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17:00-18:00 Session 1: Keynote
Violin acoustics: the quest for correlating perceptual qualities, construction parameters and acoustical properties

ABSTRACT. Despite periodic investigation, it has proven difficult to identify the particular qualities that make some violins (most famously, those of Stradivari) so appealing to violinists. Researchers have long sought measurable acoustical parameters that correlate with violin quality, but none have yet been established. Onereason may be that violin quality has often been considered self-evident –something that could be reliably determined by any competent player or seasoned listener. For example, Dünnwald writes in a much-cited paper “Experienced listeners are able to judge the sound quality of an instrument after having heard only a few notes being played.” And Weinreich: “. . . if we hand any experienced player a violin and ask that it be classified into one of three categories: (1) ‘student instrument;’ (2) ‘decent professional instrument;’ or(3) ‘fine solo instrument,’ the judgement would not take more than about 30 s, and the opinions of different violinists would coincide absolutely.(Perhaps “absolutely” is an overstatement, since borderline cases are always possible; but there would at least not be a question about which border such an instrument is on.)” Weinreich acknowledged that blind testing was needed to confirm his supposition, as others have (like Cremer), but only in 2010 did researchers begin testing the actual abilities of players and listeners to evaluate violins, in order to better understand violin qualities as evaluated by players and listeners and investigate how they relate to construction parameters and vibro-acoustical parameters of the instruments.This talk reviews some of the studies conducted along these lines in the last decade to illustrate various methodologies as well as provide results among which some have shone a harsh light on early assumptions.