There have been many theories as to why the Stradivarius violin is such a superb instrument in its tonal qualities. Some say he soaked his wood in urine, while others say he used the beams from old churches. People have been trying to replicate the sound for a long time, but without success.

Well, it seems this paleobiologist noticed that the life of Antonio Stradivari corresponds almost exactly with the Maunder Minimum. The Maunder minimum is a 70 year period from 1645 to 1715 of much colder than normal temperatures in western Europe. It is the coldest part of what is called the ‘little ice age’, which lasted from 1500-1850. Scientists believe this was caused by a period of reduced solar activity, which prevented the movement of warm air across the Atlantic to Europe. The implications are that Stradivari, in his later years, the golden era of his violin making, would have used wood that grew during the Maunder minimum. Because of the colder than normal temperatures, the trees would have a slower, more even growth resulting in a stronger, denser wood. These are apparently positive attributes for wood used in violin making.

If this is true then the sounds of Stradivarius were a fortuitous circumstance of unusual times. Did Stradivari think his times unusual? He was well known in his time, but hardly as admired as he is today. Did Stradivari’s sounds reside in his craftsmanship or just some good wood? Probably a combination of both. That’s the beauty of it. Never let it be said you live in ordinary times. You just never know.

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