Christophe Landon speaks...

July 6, 2010 at 03:31 PM ·

Replies (40)

July 7, 2010 at 05:39 AM ·

After listening to the sound-clips, it became clearer than ever that there's no problem locating a decent new violin in the 21st. cantury. Playing to the standard to do justice to the new instruments is more of a problem !

July 8, 2010 at 09:45 PM ·

I've been wanting something like this for a long hear, sequentially, contemporary Violins.  I don't think I'll ever look for an older violin again.



July 8, 2010 at 10:35 PM ·

I'm only getting the introduction, not the demonstration. Please advise!

July 9, 2010 at 12:14 AM ·

The fiddle demoes should be on a strip to the right of the original video.


July 9, 2010 at 12:53 AM ·

It looks broken - there are a few videos but they are out of order ...

forget that - I think its all there but you have to work for it :)

July 9, 2010 at 02:25 AM ·

Very enlightening.  52 violins, all copies of the same instrument, and they all sound completely different. 

July 9, 2010 at 08:47 AM ·

It would be interesting to listen to the original Guarneri as well as part of the exhibition, I bet it wouldn´t be the best sounding one...

July 9, 2010 at 05:52 PM ·

"I'm only getting the introduction, not the demonstration. Please advise!"

here is the overview.

and my one

July 10, 2010 at 11:18 AM ·

I am very curious to  know which violin is whose favourite?

My favourite: violin #1. 



July 10, 2010 at 12:19 PM ·

I too liked No. 1, but the psychologists would probably cite a reason. If I'd preferred the LAST, that would be the "recency" effect. Someone will know the corresponding psychobabble for liking the first one !

July 10, 2010 at 12:35 PM ·

I haven't listened yet due to time constraints. But surely, anyway, its really not possible to tell from a recording. One would have to hear them in a hall or large room to be really able to sort them out.

July 10, 2010 at 12:39 PM ·

 PS it's the "PRIMACY" effect. I liked the first one, then became confused !

July 10, 2010 at 02:25 PM ·

 i am with charles on this one.  whereas i think it is a great idea and there should be more to come,  i suspect the acoustics of the recording may not have done justice to the violins. 

July 10, 2010 at 04:30 PM ·

Up to a point I agree with Peter Charles too, but at least some of the requirements of a scientific experiment are respected - the player, hall, excerpts played and recording set up remain constant. The experience here is valuable for that reason. Ideally, we should have attended in person. Too late !

July 10, 2010 at 04:32 PM ·

I like M. Landon's honesty.

He talks about how a maker can't really guarantee what a fiddle will sound like, for example, and that German violins can be extremely good. He points out the difficulty in getting artists even to try modern instruments, even referring, in passing, to the investment aspect of violin dealing.

And how he describes the Ole Bull's assymmetry and clumsiness - that violin would never get a medal at a competition nowadays! But Landon loves it (I am sure I would love it, too).

Very refreshing.


July 10, 2010 at 04:49 PM ·

The results of the appraisals of the violins are up on Facebook - here is the link to the photo:-

Christophe Landon's violin scored most highly, but then it was also made in 2006, and I believe is played regularly. I wonder how much difference there was in general between the "older" and newer fiddles? Or even how many were made specially for the exhibition (not competition).




July 10, 2010 at 07:03 PM ·

But why did they announce the violin before playing (thats what the FB site says)?  A real test should be blind.  They do tell us that there were 20 judges - but without an estimate of the variance (standard error) in the scores the means are virtually useless. 

Bottom line: next time get a statetician and a scientist invovled in the trials...

July 10, 2010 at 09:02 PM ·

The standard deviations in the scores has not been shared from the listening test. From a similar test with scales of the same magnitude (0-10) I think one may expect the standard deviation of the scores to be in vincinity of 1,5. To get about a 95% confidence interval, each score will have a confidence interval of about +/- 3. 

It is not possible to divide the scores and results into 12 groups here, but maybe two or three. With all the individual scores available it would be possible to statistically compare scores for two and two violins and figure out how many groups it eventually would boil down to.

I think this may be looked at as a sort of  a 'game' and not a competition.

July 10, 2010 at 09:09 PM ·

>Someone will know the corresponding psychobabble for liking the first one !

David, how do you like "protophilia"? I made it up especially for you.

July 10, 2010 at 11:28 PM ·

 I had a violin at this exhibition ( it was not a competition) and as others have already said the ranking of instruments is more a fun experiment for the day rather than anything else as far as I am aware...I was not there because the Icelandic volcano stopped my flight. I think it was a great idea to have an exhibition like this and to have a video of all the instruments being played. From pictures and recordings and what I heard there were lots of very nice violins there.

It is inevitable and good that makers interpreted this violin in their own ways. One thing I did was to speculate that the Ole Bull has been thinned a bit and to make a version with a much thicker front more like that on the Cannone del Gesu.

One thing that could have been interesting would have to have played the original Ole Bull del Gesu in this concert for comparison.

At a later exhibition in Bergen I had the privilege of hearing Henning Krugerad play the Ole Bull del Gesu, The 'Terminator del Gesu'  and a copy of the Ole Bull made by a group of very fine contemporary luthiers. All three violins were very good. The Ole Bull to my ear was clearly the exceptional one, almost viola like on the lower register and full and sweet in the upper register. I preferred the newly made modern to the Terminator del Gesu .....not a blind test and I am aware that I can be very subjective.

Hearing a violin is only half a test a violin plays is incredibly important too.....I doubt any of us would buy a violin from just it's sound in a concert hall without playing it first.

July 10, 2010 at 11:41 PM ·

"Terminator del Gesu"?



July 10, 2010 at 11:43 PM ·

Melvin, do you think they would have thinned the belly and not the back?



July 11, 2010 at 12:13 AM ·

 Hi Graham,

I think all kinds of thinning events could have occurred. Folk tend to think that del Gesu violins needed to be thinned to sound. My experience of copying them and using as  similar wood as possible &   thick plates makes me think that they probably sounded great with thick plates and were regradated because that was the fashion at the time and they thought the violins would be even more remarkable rather than because there was a problem. The late del Gesu arches and thick plates are not the work of a madman, they are the epitomy of three generations of Cremonese violin making at it's highest point. 

July 11, 2010 at 07:08 AM ·

True: how a violin plays is very important.  But this is not something we can review by this exhibition (not test).  The best we can do is to listen and try to discern.  Also true: subtle differences are not easily discerned from the recordings.

Personally, I am fascinated by the differences in sounds: especially the subtle differences.  Do I really hear, or do I think I hear?  Also, I wonder if the violinist stood exactly at the same spot relative to the microphone each time?  He seems to be farther distant as he plays violins subsequent to #1. I ask this, because I seem to hear the attenuation on each string and note very clearly on #1, but less so on say #40.  Distance from mic would have a great affect upon the recording.  Also, 2 mics for stereo would have been better.

Anyway, I think the recordings do offer a means to discern some differences: contrary to a post above.  One aspect I listen for is an E string sound that has shimmer and depth in the upper positions.  For me, #1 has an E string that produces depth and shimmer.  Others, like #2 tend to a thinner sound as the violinist plays the upper positions at closing: still nice, but not as nice ,imho.  Also, #1 has a very nice G register. So a violin that produces depth on all strings gets my vote.  Of course, this is a personal preference, only, based entirely upon my hearing fwiw.

I think we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Landon for organising and conducting this exhibition. (I liked his very much too, btw).  A most interesting and enjoyable audio experience !!

 Request:  could someone please send me the list of participants names and addresses? Thanks!  


July 11, 2010 at 08:04 AM ·

"Request:  could someone please send me the list of participants names and addresses? Thanks!  "

For some you find theirs websites.

July 11, 2010 at 11:51 AM ·


I agree this is a terrific idea and I would have loved to attend.  I'm not so hot on the scoring though - that makes it more a competition than an exhibition - perhaps better to have a list of comments than a number - scores tend to get inflated (hence my question about statistical validity).

On the other hand, I think scoring could be done (as for wines for example) and could be useful but maybe in different catagories.


July 11, 2010 at 12:41 PM ·


I too liked No. 1 for exactly the same reasons - the silvery top-end together with the big "G", PLUS a quality sound, not too brash. But then I have a Lucci violin that's very like that. I wonder if we are attracted to a violin if it's similar to one we know ? Reading the tabloids leads me to think that adulterers so often err with someone very like their own spouse ......

This led me to wonder what goes on in the heads of those judges. Hearing that someone I know was awarded 8/10 for sound by one judge at a "Triennale" exhibition and 2/10 by another (for the same instrument) did give me a lot to think about, without leading me to any world-shattering conclusions !

I wondered, too, how closely the winning Landon violin resembles the instrument that the player uses regularly. He might have been responding to something that felt "familiar".

July 11, 2010 at 01:02 PM ·

My link only shows violins 10 through 52 in the panels on the right plus the overview - I can't see 1-9. Anyone else with that problem?  Maybe a link...

July 11, 2010 at 01:17 PM ·

The players name is Dimitri Atanassov, he also entered a violin, no 4, made by himself. 

I was present at the playing test and rated violin 1 quite low. But it sounds better on the recordings.

The recordings are done in stereo and the player may have been playing slightly closer to the mic in the first playing. The first recording (no 1) is the loudest by a few tenths of a dB on the set, which support that observation. But there was a mark on the floor for him, and as I think you see in the films, he watches the floor as he walks to his playing position, before he starts playing.

I wonder if there was a compressor active on the recording device. I haven't gotten in contact with the man that did the filming and recordings to sort that out.

July 11, 2010 at 01:37 PM ·

All the films are also posted on Landons site: I speculate if there is a bit added reverberation on those as compared to the other site.

Many of those rating the violins were makers that attended the exhibition, I would believe at least half to three fourth were makers. I think, if anything, the scores were deflated. I have never seen so low scores before in listening tests of violins, and in room acoustical tests with the same scale. There was a discussion and demonstration prior to the listening test that might have lead to a more active use of the lower end of the scores.

One of the most trained researchers today on doing listening tests on violins is probably Claudia Fritz. She also recommends to use verbal descriptions rather than number scores in such tests to get out more useful information. However, there is a pretty consistant picture of how the spectra of the higher rated violins look in comparison to those that are rated lower. 


July 11, 2010 at 05:20 PM ·

Some fiddles do sound better on recordings than "live". How does that work?

Maybe there frequencies that are filtered out, or enhanced, by the recording process/

Maybe there is always compression in a recording, that you never get live, that favours some violins over others.

In the past, I have had problems recoding because of distortion on particular high frequencies from the violin I prefer to play live. Maybe the frequencies that carry in a hall are the very ones that distort in recording.

My father always said that a "dead" double bass recorded better than a good one. He always preferred a plywood bass to record, while using some very nice basses live.


July 11, 2010 at 06:24 PM ·

Violin number 50 was made by Hendrik Woldring, from Groningen, and I have played on it, a few days after it was finished.  It has a definite character. It makes you work, and when you do, you are rewarded with a sweet, strong and radiant tone. I like it very much, and I'm pleased to say that none of the difficulty of playing it was audible on the video.

As it was the penultimate violin in the series, there must be a posh word to describe me as someone who likes it.

@Elise: don't let Cauchy's ghost frighten you too much. The standard error of the mean of twenty numbers between 1 and 10, inclusive, never exceeds about 1.03.

July 11, 2010 at 07:23 PM ·

@Bart - thanks - I tested it and you are quite right.  :)  Still, that means the means have to be 2.6 apart to be significant.  On the other hand, its very unlikely the errors were that high.


July 11, 2010 at 07:29 PM ·

The scores were given on five categories with possible scores given as whole numbers between 1 and 10. The total score is a sum of these five categories. I think the discreteness sort of set a limit to how small the variation in the scores can be each category. From a similar experiment with about the same number of participants, we got an average standard deviation of 1,5 per score category. The standard deviation out of 18 tests, with 7 categories in each, was never smaller than 0.8.

Given that the score distribution is normal, an estimate for the summed standard deviation will be the square root of the summed squared standard deviations on each category score . That is: by no means smaller than the square root of 5. With the 1,5 from our Oberlin experiment we get 3,3 that is the 95% confidence interval for the total scores is likely to be larger than +/-6. I think there is no more groups than two, at best, in the test.

I would, however, be interested in alternative approaches, as I suppose I will participate in or/ and analyze results from this kind of tests in the future, if it turns out to be fruitful. It is a paradox that seemingly interesting information can be extracted from the score and spectral data even if the scores are likely to have quite large uncertainities to them. [edited]

July 11, 2010 at 10:03 PM ·

I think hte key factor for me is not the analysis but he presentation.  Each violin should be 'blinded' - that is given a number or code and the identity is only revealed after the assessment is completed for all the instruments.  its particlarly pertinent in the present case where the organizer also submitted an instrument. 

July 11, 2010 at 10:36 PM ·

Yes, if the test had been blindfold, or even better, double blind, it would have been more in line with how such tests should be done. The effect of knowing which violin is played and seeing it, will affect the scores. E.g. the maker that received the lowest scores had a violin that was made less traditional and with very simple antiquing. I think it may have received low scores also of that reason. Many of the listeners had been working on the exhibition and had seen the instruments quite closely, and some had probably also played some of them.

July 11, 2010 at 10:46 PM ·

I was not an official part of the test at the Norwegian Musical Academy, but I have taken advantage of the sound files on the videos along with the published scores to see if there can be extracted some useful information from it. 

The results were shared on the maestronet some time ago:

It is a bit technical, but still some might find it interesting.

Here are comparisons of spectra of the higher rated versus the lower rated violins in each category:

July 12, 2010 at 04:18 AM ·

Wello done Anders - how very interesting! 

I wonder if the source of wood for each violin was also a big factor?  Did the luthiers have to provide a data file of their souces and methods too?

July 12, 2010 at 04:20 AM ·

Just want to add that Mr Landon should get accolades for the idea and pulling this off.  At the very least it serves as a rold model for the future ... 

July 12, 2010 at 10:34 AM ·

"I wonder if the source of wood for each violin was also a big factor?  Did the luthiers have to provide a data file of their souces and methods too?"

Thanks Elise, I do not think the makers provided a data file on their instrument. But it would have been an interesting information to have, in case the makers would have shared that kind of information. 

I think one important factor is what type of maple was used, as the back plate is so thick in the original. Copying the thicknesses would require a very low density maple, but I know at least one maker used normal higher density maple and a thinner back than the original. 

It was interesting to see the archings of the tops, many makers had a rounded longitudinal arch, not the flatter one seen in older instruments. Many believe there has been a distortion of the arch of these older instruments.

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