Gabriel Weinreich, University of Michigan, USA: Imitating Stradivarius


Since “acoustic” music, meaning music that does not emanate from a loudspeaker, has become the exception rather than the rule, the demand has arisen for new instruments that emulate the cherished old acoustic ones but can compete with the megawatt outputs used for popular concerts today. While the electric guitar is the best-known example, bowed strings are no exception, and the very high cost of excellent violins makes an electric substitute especially attractive. This talk will describe research directed at constructing a good “electric violin,” an instrument that is held and bowed exactly like a traditional violin but that outputs an electrical signal which, when fed into a traditional amplifier and speaker, produces the sound of an excellent violin as it would be picked up by an excellent studio microphone. The idea is to build a “solid-body” instrument with a normal fingerboard and normally bowed strings whose vibrations are sensed by appropriate sensors, and to pass the resulting signal through a very fast digital processor that combines it, in real time, with the previously measured impulse response of a chosen prototype. This allows all the bowing gestures of a distinguished concert violinist to be combined, again in real time, with characteristics of a distinguished violin. Problems arising in this program, and solutions we have developed, will be described.


Gabriel Weinreich is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Michigan. He received a Ph.D. in Physics from Columbia University in 1953, working under the direction of the Nobel laureate, I. I. Rabi. He subsequently worked at Bell Labs and then at the University of Michigan on fundamental properties of semiconductors. He is credited with the theory and observation of the acoustoelectric effect, where an ultrasonic wave in a semiconductor gives rise to a direct electrical current.  He turned his attention to musical acoustics in the mid-1970s and has published many important papers concerning violin radiativity, the "directional tone color" of the violin, hammer-string interaction in the piano, coupled motion of piano strings, as well as invented an electronic violin bowing system and a new way to measure mechanical admittance in violins.  Dr. Weinreich has published books on the theory of condensed matter (1965), thermodynamics (1968) and extended vector mathematics (1998).  He received the Foreign Medal of the French Acoustical Society in 1992 and was awarded the first Carleen Hutchins Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Acoustics in 2002.  In 2008, he was awarded a Silver Medal in Musical Acoustics from the Acoustical Society of America for his contributions to violin and piano acoustics.  


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APA video citation: 

Weinreich, G. (2013, June 17). Imitating Stradivarius - 
CIRMMT Distinguished Lectures in the Science and Technology of Music. [Video file].
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