I've just been using an older electric violin, seemingly by Mike Zimmerman of the (now defunct) Amazing Musical Instrument Company, Inc of Canada. It dates from sometime in the late 1980s.
It's fanastically resonant and sensitive, with an incredible ergonmic design delivering the instrument sonority directly to my ear, not just electrically amplified or acoustically un-plugged but physically felt too. The harmonics are clear and brilliant and there seems to be a great variety of tonal timbres to be drawn from it.
There were sleek minimal bakelite instruments back in the 1930s, and aluminium/plastic/composites "Electros" in the 1940s; most of which seem to have been somehow lost today; so who can really say for sure whether the newer electrics (especially since the 1990s) are the best that the violinist can find when confronted with choice... I think it's a choice that is inevitably faced - or if to be broadcast/recorded or is urgently needed, forced upon the player.
In terms of real quality, who can say whether the Amazing Electric Violin is really that good?
The Amazing Electric Violin compares, to my ear, favourably to the first Fender electric violin from 1958 and seems somehow more of an exciting development in acoustic design than the very much older National Violectric heard played and now well associated with the legendary Stuff Smith. But like the fate of these early electric violin manufacturers, only a relatively small number were ever sold and there's precious little information let alone even instruments to be found...
I've been reading, seeing and hearing so much more electric violin in the media today and can't help but remember the time not so very long ago when the Classical Electric Violinist was a non-entitiy; didin't actually exist. It's completely fabulous therefore that this profession is at last gaining credibility - with top Univerity, College and Conservatory giving more than just an ear of encouragement but going as far to see research and the discipline acceptable for consideration and support.
The story of the electric violin is a fascinating one, still unfolding true, but with increasingly greater strides.
More entries: April 2005
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