Making Matters: the DNA of design

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David Beard argues that the old Cremonese makers had a geometric system of design ‘recipes’ to create the vast number of different instrument patterns we see today

Discussions of geometry and ratios in violin making are not new to these pages. Over the past ten years I have been asking basic questions about the use of such methods in old Cremonese work. Was geometry used at all? How can we best observe the presence or absence of these things in historical examples? What sort of geometry was used? How extensive were these methods?

What my research uncovered was the use of the kinds of ratios and shapes that can be worked with just simple dividers and a straightedge. The shape, size and position of each feature in old Cremonese work show what we might call a ‘recipe’ of geometry and ratio behind it. This ‘recipe’ structures the feature, but also presents a number of options or choices, leaving the maker in the driver’s seat. But it seems all the old Cremonese makers were very traditional…

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