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master violin and viola case maker

        

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Be a part of progress!

                   

Dear Musicians...

People often say "they don't make ‘em like they used to", referring to products with a sense of helplessness as if consumers are always the victims of modern industrial "progress" and of the ruthless quest for higher profits. 

But is this really true? Economics expert George Soros states that the so-called "market forces", which shape the products we purchase are often the result of imperfect knowledge, a condition which allows the genesis of an improbable plurality of "truths".

How consumers often dictate the path that manufacturers must take - instead of the popularly believed opposite - is quite clear in the field of string instrument cases. The number one preference of the majority of musicians when comparing cases (especially in Europe and the Far East) is that they must be as light as possible. Secondly, as cheap as possible. Certainly, style and finish plays a part, but the weight (or better, the lack of it) is often the factor which promotes one product line to success and dooms another to commercial failure.

The degree to which the issue of instrument safety is ignored by some professional musicians is simply astonishing. One world-class soloist - I won't mention the name, but you all know it - asked for an appointment in our showroom to see our cases. When this person arrived I was appalled to see that she kept her Strad in a cheap styrofoam case that would collapse if your pressed your thumb on the lid. Yet, I was unable to convince her to purchase even our lower-priced Ultraleggero Royale with Tropicalization - she preferred another brand simply because, and I quote, "it was 100 Euros cheaper". But does it really make sense to purchase a cheaper, suspension-less, un-insulated, un-humidified case for a Stradivari, just to save 100 Euros? Especially when those 100 Euros are easily the hourly cost of the chauffer-driven luxury car in which this famous soloist arrived? 

This trend has prompted many manufacturers to obediently cut corners in all phases of production in order to achieve new records of lightness and cheapness, but as a result many instrument restorers are repairing cello neck breakage or soundpost cracks when "the case simply fell over", and violins are reduced to smithereens when the owner, slipping on an icy sidewalk, topples onto the case and flattens it. That's quite a departure from the purpose of a case: the word "case", in Italian, is in fact custodia, which derives from the verb custodire, or "to take care of".

Of course, I'm not advocating the same precautions that the City of Genoa adopted until a few years ago, transporting the 1742 Guarneri del Gesù of Paganini fame inside a pressurized container the size of a refrigerator, designed to outlive a plane crash. But more than one concertmaster carries his Strad in a oblong case made of silk-lined styrofoam which will disintegrate at the slightest provocation. This is not only an unnecessary risk for the owner, but an irresponsible attitude towards the safeguarding of a work of art which morally belongs to humanity in toto, and not just to a fortunate individual.

Instrument case manufacture may have little in common with quantum mechanics, yet Heisenberg's principle - the mere observation of a given phenomenon is enough to influence it - could help change this mentality. For example, if respected and impartial publications tested and compared cases for safety features in order to draw the readers' attention to the subject of instrument safety. Insurance companies as well could aid by offering lower premiums to the owners of important instruments who use cases with determined characteristics, thus incentivating the use of safer cases and probably ending up reducing the recourse to costly damage settlements in the process. But most importantly, it is you, the musician, who can change things if the issue of instrument safety is generally awarded the status of importance it deserves.

This is therefore a golden chance for consumers to force manufacturers to make better products. Simply by choosing those cases which better protect the instrument will spur research and development of product lines in this direction. Convex instead of flat cello case bottoms, for example, or suspension pads installed in rigid, torsion-resistant cases make a difference. Dogmatic acceptance of the fact that, today, 2.5- 3 kg of raw material is needed for a quality, safe oblong violin case, and any case weighing much less just won't do. Added safety however doesn't necessarily mean added weight: it's just a question of rearranging manufacturers' priorities and concentrating resources in the proper direction, and higher-quality manufacture, new materials and techniques of construction will follow in order to offer the public what it needs.  

And, incidentally, safeguarding the world's treasures of lutherie for the enjoyment of future generations. 

I thank you for your attention.

Dimitri Musafia

   

   

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