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Fungus Treatment Can Make a Cheap Violin Sound Like a Stradivarius

There are  lot of factors that go into the sound of a famed Stradivarius violin — the type of wood, the way it was aged, and some good old-fashioned unicorn magic. Despite years of research and best efforts of scientists and musicians though, some of those factors still remain a mystery. Recently, a Swedish wood researcher may have unlocked one of the lasting secrets of the Stradivarius sound. By treating the wood of an inexpensive violin with two types of fungus that decay wood in an unexpected way, Professor Francis W. M. R. Schwarze was able to manipulate the inexpensive violin’s sound to be indistinguishable from a Stradivarius.

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Working at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Schwarze developed the new technique by employing fungi that thin the wood of a violin, but don’t adversely affect the way sound travels through it, producing violins that were regularly mistaken for Strads by professional musicians in double blind studies. The next step is developing a process by which this fungus treated violin wood, or mycowood, could be used to mass produce cheap violins that sound just like their expensive counterparts.

That development could go a long way towards democratizing the violin world. Concert quality violins are a necessity in any young performer’s career, but are so expensive that young players often have trouble affording them. Some have instruments purchased and loaned to them by patrons, while others have seen families mortgage homes to afford a proper violin. If high quality instruments could be made on the cheap with mycowood, many more players around the world could have access to them in short order.

(via Science Daily)

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