SA: What is new with your research?
JN: We are in the process of having jury panels evaluate the sound of our instruments. We¿ve made a CD recording in which Zina Schiff, violinist, alternates her Stradivari with my violin, and we do not identify which track was made on which violin. So far, none of the 20 or so people I asked could identify all the tracks. Generally the error rate is 50 or 60 percent. In a true/false test, the 50-percent test is the random noise, so basically they can't tell.
Eventually we are going to identify it on our Web site. Let the critics guess first.
Click here to see if you can pick out the sound of a Stradivarius.
SA: How well have your re-creations been received, either as replicas or instruments in their own right?
JN: Of course, I have made many bad violins in my studies, because you have to explore various limits. But I would say at this point we can reproduce the brilliance of the Stradivari violin. And, of course, with our new sound analyzers, we keep analyzing the sound of many excellent violins, so we get a better library, a better appreciation of what is the desirable sound to copy.
What I wish I could I have done is get more authentic samples of varnish for analysis, but I have not received any new samples in 15 years. The dealers sent out the word--anyone who owns a Stradivari violin was warned not to let me close to the violin because I may even scratch off some varnish with my fingernail!
SA: Which is understandable.
Charles Choi is a writer for Scientific American.