It is amazing what kind of magical sounds can be elicited from a piece of wood treated with fungi. The biotech violin, whose tonewood has been developed at Empa, is now taking to the concert stage with violinist Irina Pak.
From the laboratory to the concert stage - this step is now being taken by the mycowood violin Caspar Hauser II. In a long-term research project, the team led by Empa researcher Francis Schwarze has developed a process, in which a white rot fungus breaks down wood cells in a targeted manner. The process makes it possible to change the acoustic properties of tonewood. In this way, the so-called mycowood that gave the Caspar Hauser II its body was produced in Empa’s Cellulose & Wood Materials lab in St. Gallen. The instrument is an exact copy of a Guarneri violin from 1724. The antique master violin was built by Guarneri del Gesù (1698 - 1744), who, like his contemporary Stradivari, created instruments in Cremona, Italy, that were sought-after for their special sound. First comparative acoustic analyses of the original and its biotech copy have been promising.
Audio sample for comparison: The same piece of music is played on an untreated violin and on an instrument that has been incubated in a fungal solution for nine months . To hear the difference, click the buttons. Image: Empa
In order for the Caspar Hauser II to develop a unique soul in addition to its extraordinary body, the instrument will now be allowed to develop its sound through consistent playing over the coming years. Violinist Irina Pak of the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich recently received the instrument on loan from Empa in Dübendorf. From its "birthplace", the biotech violin will now be allowed to step into the limelight with Irina Pak for five years. During this time, the development of the sound quality will also be monitored by regular acoustic tests. "I am very pleased that the violin will now leave its cradle in the lab and be allowed to prove itself on stage with an excellent musician," says Francis Schwarze.