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Truly Sonorous?

This never happened before! Not a single drop of coffee fell on the ground from a cup… This time, the cup fell from her hand!
The incident disturbed Florencia Rastelli, an expert barista of a coffee shop in the Italian city of Cremona. In the presence of customers, a senior police officer asked Rastelli not to pick up the broken pieces of the cup. She recalled the event, saying: “I was like: Of all days, this one. Even a police officer popped in and asked me to keep it down. I was so embarrassed.” Rastelli also said that she never ever had spilled a single cup of coffee. However, she recently knocked over a glass while wiping the counter at Chiave di Bacco and it fell on the floor, shattered loudly!
Rastelli was ashamed because Mayor Gianluca Galimberti had requested Cremona’s citizens to avoid any sudden and unnecessary sound. From car horns to the noise of high-hill shoes – all were banned! The mayor deployed a huge number of police in order to keep the city sound free. The police not only cordoned off streets, but also diverted traffic from the usually bustling city centre. The people of Cremona became unusually sensitive to noise at that time, as the sound of violin ruled the Italian city.

Cremona means Antonio Stradivari, who had produced some of the finest violins and cellos (ever made) in the 17th and 18th centuries! With the instruments crafted by Stradivari and (two other famous Cremona craftsmen) Nicola Amati and Guarneri del Gesù getting older, the concerned authorities in Cremona decided to save the sound of their violins. The authorities launched the Stradivarius Sound Bank project to digitally record the sounds of the Stradivarius instruments for posterity. In January, Italian musicians went on to prepare a database storing all the possible tones which four instruments selected from the Museo del Violino’s collection could produce.

Antonio Stradivari (1644-December 18, 1737)

The Italians made numerous attempts to craft violins like those made by Stradivari. However, not a single one could create that sound. Talking to the media, curator of Cremona’s Museo del Violino Fausto Cacciatori said: “Each Stradivarius had its own personality. Their distinctive sounds will inevitably change and could even be lost within just a few decades.” He added: “We preserve and restore them, but after they reach a certain age, they become too fragile to be played and they ‘go to sleep,’ so to speak.

Museo del Violino (The Violin Museum), Cremona

Three sound engineers have created the Stradivarius Sound Bank. One of the engineers, Mattia Bersani, said that they had selected four instruments for recording their sounds. He also said that “the sounds in the database could be manipulated with software to produce new recordings when the tone of the original instruments degraded”. “Musicians of the future would be able to record a sonata with an instrument that would no longer function,” stressed Bersani.

Violins, violas and cellos crafted by Antonio Stradivari

Indeed, it was a challenging project – both physically and mentally. According to another sound engineer from Hamburg Thomas Koritke, they played hundreds and thousands of individual notes and transitions for eight hours a day, six days a week, for more than a month. Asked why it took a long time to organise the project, Koritke replied: “It took us a few years to convince the museum to let us use 500-year-old stringed instruments.

Gabriele Schiavi (31) plays a violin crafted by Giuseppe Guarneri during a recording session in the Concert Hall of the Museo del Violino on January 11, 2019.

The bows and strings of violins have recreated the sounds of the Stradivarius instruments and those sounds will leave the future generation spellbound, for certain!

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