Outliers has written before about music lovers using technology to plumb the mysteries of rare violins (April 5, 2010).
Outliers: Now that's really fiddling around with technology
But now, someone has taken that a step further and attempted to recreate one of the rare instruments with the aid of CT technology.
Similar to science fiction stories of how cells from long-extinct animals are cloned to bring a species back to life, Dr. Steven Sirr, a radiologist at FirstLight Medical Systems in Mora, Minn., used more than 1,000 computed tomography images to recreate a violin built in 1704. But this was not just any old fiddle—it was the “Betts,” built by master violin maker Antonio Stradivari. Out of the estimated 1,000 Stradivarius violins he created, 650 are known to still exist, and the Betts—housed in the Library of Congress since 1927—was once described by an admirer as “arguably one of the four or five greatest violins in existence today.”
“I assumed the instrument was merely a wooden shell surrounding air,” Sirr said in a news release. “I was totally wrong. There was a lot of anatomy inside the violin.” Despite the grand reputation of Stradivarius violins, many are relegated to museum-piece status and are rarely, if ever, played—depriving the world of getting to hear the Stradivarius sound. Sirr is out to change that.
“We have two goals: to understand how the violin works and to make reproductions of the world's most prized violins available for young musicians who can't afford an original,” Sirr said in the release.
At a news conference held during the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in Chicago, Sirr said a violin includes 85 parts and, using the CT scans, the parts of the Betts violin were able to be reproduced within one-15,000th of an inch.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.