1. Writing in The Toronto Star
on January 14, 1993 after Ma's first concert with the alto violin,
William Littler found the instrument "...halfway between
the viola and cello in tone quality...," also noting that
"...in Ma's hands it...seemed to possess the flexibility
of a violin." Heidi Waleson of The Wall Street Journal had
mixed feelings, finding the instrument's projection less-than-expected
and noting that the alto violin did not sound like a viola or
cello. Waleson of course missed the point: the alto violin is
neither a viola nor a cello but a new instrument. Neither reviewer
went beyond the fact that Hutchins built the alto violin Ma used.
2. Much of the material in this article is
taken from personal, taped interviews I did with Carleen M. Hutchins.
The first took place at Hutchins's cottage on Lake Winnepesaukee
in New Hampshire on July 21- 22, 1991, and the second at her home
in Montclair, New Jersey between March 16-20, 1993, when I was
there doing research in the Catgut Acoustical Society (CAS) files.
Other scholars have interviewed Hutchins as well, especially Carolyn
Schumacher, who taped extensive conversations with Hutchins and
some of her associates from 1977 to 1979. I was able to read transcripts
of some of these conversations, which were made available to me
3. Harriett M. Bartlett (1897-1987) was an
important friend and benefactor of Hutchins and the CAS, supporting
several aspects of Hutchins's work and providing funds for a CAS
endowment. she was a graduate of Vassar College, the London School
of Economics, and the University of Chicago. Her field was medical
social work, in which she wrote six books and 35 articles. See:
Carleen M. Hutchins, "Obituary for Harriett M. Bartlett," Journal of the CAS, no. 47 (May 1987), 51.
4. I interviewed Morton A. Hutchins at his
home in Montclair on March 20,1993. He worked for Dupont until
1949, when he accepted a position with Hercules Powder. He retired
5. Hutchins has two children: William Aldrich
(born 1947) and Caroline born 1950).
6. Helen Rice was the daughter of Edwin T.
Rice, a lawyer and amateur cellist, and Margaret Rood Rice. She
graduated from Bryn Mawr College and was prominent as an amateur
violinist and tennis player. Rice founded Amateur Chamber Music
Players in 1947 and devoted much of her life to the organization.
Her extensive contacts in the string world were very impotant
for Hutchins, who was able to test many of her instruments at
chamber music sessions hosted by Rice. Rice's life was covered
by Rustin Mcintosh in Helen Rice: The Great Lady of Chamber Music
(New York: Amateur Chamber Music Players, 1983).
7. Interview with Carleen M. Hutchins.
8. Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973) was
biographer of such persons as Tchaikovsky, Anton and Nicolas Rubinstein,
Francis Bacon, John Adams, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.
9. Morton Hutchins has studied violin varnish
and the various woods used in violins. As a chemist he has also
provided his wife with much useful advice. He has been the sole
author of five items in the Journal of the CAS, and co-authored
several other studies. See: Catgut Acoustical Society, Author
Index to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 11.
10. Morton Hutchins originally offered to
dissolve a felt hat chemically and prepare it for human ingestion,
but Rice insisted on one made out of cake and gumdrops There is
a picture of her wearing it in McIntosh, Helen Rice, 14.
11. Frederick Jacobi (1891-1952) taught composition
at the Juilliard School and was director of the American section
of the International Society for Contemporary Music. Irene Jacobi
was his wife. See: Gustave Reese, "Jacobi, Frederick," The New Grove, 9: 444-45.
12. Hutchins has maintained a handwritten
list of her instruments since she began building them. This list
has been consulted often in the course of this study, as has a
list on computer maintained by Joan Miller, president of the CAS.
13. For a brief biography of Frederick
A. Saunders, see: Elsie M. Pomeroy, William Saunders and His Five
Sons Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1956). Pomeroy briefly covers
Saunders's collaboration with Hutchins on pp. 175-76.
14. Interview with Carleen M. Hutchins.
15. Saunders's correspondence to Hutchins
survives in the files of the CAS. Citations to the correspondence
here are based on the author's perusal of the files in March of
1991. The correspondence is a valuable source for describing their
collaboration, and provides a window on Hutchins's career between
about 1950 and 1963. Saunders's letters will be referred to in
the text by date; direct quotations will be provided with a citation.
16. Hutchins has given her instruments "Sus"
numbers. "Sus," the Latin word for "pig," was used in honor of a pig named Susie Snowwhite given to Hutchins
by Helen Rice for use in her science classes at The Brearley School.
17. For a description of Savart's work, see:
Carleen M. Hutchins, "A History of Violin Research," Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 73/5 (May 1983),
1423-25. (Consulted in reprint.)
18. Carleen Maley Hutchins, "Founding
a Family of Fiddles," Physics Today 20/2 (February 1967),
2. (Consulted in reprint.)
19. For a description of loudness curves,
see: Carleen Maley Hutchins, "The Physics of Violins," Scientific American (November 1962), 9-10. (Consulted in reprint.)
20. Frederick A. Saunders, personal letter
to Carleen M. Hutchins, 6 December 1962.
21. Sonya Monosoff, personal letter to Carleen
M. Hutchins, 9 February 1953. Monosoff has gone on to a successful
career, currently teaching violin at Cornell University.
22. Frederick A. Saunders, personal letter
to Carleen M. Hutchins, 9 March 1953.
23. Saunders's research notebooks are found
in the CAS archive. They contain a wealth of testing information
on Hutchins's instrulnents and others. His descriptions of Hutchins's
instruments are located in two notebooks, starting with one titled "Violins, etc.," dated October 1952 to February 1959.
The instrument descriptions then continue in Book 10. The information
that Saunders wrote about the instruments included sizes, location
of wolves, loudness curves, etc.
24. For more information on tap tones and
the research of Hutchins, Saunders, and Hopping in this area,
see: Hutchins, "The Physics of Violins," 11-14.
25. Hutchins, Carleen M., "Some Notes
on Free Plate Tuning Frequencies for Violins, Violas and Cellos," Journal of the CAS, no. 47 (May 1987), 40.
26. Hutchins's method of tuning plates electronically
has been demonstrated to hundreds of makers and adopted by many.
This technique figures prominently in her "The Acoustics
of Violin Plates," Scientific American 245 (October 1981),
170ff. This is Hutchins's most important article so far. It brought
many new members into the CAS and was translated into Chinese,
Italian, French, and German, resulting in the use of the Chladni
pattern method by violin makers in a number of countries.
27. According to Miller's list (see note 12),
over 130 of Hutchins's instruments have been sold.
28. For biographies of these two figures,
see: Charles Beare, "Sacconi, (Simone) Fernando," The
New Grove, 16: 373 and Charles Beare, "Wurlitzer, Rembert," The New Grove, 20: 551.
29. Rembert Wurlitzer, personal letter to
Henry Allen Moe, Guggenheim Foundation, 24 March 1959.
30. Carleen M. Hutchins's contribution to
From Violinmaking to Music: The Life and Works of Simone Fernando
Sacconi (Cremona: The Cremonese Association of Professional Violinmakers,
31. Interview with Carleen M. Hutchins.
32. Lee Wurlitzer, personal letter to Carleen
M. Hutchins, 1 July 1989.
33. Inside front cover of Journal of the CAS.
34. Carleen M. Hutchins, personal letter to
Paul R. Laird, 19 September 1993.
35. For a summary of Schelleng's contributions
to the field, see: Hutchins, "A History of Violin Research," 1430ff.
36. Robert M. Meyer, "Obituary of Robert
Edward Fryxell," Journal of the CAS, no. 47 (May 1987), 3.
37. When I saw the correspondence archives
of the CAS, they had not yet been organized. A sampling of letters
were studied; there are literally hundreds extant. Files were
perused for Hutchins, Schelleng, and Saunders.
38. John C. Schelleng, personal letter to
Carleen M. Hutchins, 2 May 1962.
39. Hutchins, "A History of Violin Research," 1430.
40. For example, in 1962 Mischa
Schneider, cellist in the Budapest Quartet, played one of Hutchins's
instruments in a Montclair concert on March 25, 1962. This was
reported in: Alice T. Kirkby, "Budapest Group Member Plays
Cello Owned by Local Woman," Montclair Times, April 5,1962.
41. "The Strads of Montclair," Time
Magazine (June 15, 1962).
42. See note 19.
43. "Mother of a New Family of Fiddles,"
Life Magazine November 22, 1963). The filming of the program "The
Science of Music," produced by the California Academy of
Sciences is described on p. 5 of the Newsletter of the CAS, no.
1 (May 1, 1964).
44. For example, Hutchins reports the following
in "A History of Violin Research" (p. 1429): "...the
organization officially founded by Saunders shortly before his
death in 1963."
45. Frederick A. Saunders, personal letter
to Carleen M. Hutchins, 4 January 1962.
46. Hutchins, "A History of Violin Research," 1429.
47. In 1991 membership stood at 687 and the
organization sent out 2851 pieces of mall.
48. The first meeting was described on pp.
1-2 of the Newsletter of the CAS, no. 1 (May 1, 1964).
49. The second meeting was described on pp.
1-2 of the Newsletter of the CAS, no. 2 (November 1, 1964).
50. There have been ten international symposia
of the CAS, including four in the United States, two in Mittenwald,
two in Stockholm, and one each in Cambridge and Wollongong (Australia).
Hutchins has organized, planned, and administered about half of
these meetings with the assistance of Elizabeth McGilvray, the
secretary of the CAS, and Hutchins was on the organizing committee
of the 1993 meeting in Stockholm.
51. The CAS published an index for the Newsletter
and Journal in 1989. It is 24 pages in length and provides impressive
documentation of the hundreds of persons who have contributed
to the publication.
52. Interview with Carleen M. Hutchins. The
CAS has just started to transfer its more than 2000 files to Palo
Alto. Inactive files are being sent first.
53. Hutchins, "A History of Violin Research," 1429.
54. Hutchins, Carleen Maley and John C. Schelleng, "A New Concert Violin," Journal of the Audio Engineering
Society 15/4 (October 1967). (Consulted in reprint).
55. Nicholas Bessaraboff, Ancient European
Musical Instruments (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1941), 289, 291.
56. Hutchins provides the list of 100 persons
in her "Founding a Family of Fiddles," 2.
57. Until recent years, Morton Hutchins kept
a log of family activities, including travel, persons visiting,
etc. The log is not cornplete--this visit in 1958 is the first
mention of Henry Brant, although it was at least his second visit--but
it is a valuable biographical source.
58. Carbon copies of letters from Hutchins
to Brant survive from 17 and 27 October 1958. In the first letter
Hutchins discusses the possible relationship of the project to
her Guggenheim Fellowship application, and in the second she offers
a tentative schedule for making the instruments.
59. Hutchins, "Founding a Family of Fiddles," 2.
60. Frederick A. Saunders, personal letter
to Carleen M. Hutchins, 3 September 1958. Saunders took a decidedly
evolutionary view of musical instruments. After hearing a lute,
he commented to Hutchins in a letter from 29 October 1950 that
he was glad to be studying an instrument "...that has outgrown
its primitive forms."
61. In Hutchins's letter to Brant of 27 October
1958 she stated: "I suggest that sometime the four of us,
you, Hunkins, Hopping and I try to see Dr. Winternitz at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art as a possible source of information on the Viols
and even more primitive instruments that might give us an idea
of where we are going."
63. Hutchins, "Founding a Family of Fiddles," 3.
64. The scaling was published in: John C.
Schelleng, "The Violin as a Circuit," Journal of the
Acoustical Society of America 35 (1963), 326ff.
65. Carleen M. Hutchins, personal letter to
Paul R. Laird, 19 September 1993.
66. Fred L. Dautrich, Bridging the Gaps in
the Violin Family (Torrington, Connecticut, 1935).
67. Hutchins worked closely with
the Kaplan String Company in the 1960s, but it is the Super Sensitive
String Company that continues to supply strings for the octet.
Part of the experimentation that involved finding strings for
the octet included the use of strong rocket wire for strings under
the most tension.
68. Informal playing tests for the octet were
performed in Helen Rice's chamber music circles. Of the players
named who have not yet been identified, William Kroll was first
violinist in the Kroll Quartet, David Mankovitz violist in the
Kroll Quartet, cellist India Zerbe taught at Montclair State University,
David Walter taught bass at Juilliard, and bassist Ronald Naspo
has had a career in New Jersey as both a classical and jazz bassist,
playing the octet's contrabass in the New Jersey Symphony for
a period of time.
69. The dates for these events are provided
in: Hutchins, "Founding a Family of Fiddles," 5.
70. Carleen M. Hutchins, "The Violin
Octet: A Thirty-Year Experiment in the Acoustical and Musical
Development of Violin-Family Instruments" (Unpublished typescript),
71. Henry Brant, personal letter to Carleen
M. Hutchins, 26 November 1961.
72. Henry Brant, personal letter to Carleen
M. Hutchins, 28 January, 1962. Brant and Hutchins were looking
into a maker named Abraham Prescott, and Brant reports here the
bass he had looked at was not large enough, but that Prescott
had made basses as large as 49 or 50 inches in body length. The
contrabass violin that Hutchins and her collaborators finally
built has a body length of 51 inches. (Catgut Acoustical Society,
Inc., The Violin Octet, 1981, 9.)
73. The music that Brant suggests here is
similar to that which has been used in octet concerts. Frank Lewin,
who has composed for the octet, has commented on the best music
for the instruments: ...music of earlier periods, especially polyphonic
vocal music sounds beautiful with the individual voices of these
instruments maintaining their own colors in contrapuntal parts,
yet blending into a homogenous whole similar to the effect of
a good choir, with full passages, especially chordal ones, suggesting
organ sonorities. The most exciting use for the octet instruments
is in new music composed specifically to exploit their particular
characteristics. (Quoted in: Hutchins, "The Violin Octet," 21.)
74. The work has been described as using "...eight
acoustic analogues of the violin covering a range of six and a
half octaves" in Kurt Stone and Paul Griffiths, "Brant,
Henry (Dreyfuss)," The New Grove, 3: 205-6. Stone and Griffiths
describe the experimental nature of much of Brant's music; he
has often composed for new instruments or ensembles.
75. Howard Klein, "Unusual Violins in
Recital Debut," The New York Times, May 21, 1965. Although
Hutchins's name is mentioned in the article, the sub-heading of
the article reads: "Composer Invents Strings--Writes Piece
76. Newsletter of the CAS, no. 4 (November
1, 1965), 1.
77. Frank Lewin, Innocence and Experience:
A Cycle of Songs from Poems by William Blake; Music for the New
Family of Violins, Musical Heritage Society 4102, 1979.
78. Carleen M. Hutchins, personal letter to
Paul R. Laird, 19 September 1993.
79. Reproduced from Catgut Acoustical Society,
Inc., The Violin Octet, 1981, 4. Used by permission of the Catgut
Acoustical Society, Inc.
80. See note 51. The mezzo violin has a body
length of 15 inches, rather than the conventional 14 inches. The
ribs are about half the height of a regular violin.
81. Hutchins, "The Violin Octet," 12ff.
82. Ibid., 18.
83. Curriculum vita of Carleen M. Hutchins.
The total of 94 includes six full sets and another four trebles,
four sopranos, ten mezzos, seventeen altos, seven tenors, and
84. Ashley, Blatter, and Carboni
helped with finding the wood and doing rough work on the instruments.
Hutchins tuned all of the plates and finished the basses. Blatter
and Carboni worked with Hutchins in the 1960s; Ashley was a bass-maker
in Seattle who supplied Hutchins with large wood for basses and
made octet instruments. He died in 1993. See Carleen M. Hutchins, "Obituary: Hammond Ashley," Journal of the CAS, 2/4
(Series II) (November 1993), 55.
85. Hutchins, "The Violin Octet," 18.
86. I have played the alto, tenor, and baritone
at some length, and find the tenor to have the most distinctive
voice. The conventional string family has no real tenor voice,
and this instrument fills the bill. As I have reported in print: "It has a rich, penetrating sound completely unlike the conventional
string family: the instrument has the brilliance of a violin in
the upper register, and a fine evenness of tone throughout its
range." Paul R. Laird, "Carleen Hutchins and the Violin
Octet," Continuo Magazine 16/1 (February 1992), 8.) Others
have noticed the solo quality of the tenor as well, including
composer Patsy Rogers, who wrote a concerto for the instrument.
(The Violin Octet, 12.)
88. Leopold Stokowski, personal letter to
Carleen M. Hutchins, 19 June 1962. (Italicized words from Stokowski's
89. Carleen M. Hutchins, personal letter to
Leopold Stokowski, 24 January 1969.
90. On 9 April 1968, Stokowski asked Hutchins: "Miss Cornelia [Patsy] Rogers writes me that she might be
composing a piece for tenor violin. How are the strings of the
tenor tuned? What is the length of the back and what is the length
from the nut to the bridge?" After Hutchs answered these
questions, Stokowski wrote again on 15 April 1968: "Thank
you for the information about the tenor violin. When the composition
is ready by Mrs. Rogers we must try to find a good date for performance." (Stokowski's emphases.)
91. Michael Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum.
II. De organographia, Parts I and II. Trans. and ed. David Z.
Crookes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), table on p. 39. A musicologist
who has assisted in placing the octet in an historical context
is Stephen Bonta. See, for example, his "Further thoughts
on the history of strings," Newsletter of the CAS 26 (November
92. Johann Joachim Quantz, On Playing the
Flute. Trans. Edward R. Reilly (London: Faber and Faber), 241.
93. Hutchins, "The Violin Octet," 22.
94. John C. Schelleng, personal letter to
Carleen M. Hutchins, 1 April 1974.
95. The Delta study is explained well for
a general audience in: Tony Rothman, A Physicist on Madison Avenue
(Princeton University Press, 1991), 28ff.
96. To be able to tell the difference between
a good and great instrument through scientific means has always
been a dream of those in the field. Hutchins, however, admits
that this is not yet possible (Ibid., 23).
97. These are experiments in progress. In
the first, on which she is collaborating with Morton Hutchins,
she has made violin plates from different types of wood. In the
second she has made violin plates from wood of varying ages, dating
from 1756 to wood of more recent harvest.
98. Interview with Carleen M. Hutchins.
100. Catgut Acoustical Society, Author Index
to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 2.
101. The first quotation in this sentence
is from my interview with Hutchins. The second is from: Arthur
H. Benade, Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics (New York: Dover
Publications, Inc., 1990), 543.
102. Benade, 542-43.
103. Catgut Acoustical Society, Author Index
to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 3.
104. Hutchins summarized Thompson's conclusions
for me in our interview. His articles on the violins and moisture
and varnish are listed in: Catgut Acoustical Society, Author Index
to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 20.
105. Daniel W. Haines, Carleen M. Hutchins,
Morton A. Hutchins, and Donald A. Thompson, "A Violin and
a Guitar with Graphite-Epoxy Composite Soundboards," Newsletter
of the CAS, no. 24 (November 1975), 25- 28.
106. Catgut Acoustical Society, Author Index
to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 5. Cremer acknowledges
Hutchins's work several places in his The Physics of the Violin,
trans. John S. Allen (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1984). In
addition to citing several of her articles, he describes the violin
octet (pp. 352-55).
107. Helmut A. Muller and Martin Schleske, "Is Scientific Research Useful for Violin Makers?," Journal of the CAS, 1/4 (Series 11) November 1989), 48 (abstract).
108. An aspect of Dunnwald's interest may
be seen in his "Deduction and Objective Quality Parameter
on Old and New Violins," Journal of the CAS, 1/4 (Series
II) (November 1989), 37 (abstract).
109. In our interview, Hutchins described
Jansson's work to me in some detail. His work on a simplified
violin body is described in his "On the Acoustics of the
Violin Body," Journal of the CAS, 1/4 (Series II) (November
1989), 36 (abstract). Jansson's extensive contributions to the
Journal are listed in Catgut Acoustical Society, Author Index
to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 11.
110. For a listing of Moral's contributions
to the Journal of the CAS, see Catgut Acoustical Society, Author
Index to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 15.
111. See note 25.
112. Catgut Acoustical Society,
Author Index to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 13. The
cited article: Kenneth D. Marshall, "Modal Analysis: A Primer
on Theory and Practice," Journal of the CAS, no. 46 (November
113. Carleen M. Hutchins, "The Effect
on Tone Quality of a Violin when the Air Modes are Eliminated," Journal of the CAS, no. 41 (May 1984), 11-12.
114. Catgut Acoustical Society, Author Index
to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 12-13.
115. I interviewed Oliver Rodgers at Hutchins's
home in Montclair, New Jersey on March 19, 1993.
116. See: F. Sacconi, The Secrets of Stradivari
(Cremona: Libreria del Convegno, 1979.)
117. The results of Rodgers's research in
this area are listed in Catgut Acoustical Society, Author Index
to Newsletters & Journals (1964-1989), 17.
118. "Physics Teachers Honor Weinreich
and Fuller," Physics Today (January 1993), 83.
119. Gabriel Weinreich, "Carleen: An
Appreciation" (Unpublished typescript).
120. Carleen M. Hutchins, ed., Musical Acoustics,
Part I: Violin Components, Benchmark Papers in Acoustics (New
York: Dowden, Hutchins & Ross, 1975).
_____ ed., Musical Acoustics, Part II: Violin Family Functions,
Benchmark Papers in Acoustics (New York: Dowden, Hutchins & Ross, 1976).
121. Carleen M. Hutchins, ed., The Physics
of Music, Scientific American Readings (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman
and Company, 1978.)
122. Excerpts from this volume were made
available to me by Carleen M. Hutchins in September 1993.
123. Deena Z. Spear, "Achieving an Air/Body
Coupling in Violins, Violas and Cellos: A Practical Guide for
the Violin Maker," Journal of the CAS, no. 47 (May 1987),
124. Interview with Carleen M. Hutchins.