Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Making Violin Strings

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The best violinists rely on strings that are made from the guts of lambs that are no more than 4 months old at slaughter. Kinda makes you wonder how many vegans and animal rights wingnuts have given up playing and listening to orchestral and other music that relies on gut strings?


Comments

  1. #1 Anon
    March 22, 2010

    So, was “catgut” always lamb? Or were strings once made of kitties?

  2. #2 "GrrlScientist"
    March 22, 2010

    i wondered the same thing, so i checked online. according to wiki, “The word catgut may have been an abbreviation of the word “cattlegut”. Alternatively, it may have derived by folk etymology from kitgut or kitstring — the word kit, meaning fiddle, having at some point been confused with the word kit for little cat. A third theory is that violinists used the term “catgut” in order to protect the secret behind their strings, as pet cats were considered taboo during the Middle Ages.”

    [reference]

  3. #3 Rose Colored Glasses
    March 22, 2010

    Catgut, as they call it, even if not from cats, is used in concert harps.

  4. #4 Arancaytar
    March 22, 2010

    So, was “catgut” always lamb? Or were strings once made of kitties?

    By decree of PETA, “lambs” shall now be referred to as “wool kittens”. :-D

  5. #5 Michelle K
    March 23, 2010

    “The Book of General Ignorance” by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson
    pg 140-141
    “Violin strings are not made of catgut, and never have been.
    This is a myth started by medieval Italian violin makers who had discovered that sheep intestines made good strings for instruments. Killing a cat brought terribly bad luck, so they protected their invention by telling everyone else their strings were made from the intestines of cats.”
    It goes on to describe the legend of a saddle maker called Erasmo of Salle and how he heard the wind blowing through drying sheeps guts and decided to make strings for his renaissance fiddle. Although earthquakes brought an end to the industry in Salle, D’Addario and Mari are still made by Sallese families.

    A family friend of my mother’s either worked or still works (im not sure anymore) at Pirastro in Germany.
    Let’s just say I’ll never look at my violin or viola the same again, steel strings for me all the way :-P

  6. OMG! I never learn about this little secret of Violin until I read this post. It looks gross to me.