DAMMIT!
February 13, 2008 1:36 PM   Subscribe

Think you've had clumsy moments? Ten bucks says you've never had one quite this bad.
posted by jbickers (118 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
As soon as I clicked on the link and saw the headline, while the page was still loading, I said 'OH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT'
posted by shakespeherian at 1:41 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh snap!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:41 PM on February 13, 2008


D'oh!
posted by tadellin at 1:42 PM on February 13, 2008


The poor, poor violinist. I practically winced when I read this. So much for his career!
posted by LN at 1:42 PM on February 13, 2008


Ten bucks? Think again!
posted by Wilder at 1:42 PM on February 13, 2008


This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:44 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I didn't know Mr. Bean played the violin.
posted by briank at 1:44 PM on February 13, 2008


I'm amazed they lent him another. I wonder how close the "three-man security team" will stand during the performance.
posted by echo target at 1:45 PM on February 13, 2008


Thankfully, the trumpet player playing the “Wuh wuh wuhhhhhhhhh” sound effect did not destroy his own instrument.
posted by bondcliff at 1:46 PM on February 13, 2008 [28 favorites]


three-man security team
posted by shakespeherian at 1:48 PM on February 13, 2008


He could just buy one of the 599 other ones.
*runs away from angry Strad-fans*
posted by dabitch at 1:48 PM on February 13, 2008


Is it as bad as when Steve Wynn stuck his arm through his Picasso?
posted by jrichards at 1:49 PM on February 13, 2008


Are these things really worth the fetishizing?
posted by Burhanistan at 1:50 PM on February 13, 2008


Damn you, jrichards! And I was all set up with
"Think you've had clumsy moments?" Nah, it takes a millionaire to screw up something that badly.
Same link and everything. Damn you!
posted by pineapple at 1:51 PM on February 13, 2008


Reminds me of a story a music professor told me back in college. In addition to teaching basic music history and theory, he played flute in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The group had a guest violinist join them for a series of performances, and the violinist had an expensive instrument (don't know if it was actually a Strad, but something in that range of rarity).

Well, apparently, the violinist was a jerk and everyone hated him. So some members of the company arranged for his violin to be replaced it in its case with a cheap copy at an opportune time. Before the violinist could realize it, two members of the company staged an argument and fight, with one of them picking up the cheap violin and smashing it during the fight.

The guest violinist nearly died from fright, but was quickly revived with the return of the real violin.

Which goes to show ... you can be a world-class, classically trained performer, and still get punk'd.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:52 PM on February 13, 2008 [14 favorites]


I would not lend this dude my axe after that, bro.
posted by Mister_A at 1:52 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


jbickers and jrichards. Hmmm. That's fishy…

I'm taking it to Meta!
posted by shakespeherian at 1:53 PM on February 13, 2008



"...David Beckham of the classical violin."

Is that an apt metaphor?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:53 PM on February 13, 2008


Is it as bad as when "300 year old priceless Qing vases smashed when museum visitor trips down stairs"?
posted by muthecow at 1:54 PM on February 13, 2008


Now THAT'S the sound of the world's sorriest violin playing the saddest song.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:54 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder if he reacted like this (on youtube)
posted by ddaavviidd at 1:58 PM on February 13, 2008


But help has come from J&A Beare, the violin dealers of Marylebone, who have arranged to have another Stradivarius flown in from Milan to be loaned to Garrett.

Looks like someone's desperate to cash in their insurance policy.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:59 PM on February 13, 2008


^
I knew that post was coming.

Necro.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 1:59 PM on February 13, 2008


Whoops, that ^ was directed at ddaavviidd
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:00 PM on February 13, 2008


This thread is starting to depress me.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:00 PM on February 13, 2008


You'd be amazed what crazy glue can do these days.

Just sayin'...
posted by Skygazer at 2:00 PM on February 13, 2008


I think we should have a contest where people look at the tags of a post before actually reading the content of the post, then create a story of their own and see how close they got to the real thing. We could do some amazing things with classical music Stradivarius clumsy oops.
posted by ORthey at 2:01 PM on February 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


What, no YouTube link?
posted by slogger at 2:02 PM on February 13, 2008


oh. noes.
posted by heathergirl at 2:04 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we should have a contest where people look at the tags of a post before actually reading the content of the post, then create a story of their own and see how close they got to the real thing. We could do some amazing things with classical music Stradivarius clumsy oops.

Yeah, especially since I was originally going to include "David Beckham" and "Mr. Bean" as tags, too.
posted by jbickers at 2:04 PM on February 13, 2008


I wouldn't tell the violin repair man that it was a Stradivarius, I'd get him to estimate the cost of repairs first, perhaps over the phone- sure it's not like getting a swimming pool pump fixed, but £60k!

I'll do it for 5k - and I won't even charge for the nails.
posted by mattoxic at 2:06 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we should have a contest where people look at the tags of a post before actually reading the content of the post, then create a story of their own and see how close they got to the real thing. We could do some amazing things with classical music Stradivarius clumsy oops.

Ok, so a guy walks into a bar. Bartender says "Hey pal, whatcha got in that case?" Stradivarius sets the case on the bar, and... um...

I don't know, but the punchline is the violin yelling at the top of his lungs "Who wants to get smashed?"

Why do I keep posting on this topic?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 2:07 PM on February 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'll do it for 5k - and I won't even charge for the nails duct tape.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:07 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


We could do some amazing things with classical music Stradivarius clumsy oops.

Joshua Bell Plays F-Sharp Instead of F-Natural, Fans Incensed
posted by danb at 2:11 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


"People said it was as if I'd trodden on a banana skin.

Trodden?
posted by cashman at 2:13 PM on February 13, 2008


Tis British for "done trod".
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 2:18 PM on February 13, 2008 [18 favorites]


Stradivarius Smackdown.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:18 PM on February 13, 2008


This raises a question that I have. Do these musicians actually own their priceless instruments, or do they lease them from dealers or conservatories that actually own them? He said that he's had it for 8 years, and I can hardly imagine an 18 yr old having enough money to buy a Strad.
posted by papakwanz at 2:19 PM on February 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Garrett was going to switch to digital soon anyway.
posted by brain_drain at 2:19 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Aside from antiquity and rarity, what makes a Strad worth more than $2M? Has there really not been a comparable sounding instrument made in the last 300 years? Do concert-goers really have ears sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Strad and a top-quality modern violin?
posted by rocket88 at 2:21 PM on February 13, 2008


Yes, generally they're lent or leased to musicians, papakwanz.
posted by Burger-Eating Invasion Monkey at 2:22 PM on February 13, 2008


"Do these musicians actually own their priceless instruments, or do they lease them from dealers or conservatories...."

I'm thinking that most of them just borrow them from neighbors and such....
posted by HuronBob at 2:24 PM on February 13, 2008


So, a guy walks into Christies, carrying a painting and a violin.
'Worth anything?' asks the guy.
'Well', says the apparaiser, 'You've got a Picasso and a Stradavarius there'.
'Wow', says the guy.
The appraiser says 'Unfortunately, the painting's by Stradivarus, the violin's by Picasso'.
posted by punilux at 2:24 PM on February 13, 2008 [30 favorites]


Apparently the violin was in it's case when it broke into pieces. Soooooo, maybe it's time to invest in a better case? FOR YOUR PRICELESS VIOLIN?!
posted by Brocktoon at 2:24 PM on February 13, 2008 [19 favorites]


He is also facing a £60,000 repair bill.

I assume these things are typically insured, right? So he wouldn't personally be facing a £60,000 repair bill?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:25 PM on February 13, 2008


I can hardly imagine an 18 yr old having enough money to buy a Strad.

From the FPP's linked article:
"When he was just 14 years old, the German-born prodigy was the youngest ever artist to be signed up by Deutsche Grammophon. At the age of four his father gave him a violin, and by the age of eight, he had a management team and was playing solo with of the world's leading orchestras. Later, he moved to New York to study, supplementing his student grant by modelling."
I suspect he's made some money from his appearances and recordings.
posted by ericb at 2:26 PM on February 13, 2008


BRUCH VIOLIN CONCERTO
UR DOIN IT WRONG
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:27 PM on February 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


I don't know, but the punchline is the violin yelling at the top of his lungs "Who wants to get smashed?"

*snort*


Do these musicians actually own their priceless instruments, or do they lease them from dealers or conservatories that actually own them?

A friend of mine's Dad plays in one of the London orchestras, and he's got a cello that's worth the same as his house, largely through appreciation in value.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2008


Out of interest, did the guy who made these have the last word on how to make a violin? Nobody's made a better or comparable one in 300 years? Is it tradition or fashion or something other than just the pure sound that these instruments make that ensures the virtuosos use a Stradivarius?
posted by vbfg at 2:30 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ouch. The repair cost could be even higher.
"The repair bill is expected to cost around £60,000, but a spokeswoman for the musician speculated that this could run into millions, with no guarantee that it was even possible."*
posted by ericb at 2:30 PM on February 13, 2008


"Do these musicians actually own their priceless instruments, or do they lease them from dealers or conservatories...."

He owns his Strad:
"In May 2006, a Stradivarius known as The Hammer set an auction record when it was sold for $3.54m (£1.8m).

Garrett declined to say how much he had paid for his violin when he purchased it 'six or seven' years ago."
posted by ericb at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2008


David Garrett's website.
posted by ericb at 2:36 PM on February 13, 2008


rocket88: "Aside from antiquity and rarity, what makes a Strad worth more than $2M? Has there really not been a comparable sounding instrument made in the last 300 years? Do concert-goers really have ears sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Strad and a top-quality modern violin?"

vbfg: "Out of interest, did the guy who made these have the last word on how to make a violin? Nobody's made a better or comparable one in 300 years? Is it tradition or fashion or something other than just the pure sound that these instruments make that ensures the virtuosos use a Stradivarius?"

I found the Wikipedia article on the violins to be pretty interesting, especially the section on "Theories and Reproduction Attempts". Apparently this Stradivari guy had a knack for making fantastic-sounding instruments, using unique methods that have been lost over the march of time. The age and rarity of the violins have a lot to do with their value, too.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:37 PM on February 13, 2008


Who cares? I'm sure those things are insured, and only a pompus wanker would claim that the music out of one of those truly sounded sweeter then out of any other nice violin.
posted by delmoi at 2:37 PM on February 13, 2008


The appraiser says 'Unfortunately, the painting's by Stradivarus, the violin's by Picasso'.

Did you fall down the stairs when you tripped over that punchline?
posted by cillit bang at 2:41 PM on February 13, 2008


When I was younger, I had a job that involved helping a well known artist in his studio. Part of the job involved moving around his paintings, which were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each. At first I was terrified, but after awhile it seemed perfectly normal to casually pick up a painting worth that much money. Part of the normalcy, I think, was because it was still in the artist's studio. We were comfortable with the things in a way that other people could never be. If we had been fixated on the value of the artwork, it would have been impossible to work.
posted by R. Mutt at 2:44 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Side 2 Track 5 on Another Monty Python Record.
posted by The White Hat at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2008


Channel 4 short documentary -- The Strad: "A group of violin makers gather to make a violin in from the original spec of the 'Maurin Stradivarius' in just five days."

New Scientist: Why do Stradivari's violins sound sublime?

Analytical Chemistry: How Stradivari and Guarneri got their music [PDF] ... "discusses the chemical techniques used to figure out what makes these instruments' unique sound."
posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Physics World: Science and the Stradivarius.
posted by ericb at 2:48 PM on February 13, 2008


How about wrecking a Ferrari Enzo.
posted by Bort at 2:49 PM on February 13, 2008


Joshua Bell Plays F-Sharp Instead of F-Natural, Fans Incensed

No, that'd only make sense if the tags also included "times", "seven", "posted", and "fucking".
posted by cortex at 2:51 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


delmoi: "Who cares? I'm sure those things are insured, and only a pompus wanker would claim that the music out of one of those truly sounded sweeter then out of any other nice violin."

Maybe. But the admiration for the violins is not just pompous wankery. They are of a unique construction which researchers do not yet fully understand, and so cannot be replicated exactly. Saying that a Stradivarius is worth no more than a modern high-end instrument is just as short-sighted as saying that a full-size copy of Starry Night is just as good as the one hanging at MoMA. Sure, they look the same to the naked eye, but the reproductions lack that jay-nay-say-kwa of the original. And you can be sure that if some bonehead put a fist through a van Gogh, I don't think the thought that a dedicated painter (or a laser printer) could create an almost-perfect reproduction would give much comfort to the world's art lovers. And until we perfect Planck-scale replication of objects, that's just the way things will be.

(Speaking of Planck-scale reproduction of priceless artifacts, there's a great short story called "Democritus' Violin" by G. David Nordley that explores just this issue -- and with a Stradivarius, no less. It asked some pretty provocative questions, such as if an exact molecular copy of a famous painting or document would have the same value or import of the original. Some things are more than the sum of their parts... right?)
posted by Rhaomi at 2:56 PM on February 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


from the article: The accident threatened to leave the musician without a suitable instrument to play tomorrow night.

So, now that he's played that one, there no way he's going back to sittin' in coach??? Doesn't he even have a pretty-nice (say ~$100,000) backup violin for such an emergency? It just seems snobbish to have to get another, equally-scarce replacement instrument for this performance.
posted by glycolized at 2:56 PM on February 13, 2008


Alfred Brendel plays A natural instead of A sharp; some people really deeply and truly care a lot about this.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:58 PM on February 13, 2008


Stonestock

Trodden is an English word, British isn't a language, unlike American.
posted by mattoxic at 3:04 PM on February 13, 2008


Ugh.... this article made me absolutely sick to my stomach.

I love my violin. Love it. I've written poetry to it. It has a name. I'm looking at it right now...

When most guys my age were working at a fast food joint in high school to buy their first car, I was working in a fast food joint to earn the down payment on my instrument. I knew exactly what I wanted it to sound like, almost two years before I finally found it. I raised the money for the down payment (could have bought a new car) and my folks agreed to match it.

I must have had tried out dozens of instruments. Finally a friend of my conducter's who lived in New Orleans discovered an instrument - he said it matched what I was looking for - loud, rich highs, not too bright, soul shaking lows and an overall subdued tone to the instrument.

He found it in an attic in the French quarter and had it restored, then shipped it to me. It arrived at the house in a shipping crate the size of a coffin. As soon as I touched it I new she was definitely the one. They never put the prices on the instruments because you absolutely must select one based on sound - not on price.

Anyway - she was made in Vienna, Austria in 1814 - as the Romantic era was just beginning to blossom - there was a need for more violins. Many, many more violins - the music called for larger violin sections. So a popular violin maker, Antonius Thier, recalled his two sons from their studies elsewhere in Europe. They were both lawyers, but their father needed them in his workshop to fulfill the demand.
Unfortunately, there's simply no way I could ever afford a Thier violin. But I could afford an instrument made by one of his attorney sons - and that's just what I got. But the flavor is the same - the same finish, the same materials - everything. It's from his workshop - though the stamp identifies it as one of his son's instruments - Antonius Thier filius, 1814.

I play all kinds of music, today, but mostly folk music. It's as though the instrument knows and loves folk music - maybe it was purchased by someone in Vienna for a student, hoping they would some day join an orchestra, alas - perhaps it wasn't meant to be... the wear indicates that its owners never used chin-rests, this wouldn't have been possible in an orchestra.

Nevertheless, the insurance on my instrument is higher than the insurance on my car. And the case I keep it in is a Sillouette - they're from France but they aren't made anymore - they have steel belts that are just under the hardwood exterior - there's no way it could be "crushed" by falling on it.

I dropped my instrument once, in the grass. Face down. The instrument was fine but I almost couldn't play for a week. I can't imagine the psychological trauma this poor young man is going through - I don't care for my instrument for selfish reasons - rather, I am in the inheritor of a 200 year legacy, caring for a violin that has touched many hands and many, many hearts.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:09 PM on February 13, 2008 [160 favorites]


It's worth pointing out that he did carry the violin successfully for eight years. It's not like he borrowed it from someone and wrecked it... it was his, he had it for ages, and then had a very unfortunate accident.

This is rather sad, and may be a real loss to music.... but it's not at all 'hurf durf look at the stupid musician' material.
posted by Malor at 3:10 PM on February 13, 2008


Nigel Kennedy plays B# instead of C, no-one notices.
posted by Lotto at 3:11 PM on February 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


I owe someone 10 bucks.
posted by mistersquid at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2008


delmoi writes: Who cares? I'm sure those things are insured, and only a pompus wanker would claim that the music out of one of those truly sounded sweeter then out of any other nice violin.

There's a difference between painting a house and painting a portrait, and a brush that's fine for one may not be fine for the other, even if both are of the highest quality.
posted by mosk at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also: I'm the proud first owner of a 2002-made violin. Not some Yamaha factory crap, but one lovingly handmade on the Isle of Wight. Sure it doesn't have the history of other instruments, but it's lovely in its own way and has (apparently) more than doubled in value since I bought it. I also have the pleasure of knowing that I'm the only person that's ever owned it and that any maturing its sound does will be with me. We can grow old together.
posted by Lotto at 3:14 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


if some bonehead put a fist through a van Gogh

It weren't me, I wasn't there, and besides it was a lesser work anyways.
posted by bonehead at 3:18 PM on February 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


delmoi - once when I was 16 years old I had an opportunity to play a 1728 Guarneri. I was at a dealer on a tour with several other young musicians. I had expressed an interest in the instruments and one of the employees whispered in my ear, "Wanna see something really cool?" I followed him into what appeared to be some kind of vault, and I saw a violin just sitting on a table in the middle of a room. He explained that it was on its way to auction in New York at their general office. Without thinking, I asked if I could play it.
The guy was completely awesome. "Of course!" I had no idea that it was a Guarneri violin. He produced a bow and I played maybe half a page from the Bach double violin concerto.

Without a doubt, I will never, ever forget what it felt like to play that instrument. The other day I was reading about neutrinos, and it brought me back to that moment. The sound from the violin seemed to pass right through my body. It was amazing. And the instrument was almost impossibly responsive. I would think a passage and it would materialize within the violin.
Every time I hear the Bach double I think of that moment.

After I set it down I remember looking back up at the guy and saying, "Wow! That's a really pretty violin!" He nodded, "Yes, it is." He handed me a glossy copy of the auction announcement and walked me back out to the group.

So, in short, there is a vast universe between these heritage instruments and "other nice violins" much in the same manner that there's a difference between a pen-light and a space laser.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:23 PM on February 13, 2008 [34 favorites]


When I was in the orchestra pit in high school, I saw a girl accidentally sit on her violin, breaking it. It was terrible. Yeah, it wasn't a Strad, but still...
posted by kozad at 3:28 PM on February 13, 2008


I bet that fellow let out a few F naturals when it happened.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:29 PM on February 13, 2008 [28 favorites]


The only tune that fiddle would play, was
Oh the wind and the rain.
The only tune that fiddle would play, was
"Oh the dreadful wind and rain."
posted by Sailormom at 3:31 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yes, Strads are worth the money. The KW orchestra has some amazing players who own some fine instruments and make beautiful music, but when a soloist comes to town and brings a Strad, even when I don't know about it in advance but just as the first note sounds, my neck snaps around and my eyes open and the world is full of Wow.

It the aural equivalent of tasting a very nice ruby, and then having just a mouthful of something out of a dusty bottle that has nothing on it but a stenciled date.

It's worth it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:55 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't have any musical skill and I certainly don't have anything of the kind of value of a Strad, but I feel for this kid. I mean, I've had moments where something I cared about slipped from my fingers and I watched in drop to the floor, and I can only imagine the heart breaking pain of something that you care about being shattered in front of you.

I mean, I get that it is just an object. But sometimes objects are important to us. Particularly if it is something that you have devoted yourself, your skills, and your livelihood to.

Not to mention the possible loss of something historically significant and virtually irreplaceable.
posted by quin at 3:58 PM on February 13, 2008


I'll just add one more thing -- Strads are often lent to exceptional young musicians (as an award or grant) so their artistic growth will be facilitated as much as possible, by not being limited by a [merely] average instrument. And when flying with them, the instrument gets its own seat on the airplane.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:00 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


.
posted by voltairemodern at 4:18 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


They are of a unique construction which researchers do not yet fully understand, and so cannot be replicated exactly.

Not necessarily true. Joseph Nagyvary's doing pretty well trumping Stradivarius sound quality.

I'd say at this point the point of owning a Stradivarius has more to do with its antique qualities versus its sound qualities, which is no small boast.
posted by linux at 4:22 PM on February 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


I would say that Strads are worth every penny, but really they're priceless. My mother teaches violin, and I know that Strads are held in reverence that is wholly justified, and not fetishistic.
posted by jokeefe at 4:24 PM on February 13, 2008


IM IN UR CASE
WRECKIN UR FIDDLE
posted by unSane at 4:42 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


What an awful, awful thing. I have to imagine that he is feeling like he accidentally shoved his best friend into traffic--truly, as Baby_Balrog says beautifully above, one's relationship with your instrument goes far beyond a mere 'thing'.

I was in the royal palace in Madrid a few years ago (conducting an orchestra tour, actually) and there is a room displaying 2 violins, 2 cellos, and a viola by Stradivarius, and they sit behind glass most of the year. Our guide assured us all that they are actually played several times per year, but I just couldn't help but think that these are works of art meant to be used, not displayed! (There is also a display in the Library of Congress, I think.)
posted by LooseFilter at 4:42 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Strads are a little bit over-estimated
posted by zouhair at 4:42 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


c'mon, mistersquid. what's your story?
posted by msconduct at 4:43 PM on February 13, 2008


For a nice film with samuel l jackson playing a sensitive violin owner (!) and that shows the madness behind strads and their like, see The Red Violin.
posted by lalochezia at 5:12 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


It could have been worse. He could have broken his wiener.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:26 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Holy Lady Eris,

You could get so much more good out of the sound of these things, the dancing of frequencies for centuries, than You did out of this corny old gag. The violin is not Your sister's home. It is Yours. Now knock it off, or I shall obstruct Your throat with all five of Starbuck's pebbles and give You to that garbageman from whose bin no traveller returns. Bureaucracies are Your love nest. Traffic jams are Your playground. Strads are inviolate. Capeesh?

Love and kisses,

Yr devoted schmervant,
Eritain
posted by eritain at 5:49 PM on February 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


It could have been worse. He could have broken his wiener.

Nonsense. Breaking a violin from Cremona or Brescia is far worse than breaking one from Vienna.
posted by The World Famous at 5:58 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eritain, you're just encouraging her. All you can do with that kind of goddess is ignore them and hope they get bored.
posted by localroger at 6:03 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


if some bonehead put a fist through a van Gogh

Of course there have been paintings deliberately vandalized, which doesn't seem like the same sort of thing, but there's always this infamous accident.

just couldn't help but think that these are works of art meant to be used, not displayed!

This is, in fact, why the owners of Strads (mostly collectors and investors) lend them to musicians. If they are not played regularly, they get out of tune. Although seanmpuckett is probably also correct to some extent. The Stradivari Society helps arrange matches.

Somewhat related: the Rachel Barton accident [pdf] in which she was dragged from a commuter train doorway, losing her feet under the wheels. Metra alleged that she would not let go of her Amati violin case, which was trapped inside the door, but she insisted that it was wrapped too tightly around her shoulder to release.
posted by dhartung at 6:04 PM on February 13, 2008


It could have been worse
posted by pupdog at 6:30 PM on February 13, 2008


dhartung: Somewhat related: the Rachel Barton accident [pdf] in which she was dragged from a commuter train doorway, losing her feet under the wheels. Metra alleged that she would not let go of her Amati violin case, which was trapped inside the door, but she insisted that it was wrapped too tightly around her shoulder to release.

What a horrifying story, my god. I can hardly imagine the terror.

But the Garrett case is really not on that level at all. While prized, a violin is just an object. I think the reason that people make light of it is because by doing things like doing a header downstairs and giving your priceless violin a flying clothesline, or by leaving your 17th-century cello on your front steps, or falling off a ladder on the home shopping network, you're demonstrating the fallibility and plain silliness of being human: we do dumb things. We've all done things we're embarrassed about, and it's like a shared recognition of our humanity to know other people have too.

I have a list of clips favourited in Youtube that is essentially a collection of people going ass-over-teakettle in various ways. And every time I need cheering, I go there and watch some and I laugh, and I laugh, and I laugh, and I laugh, and I laugh, and I laugh, and I laugh, and I laugh... People tripping and falling will never, ever stop being funny to me.
posted by loiseau at 6:48 PM on February 13, 2008


The modern violin is a very different instrument than when Stradivarius made his originals. As far as I know there's only one that is in completely original condition. Over the years the instrument has changed, and the Strads have been reworked to fit that. Most if not all have completely new necks. They also all have new varnish. What these instruments have had over the years is the best luthiers to work on them. Only the finest craftsmen work on them because of their value, and that's a huge reason why they still sound so good.

To say there are no modern Violins that can compare is absurd. I've read about plenty of blind tests where people cannot pick out the Strad versus other high quality modern instruments. You hear stories about people who are amateurs who get the chance to play a Strad, and are amazed at the sound and playability, but the set up of the instrument is so important, and these are set up by the absolute best. I'm not saying a Strad doesn't sound good, but rather you don't need to spend 6 million bucks to get an instrument that sounds as good. Mostly the price of a Strad is for the orgiastic feeling of having something so rare. The fact that the owners of the instruments will lend them out to performers only adds to the mystique and value.

So now there's one less good Strad in the world...
posted by Eekacat at 7:25 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Baby_Balrog: thank you for your story.

On a much smaller scale: I'm not a violinist, but I do play guitar, and I know much the feeling you're talking about. For Christmas my freshman year in college, I got a nice-quality acoustic. Nothing fancy, but definitely nicer than anything I'd been playing on, and at that point, while I knew chords and scales and such, I just wasn't very good yet.

My folks, however, had accidentally picked out the guitar that would let me learn all of the subtleties and nuances and stylistic flairs I needed in order to play anything with any soul or passion. Just having that piece in my hands let me write and play things that never would've occurred to me previously. I could make it sound folksy, jangly, clean, or even a close proximity of electric, and the action (very fast for an acoustic) perfectly fit my playing style, and informed it as well.

A year and a half later, on a flight out to Italy, the airline loses it. A month of phone calls only serves to establish that it was an American Airlines flight operated by Lufthansa, or something like that, and that each insists that the other company is responsible, and that I'm not getting it back.

About nine months later, after my song-writing ability has all but dried up in absence of an instrument that can nurture it, I get a call from a good friend of mine that he'd just been at a guitar shop in the East Village, and had found something that didn't work for him, but which he suspected might be perfect for me. I met up with him straightaway.

It was an unmarked, unlabeled - but obviously quite old - electric that didn't look like any I'd ever seen. It's body, while certainly not bizarre, didn't match up with any of the Fender or Gibson styles that every other manufacturer has always aped, and didn't really look like anything else either. It just looked right. The store owner plugged it into a little Vox box, and it immediately felt more natural than even my previous guitar did. It was like the guitar helped my fingers find the the ways to make the music I'd been wanting to make.

After the owner made me a ridiculously good deal on the guitar and the amp as well, and it was in my hands, the owner held me back for a minute because he wanted to go online and figure out exactly what it was - he didn't know either. After a little bit of research, we figured out that it was a Teisco ET-200 from 1967. Interestingly, this is also a situation of a company which propped up to provide instruments for a throng of people suddenly demanding them at the time. Teisco's, however, have never been well-regarded except among their afficionados. I'm one of them now.

I own other guitars now as well, but when I'm honest with myself, everything plays and sounds like shit when compared with the ET-200, this particular model of which is so rare that I can't even find an image of it online. (You can find ET-200s online, but nothing like mine). The closest equivalent I can think of to finding it and playing it the first time is the scene of Harry Potter getting his first wand.

I've already lost one treasured instrument, and it would devastate me to lose this one. I can only imagine what it must be like for a truly talented, virtuoso musician, with a priceless antique of craftsmanship which he bought through his own lifetime of work, and which only served to enhance his own career and art, would feel like seeing it go to pieces on a trip down the stairs. Playing even a high-quality instrument tonight wouldn't have worked for him, as it would be like relearning to play everything he knows, to some extent. Honestly, I don't believe even the Strad being flown in from Italy (hopefully not on Lufthansa) will do much for him. That violin was his own, and is certainly one of the most tragic instances imaginable of an artist losing the instrument they know.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:40 PM on February 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


I wonder if he reacted like this (on youtube)

I can't explain why, but that clip makes me almost unbearably sad.

The poor guy is nervous being on TV, demonstrating something he obviously cares about, and he fumbles it. He must've been mentally kicking himself for ages.

I want to buy him a beer and talk to him about cool old recording equipment.
posted by flaterik at 11:02 PM on February 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's an ET-200 here, first from the left on the third row. Reminds me a lot of my first guitar, except mine was a hardtail that played like barbed wire wrapped around particle board.
posted by bunnytricks at 11:46 PM on February 13, 2008


My Stradivarius is an OLP MM-5 baritone guitar. I bought it unplayed and unheard online, as I had lusted for a baritone guitar for fifteen years without ever coming across anything other than the occasional Danelectro. For $250 I wasn't expecting much in quality or playability but what I found upon opening the case was an essentially perfect guitar. The only complaint I can possibly make about it is that the output is a bit too high but that's remedied by turning the volume down a notch. My other far more expensive guitars spend most of their time in the corner these days.

Finding strings for it is hell, though.
posted by bunnytricks at 12:01 AM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


At the other extreme: I only learned of my mother's musical undertakings a few years ago (I am in my late 30s), as I've been pursuing music for pleasure despite not having ready access to instruments or training as a child/young adult.

She grew up the youngest in a large, poor family, her father having passed away from alcoholism when she was very young. She went to a public school in Chicago, and in high school joined the band, where she attempted to learn the French Horn.

The experience was, for her, a very frustrating one. She knew what she wanted to play, but felt like every note was a fight, a struggle, between herself and her instrument. For the most part she found it to be a demoralizing experience, and she made plans to give up music at the end of the year.

As it turns out, she was using an instrument provided by the school, as even an inexpensive rental was out of the question for her family's finances. And so, in her last concert of the year, when a wealthier friend allowed her to use his (relatively) expensive, privately-purchased French Horn, it was a revelation. Everything she tried to play, she played, and well; instead of fighting her, this new instrument was her partner, allowing her to achieve things she'd never thought herself capable. It was a singular moment in her life, that concert, and after she returned the instrument and realized her family could never afford something like that, she walked away from music for good.

Presumably, then, one of these incredible instruments (of which Baby_Balrog and others speak) is likely as tramsformative to an accomplished player as that French Horn -- probably a mediocre instrument by any standards -- was to my mother. It is worth noting that if my mother had somehow managed to damage the instrument before returning it, it is likely that moment instead which would have stayed with her for a lifetime.

The lesson I learned from all this, by the way, is that every tool for creative construction I put in the hands of my children -- be it a musical instrument, paintbrush or even a hammer -- will be of sufficient quality that they will be limited by their own abilities rather than the tool they're using.
posted by davejay at 1:04 AM on February 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


It's a point worth repeating: Don't buy or use crap tools. They limit you in more ways than you will ever know, especially if you are just learning the craft.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:01 AM on February 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I agree that it seems very unlikely that the holy aura surrounding million-dollar (and up) antique violins is justified.

When people have been well prepared for a transcendent experience, they're darn well going to have one no matter what actual empirical stimulus then reaches them. Similarly, many people will "get drunk" on drinks that, unknown to them, contain no alcohol. Other examples abound.

It's impossible to do a completely blinded test of ancient violins versus high quality modern instruments, because even if you blindfold the musician, the old violin will indeed probably feel different. And I suppose you can pay for that different feel if you really want to.

But when everybody listening is thoroughly blinded, I don't think anybody has ever found any difference between the sound of a good modern instrument and the priceless ancients. Even the people who play the things for a living can't tell them apart by sound.
posted by dansdata at 7:04 AM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Garrett was interviewed on the BBC Newshour. You can currently hear it by clicking "Listen" on the linked page, but that appears to take you to the current program, and I couldn't find any archives, so it may not be up for long. It's the "12:00 GMT - 14/02/2008" program, and the interview with Garrett starts at 14:09.

Garrett explains that after his fall when he opened up the case, he initially thought it was OK (so it's not like the violin was completely in pieces), but upon closer inspection he found several cracks.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:05 AM on February 14, 2008


Aagh. Although my violin is a cheap one from who-knows-where, it plays better than other, more expensive violins I've come across. My mother loaned it out to a cousin without my knowledge. I flipped out. Doubtlessly I would have had a conniption if I or anyone else had smashed it.

For a year, I played a violin that was on loan to me by a friend. As much as I tried to like it (expensive! beautiful!), it just wouldn't cut it. The acoustics were dull. The weight wasn't perfect. Etc. I lusted after my own violin, which was an entire airplane trip away.

I don't think it matters much whether a smashed violin is a cheap or expensive one. What matters is how much someone is attached to the way it plays.

Violin bows are another story - leastways, for me. Never got attached. Mostly because they never lasted very long.
posted by Xere at 8:21 AM on February 14, 2008


bunnytricks: thanks for the link, but that's not what mine is. Mine is clearly labeled as ET-200, and is definitely a Teisco, but doesn't have that Del-ray tulip body.

Thanks, though, seriously.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:09 AM on February 14, 2008


Navelgazer: All ET-200's are tulip-shaped. Are you sure you don't have the ET-220?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:09 PM on February 14, 2008


Nope. Model No. ET-200, Serial No. 176473, made in Japan. I have subsequently procured a tulip ET-200, but this is different. Most definitely a teisco, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:47 PM on February 14, 2008


Violin bows are another story

Many violinists spend much more on their bows than other (wind, brass) instrumentalists spend on their entire instruments. The last time one of my students went bow shopping, she settled on a $7,000 bow, but really loved the $80,000 one they let her try, too.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:22 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Also, this page offers descriptions of the different types of violins by type and grade of manufacture. And here is listing of professional quality bows--prices aren't listed above $3,000.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:32 PM on February 14, 2008


The last time one of my students went bow shopping, she settled on a $7,000 bow,

I can't even begin to imagine how a violin bow could be worth more than all three of my cars (and I'm talking about the $7k one), but I'm fascinated by the concept. What on earth could warrant that cost? Are we talking about something of historical merit or is it just how much these things are worth?

I know that the stringed instrument world is full of very, very pricey examples of the art, but I just can't fathom what would make a bow so expensive.
posted by quin at 9:39 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


A $7,000 violin bow is nothing. My guitar picks cost $20,000 each. I kid.
posted by The World Famous at 11:13 PM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


but I just can't fathom what would make a bow so expensive.

Well, the really pricey bow she tried was a rare antique, and is--AFAIK--around the highest end of the price range one will find. Here are a some articles on what makes a good bow, and how to choose one. From the third link:
Finding the right bow can be equally as challenging as finding the right instrument. Because each bow has a different spectrum of response, better instruments will respond differently to various bows. The way a bow feels and sounds is based upon stiffness, strength, weight and balance. [...] Look for a bow that has both the sound and responsiveness that you want. As with purchasing an instrument, you must take into account the skill and budget of the player, and then look for a bow that is appropriate for the instrument. Plan on spending roughly between one quarter and one half the value of the instrument on your bow. This rule of thumb is very rough and does not hold up with instruments that are very expensive antiques. In general, pernambuco bows start around $300 and go up to tens of thousands of dollars if they are vintage bows. Contemporary bows by name makers sell for approximately $1,500 to $5,000.
And, from a 2000 auction of bows and instruments: Ingles considers the violin bows to have been the most interesting items, citing in particular three François Tourtes that sold for £30,418 ($49,185), £37,030 ($59,878), and £42,205 ($68,245).

Also, I caught part of an interview with Garrett (the subject of the post), and his violin wasn't completely shattered--when he first opened the case after falling, he actually thought that the instrument was fine. Upon closer examination, however, he noticed several cracks in the body. Depending upon where and how severe these cracks are, his violin may or may not be able to be returned to its previous sound and feel. Still, completely awful.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2008


Honestly, I think we need a good, straightforward double-blind test to determine once and for all whether Strads really do have some marvelous intangible quality to them, or it's just the same mystical jibberjabber that lurks about every profession and art. Seriously guys, I'm sure you heard that Strad once and it was just SO AMAZING, but we have to know if it would have sounded the same if you thought it was an amateur playing a rented modern high-end model.
posted by tehloki at 5:08 PM on February 17, 2008


We also need a straightforward double-blind test to determine once and for all whether Led Zeppelin truly was the greatest rock and roll band ever, or whether the Stones in 1971 were better.
posted by The World Famous at 6:57 PM on February 17, 2008


The question isn't whether it sounds better to you but whether it sounds better to the person who's playing it.

I'm pretty sure most people would have no way of distinguishing between me playing a USA Fender Jazzmaster reissue, a Japanese Fender Jazzmaster resissue, and an original Fender Jazzmaster, but they sure as hell feel and sound different to me. And lets not even get into the amps.
posted by unSane at 8:42 PM on February 17, 2008


And lets not even get into the amps.

Seriously. That's a good way to void your warranty.
posted by cortex at 10:11 PM on February 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


For me it was a Selmer MK VI Alto. It lay under someone's bed for 10 years, he wanted a blue pinstripe suit that I had. I had the sax reconditioned, and when I got it back it sang to me like nothing I'd ever heard. And that was before I blew it.

Some wanker stole it from my room in a youth hostel in London on the 25th of July 1990, and I'm still looking for it. He probably pawned it for 15 quid. Fuckwad.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was a young trombonist in jr. high playing a terrible junk instrument, when my (financially challenged) family happened upon a bargain. It was a higher-grade (but still mass produced) instrument, but it had been damaged by the previous owner (orchestra player). It had been repaired, but was being sold at a fraction of its retail price.

Even though it wasn't "perfect", it was a huge step up for me in quality and playability. I went from last chair to first chair in one semester.

It felt completely natural from the very first time I used it. I played it all through high school, each year becoming more comfortable and the sound more mellow and beautiful.

When I got to college to major in music, I decided I needed to upgrade instruments. Over the next year I went to several music stores all over the southeast, and probably played close to 100 instruments. I could never find another, no matter what cost, that sounded as good as my poor worn damaged model.

I eventually decided I needed to earn an income so I changed from music to economics.

Financially, without question the best decision of my life. But probably the worst decision of my life in every other regard.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:37 AM on February 19, 2008


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