Radiologist Dr. Steve Sirr has been using the process of medical forensics scanning to record and analyze stringed instruments for close to 22 years now. But recently, Dr. Sirr has teamed up with St. Paul luthiers Steve Rossow and John Waddle of John Waddle Violins Inc. to use the radiology process of CT scanning and analyzing to recreate one of the world’s most famed violins, the 1704 “Betts” Stradivarius.
In essence, this is a cloning process. Like DNA, a violin can be scanned and analyzed for its physical structure — shape, density, wood type, etc. — and with that knowledge, specialists can essentially recreate any violin.
Setting aside all fantastical images of cloning we see from the sci-fi films, we need to know that these are not exact copies. The replicas are not time-traveled and perfectly molded, but are modern instruments that take into consideration the luthier techniques, shape, style and wood type of the famed violins throughout history.
All instruments leave fingerprints and a bread crumb trail. Like crime scene investigators, the scanning process exposes that history and tells the unique and individual story of each of these instruments. The methods can then be used to ensure the preservation process of these remarkable instruments.
While you further your reading, what I might challenge you to keep in mind are the implications of what may come from this ongoing project. Prior to this point in scientific history, the highest quality violins, namely those in the Stradivarius catalog, have been reserved for the extremely wealthy or the musically accomplished that can be financially supported in obtaining them.
What Dr. Steve Sirr, Steve Rossow and John Waddle have done is narrow the gap of accessibility to quality. They are offering replicas of world-class instruments at more affordable prices that will empower and enrich the playing of young beginners and amateurs.