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Is the Old Better Than the New? A Study That Puts the Stradivarius to the Test

In Classic v. Modern Violins, Beauty is in Ear of the Beholder [Free registration may be required]

Aesthetics and Money: Fiddling with the Mind

Stradivarius Fails Sound Test versus Newbie Violins

Stradivarius v. Modern Violins: Why this Latest Study Strikes a Discordant Note

Rare Violins Play Starring Role in Concert

Stradivarius Violins

What makes an Instrument Crafted by Antonio Stradivari so Valuable? Was it masterful craftsmanship? Is it their relative rarity? It is a question that has puzzled musicologists, economists, scientists, and others for decades. A recent scientific study conducted by Professor Claudia Fritz and Joseph Curtin attempted to find out if a Stradivarius was in fact a "better" instrument than more modern (and much less pricey) instruments. The two applied the standards of modern scientific inquiry to the matter by taking a trip to the Eighth International Violin Competition of Indianapolis and asked a group of musicians to play a range of violins, including three modern instruments and two Stradivari violins. Unlike previous "blind" trails, the musicians did not know which instruments they were playing. Overall, the tests looked at playability, projection, tone colors, and response. At the end of the test period, 13 of the 21 musicians said that they would prefer one of the more modern violins. The entire findings were recently published this Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and they have created a great deal of conversation and consternation throughout the world of classical musicians, scholars, auctioneers, and of course, luthiers. Commenting on the findings, noted luthier Sam Zygmuntowicz remarked that the study "puts cold water on some old myths and should certainly be good news to young musicians who yearn for violins that they will never afford."

The first link will take users to a New York Times article by Nicholas Wade about this recent study performed by Professor Fritz and Joseph Curtin. The second link will take interested parties to a piece from last week's The Economist about the details of the study. Moving along, the third link will whisk visitors away to a Scientific American "60 Second Science" podcast about the study. The fourth link leads to a piece from the Guardian's Steven Isserlis who argues that the findings of this musical experiment may be quite muddled, largely due to the fact that the players were not identified. The fifth link leads to a great piece from the Voice of America about a recent concert at the Library of Congress which featured performances that utilized two instruments crafted by Stradivarius. The final link will take visitors to a fine website that provides information about Stradivarius, his work, and a list of auction prices for his instruments.
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