Reinventing the Violin begins as a critical inquiry into the features of various violins that have made them unique, irreplaceable, and immensely popular among performers, composers and listeners. In particular, I consider the violins of Schubert, Corelli, Bartók, and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. The inquiry is acoustically informed; I am interested in the relationship between the acoustical characteristics of the instruments and the music that is made with them. I compare the violin to the voice, seeing similarities and finding features that are beyond metaphor, features that themselves have become metaphors for other musical phenomena. Finally, I discuss how the violin has been continually reinvented throughout its history, reflecting the efforts of its players and makers to adjust its expressive capabilities to suit their needs.

Chapter Two follows with an exploration of the potentials of the electric violin. Within the context developed in Chapter One, electrifying the violin seems a drastic reinvention of a tradition-laden, highly refined instrument. I develop the notion of the violin as meta-instrument, one that is defined most generally by only the physical "pose" required to play it. Electrifying the violin alters the player-instrument feedback loop. In particular, amplification creates a sense of detachment and, paradoxically, allows the violinist to play softer, exploring the bowed-string interface—microscopy. The chapter concludes with an introduction to an original collaborative project—the NBody Project—aimed at improving the electric violin's sonic characteristics.

The last chapter offers a definition of the virtual violin, a collection of data derived from the physical process of playing the violin. Different methods for extracting data are introduced and my own new instrument—the Bowed-Sensor-Speaker-Array (BoSSA)—is described. BoSSA, by virtue of its qualities of presence and intimacy, suggests the possibility of a new kind of electronic chamber music. The dissertation closes with a brief discussion of physicality, expression, and communication and the continuing evolution of the violin.

Reinventing theViolin constitutes the written portion of my dissertation in composition at Princeton. The musical components of the dissertation are Machine Language, a 19-minute work for violin, electric violin, cello and percussion, and Hot Dang'r, a 14-track CD of original tunes for Hardanger fiddle, e-fiddle, and guitar. These pieces offer a musical perspective on many of the issues discussed in Reinventing the Violin.
Contents (in pdf format)
  • Chapter One: Three "Classical" Violins and a Fiddle
  • Chapter Two: the Electric "Violin"
  • Chapter Three: The Infinite Virtual Violin
  • Appendix: BoSSA: Technical Details
  • Bibliography
  • Sound Examples--Listing
  • Sound Examples (in mp3 format (tarred)) coming!
  • Chapter One (size)
  • Chapter Two (size)
  • Chapter Three (size)
  • Reinventingthe Violin is under copyright 

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