I have a few violin books to recommend, but I’ve got to give a big shout-out to Violin: A Cultural History by James T. Hines. That’s a terrific book on both instruments, and it’s about how they were created. It’s not something that’s necessarily new, but I think it is an interesting take on the subject. There is also a book, which I’ve been wanting to read, by Susan Dufresne that is called Violin: A New Music of the New World, which is an excellent study of the early music of America. I’m in the middle of reading it. It’s going to be a fascinating read.
My favorite thing I’ve ever read is the introduction to Michael Paterniti’s Violin: A Cultural History. It tells a story of how violin was invented, and how it was discovered and how it became such a national instrument, and how it got to be so famous for so long. He talks about the fact that we used to hear about it from our fathers, and the fact that he makes the effort to tell the story in a way that is not necessarily academic or political. It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t say to a professor or a schoolteacher, I feel. I read a great story by Thomas H. Harris, about an encounter between a black violinist named Nell Smith and Jim Crow laws, how these things really had a large impact on this music.
In our country, we think of violin as a really young instrument. The first recordings that a violinist makes, they were just going through the motions, and they just weren’t very good. We started to think of them as being a tool used to express emotion and feelings, but not a really great instrument. It wasn’t until the 1960s and ’70s that we really began to see a big change in violin quality. The whole country began to really appreciate the quality of violin playing, and the whole country began to think of them as one of music’s great instruments.
I think that has something to do with the development of technology in the violin. Today we have very sophisticated microphones and very sophisticated instruments that can make the music clearer and more accessible; and a lot of that is technology that was invented in the violin world.
A violinist who has been learning music for the last 25 years can, essentially, learn to play it better than the average person, which has been done. I think one of the real reasons
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