lunedì 16 luglio 2012

Unexpected voices

I finished building a viola some weeks ago.
My method of construction requires each components of the instrument (body, back, ribs, neck and fingerboard) to be singularly tooled to reach a determinate finishing level, and then they are assembled in order to harmonize lines and whispers.
This is basically what happened with this viola:  at some stage, convinced by the smoothness of the lines and by the sweet and full roundness of the rustlings amplified by the sound box, I couldn’t help but start to varnish it, to give colour and scent to this new flower that bloomed unexpectedly (I know that someone will probably think that I’m too sentimental, but, frankly, I don’t give a damn!)
After I had finished the varnishing, it was time to hear Her real voice: no more whisperings to decipher, but sound, texture, colour!
The following Friday I had an appointment with Elena, a young lady in search of a viola.  Placing a new made instrument into a musician’s hands is always a peculiar moment: a new relationship begins. I obviously like my instruments, but you know how it goes: in Italian we say “Ogni scarrafone è bello a mamma sua” something along the lines of “Even an ugly child is dear to his mother”.
Maybe she’ll expect something different…Performance anxiety. Sometimes I’d like to snatch the instrument out of the customers’ hands; I can’t stand that condescending attitude that many have towards a new instrument: “Well…It’s really nice, but you can hear that it’s new…” Or maybe, just after the very first notes: “Let’s see…Beautiful, but I like it more on the high notes…” But, for fuck’s sake, give it a minute! Warm it up! Search a connection with it! Explore it! Play it a bit!
Elena finally arrived and with attention and tenderness she looked at the viola turning it in her hands as she curiously plucked the strings.
Slowly the room filled up with their notes and I assisted to a “discovery dance”.
Just the time to find the right approach and those two were already making music!
Satisfied with the first test, Elena has decided to bring the viola with her to try it out for a short period.
When she had left I was glad about the viola and happy for the meeting I had saw: she truly “tasted” the viola as if it was a good chocolate, a fine wine or some bread taken right out the oven, discovering all those different shades that enrich the taste with subtle flavours.
I was thinking about the difference between the life beginning of this instrument and the one I wrote about in the previous post “My violins travel more than me”: that was a clean parting; I threw that violin into the fray, but took this viola by hand and accompanied Her to her new life.
I was wondering about all this, when I got an email by a girl who, reading this blog, recognised her violin and decided to write me where the violin ended up and how happy she was to have it! They are planning to come in Italy and they are probably going to visit me in my studio next Spring, just in time for the annual set up!

mercoledì 4 aprile 2012

My violins travel more than me!

Violin Guarneri model, '11

When a violin comes to life is always an event, a little event. I spend two months of my life working on each violin: I choose the materials, I build every single detail, deciding its shape; I listen to its sound and the noises of my tools while carving and rubbing down.
So the violin comes to life, “He” becomes a separate entity, an individual reality with his own unique characteristics, for better or for worse. I prefer placing the violin, the viola or the cello directly into the musician’s hands, being able to share this moment with the instrument. I want to be present to this meeting, but unfortunately this isn’t always possible,  like for this violin: just few days old, he’s now travelling to Washington where, I’m sure, he’ll receive all the attentions he deserves...But probably I won’t see him again!
Violin Guarneri model, '11
It may seem weird, but I regularly see many of my sold instruments: I take care of their maintenance, observing their growth, their evolutions, deciding the right set up with the musician who plays them…I keep in touch with them…
However, of many others, I loose track very rapidly. I imagine them to be independent, brave, in good hands and sometimes I even get some news about them from unexpected voices.
Good luck, Violin, live your life!

mercoledì 28 marzo 2012


Violin 2009
I have a life made of simple things: there's never a great bustle in my studio, so I have the needed quiet to focus on the design of this or the next instrument, there's a lot to understand, more instruments I make, clearer some concepts become, I discover new problems, new different shades, other rough edges to knock off.
Every detail brought to light is a step into a deep darkness where just a faint light guides me and I am there, ready to adjust to every sloping change, every sharpness of a mostly unknown landscape, while behind me, a bright afternoon, the sky is clear and I can see my starting point even from a great distance. Beginning with doubts you'll find your certainties. I don't know where I'll go, but meanwhile I enjoy the pleasure of overcoming my limits.
I love my job.

sabato 24 marzo 2012

Pieces of wood

From theory to practice: the soundboard
I clearly remember the story of each one of the pieces of wood that sourround me: I remember when, how and where I first met them and why I decided to keep them with me.
Far above time, I sharpen my tools and dig the blades in the material, feeling its thickness, its grain, its scent and sound.
My work proceeds with the needed slowness, as when, discovering a new landscape, we carefully look around, choosing to follow those streets, those alleys that more attract us.

venerdì 16 marzo 2012

The Beginning

Outline drawing
Divisions of spaces. A segment, a harmoniously divided distance between two points: these are the basic elements to make a musical instrument.
Natural shapes. The beauty of the crest of the wave, of the glowing wheat, of the honeycomb, of a tree, of a hand, of a body, of a movement.
Each instrument is a little world where everything has its color, where everything seems like a face able to speak its feeling aloud, with a voice that utters, announces, screams, tells, cheers up, enchants. 

Who am I?

Inevitably, following the stream of events, of feelings and choices, you always find yourself deeply involved in realities that you’ve never even dreamed of.
I’ve always been good at making summaries and, to prove it, I’ll quote an essay I wrote in Primary School with the title “Describe yourself”:
“I am a human being, short, fat and who gets easily pissed off”
As you understand from the blog title, I’m a violin maker, but also  a mate, a father, a son, a brother, a friend; I have a cat, a dog, a hen (there were three of them, but a fox  might be responsible for their missing), I live and work in the country between Tuscany and Umbria, in a small village that counts about 2000 inhabitants and whose church bells are so out of tune that, if I were God, I’d get really angry and I'd not be able to restrain myself from sending them a bright lightening.