|Recent Studies - Conclusions|
Page 6 of 6
The contributions given by each of the disciplines examined and the iconography, from which only a few examples among many have been mentioned (36), historic documentation, original bridges measurements, and practical experimentation, allow us to draw a rather clear picture and, we believe, a convincing one. To confute the hypothesis of gut loading, the only alternative is to maintain that the basses of the lute -whose bridge-hole diameters were recorded- worked at a tension between 1 and 2 kg. I leave it to the reader to judge the credibility of such a theory, maybe after trying to play a lute with basses set at such tension.
However, we should not forget that the heart of the matter lies in what plausible answer alternative to gut loading can satisfy the evidence? Or should we really believe it possible, in the face of hard facts, that a thick unloaded plain gut string, at a working tensions of less than 2 kg, could actually produce a satisfactory sonority in lower registers without sounding like a rubber band? As far as lute bridge-holes are concerned, we believe that they can be taken as proof. Such research has been extended to the talpieces of bowed instruments, although originals are hard to find.
The bridge and tailpiece-hole diameters found on original instruments factually represent a universal yardstick employed undoubtedly by the luthiers of the past to fit any sort of gut bass strings then available on the market. Thus the technological matrix common to Lyons, Pistoys, and Dowland's Catlins can only be identified with the loading of gut.
Thanks and acknowledgements:
Mr. Lanfarini, Accademia Filarmonica, Bologna, Italy
Dr. Fiorenza Scalia, Sovraintendenza alle Belle Arti, Firenze, Italy
Mrs. Awouters, Musée Instrumental, Bruxelles, Belgium
Mr. Stradner, Mr. Hopfner, Kunsthintorisches Museum, Sammlung Alter Musikinstrumente, Wien, Austria
Mr. Mirko Caffagni, Modena, Italy
Mr. Virginio Cattaneo, Museo della Chitarra, Brescia, Italy
Mr. James Yorke, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England
Mr. Klaus Martius, Germanisches National Museum, Nürnberg, Germany
Mr. Felix Wolf, Musikmuseet, Stokholm, Sweden
Mr. Arnè, Mr Dugot, Musèe de la Musique, Paris. France
Mr. Schiegnitz, Staatlische Institut für Musikforschung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Germany
Mr. Myers, University of Music, Edimburgh, England
Mr. Ivo Magherini for the English translation from the Italian original (plus a couple of suggestions) and for his kind collaboration Dr. Francesco Tribioli.
Bibliography and Notes
1) François de Troy (1679-1752): Portrait of the luthenist Charles Mouton, c.a. 1690, The Louvre Museum, Paris, ref. 2469.
2) D. Abbot, E. Segerman: "Strings in the 16th and 17th centuries", The Galpin Society Journal nº 20, July 1974.
3) D. Abbot, E.Segerman: "Gut Strings", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull nº 1, comm 3, November 1975.
4) D. Abbot, E.Segerman: "Catline strings", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull nº 12, comm 138, November 1978.
5) C. Besnainou: "Les cordes et leurs mysteres", "Tablature" Revué de la societé Française du luth, Juillet 1987.
6) F. Eyler: "The modern Venice Catlines reconsidered", Lute Society of America Bull., August 1986.
7) Roman Strings Makers' Guild: Statute; year 1642, Biblioteca Angelica, Roma.
8) Statutes of Neapolitan String Makers; years 1653 and 1685, Archivio Nazionale di Napoli.
9) J. Playford: "Introduction to the skill of Music", London, 1664.
10) T. Mace: "Musik's Monument", London, 1676
11) M. Prynne: "James Talbot's Manuscript: IV, Plucked strings. The Lute family", The Galpin Society Journal nº 14, 1961, pp. 59-60.
12) T. Mace (ref n.9) wrote: "... There is another sort of strings, which they call Pistoy basses, which I conceive are other than thick Venice Catlins, which are commonly dyed with a deep dark red colour...".
13) E. Segerman: "String tension on Mersenne's lute", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull. nº 11, comm. 129, April 1978.
14) E. Segerman: "A closer look at pitch ranges of gut strings", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull nº 40, comm. 632, July 1985.
15) E. Segerman: "On baroque lute stringing and tunings", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull nº 16, comm. 215, July 1979.
16) W.R. Thomas and J.J. Rohodens: "The strings scales of Italian keyboard instruments", The Galpin Society Journal nº 20, 1967 p.48.
17) "The Mary Burwell lute tutor", ca. 1670, R. Ranstall's facsimile, introduction by R. Spencer, chap. 4: "Of the stringes of the lute".
18) R. Dowland: "Varieties of lute lessons", London 1610.
19) R.F. van Pelt: "A string formula", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull. nº 9, comm. 81, October 1977.
In simplified terms:
where: t = tension in Kg; F = frequency in Hz; ? = density (for gut 1.3 ); L = vibrating length in m.; d = diameter in mm.
20) E.G. Baron: "Historische Theoretisch Und Practische Untersuchung Des Instruments Der Lauten", Nürnberg, 1727.
21) E. Segerman: "On German, Italian and French pitch standards in the 17th and 18th centuries", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull. nº29, comm. 442, October 1982.
22) A. Mendel: "Pitch in western music since 1500: a re-examination", Acta Musicologica nº50, I/II pp. 1-93.
23) For every standard of frequency taken by considerations, attain the corresponding f' frequencies of top string. Two semitones above of these, there are respective breaking frequencies. The product with the vibrating length give us breaking index K that for breaking point of 32 is equal to 246 .. By a no complicate proportion, we can obtain every breaking point. If the interval between working frequency and breaking frequency is equal to a single semitone, breaking points will change between 28 and 35 ; 34÷39 if this margin is three semitones.
24) For example:
7 courses lute, v.l. 0.59 m, Musée Royal Instrumental, Bruxelles, nº 1561
14 courses theorbe lute, v.l. 0.58 m, Musée de la Musique, Paris, nº 1028
7 courses lute, v.l. 0.58 m, Accademia Filarmonica, Bologna
25) "Early music", October 1982: see cover.
26) O. Vang: "Two headed lute news", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull. nº 13, comm. 156, October 1978.
27) C. Perrault: "Œuvres de Physique", Amsterdam 1727, British Library, London.
28) A painting by Louis de Sylvestre (portrait of a lutenist at Saxony court, ca. 1724) represents an interesting iconographic support of Mace indications. The strings of courses from I to IV and the octaves of courses from VI to VIII have a blue colour, the V course and the remaining octaves (it was an 11 courses lute) have a white colour, besides the bass strings of courses from VI to XI all have an orange colour. The Talbot violin as well follows strictly this track: high range Romans, mid range Venice Catlins, bass range Lyons.
29) According to Labarraque (Antoine Germain Labarraque: "L'art du Boyaudier", Paris 1822, Biblioteque National Paris) the function of aluminium salts is to facilitate the sedimentation of the ashes used in alcaline baths employed to degrease the fresh gut.>BR>
30) P. Skippon: "A journey thro' part of the Low-Countries, German, Italy and France", A. & J. Churchill, A collection of voyages and travels, London, 1732, pp. 532-533; cited by Jan Woodfield in the Lute Society Bull.
31) D. Diderot's Encyclopedie, 2nd half of the 18th century, is rather explicit: "... Mais la manouvre que nous venons de déscrire ne suffit par pour donner à la corde l'élasticité convenable, & lui faire rendre du son..." and "...pour y sécher lentement à la vapeur du soufre, & y prendre de l'élasticité..."
32) M. Peruffo: "New hypothesis on the construction of bass strings for lutes and other gut strung instruments", F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull. nº 62, comm. 1021, January 1991.
and by the same author "Il mistero delle corde gravi del liuto: nuove ipotesi di lavoro", Bollettino della Società Italiana del Liuto nº 2-3, October 1991 - January 1992.
33) In one of these there is a curious recipe to make harmonic strings: "Take the tendons of a horse's back which you will have pounded in a cloth with a wooden mallet until they become soft, then have them twisted well together with animal glue. Then dried them and they will be very strong and good strings and they will been almost of silk..." Don Thimoteo Rossello: "Summa de Secreti Universali", Venezia 1574, Libro Sexto, cap 123, p. 151, Biblioteca Universitaria, Padova.
34) "...still torturing the deep mounth'd Catlines till hoarse thundering diapason should the whole room fill..." cited by Frank Eyler in: "Sur l'employ des cordes en boyau", Musique Ancienne nº 15, Janvier 1983, pp. 29-31.
35) Forqueray's letter to Prince Friederich Wilhelm in 1768, on bass viole stringing: "... the fourth which is C should be half covered with a very fine covering, and the others completely covered with the same covering and never double covered". Trans. by Lucy Robinson in: "Le basse de viole", 1975, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Cited by E. Segerman in F.O.M.R.H.I. Bull nº 15. comm. 15, April 1976.
36) Other examples are:
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