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Pauline Lerner

Broken fiddle, broken dream

August 4, 2006 at 9:16 PM

It looks like is experiencing an epidemic of broken fiddles. I’m grieving for the old specimen I fell in love with earlier this week. The violin isn’t even mine, but I feel broken hearted.

The neck and the body separated and were glued together sloppily. If wood isn’t aligned properly, it develops stresses when pressure is applied, i.e., when it is played. The button, where the neck connects to the body on the back, is battered. The ribs have come apart from the body of the violin. The fingerboard is separating from the neck. There is a long crack under the tailpiece and another crack under one foot of the bridge. To repair it properly would cost about $1500 now, and that just isn't practical. It’s analogous to seismic activity along the San Andreas Fault. There is one big difference, though. Humans can’t repair cracks in the earth, but they can repair cracks in a violin, if they care to.

How can anyone be so sloppy and uncaring about an instrument? This was a fine fiddle when it was made, about a hundred years ago, and probably for many years afterwards. It was repaired sloppily and developed more and more cracks and separations of wooden parts from each other over the years. It must have taken quite a while for it to get this bad. Think about all the people who have owned it and played it during the last century. Didn’t they notice that it was falling apart? If they did, they didn’t care enough to fix it properly. Its health has deteriorated almost beyond repair now. It still has a beautiful sound. Can’t anyone tell? Doesn’t anyone care? You can buy a fiddle for $50 or less on ebay. Why pay attention to quality? We live in a throw-away society. Things aren’t repaired, just replaced. (I believe that this attitude carries over into personal relationships.)

I feel sick.

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