I thought it would be fun to take a quick look today at Willa’s violin…or, rather, violins in general, and some info that appears in A Song Unheard about this beautiful stringed instrument.

Violins and other stringed instruments like them began appearing in the 1500s. They were invented in Italy, and some of the first evidence we have of their existence is from paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari.
Glory of Angels by Gaudenzio Ferrari.
Not to be confused with Enzo Ferrari.
Or, you know, other painters with the same surname.
There also exists a treatise written in 1556 that details the string family as we know it now.
Stradivari Violin

Willa, of course, didn’t know all this history. What she did know was that Stradivari was always heralded as THE luthier whose instruments everyone wanted to own. That’s certainly true today just as it was a hundred years ago.

It’s only been recently, however, that scientists have discovered why Strads sound better than other violins. I happened to catch a documentary on this just before I began writing A Song Unheard (thank you for that, Lord! LOL), which obviously proved useful. 😉
So the secret to the amazing sound of these instruments? The Little Ice Age.
Yep. See, these drastically colder temps resulted in trees’ growth drastically slowing. If you recall your middle school botany, you know that each year trees add a ring of growth, hence how we can count a tree’s age with a cross-section. Well if you’ve ever seen the stump of a really, really old tree, you’ll have noticed that some rings are very wide and others very narrow. The wide rings are the years that were perfect growing years–nice temps, good rain, lots of sun–and the narrow rings are harsher years.

During the Little Ice Age, trees couldn’t grow very much. So the rings were narrow, and the wood, therefore, was very dense. The forest from which Stradivari sourced his wood was full of Little Ice Age trees, whose wood was heavy and dense. Meaning the instruments, while the same size as others made from different wood, would be a bit heavier and denser, and that of course effected the sound.

Now, this is a relatively new discovery–certainly not something they knew in 1914. But I wanted to hint at it, so I had Willa observe several times that Lukas’s Strad felt heavier and more substantial than the battered, cheap instrument she’d rescued from a rubbish bin.
She got up again and strode to the
wardrobe. Not set on grabbing a hat for the trek she had to make, but to pull
out that battered violin case. She set it on the bed and extracted the
equally-battered violin.

Poor thing. It looked like a rag
next to the memory of the Stradivarius she’d held last night. Dull and scarred
and . . . lighter, even, as if the wood were too thin. Perhaps it was. Still,
it was one of her oldest friends, and her fingers caressed the familiar curves
and corners, ran along the strings.

                                  ~ A Song Unheard, Chapter 6
Do you play an instrument? Or is there one you particularly enjoy listening to? One you’ve always dreamed of owning?
I’m a piano player, so I may occasionally drool over baby grands…though not the newfangled electronic ones. Those are just WRONG. 😉
Print Friendly, PDF & Email