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Essay “The Sound of the Heart”

June , 2021
The Rainy Season

The rainy season is here!
This time of the year is a busy time for me to protect my violin.
Old violins are usually so delicate. Instruments, made 200 to 300 years ago, the wood dries and changes in many ways over the years. The varnish, applied to the wood, also changes within the years and blends into the wood. When the sound of the violin stimulates the wood grain, the material also changes and becomes a unique instrument.
In my opinion, the Stradivarius is a work of art, which is even more delicately crafted. It is a violin, made 300 years ago, and is the queen of instruments. It is a true wonder that an instrument of this level has not been newly produced yet.
Now, the Stradivarius that I own, which has the title “Duranty”, likes to be kept extra dry. I think the reason is the “300 years history that it has lived through”.
Duranty is an instrument that was secretly hidden away for a long time of 300 years, without being played on stage.
The violin maker Mr. Antonio Stradivari produced this instrument in 1716, and the first owner is inscribed as Pope Clement XIV of Rome. It may have been played by the Pope secretly when it was kept in the Vatitan for 20 years. Pope’s aide then took the instrument to France, the home of Duranty family. After that, the instrument had been kept hidden in the castle of the Durantys for nearly 200 years. Duranty was kept in a constantly dry place for such a long time, during all those years. Europe is very dry compared to Japan. Having been breathing in such an environment, Duranty did not know the world outside.
Then after, it went to another wealthy family in Switzerland and was hidden in their estate, and finally in 2002, it arrived on this island country in the East, to my place.
Poor thing. It must have had a hard time to adopt to the hot and humid climate of Japan.
When it first arrived, though Duranty sounded really good, it did not listen to me. It used to behave like dump cars, when I said go right, it went to the extreme right, and turned back to the extreme left.
In those early days, it was even more difficult in rainy days as it would suddenly lose its voice. It was like a child who cried for not wanting to sing.
When I realized that it really disliked humidity, I bought a number of dryers and dehumidifiers, trying to recreate the dry European air in which Duranty grew up in.
The rainy season is a big deal. Though I can keep that kind of climate in my home, it is not easy to do so when I take it out to concert halls.
Travelling is also difficult. When it rains and is humid, I protect it by wrapping it up with the raincoat I’m wearing and carry it safely in my arms.
After a year, two years, three and then four, the Duranty gradually got used to living with me.
I also learnt many ways to protect it and did whatever I could, so that it was never uncomfortable.
In the rainy season, it is not just the matter of dryness, but I also choose the suitable strings. I change the strings in spring, summer, autumn and winter, both in brands and gauges, depending on the temperature and humidity. I also prepare several bows to play the Duranty, as the preference changes according to its mood of the day.
I have a room for Duranty in my home, of which the humidity and temperature is kept constant.
It is safe when the instrument stays there, but I have to be extra careful when I take it out to concerts.
And then, the concert halls.
If a large concert hall is too humid, the most difficult part for me is to think of how I could get help from the staff of the venue until the actual concert. How could I get the ideal humidity in just a few hours?
Especially these days, due to the Global warming, we are experiencing extreme weather conditions, with rough weather that hits us like a typhoon.
I must protect it!
Duranty has lived for 305 years, and during my lifetime, I must protect it in the best possible condition, as it is my responsibility to pass it on to the next generation.