Posts Tagged ‘Rosin’

Violins and French Polish

January 2, 2015
Cupboard after French Polish.

Cupboard after French Polish.

A good violin player knows his/her instrument better than he does his or her toothbrush. So does the French polisher. It seems a ridiculous statement, but let’s examine it. Of course, the latter does not necessarily play a musical instrument but applies art just the same as the former. There are more details than just intimate knowledge of their toothbrushes that are similar.

The violin produces sound by vibrations caused by the bow made of horsehair striking or moving across strings suspended above a wooden soundbox. We all know that. However, the sound produced by horsehair strung across the bow needs a certain ingredient called ‘rosin’. This gives a certain resistance when striking across the strings of the instrument. You would be hard pushed to get a sound out without first having ‘rosined’ the bow’s hairs. Note the verb ‘to rosin’! Rosin is a solid substance mainly obtained from the resin of pine trees. I am fairly sure that a musician, especially a good one, knows how to direct his wishes onto the instrument just as much as being obedient to the instrument after sound has been produced. As always, a give and take in the kitchen of any creative act.

It seems odd that despite the violin being such a great and popular instrument, most of the great 19th and 20th composers have written just one violin concerto for this instrument. e.g, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Chaikovski, Dvorak, Elgar, Sibelius, Bartok. ( From Wiki)

Personally, I think Sibelius violin concerto the greatest piece of music ever written. I know it is a bit heavy and like most of his work, steeped in all things Finnish. You can indeed see the frozen sixty thousand lakes skirted by birch and spruce laden with snow. The melancholic and endless winter nights, but also the warm springs and loganberry filled summers, the simple and all artful that is Finland.

Here it is:

Let’s now go to the French Polisher and his art. I rattled on of resin for the bows of violins and other similar instruments. The French Polisher also uses a kind or resin called shellac. It also comes from trees but is actually produced by a beetle which deposits its excrement onto trees. Typically it is only the female beetle that does this. I don’t know why, perhaps it is supposed to lure the male. I would not be surprised seeing how many females stop at nothing to get a mate, even if it means the poor old male gets stuck on the resin and cark it. Anyway, this resin deposited on trees by the female lac bug in India, Thailand and China produces the major ingredient for shellac. Shellac when mixed with spirits is mainly used for French Polishes and food glazes.

Like a good violin player giving direction and responding to the instrument so does the French polisher direct and respond to his pad soaked in shellac. The shellac gives it the sheen but applying it makes for a certain drag or resistance like the rosin on the violin’s bow. It is an art of getting a ‘feel’ of just enough pressure on the timber surface, enough drag to leave behind the desired honey coloured sheen. Not enough or too much pressure and it fails to glorify. Applied too fast or too slow and it will not happen either, at best giving a mediocre result. It does need a bit more than experience to obtain a feel for this form of art. I suppose it is like that with all things creative.

A feeling and expressing it, giving it form.

I am not sure about the reference to toothbrushes. I am no Violin player, but can do a bit of French Polish.