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Can CT Help Re-create The Stradivarius Magic?

December 2, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging
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Minneapolis radiologist Steven Sirr, MD, performs careful CT scans on certain patients from many angles. He tries to create a comprehensive internal picture of each, because he and a colleague plan to duplicate them.

The “patients” are violins. Dr. Sirr, a violinist himself, has been scanning them, as well as violas and cellos, since 1989. You may have heard the All Things Considered piece Wednesday evening on NPR about his effort to scan and reproduce one of the world’s most famous violins, the “Betts” Stradivarius, built 307 years ago by the celebrated Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari.

Dr. Sirr collaborates with two luthiers from St. Paul, Minnesota, Steve Rossow and John Waddle, in creating copies of the violins he scans. Rossow feeds the CT data into a CNC machine (a computer-controlled manufacturing device; CNC stands for “computer numerical control”), which precisely replicates the wooden pieces.

In June, they got the chance to scan (and play) the Betts, owned by the Library of Congress. Dr. Sirr told NPR:

The library was involved in a two-week project in Oberlin, Ohio, this past summer, and at that time we were able to CT-scan the original Betts violin that was made in 1704.

So far,they’ve made two copies. Waddle describes the process on his Web site. Dr. Sirr said he’d eventually like to sell copies, “especially since the latest Strad that was sold this past summer [the “Lady Blunt”] was sold for almost $16 million, which is well out of the range of any modern living violin maker. We think they sound just excellent. We had the original violin for two weeks in Oberlin, Ohio, so we know what the original sounds like also.”

You can judge for yourself the sound of one of the copies at the end of the NPR piece.

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It’s Friday, so it’s time for a new Facebook post.

Related seminar: Thoracic Imaging


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