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Laurie Niles

October 31, 2003 at 6:45 AM

I haven’t forgotten, through all this California wildfire smoke, about our important topic of violinists taping big magnets to their backs.

I did speak to one scientist at a nearby technical institution, one who is a musician and specializes in issues of sound. Though he wouldn’t go “on the record,” he expressed some interest – and skepticism. He said that he could only truly comment if we did the following experiment:

See if listeners can hear a difference without knowing whether the magnet is on the violinist's back or not. Also, the violinist must not know if the magnet is on his/her own back. That would mean having something else that could be put on in place of the magnet which weighs exactly the same, has the same weight distribution, and feels the same to the violinist in every way (hmmm, maybe a mouse pad?). Without this "placebo," there's no way to prevent the violinist's bias about the magnet---preconceived notion, that is, whether 'it will help' or 'it won't help'---from interfering.

He theorized that the magnets could have some kind of effect as weights, but he questioned their effect as magnets. If the benefit was because they shifted the person’s weight, then this could be achieved with other means, like a different position, Alexander technique, etc.

Still, as he said, we must hold this to the scientific method.

So does anyone want to try an experiment?

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