the "refinement" of tone."
Marc Marschall, yes, I think a similar test with violas would be even more favorable to contemporary violas, since the number of top sounding old violas is much smaller thatn that of the violins.
It is interesting to speculate what will happen when today's premier makers die. I suspect prices will fall rather than rise, unless the maker is Italian, as that has been the pattern in the past. However time is a great leveller and eventually the cream will rise to the top. Maybe Stradivari II will turn out to be American?
Carl Becker Sr. and Carl Becker Jr. weren't Italian....
Certainly great makers but how many years did it take for their investment value to appreciate? Probably as many as it took for their tone to mature!
I don't know. I think I paid 7K retail to a dealer, and sold it maybe five years later for something like 12.
Scott wrote, "there are certain people who are hypersensitive ... searching for "the one" and always finding fault ... and others who get [one] and happily play away, never giving it a second thought."
How many years did it take for their investment value to appreciate? Go check out Ming Jiang Zhu's benchmade (not the workshop) ones before and after his passing in Dec 2014.
Marc, wouldnt a true ending be better? :P
My friends, we have made Carlo speechless.
The problem with Zhu violins is how do you know which ones were bench made.
Paul, I would think authentication is always tricky and it's not specific to Zhu's violin or modern Chinese violins. The fact that
Yixi I agree with you. The same is said of Topa -- that some of his instruments are workshop-made. I don't know if that's true or not, and not sure I really care. My bet is that Zhu taught his apprentices very thoroughly. That's the best legacy.
"So anyone is that prefers the sound of antiques is a "fanatic""
Scott, I'm a fanatic, so are you, Paul, David Burgess, just to name a few. We are in good company. LOL.
This may not be a real surprise, but I noticed that those who seem the least knowledgeable about science are the loudest critics of scientific methods. I never expected the double blind design would be attacked as unscientific.
Very interesting video, too bad the sound quality is not so great.
I for one have worked several years of my life in the sciences, and have a dad who is a highly published world recognized research scientist to talk to almost every day, so I hardly think Sung's criticisms apply to me!!
I've written about this previously on v.com, but at Mondomusica NYC a few years back, a Florian Leonhard bench copy was displayed side by side with the del Gesu original, and both were available for players to try. The copy was a remarkably fine violin, and for my taste, easily the best contemporary violin I'd seen at that show. It was not identical to the original in response or sound, but anyone listening would have been hard-pressed to decide which was better.
My father is a lawyer but I know nothing about law, just saying.
Well in my family I was groomed to go into the sciences or medical field, excelled in my science classes, worked in research science starting in high school, got a job as an audio engineer designing loudspeakers, worked in my dads laboratory. Before going off on my own and getting into the musical instrument business. So like it or not, I have strong background in sciences.
Dear Carla, Corlo, Corla(?)
You're actually the one that's been the most unreasonable in this thread.
Perhaps Lyndon, perhaps... perhaps I've risked permanently blinding myself by leaving that huge log firmly lodged in my own eye. And perhaps it's unfair to go on picking bones... but perhaps I just can't let go of another
It seems like the Paris study has been submitted with the caveat that posters are going to ridicule and criticize anyone that doesn't agree with its conclusions or methods(or call them fanatics), that sounds less like science and more like fascism!! (back to my original premise.) No one has to believe any "scientific" paper any more than we need to accept the latest nutrition craze promoted in "scientific" studies.
One of the things I really appreciate about Violinist.com is the professional diversity, including actual research physicists like Carmen Tanzio, who posted earlier.
Objectivity is the basis for all sciences, and none of the most vocal defenders of antique instruments seems to have it when approaching the subject of old vs. new violins.
I don't see any objectivity coming from the studies authors, or from many of their supporters. At best they've opened up a topic for debate, and more rigourous studies need to be done to see if there any truth to their findings. Unfortunately organizing such studies is not easy.
As I pointed out to you before, Sung, PNAS does have a reputation for publishing "fluff" from time to time, and what better excuse for "fluff" than an article about Stradivari. If you wanted to publish a basic sciences article in PNAS I'm sure the editorial standards would be much higher.
There is a greater factor in this thread that Don Noon and I danced around earlier, that we are in many cases discussing two different things.
My parents were both scientists too -- now long retired. We talked about science, especially physics and chemistry, around the supper table. Then I went to college (and then graduate school) and, under the tutelage of excellent researcher-professors, discovered just how ignorant I had been despite my parentage and my success in science courses in high school. One of the great advantages of advanced education is that you learn how to "know what you don't know."
And equally important, to accept that others do know those things that you know you don't know
So Paul, as a scientist?? you think a sample size of 12 instruments,and 10 test subjects is adequate to draw conclusions about old vs new violins in general??
Lyndon - no 12 instrumenst weren't enough. I think we all agree that the findings were equivocal
å propos: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/07/stradivarius-violins-arent-better-than-new-ones-round-two/
And why did the studies authors go to all the trouble of assembling an audience and having them fill out a survey without even bothering to ask them which instruments they preferred the tone of?? Where they afraid the audiences picks might be different than their hand selected soloists opinions. Inquiring minds want to know.
This particular paper focuses on soloist evaluations, as the title suggests: "Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins".
There's one thing missing from this thread: the opinions of a variety of top soloists. As if they have anything else better to do?
Thanks for that link Andrew!
Actually I think the double blind aspect of the study makes it less accurate, not more, how do you think a soloist would feel if they had to give a concert blindfolded, not knowing what instrument they were playing, not being able to prepare for the idiosyncrasies of each instrument, I think the whole double blind thing was added to make a rather non scientific study sound scientific. If you want to do a survey how about ask Joshus Bell if he thinks his Sam Zyg modern is just as good as his Strad, and the same with other top soloists. As for this study it should have been the listeners that decided, not the soloists IMHO
Lyndon asked whether the sample size was adequate to "draw general conclusions."
Point taken Scott. And why wouldn't we allow for confirmation bias and placebo if it actually helped us perform, so long as we could afford it or get sponsorship for it.
If reduced vision was a handicap, don't you think it might have been about equally so with both groups of instruments?
At the end of the whole test 4 soloists had picked a Strad, three of them the same Strad, and 6 had picked one of the moderns. Hardly a resounding victory for the moderns, and statistically within the margin of error of a tie. No one ever said everyone is going to think a Strad is superior, and owing to the limited time the players had with the instruments, there's no doubt their choices would have changed if they had much longer to compare instruments, or even take one home for a week, etc like things are in the real world.
Double blind is the ONLY option to make valid researches about things people have opinions on and are asked to judge.
David, do you give your customers a blindfold when they come to compare your instrument to some other they are considering, do you really think making critical decisions about instruments is not hindered by being blindfolded???
Double blind might be quite valid for the audience, but for the players to make choices???
I will try to set up a "blind" scenario, if they request it. But often they don't request it, they just do it, coming prepared with another player, etc.
You provide blindfolds??
I sure can.
Double blind may be important for testing medicines, but players never perform live blindfolded, how is forcing them to be blindfolded to make important decisions about comparing instruments testing real world scenarios, its kind of like having a boxing match where your hands are tied behind you back, its not a valid way to judge with full control of your abilities.
No its not Sung, its about the Paris study.
Lyndon, I'd been thinking that people hear with their ears, and to a lesser extent through bone conduction....
“We should stop mentioning on the programme what soloists play because who cares?” she says. “That would allow young soloists to make a career without struggling to have a Strad on loan. If we judge players on how they play rather than what they play, that would be better.”
Boxers or briefs? Now THERE's something for a blind study!
Lyndon wrote, "Hardly a resounding victory for the moderns, and statistically within the margin of error of a tie."
I'm fully aware of the reason's for double blind, I just think in this case the benefits of double blind, are outweighed by the down sides, the players not feeling comfortable with the instruments etc
Paul, I don't think I've ever had customers use either boxers or briefs as a blindfold. ;-)
This is not about a victory for new vs. old violins. It is a beacon of hope for future violinists and music lovers as long as there are humans and trees!
Perhaps if Capt. Underpants were to commission a Burgess... :)
Instead of blinding the player you want to make them promise to not look close enough at the instrument to decide if its old or new???
"I agree not a lot of people are interested in anything unless it's a Strad."
Actually statistics done properly is a quite exact science.
You mean sherry-picking...
About ten years ago, a guy won the London Symphony concertmaster position (not sure if I got the name of the orchestra right, but it was one of the major British orchestras, and the person already had a good job as associate concertmaster in one of the major US orchestras) playing on a contemporary violin. After a trial period, he decided not to take the job, encountering prejudice due to both his young age, and the instrument he was using eventually emerging as contemporary.
Who do you think would have got the job if they were blindfolded.
Who, the committee, or the player?
A study with six old violins and six new violins is irrelevant. Show me a study with a thousand of each where the premise from the outset is not to prove that new is as good or better, set the questions so that they are not biased, and somehow convince busy touring soloists that use top antique violins that they can spare them, then I will accept the result. Till then this study is just hot air.
You are welcome to present such a study, based on the set of conditions you choose, but coming up with a thousand Stradivari violins may be difficult, since only about 500 are known to exist. ;-)
On the subject of blindfold, we'll never know what effect playing blindfolded has on perception or skill and its potential effect on the result of the Paris Study result unless this subject is studied. Until then, neither we nor the research team can do much more than speculate based on common sense. The aim was to remove personal bias from the individual evaluations, ensuring the players would remain unaware of what instrument they were playing. Whatever negative effect it might have had on performance was the same for all instruments tested, hence in most likelihood would have little or no effect on the ability to differenciate old from new.
The Amati-owner doth protest too much methinks.
@David. The best fiddle I’ve played was a Bergonzi. I’m sure we can find a thousand antique violins, just as we could modern. Now, who to get to fund that study?
Roger, I know full well the reasons given for double blind, I just feel it must put the player in an uncomfortable position, and when I'm uncomfortable or have one of my senses occupied, I'm less able to make serious decisions that require my full facilities.
Lyndon, the kinds of players that participated in this study are the sort that will go on an play a splendid Sibelius Violin Concerto with sore throats and stomach aches. To have goggles on -- I'm sure they could still find their sound points and their shifts to Third Position.
I see the point of the blinders if the players are making the decision, but if the audience is making the decision, as in this case I think they should have, I don't really think the players are going to intentionally play better on a Strad than a modern if they're not blindfolded.
12 violins and 10 players may be more than enough sample size for a scientific study. It depends on what you want to measure.
"Anyone who owns an expensive Italian antique could be biased in their favor. Their violins will not lose value in a practical, market-value sense, but the large-majority assumption that such a violin is necessarily better may be eroded, and some of their bragging rights therewith."
Carmen wrote, "I do not recall seeing any statistical significance being applied to the preference aspects of the study. This seemed to be by design. They threw the results out there and you take from it whatever you want."
Arguably sound quality has little bearing (beyond a certain threshold)on market value. Provenance, pedigree and rarity far outweighs quality for a collector/investor. Hence, Strad for these reasons alone will maintain stratospheric values, and sound quality vs modern instruments doesn't matter quite as much from that point of view. Some myths might be busted, but owners of these antiques fear not as far as bragging right is concerned.
There has been quite a bit of bragging by modern instrument owners on this forum!!
Provenance, pedigree and rarity components equally apply to modern instruments, and I'd personally and happily would be bragging too if I owned one of the exceptional modern instruments!
Yeah but bragging about your Yita???
Back to the study, I suspect the author has collected far more information that is being presented in the paper, and as many do, milking the paper mill by presenting only a subset of the result observed into separate papers. In this case I find it frustrating as omitting some of the data collected (e.g. sound profile of each instruments) reduces the credence of the paper IMO. I don't care if the study concludes one way or the other, but whichever way it is, at least I want to feel that it is a valid conclusion, and as others have pointed out, in this case can only be applied to the small sample of instruments and players and only those instruments and players.
I don't think there were any Yitas in the study, Lyndon. Once again you have to reach for the most irrational extreme to try to make some kind of point. The only thing sentient people glean from that kind of comment is its flagrant, willful irrationality. Why is that so hard for you to grasp?
Paul, my hats off to you and many others who are fighting against irrationality so tirelessly. It maybe just the kind of games some like to play: bullshit one's way through so they can get all the attention they want and even supporters. Apparently this strategy works for politicians (I won't name names), why not here?
Roger, they may not yet have come up with a meaningful way to interpret or present the sound profile information, or a method they're satisfied with. This is something that people have been working on for at least 15 years, including me.
I dont recall anybody insisting that his Yita can compete with good antiques.
Sorry to share my own conclusion learned from these debates:
Marc, right. It's already been suggested that Lyndon could keep a copy of the paper available for customers, to address his concerns that people might think the studies apply to the old instruments he sells, versus modern factory Chinese instruments. The section describing the instruments used in the testing, and how they were selected, could be highlighted.
@Gurus. Enjoy your commissioning process. It is an exciting time. I did this twice with violins and once with a bow. It is a great opportunity to have your own input in your instrument. Not only can you discuss finishes, fittings, models etc, but a good luthier will take on board the sound you are after. They can also accommodate any special requests such as a thinner neck, or a specific stop length. Most makers are happy to take back a violin and let you have the next one if you are not completely satisfied with it. It is in their interest that you love it.
Marc -- math background is not the problem. Time is. :)
An American antique tea table sold for over $1 million at a Christies auction.
I hate to help this thread drag on.. but violins are not coffee tables.
Scott wrote, "This combination of response, dynamic range, projection, and beauty of sound are ... very rare."
@ Scott Cole - No, a Stradivarius sells for a lot of money despite the sound. Even a poor sounding Strad is extremely valuable.
In many ways, in those secrets of Stradivari film documentaries, it is seldom mentioned that most if not all playable Strads / Guarneris often (if not always) are fitted with new tail, new strings, new finger board, new or reset neck, new bridge, new post, sometimes new bass bar, centuries of plate tuning, coats after coats of French polish. Nobody should wonder that they can't be distinguished from top modern instruments as suggested by this study! It's a wonder that anyone would expect a different result.
I was ridiculed in this thread for claiming the overall bias today is towards modern fiddles. All you have to do is read through replies to this thread to see that I was right. And people don't stop at simply preferring modern violins, they have to ridicule anyone that sticks up for antiques, in any price range.
I'm with Scott on this one.
Modern makers make what sells, and what majority of people want is LOUD. We can debate on the validity of that trend and why one should better appreciate the richness now more often found in older instruments (though not unique to older instruments), but the trend is what it is. I don't think that anyone is ridiculing anyone for liking what they are seeking in an older instrument, they're questioning the average ability of players to differentiate between old and new, hence the subject of that study. What the study suggests (but not prove), is that taste is leaning toward LOUD (which we already know), not that one is better that the other (nor does it suggest it either). What all the blind studies suggest is than new doesn't mean worse.
@ Trevor -- The only problem is that my Scotch glass won't sit level, with all the curves and such.
I believe three of the ten soloists picked the differences between all the old and new violins in the study, only one got it right, two got it backwards, thinking the new violins were the old ones, etc. Claudia Fritz would have us believe its just chance, that they were guessing, a statistical analysis of the likelyhood of three people separating old from new even though two of them got it backwards, would show it unlikely that it was just guessing, they heard differences between old and new, which kind of questions the whole conclusions of the study.
The study doesn't say that. Read it again, more carefully, and with your emotional interpretations temporarily on hold (if such a thing is possible).
Lydia, I'm not sure what you're saying there. It sounds a bit like you're saying the advantage of great antiques is that you can find them in dealer inventories, whereas contemporary instruments have to be commissioned. So despite their rarity antiques are more readily available? The only reason I can see to explain such a counterintuitive claim is if the antiques are utterly unaffordable to nearly everyone who would appreciate their intrinsic value as musical instruments, not just as collectors items. Included among the have-nots would be the overwhelming majority of pro violinists who earn most of their income from teaching, although some manage to do so by virtue of profound sacrifice.
@Yixi. Would you mind not swearing in your posts. I know you are very capable of eloquent writing as evidenced by your well thought out responses. IMO swearing detracts rather than adds emphasis to one's argument.
Hah, too funny!
Paul talk about misquoting me, what an agenda, where do I say antiques always sound better than moderns, you can't make a rational argument without misquoting me??
It was a tea table! Who’d pay a million dollars for a coffee table? :-)
"Except their owners." You really just can't help it, can you?
Tone quality has everything to do with antique value, it has to do with whether the violin will sell or sit on the shelf!! And the antique value of a given maker, has much to do with the tonal qualities of his instruments.
"Even the better German makers such as Klotz are now out of sight for most people."
Carlo, me swearing? LOL! It's ok if you are unaware of the fact that bullshit is a serious philosophical issue raised by the well-known Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt: