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Give Me An 'A': Violins Can Mimic The Human Voice, Texas A&M Prof Says

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, March 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For many years, some musical experts have wondered if the sound of the Stradivari and Guarneri violins might incorporate such elements of speech as vowels and consonants.  A Texas A&M University researcher has now provided the first evidence that the Italian violin masters tried to impart specific vowel sounds to their violins.

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Joseph Nagyvary, professor emeritus in biochemistry at Texas A&M, says of the various vowels he identified in their violins, only two were Italian – the "i" and "e", while the others were more of French and English origin.

His findings published in the current issue of Savart Journal , a scientific journal of musical instrument acoustics, have the potential to change the way violins are made and how they are priced.

"I expected to find more Italian vowels, what experts call the 'Old Italian' sound actually has the mark of foreign languages," Nagyvary confirms.

Nagyvary has held for decades that the great Italian violin makers, Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu, produced instruments with a more human-like tonal quality than any others made at the time. To prove his theory, he persuaded the famed violinist Itzhak Perlman to record a scale on his violin, a 1743-dated Guarneri, during a 1987 concert appearance in San Antonio.

For the required comparison, Nagyvary asked Metropolitan Opera soprano Emily Pulley, a former College Station resident, to record her voice singing vowels in an operatic style.

"It has been widely held that violins 'sing' with a female soprano voice.  Emily's voice is lustrous and she has the required expertise to sing all vowels of the European languages in a musical scale," Nagyvary explains.

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