New Approaches to Instrument Design

The New York Times has an interesting article this week about the acoustics of violin design.

Lots of speculation about the use and qualities of modern materials, their ultimate affect on instrument sound, and their ultimate dominance of instrument making. One salient passage:

In an interview, Mr. Curtin said that was only partly a playful exaggeration. It will be a long time before balsa and graphite become the materials of choice, he said. But he added that Mr. Martin and other experimenters were legitimately challenging longstanding notions of what makes a great acoustic instrument, and whether past masters’ work represents a sonic pinnacle or merely the best that could be achieved with traditional materials.

The same is true for Highland bagpipes. While most synthetic instruments rely on delrin or some other petroleum based material, it is perhaps dabbling in other, more “high-tech” materials that holds the most promise.

Certain woods were used back in the day because they not only achieved a good sound that has aged well like a valued Stadivarius, it was also the only material that met the need. Who’s to say that other materials such as graphite and other carbon/glass composites could not be molded or machined into quality bagpipes? Given the cries of “scarcity” and current environmental impact of African blackwood harvest, a new approach might be needed. For example, why not use such an oddly named material like “carbony?”

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