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Monday, March 5, 2012

The Spider and the Fiddle

Are spider-strand violin strings the future of chamber music?
by Paul Pelkonen
A golden orb-weaver spider in its web.
There's a fascinating article on the BBC News site today: a Japanese researcher has figured out how to make spider silk into violin strings.
Spider-man: Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki
 in a hammock suspended
from rope made from spider-webbing.
Photo © 2011 Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki.
First published in The Japan Times.

The strings, made from silk spun by the golden orb-weaver spider) have a high tensile strength. When bowed, they produce a softer tone than conventional strings, which are made from steel or cat-gut. The BBC article has an example of a violin played with the new spider-strings.

The scientist, Doctor Shigeyoshi Osaki of the Nara Medical University developed a method to produce large quantities of "drag-line silk" from 200 captured spiders. Each string required 3,000-5,000 strands to form a bundle. Three bundles, twisted together make up a string.

By the way, cat-gut is not made from cats--but from the stretched fibers of sheep or cow intestines. The term may be a corruption of cattle-gut, although the sawings of amateur players may suggest a small feline being tortured.

Contact the author: E-mail Superconductor editor Paul Pelkonen.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.