Have you wondered, what is the surest way to strip a piece of work, such as violin, of its originality? Make copy. Guaranteed it won't be original. Agree, yes or no?
What is the surest way to give a piece of work such as violin its originality and character? Simple: make an original. Yes or no?
So, okay, in violin making the standard way of making a violin is making a copy from a poster. You call it "Strad model" or "Guarneri model".
It's been like this for decades.
Good you asked!
Because the method of creating originals was lost even by the Italians in the mid 18th century.
This poster-approach is not going to change sooner than musicians trying to find fulfilling jobs start thinking, "Why is there such a fierce competition in this crowded industry? Is this because everybody is trying to conform to the same standards?"
Potentially some musicians will start thinking, "Maybe it's worth it to just be myself and create my own life".
And a unique original instrument might just be more congruent with their artistic message.
The question is, is your artistic message original or a copy? And what's more congruent with your artistic message: an original instrument or a copy?
Anyway… got carried away…
Here is one of the problems with the "Poster Epoch in Violin-Making" and why this is potentially costing you not only lots of your money but might even lead to unfulfilled musical dreams.
There is no such a thing as "model blah-blah" from a poster.
It's a lie.
Here is why.
Look at the picture. The same violin. Taken with different lenses.
This is called lens distortion and all lenses, even my $10,000 50mm Noctilux, have it.
Even the human eye which technically speaking is a 50mm lens lies. The ancients knew that too, and developed a method called "foreshortening"… but that's another story.
So, which one would you copy? Which one represents reality?
The answer is: none!
Ouch… and then you, believing you get a "Strad model" go and pay all your money for what you think is a "copy" and then you potentially wonder why a few years later it won't sound, and you think, you should never ever buy a newly built violin. Because it's not a violin, but a Violin Shaped Object, or VSO. Even if really pretty.
Surely, it does not happen all the time and there are outstanding makers making copies and whose instruments sound just as rich as the antique instrument and they do last.
Now, let me share a story…
I was 24 when I moved from Russia to Belgium to study baroque violin playing and how to use primary sources in my work as a violin maker too.
I was making a poster copy in my room in Brussels… when I suddenly felt, "What's the point of all that crazy risk of moving to Belgium penniless to study, and now all I am doing is what everybody else is doing – poster copies without any idea why. Just for money?"
Money is what I needed most at that time.
Yet I decided to stop violin making and never touch it again, unless I understood the reason behind these lines.
I started studying Ernst Cowell, Kevin Coates, Zanissi etc etc etc…
And I started drawing my models. It was exciting.
But I was the only one excited…
The results were…. well, I was the only one enthusiastic. LOL.
"Are you trying to re-invent the wheel?"
"Don't you know Strad is best? He's created the standard"
"Just make copies!" I was told both by violinists and by other luthiers.
One day, in 1996, all this mockery coupled with the ordeal going on in my personal life was so painful… I even crashed one of my violins and I said, "never again".
But then, there was Kuijken… 1997…
I shared with him my research and my experiments.
"Dmitry, go ahead with your research. This is very important! Take a sabbatical, go to Italy or anywhere you want, study… just don't get fired at an examination…" he laughed, "And do keep me informed".
Slowly things started to work.
I started my workshop in Brussels in 2002, sold three instruments in the first quarter after opening. Including one to a client in Japan. Original models.
My method still took me time and lots of calculations as well as lots of notes, because there was no way I could remember the process.
I've been blessed to have been chosen to create 6 instruments for Kuijken.
Fast forward 2018.
These 25 years of experience in design crystallised into a simple 12 step system of free-hand design, the way the ancient masters knew but left no treatise…
Because how do you leave a treatise 1 page long?
Even a five years old kid can understand and memorise it in seconds.
"So what? Does your method work?"
Great question! Good you asked!
Check my page to learn what other musicians – my clients – tell about instruments of my design and see if that's the right fit for your artistic plans in 2019.