Projects and other goings-on

That is to say: pictures and short texts about reasonably recent goings on at the DSVM, all in some measure out of the ordinary. Small details often speak more eloquent than pages of general text, and provide the general picture with indispensable colour.

Obvious candidates are the instruments being made, but a small report about something like the trip we made with the school a few years ago (to celebrate the organization of the first Summer Week 10 years ago) to several suppliers in Germany, might turn up too.

As the information is intended to be kind of recent, it will be replaced now and then.

Have a look for instance at the picture of this scroll. It belongs to a big 8' G-violone after an original by Gasparo Bertolotti, ca. 1600. The model of this scroll is from another Gasparo, also decorated, but in another way. (Febr. 2016)

Here we are eliciting the first sounds out of a French 19th century double-bass, provided by the owner/player with a new front. The old one gave way irreparably after the owner ended up, as the result of some stumbling, more or less seated in the bass. The fractures were many, with a lot of deformation, and after some puzzling we were left with quite a few pieces missing. There also being strong evidence that this front was not the original one, we decided not to restore it. We are now first going to voice the new front, after which it will be finished by varnishing. (Febr. 2016)


If you work systematically when roughing out the turns of a scroll, you will be left with an nice negative in wood. The third picture shows how the second turn is first made 16-sided, before being rounded and smoothed.
These are, of course, all different scrolls (and someone was astute enough to grab the moment!), but the unity of method is clear in all of them. (April 2016)

After quite a few years of making the 8'violone after Gasparo Bertolotti, the one that belongs to the scroll showed above, can be heard. After the initial set-up, with help of a professional violone player, Jan Hollestelle, it was clear that a few things had to be bettered: bridge curvature was not optimal, we made the bridge somewhat thinner and lighter, we changed the first two strings for thicker ones, some filing on the upper nut. After that we did some initial voicing ourselves (I used to be a fairly competent double bass player), resulting in a nice and even sound on all strings, with easy speaking.

And yes, the low C of this violone is markedly different from even a big (80cm) cello-like violone. It has the true double bass kind of sound: warm and profound, and that at 8'. The upper strings on the other hand are unmistakably viol like. We are now planning a voicing session with Jan again, for the finer points of sound and playing characteristics. (January 2017)

This instrument has gathered a host of names, but is seldom used where it should be. Violoncello piccolo, viola pomposa, viola da spalla and so on, but I would love to pin it down to armcello, for that is what it is. Pomposa only meant: with 5 strings. At that time (think of J.S. Bach) they were also writing about violino pomposo, also 5-stringed.


The rightfully proud maker, Ulbe Posthuma de Boer, with his armcello after the instrument by Hoffmann in the Brussels Musical Instrument Museum.

This is more or less how you are supposed to hold and play an armcello. We are doing some initial voicing here, with a set of strings as offered by Aquila. Apart from the second string, which for us was way to thin, this set works very well.
In the meantime the instrument is varnished, and waiting for a case. We found a professional violinist, Dick de Graaff, willing to devote his time to get home on the armcello. After his first introduction to it, he remarked that playing it was remarkably comfortable. And he liked the definitely cello-like, but less ponderous of course, sound, in combination with the agility offered by viola fingering.
When Dick has got proficient on the armcello, we plan to introduce it in the early music scene. There is enough music written for it: violoncello things in the Passion according to John, Brandeburg Concerto, solo's in a few Cantata's. To be true, it should be used in all instances where Bach prescribes "violoncello".
To be continued. (January 2017)