Wood for Violins and Homes
Unexpectedly one day, two men knocked on the door of the forester Dr. Thoma’s house. They introduced themselves as violin makers also referred to as luthiers. They asked for help in finding the right wood to create new instruments. It turned out that old luthier masters used to build the most perfect violins with wood from trees growing in the Karwendel Hills. Dr. Thoma was surprised that no one has ever mentioned this during his education of forestry. Curious and intrigued, he decided to help them in their quest. When they went out to the woods the next day, he learned that the wood specifically used for violins was something extraordinary. Out of a 1,000,000 spruce trees, they needed to find the one tree that would be ideal for the creation of a violin. There was no device or machine that could identify such a tree but only human senses, intuition and a small amount of knowledge in soil science. A tree like this only grew in a specific places; high in the mountains but resting within wind-sheltered coves.
The grain structure of such a tree is particularly fine and even. A wind-blown tree results in an unstable structure which are unwanted in violins.
The luthiers spent days knocking on trees and listening to their sounds, and finally after a few days, they came to Dr. Thoma full of joy. They found a large spruce tree that could may be suitable. They were delighted with what they found, so the tree was cut down and taken away to be made into a violin. With time, Dr. Thoma forgot about this interesting experience. A year passed, and the luthiers came to knock on his door again. However, this time they did not come for wood. Usually, wood for violins must be seasoned for at least 10 years before it is used. Sophisticated chemical processes, technically insignificant, occur in wood within that long timeframe; these processes are, however, important to the process of producing such a special instrument. The luthiers couldn’t stand waiting and decided to try and build a violin regardless. To express their gratitude to Dr. Thoma and his family, they came to play a small violin concert in front of his house, in the middle of the forest.
Mr. Thoma loved trees and the forest, but he wasn't especially romantic about them. However, the sound of his trees coming from the violin introduced him to a new world. He began to realize that there was more to wood than he had been taught at the universities. He was moved to the point that he couldn't stop thinking about it. He was trying to understand how it was possible. The luthiers had no technology, no measuring instruments, just their intuition, tradition, and old knowledge carried over from generation to generation - and they created such an incredible instrument out of a piece of wood. Two worlds began to collide in his mind. On the one hand, his technocratic, engineering education, and on the other one was scientifically unexplained, ancient and traditional knowledge.
When he shared his thoughts in a conversation, one of the luthiers asked if he knew what the added value was when creating such a violin. Of course, Dr. Thoma had no idea. “Look” - the luthiers said - “a violin like this weighs about 470 grams. If you wanted to pay for it with the equivalent of its weight in gold, you would be laughed out of court. If you wanted to pay 10 times as much in gold, you would be laughed at as well. Only if you offered a 100 times its weight in gold, you might be lucky and be able to buy such a violin”.
Craftsmen, who had no advanced technology at their disposal, were able to make spruce timber a 100 times more expensive than gold. It is not just the material value that counts. Such an exceptional instrument becomes priceless for all human cultures, since its sound will continue to provide joy to many generations of music lovers for centuries.
1/27/2023 11:07:50 am
Only if you offered a 100 times its weight in gold, you might be lucky and be able to buy such a violin.
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