A special violin has been traveling the globe for the last year, first as a work-in-progress and now as an instrument collecting snapshots of local communities and their music. In the coming months it will travel all over the United States, and then after next summer it will move to another continent.
Made by 10 established violin makers from nine different countries, the instrument - called the Violinabox - is a study in crowd-sourcing, community and locally-sourced materials.
Right now the Violinabox is visiting Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale, Calif., and if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area and want to play it, the violin will be there through November 3, and you can sign up to video-record the violin here.
BELOW: Violin maker Andrew Carruthers describes the "Violinabox," after which Santa Rosa Youth Symphony concertmaster Henry Miller, 13, plays the first movement of the Sibelius concerto on the violin:
The Violinabox has already visited The Violin Shop in Nashville, and over the coming months it will visit Denver Violins in Denver, Desert Strings in Las Vegas, Applebaum Violin Shop in Tacoma, Wa., Caraway Strings in Richardson, Texas, Sola Violins in LaFayette, La., Potter Violins in Takoma Park, Md., Carriage House Violins in Boston and Reed-Yeboah Violins in New York City. (Check the Violinabox's traveling schedule here). From there it will leave North America - schedule TBA.
At each location, the Violinabox is made available to local musicians to create recordings, to be shared on its Facebook page. "Makers are hoping that players of varying styles and backgrounds will record themselves playing the Violinabox and share on social media, contributing to the videos from other players around the world," reads a statement on the Violinabox's website.
So what exactly is the story behind this violin? It all started at the Oberlin Violinmakers Workshop in Ohio - a popular and longstanding annual event that attracts dozens of luthiers from all over the world. At the 2022 workshop, a group of violin makers decided to build a violin as a group project.
Here's the twist, though: instead of using traditional violin materials, each maker would create their part of the instrument using substitutes grown within a few miles of their home, recruiting the help of local businesses and craftspeople. This idea was inspired by California-based violin maker Andrew Carruthers' Redwood Violin Project, in which he made a violin, from scratch, using only materials from within 25 miles of his house.
Further complicating matters, these were 10 violin makers from nine different countries all across the globe! The violin makers would each craft their part from their home locations, passing the violin from maker to maker, internationally, as each person contributed to the next stage in its construction.
The project got off the ground in summer 2022, and then after a 24,000 km trip around the world, the completed instrument returned to Oberlin, Ohio in June 2023, where violinmakers were gathered once again for the annual Oberlin Violinmakers Workshop.
Here is a rundown of which violinmaker did what: Hugh Withycombe, of Canberra, Australia made the instrument's rib structure and the Violinabox shipping case. Ute Zahn of Minneapolis, Minn. made the back. Andrew Carruthers of Santa Rosa, Calif. made the fingerboard and purfling. Theo Marks of Quebec, Canada made the top, f-holes and bassbar.
Valerio Nalin of Milan, Italy closed the box, fit the purfling and did the edge work. Gianmaria Stelzer of Zürich, Switzerland carved, fit and shaped the neck. Julia Sarano of London, England made the varnish and prepared the violin for varnish. Jonathan Hai of Israel applied the varnish. Juan Carlos Soto of San Juan, Costa Rica made the fitting. And finally, Damián Stoppani put on the strings and fittings in Saltillo, Mexico.
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