Amplifying violins — and processing them with bizarre Max/MSP patches using mics and pickups and gyroscope bows — is no longer a major challenge. But it wasn’t always so. Early recordings of violins faced the challenge of the fragile sound of the instrument. Builders like John Matthias Augustus Stroh devised a primitive but effective solution: attach a horn to the instrument. The results are nothing if not wacky, and they reveal a lot about how instruments and technology evolve over time. I’d love to see more of this thinking in modern digital instruments, and violin/horn mash-ups seem even more compelling creatively now. They’re begging for a digital rendition.

Benedict Anthony Heaney has written up a short history of these now-unfamiliar instruments:

STROH/HORN-VIOLINS, 1899-1949 [Digital Violin]

For more assorted information on violins, players, and recordings on a site of somewhat archaic and mysterious design, see the rest of Mr. Heaney’s Digital Violin site — start with the data link.

  • Gilbert Bernstein

    I saw a math rock band called Sleepytime Gorilla Museum using one of these once. Made the strangest sound. Real interesting looking instrument.

    (Their bassist has a giant (> 2 yards maybe) board with strings strung on it that he hits with a mallet)

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  • Christie

    I got to play one of these horn violins. Amazingly, it is balanced and not heavy on the horn side. The chin/shoulder contact is also comfortable. Sounds mellow like the old Victrola one sided 78rpm platters and can it project!