A Swiss researcher said Thursday he had hit on an unlikely way of recreating the unique sound of a Stradivarius violin — by treating the wood of a replica instrument with mushrooms.
Francis Schwarze of the Zurich-based Federal Materials, Science and Technology Institute (EMPA), made a replica of a violin by the Italian master Antonio Stradivari from the year 1698, which was presented this week at the "Swiss Innovation Forum" in Basel.
Schwarze found that treating the maple wood used for the violin with "Xylaria longipes" mushrooms — which grow on the bark of trees — meant the sound quality was akin to an original Strad.
This mushroom lightly "nibbles" away at the wood's surface, thus reducing its density and improving the sound of the violin as a result.
"It has a very good sound and also carries well," violin maker Michael Rhonheimer said of the replica.
"I am convinced that the wood treatment at the EMPA has made an audible improvement."