C&B Notes

Fungi Recreates Stradivarius

Dr. Francis Schwarze, from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, has discovered that some specific fungi affect wood in a way that produces acoustic properties desirable for violins. He is now trying to standardize a fungal treatment that helps modern violin-makers recreate the warm and mellow sounds produced by Stradivarius’ treasured instruments.

What is unusual about Physisporinus and Xylaria is that they gradually degrade the cell walls of the wood they infect — thinning them rather than destroying them completely.  That leaves a stiff scaffolding through which sound waves can readily pass, without compromising the wood’s elasticity.  When the fungi have done their work, Dr. Schwarze treats the planks with a gas that kills the infection.  He then hands the result over to Martin Schleske and Michael Rhonheimer, two master violin-makers, for conversion into instruments.

And it works.  A blind trial conducted in 2009 by Matthew Trusler, a British violinist, for example, compared modern violins made with treated and untreated wood from the same trees with a Stradivarius made in 1711.  A jury of experts, and also most of the audience, thought that the myco wood violin was the Strad.