In the 1950s, a schoolteacher named Carleen Hutchins attempted a revolution in how concert violins are made. In this episode, Craig Eley of the Field Noise podcast tells us how this amateur outsider used 18th century science to disrupt the all-male guild tradition of violin luthiers. Would the myth of the never-equaled Stradivarius violin prove to be true or could a science teacher with a woodshop use an old idea to make new violins better than ever? 

Violin design innovator Carleen Hutchins

We also learn about the mysterious beauty of Chladni patterns, the 18th century technique of using tiny particles to reveal how sound moves through resonant objects–the key to Hutchins’ merger of art and science. 

In this episode, we hear the voices of:

  • Quincy Whitney,  Carleen Hutchins biographer and a former arts reporter for the Boston Globe.
  • Myles Jackson, a professor of the history of science at Princeton.
  • Joseph Curtin, a MacArthur-award winning violin maker.
  • Sam Zygmuntowicz, an extremely renowned violin maker and creator of Strad3D.
  • Carleen Hutchins herself. 

You can subscribe to Craig Eley’s Field Noise podcast to hear the original version of this story. 

This episode was edited by Craig Eley and Mack Hagood. Music is by Blue Dot Sessions and Marc Bianchi. The archival interview clips of Carleen Hutchins were provided by filmmaker James Schneider. The interview with Quincy Whitney was recorded by Andrew Parrella at New Hampshire Public Radio.

[ominous music plays]

[CRIS CHEEK]

This…is…Phantom Power.

[MACK HAGOOD]

Episode 14.

[CRIS]

Resident grains.

[a whirring sound plays, then a string being plucked]

[CARLEEN HUTCHINS]

What I’m interested in now is to see what the waves that are traveling through the woods are like. And those are the things that I think are making a lot of difference in the way, energy and the waves of energy can go through the wood itself. And wood is all sorts of sort of discontinuity, if you will, that will make the energy have to slow down or go around something, it’s a little bit like a river flowing. And if you put some rocks on the edge of a river, you’ll change the whole flow of the river downstream. Think that’s what’s happening in violins. There are certain ways that those blockages, the discontinuity can be worked out. And that’s the kind of thing I’m looking for us to see what happens. Because some of the beautiful issues that I’ve been working with and testing show that there’s a good deal of this sort of thing going on.

[CRAIG ELEY]

Well, let’s just back up a little bit. There’s a line of thought, which is that every object vibrates according to its nature.

[A more persistent humming, then fades out]

[MACK]

Welcome to another episode of Phantom Power. I’m Mack Hagood.

[CRIS]

And I’m cris cheek.

[MACK]

Today we have the pleasure to speak with one of our collaborators, Craig Eley. Craig is a producer on Phantom Power. And he’s also the producer of his own podcast, a podcast called Field Noise. Hi, Craig.

[CRAIG]

Hey, guys. Thanks for having me.

[CRIS]

Yeah, thanks for being with us.

[MACK]

Alright, so Craig, we’re doing a little bit of a swap-a-roo this week. We’re going to hear basically an episode of your podcast Field Noise. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your show?

[CRAIG]

Yeah, you know, the idea has always revolved around my own research interests: sound studies, history of technology, environmental history, and just the sort of relationship between sound and technology in the environment. You know, when I finished graduate school, I actually did do a research postdoc for a year, but then I ended up working in public radio. And I’m trying to incorporate some of my own research, but also just do some original reporting and just kind of follow my ears as it were for some stories that I’m that I’m interested in trying to tell.

[MACK]

So today, you’re bringing us an episode of Field Noise that is about an outsider who revolutionized the field that she entered.

[CRAIG]

That’s absolutely right. This is a story about a woman named Carlene Hudgens. She wasn’t exactly self taught as a violin maker, but in some ways, she was an amateur who entered this field. She was a school teacher, she was very intellectually curious. And she drew on this old technique of vibrating plates. These are called Kauladney Patterns from this guy, Ernst Kauladney, and she applied that technique to violin making. This work starts in the 1940s and into the 1950s. And the results, frankly, turn the entire violin world upside down.

[CRIS]

So, let me just say up front, Mack said you can either listen to it in advance or it might be interesting if you don’t, I have no idea what you’ve done. So this is gonna so I’m kind of like you’re very weird listener.

[CRAIG]

Yeah, that’s great. Well, you know what, it’s the more I listened to it, I think it’s like a totally weird piece. So maybe between the three of us, we can try to make some sense.

[violin music plays]

[QUINCY WHITNEY]

She was at a point in her career where she had a chance to take on about five jobs. And this is the way she told it to me, that she could have had, but she realized that she couldn’t stay married in that time, in the late 1920s, 30s. She couldn’t have that domestic life too and do these jobs. So there was a frustration there was a tension always building in her.

[MACK]

So who are we hearing right now Craig?

[CRAIG]

Quincy Whitney. She became Carlin’s biographer and published a biography on Carlene and before that, she was an arts journalist for the Boston Globe. So she’s sort of our guide through this episode.

[QUINCY]

When she’s teaching at the school for the first time, she finds out that her colleagues like chamber music, and they’re all playing stringed instruments. And so they invite her to come to a session one night and she’s a trumpet player from college, right? She studies the trumpet and she brings her trumpet. And after one session, they of course, all turned to her and say, you know, the trumpets too loud for a Manhattan apartment, we really need a viola as every string ensemble always needs a viola. And so she goes out and buys a $75 viola, because she largely wants community, right. She’s tense about the fact that she can’t do what she wants to do. And so playing the viola with this chamber music group, and her friends, that becomes her community.

[string music continues]

Eventually, it sort of sits in her hand, and she’s been carving, which since she was five years old, she was a master woodcarver by the time she was in high school. So she keeps looking at this viola thinking, gee, maybe I can make one.

[CARLEEN]

I’ve been interested in wood and loved it ever since I can remember. I learned a lot about woodcraft, which has given me a feel for the trees and the woods and how they relate. This can be used for the half of the top of a violin. And the piece, the other piece we had is, well, this will be one half of it. Here’s the other half. And this will make the top of a viola when it’s put together. Now they’re a couple of knots in here. And the plan is to try to work around those knots so that they won’t make trouble.

[QUINCY]

And so she made this Viola and she’s showing it around to her chamber music friends, and they’re playing it. And Helen rice says, we really ought to go meet Frederick Saunders. He’s a retired Harvard physicist who lives out in western Massachusetts near my farm, we really ought to go and have him, just look at your instrument. So she does that. She hands him the instrument. Saunders takes it plays it, taps it, looks at it closely, and turns to her and says this is really a great first instrument. I’ll be fascinated to see your next one. And at that point, she had not planned to make another one. And so Saunders hands her a couple copies of his scientific articles that he’s done about violent acoustics, primarily in his retirement as a sort of a passion that he’s following, because he’s an avid string player. So he’s written up some papers. They’ve been published. And now he hands his reprints to Carlene. She’s a biologist, she’s reading these papers written by a physicist, and she’s thinking, you know, I didn’t really understand the jargon at that point. And so she said, but the one thing I do notice, Dr. Saunders, is that most of the experiments you’ve been doing, are putting the weight on the top of a bridge and testing it in a sound chamber. And he said, Well, yes, because I, as a passionate person who loves the instrument, I don’t want to ruin the instrument. And she said, Well, what would you do if if somebody could make you instruments that works expendable that could be used in experiments? And he said, Well, that sounds really rather crazy. Like what Luther would be crazy enough to make instruments that they’re going to be destroyed. And she says, I will.

[violin music stops]

She ends up doing her research by reading about Felix Var. And what he does, with suggesting about play tuning. And so she’s the first person who sort of puts together this idea of doing the cloudy patterns, or its cloud and he had developed this method of seeing sound bite, putting particles on a plate and vibrating and discovering that there were all these amazing geometric patterns at different frequencies.

[a consistent rumbling plays then fades out]

[CRIS]

This is great, Craig. I’m really enjoying just listening. And fascinated by the idea of making instruments to effectively damage or destroy, but in the cause of experimentation.

[CRAIG]

Yeah, I mean, this is sort of the beginning of the sense we get, of really just how radical her approach to this is going to be she I mean, she’s, she’s a woodworker first, right? Right. And so she doesn’t really have a sort of reverence for the violin, as a violin, right? To her this is a wood carving project. And then, when she meets this this guy Saunders, it becomes a science project. And, you know, she went to Cornell, I think, got a little taste of acoustics, but also sort of a taste of the scientific method. And that really, really influenced her approach to violins.

[MACK]

Yeah, she’s an intermediary. She’s got one foot in each of two different worlds. She’s got a foot in the world of music, and she’s got a foot in the world of the scientific method. It actually reminds me of someone that I’ve done research on, which is Amar Bose, the inventor of the noise cancelling headphones and a lot of familiar Bose products. He was an amateur violinist, a passionate amateur violinist, and also an engineer. And it was having a foot in each one of those worlds that allowed him to be such an innovator.

[CRAIG]

Yeah. What’s great about Carlene too is that kind of depending on who you ask, it’s like, she had a foot in both worlds. But more like she actually had like a toe in them. She really was enthusiastic more than anything. I mean, her experiences as a violent builder and a player were very minimal. Her experiences as a scientist were undergraduate. You know, that was her terminal degree. And so, not only is she just very interested in both of these fields, but she’s approaching them with like, almost like none of the hang ups of being a professional in them.

[CRIS]

You know, there’s something interesting here about somebody who is investing in the sound of the material itself, not necessarily how the construction of the material produces other sounds.

[CRAIG]

Yes, a violin plate is very lively to touch it. This guy’s described it to me, it’s almost like you’re holding a little tiny xylophone. Like, you can touch it and all these little places and hear it resonate. And so there is, you know, she didn’t totally invent this notion of oh, let’s let’s think about how the plate sound. I mean, there is a history of violin makers doing this sort of tapping and being interested in its own sound as a sort of, you know, what little secrets can those taps reveal to them?

[CRIS]

Yeah, sure.

[CRAIG]

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, she has a real keen. I feel like this is sort of a sound studies phrase that that is popular right now. But she has a real keen sense of the materiality of sound.

[MACK]

I love that this connects to those fascinating vibrational patterns in sand invented by Kladney. Mr. Kladney?

[CRAIG]

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact, that’s a great segue, because the next section here that we’re about to listen to, goes back in time to tell us a little bit about Kladney. I did a Skype interview with a really great historian of science named Miles Jackson, who has a book about this stuff called Harmonious Triads.

[ethereal music plays]

Can you just take a minute or two for someone who’s a total layperson and describe what he was doing in his experiments?

[MILES JACKSON]

Right, so the experiments that Kladney is interested in and he gets the the idea of doing this by reading the work of a rather famous physicist of the time experimental natural philosopher called (inaudible). And what he did was literally to render the invisible visible, but in this case, electric sparks. So he was interested in looking at kind of the characteristic patterns. So you can see sparks, but you don’t see the patterns that they leave behind. So that if a spark jumps over a non conductive material, and if you sprinkle powder in that area, the non conductive material, if it’s from a positively charged conductor, you’ll see like a really beautiful star tree pattern, and if it’s a negatively charged conductor, the powder will form actually, cloud formation and Klaudney was fascinated by this, and recommend, and it turns out correctly, that, you know, maybe vibrations in the form of sound would leave similar patterns. So what he’s interested in doing is to render these vibrations visible, as well as audible at the same time. So he takes the metallic square plate, puts it on a stand, sprinkles grains of sand on the plate, and then he takes a bow and then he bows the plate perpendicular to one of the edges. And he also places his fingers on various portions of the plate. He takes though he bows with his right hand and touches the plate with his left in order to influence the way in which the plate vibrates.

[plate vibration sounds]

So what he does is he generates these amazing figures, quite aesthetically pleasing figures. But he’s interested, really, in seeing what the actual patterns are, and how that corresponds to pitch, because he’s first and foremost interested in inventing musical instruments, which he does. And his argument is where the where the dust settles, where you have those Klaudney lines, that’s where there are no vibrations, that’s where the plate is at zero, the vibrations of the play cancel each other out. Kaludney’s interest in the bits of a metal plate that’s not vibrating with the view of locating that bit so that you could put a piece of metal or piece of glass or piece of wood, and he wouldn’t change the volume or the pitch of the instrument.

[string music plays again]

[MACK]

Okay, so these cloudy patterns there, these beautiful, sort of geometric shapes that are made in sand when a plate vibrates beneath the sand, right?

[CRAIG]

Yep.

[MACK]

And they’re kind of hard to describe some of them, it looks sort of like a kind of Mandela or a kind of some kind of cryptic symbol. Yeah, they look kind of like that.

[CRAIG]

Yeah, they’re they’re kind of like haunting. I mean, and actually, people talk about this when they were first sort of revealed people there was this, late 1700s. Well, is it a language from beyond the grave, you know, and so it’s like this sound and the dead thing again. But yeah, I mean, what what’s happening there is that as the plate vibrates as they sort of explain, the the sand settles in the areas of the plate that aren’t vibrating.

[MACK]

And this is so fascinating, because we think of the sound wave as the natural representation of sound, the natural visual representation of sound today, right? Like, anytime you look on the internet, you know, whether it’s SoundCloud or if you’re working in an audio editor, we always get this waveform. And if you ask somebody, what is that this thing on the on the screen, they’ll just say, Oh, well, that sound. But that is not the only, you know, visual manifestation of sound. And in fact, Klaudney came first. Soundwave comes from the experiments of another German Hermann von Helmholtz. And he was the one who took a tuning fork, and hooked up the tuning fork to a stylus and put a kind of piece of paper beneath it and move the paper and those vibrations of the tuning fork were sort of traced in this linear left to right manner that we think of as the sound wave today. And so we just think of that as being sound. And yet, I kind of like to imagine a world in which these beautiful Klaudney patterns would be our way of interacting with sound and conceiving of it, it’s radically different.

[CRAIG]

Yeah. And it’s, yeah, I mean, I think that’s the thing is like, then as now, you can’t help but be drawn to them. They feel artful. And they feel kind of organic. They feel true to I think, what we know about sound, which is that it’s this really kind of complex thing that’s just vibrating all around us. Yeah, you like me, just, it just gives you this cool feeling. It tells you something that the waveform doesn’t quite tell you.

[MACK]

All right, somebody make me a Klaudney pattern audio editor. Alright, but let’s get back to Carleen Hutchins, how she applied cloud nice technique.

[CARLENE]

So then she thought, Well, what what happens if we, if we try that on a violin plate. So now she’s looking at this really unusual shape, which is the shape of a violin plate. Already, you got an hourglass shape with a waist and in the top and the bottom, and it’s all curved and serpentine. And then she says, what happens if you put the glitter on the plate and then vibrate it, what happens? So she starts to by focusing on particular modes, particular sound patterns, at a certain frequency, she starts to see patterns that basically help her figure out where the plate is too thick, you know, she’s got 10 plates she’s working on there’s this plates not got that perfect shape with the glitter. So I guess I need to, you know, carve it more in that spot. So she starts to use them, to tune them in the sense that she’s really having a visual aid to see about the arching of the plate, how to make her uniform arching at the plate and make it work. It becomes a visual tool for the Lucier to see what he’s doing.

[violin music plays]

That kind of innovation is what she discovers that the Luthiers hate her, because she’s asking them to bring science into the workshop. You know, and even though music has been assigned since the beginning of time, they have basically done things intuitively with their hands, and they’re not in interested in science.

[CRAIG]

The next section includes interviews with two really renowned violin makers. One of them is Joseph Curtain, and the other is a guy named Sam Zygmuntowicz

[JOSEPH CURTAIN]

Initially, I was pretty skeptical about science, you know, sort of butting into violin making. But when I met Carlene, I was very impressed by her energy and enthusiasm. And I think I heard her give a talk at a conference. And  that was what led to me inviting her to give this this workshop. What play tuning was intended to solve, I think, from her point of view was given a vast variety of wood that you find, as violin would, how do you how do you optimize it for a given instrument, and, you know, there’s a notion that you can tune it to some ideal frequency, and that should do the trick. Typically, violin makers, you know, feel the stiffness of the wood, they bend in various ways and use normal workshop practice to arrive at graduations, there’s no evidence that the old Italians or anyone else really had done plate tuning or not nonscientists anyway. But she was proposing a practical system for use in the workshop. And as such, it was very appealing.

[SAM ZYGMUNTOWICZ]

There was a famous cover of Scientific American in the 80s, which showed a number of photographs of violin tops and backs with the the vibration patterns revealed through there was little bits of glitter or tea leaves. And the violins had been vibrated in the the tea leaves bounced off the areas where it was vibrating and settled in the areas where it wasn’t vibrating. And Carlene had done demonstrations of that on a few different frequencies. And there was this very striking cover. And I think that that was the first time that many people had that view of the instrument. And it was like, Whoa, this is more like, you know, it’s Mr. science project. It’s not a renaissance artist project. So the fact that you could see these vibration patterns, and you could tune them meant that that’s what people were focusing on.

[violin music and tapping]

[JOSEPH]

The thing is, she left out how heavy the plates were. And if you don’t know how dense the wood is, then tuning the plates to get some ideal frequency, it can lead to counter intuitive results. She also had got caught up with this notion of tuning and octaves, which is sort of a seductive notion that  the proportion of an octave, you know, goes back to the sort of the music of the spears type of thinking, but there is really no scientific basis in that. So I think she got a little off, a little astray with that. She claimed to have measured up the plates of a violin and found that it was in octaves, at least two octaves. And I don’t doubt that that exists, that it happens, they tend to arrive naturally with normal graduations in the area of an octave. But there’s two problems. One is if it isn’t octaves that make any difference to the final sound. And the second, why would it? I mean, you know, look, you’ve got to actually establish a causal connection before you try and convince violin makers to use it. But she kind of skip that step. As far as I can tell.

[violin music continues]

[SAM]

You know, as soon as people could see the pattern on the top and back with the tea leaves, they thought, Okay, well, you know, look at a few good violins, and we think the top should be tuned to 360. And then should be half of that for mode two, and then mode one should be half of that again. And if all three are lined up, that was an idea, try tone tuning, which meant there was all in octaves. And people really worked to get that and you can get it. Turns out that the good violins in general are not tunes and try tones, but it was a very satisfying idea. So a lot of people spent a lot of time doing tri tone tuning. And I’m sure a lot of them got very nice results too. However, if you do a broad study of old violins is not what you see. In fact, there’s the tuning of the top and the back, it’s just one of 100 factors, and not necessarily the most important one. You know, the project that I was involved with, strat 3d, was the first attempt to capture the vibration patterns of strategy and coronaries in 3d. So you could see how much it was moving forward and backwards side to side. And then to create animations that you could see for any given note or any given frequency, you could see in what way the violin was vibrating. And one of the things about the violin, which is when you actually see all these patterns, which is totally unexpected, it is the violin is not vibrating in one way, it is vibrating in 100 different ways, all simultaneously or many of them simultaneously. So it’s like a horse galloping, and on the horse is the saddle. And on the saddle is a person and on the person is a fly, and they’re all doing things at the same time. And we’re all moving and the Earth is spinning, and it’s all moving through the universe. It’s almost that level of complexity for violent, everything’s happening at the same time. So it’s quite difficult to tease out single motions. But you know, the implication is clear that the very tantalizing promise for a maker is that if you could see the structure, then you’d have a shot at changing the structure. And if you could change the structure, you could change the sound. So that was a real switch, that the romance of the violin is sort of built around the idea that there’s this object, it’s been designed by man, but almost with divine intervention. And it works in ways that we don’t understand and we can’t even do it nowadays, sort of the mythology involved some lost knowledge. And then it is a very romantic vision and one that I enjoy as well. However, if you are a composer, you don’t want to hear that Beethoven’s the only guy that can compose. And if your violin maker, you don’t want to hear that Stradivarius the only guy who can make violins. To move from that to a vision of the violin is a thing, an object made out of real materials very much like they had back in the old days, behaving in the same way and obeying the same physical laws. It’s very empowering. I think the ability to use the scientific findings is still a work in progress. But just the knowledge that it is a potentially knowable phenomena was a huge one.

[soft violin music plays]

[JOSEPH]

There’s this notion wildly popular around the world that science somehow is not up to discovering the mystery of Stradivari. There’s sort of an archetypal announcer saying, you know, for centuries, scientists have struggled in vain to discover the secrets of Stradivari. Really? In vain? Why in vain? Have you read the papers is actually fantastic work done, what was never done and could have been done is to do blind tests and see if there really was a difference between Stradivarius and any other instruments sound. So before you want to invent a theory about why a certain phenomena is the case, you want to make sure that it exists and no one really bothered to do that until the last few years when we started doing double blind tests. We got first in Indianapolis and in Paris, we got in Paris, we had 10 violin soloists and six old Italian violins, five of them strands and six new instruments and had the soloist blind test them. And it turned out that the soloist, the most preferred violin easily was a new violent, the least preferred was a Strad. And we did the same thing with audience, audiences found the new one projected better. And the subsequent test from New York showed that they also preferred new, they preferred what projected better. So there was absolutely no evidence that the strands had any qualities that even first rate players could detect. None of them could tell the difference between new and old that better than chance. So it was a big, kind of a big anticlimax, and we got a lot of publicity, and there’s probably people who still don’t believe it. But that’s it’s pretty hard science. I didn’t know. But what else can we learn? That’s a very iconic plastic finding. Either violin making has got a lot better in recent decades, and or there was never such a big differences to the public imagination as supposed. I think there’s been a big advance because a there’s a market, there’s a you know, huge number of violinists, and very few old violins left and not any of those are very good. So as soon as you have a market, then you can actually earn a living making a violin now, you couldn’t really, in past decades. You had to do repairs and restoration. So there’s that then there’s the crucial thing, which I think Carlene Hutchins helped with, which was sharing of information. The traditional European guild system held things very private. So as soon as you get sharing, and a bunch of people doing things, things are going to get better. I mean, violin makers, professional violin makers will look at her and say, Wow, she’s really a scientist. And I think some scientists would look at and say, Well, she’s really a violin maker. But I think everyone, certainly the scientists I’ve talked to who know, would absolutely creditor with in a major way with you know, getting the field going in America at the time.

[music fades out]

[CRIS]

So there goes the antique file in market.

[CRAIG]

Exactly.

[MACK]

Or does it, because this is the thing, it was all about the mystique apparently.

[CRIS]

Right, the object, it has value regardless of how it sounds.

[CRAIG]

I think that’s the question that these new makers are asking is, do these violins actually sound better? Or is it just the mythology of them that has become so deeply ingrained in violin playing culture and in violin making culture.

[MACK]

And styles and tastes change, and a certain kind of sonic palette is going to be preferred in one moment, compared to the next. I mean, there could even be the influence that recording technology, digital recording, technology feels a lot more high frequencies that people have gotten used to hearing. And people might start to want a violin that can repeat reproduce those frequencies, more or less.

[CRAIG]

There’s this other interesting question that people raise, and like, the obvious way is like, what is a new instrument today going to sound like in 300 years?

[CRIS]

Right.

[MACK]

One of the things that I really liked was talking about this cloud knee technique. And because it revealed a certain propensity of the instrument, or a certain dimension of the instrument. People really zeroed in on that and thought that that was the key to making an instrument sound good. And then what one of your experts shares with us is like, well, no, that’s just one of 100 things that the instrument is doing in any moment.

[CRAIG]

Totally, you know, you can kind of read between the lines when when these Lucier say things like, well, that idea was appealing, or that idea was seductive. And what they’re sort of getting at here and in some cases, say explicitly is what that idea was, is for a lot of people, it felt like a shortcut. And so for people who are invested for example, in what Joe Curtain calls normal workshop practice at one point, that’s also a little bit of a code there, right as saying, like, well, you know, those of us who have studied this and have apprenticed and sort of come up and the traditional way, you know, we weren’t as willing to take the shortcut. Or we were skeptical about it from the beginning.

[MACK]

Yeah, because on the one hand, you have people saying that, look, science will cut through the mystique, and reveal the true essence of what’s going on with an instrument. And yet, science has its own mystique, right? We have a way of grabbing onto something, precisely because the aura of science is around it.

[CRIS]

Right.

[MACK]

And I’m not belittling the scientific method, I think it’s amazing. But whatever we zero in on where that means that we’re leaving something else in the periphery of our vision,

[CRAIG]

I think, yeah, that’s exactly right.

[violin music starts again]

I mean, I think this was a moment where the old myth of the Strad, right, like, well, it’s unlocked, you know, it’s solved now. And we have science. And that idea took a little bit of hold in the 1980s. But I think what Joe Curtain and Sam Zygmuntowicz are kind of telling us is that the science, the science moved on. And that is actually the important part of Carleen’s work. It’s not that the science was perfect, but it’s that she published her work, it’s that she published her findings, she did experiments, she got violin makers in a room, talking to each other. And so whether or not the science was right, is actually not the important part of her contribution to violin making. And I think that the fact that you and I can have this conversation and that Luther years are willing to talk to me publicly about their craft. That’s a radically new concept from the guild method, right? I mean, these guys would study in their workshops for untold years on end and guard their work, the seat like the secret that it was. And so the fact that we’re now running double blind tests on violinists and audiences, that’s Carleen’s work. It’s not the plate tuning.

[violin music continues then ends]

[MACK]

So Craig, we’re coming to the conclusion of our story here, but we really haven’t addressed the theme that’s sort of been lurking in the background this entire time, which is, Hutchins was a woman, a school teacher, back in the 1950s and 60s, when she revolutionizes violin making in America. I mean, gender must come into play here, right?

[CRAIG]

I mean, it’s critical to the story, it’s fundamental to how this whole thing unfolded, how her ideas developed, because it’s not just that she was an outsider, as a violin maker or an outsider, as a scientist. She was also outside both of those fields on a sort of deeper, more fundamental level as a woman. You know, there’s this notion that the violin makers don’t want science kind of butting into their workshop practices. But I think that underlying all of that is this often unspoken thing, which is like, well, who is this woman? And why does she think she can tell us what to do?

[MACK]

Yeah.

[CRAIG]

You know, the other important role of gender and Carlin’s life is that she makes this decision early on to be a school teacher, as opposed to being more of a career woman. She makes her violins in the context of basically staying at home for large portions of her life. She has the summers off as a teacher, she raises several kids at home. And her home is also where her workshop is they’re one in the same thing. So her practice from the very beginning is a practice that is sort of prescribed by her gender roles in the 1950s and 1960s. And so, her embrace of this sort of open violin culture, from the very beginning is I also think about a woman seeking out community in a professional and intellectual space, where she doesn’t often get to experience that in her everyday life.

[violin music starts again]

[QUINCY]

Her legacy is nothing short of overturning the violin world in several different ways. I think if Carleen had been a man, she would have been coronated for field. Carleen open the door and started a dialogue. Suddenly, there was not the secrecy of centuries, and people guarding their work. Well, I don’t know if a man had come along with he have had the same inclusive paradigm, I don’t know. And whether it was gender only, her paradigm was to be open, and to share. And I have to say that there wasn’t that paradigm before. She would want the science to move on. She was open to the dialogue. You know, she did it. She did everything she wore every hat you could possibly wear in her field. You know, author, catalyst, editor, she did it all, and transformed the whole climate.

[upbeat, hip hop violin music plays]

[CRIS]

And that’s it for this episode, and this season of Phantom Power. A quick programming note then, after doing two seven episode seasons, we’re going to switch to dropping episodes as soon as they’re done. Look for the first one in your feed this summer. Thanks to Craig Eley for being on the show. You can hear the original version of Craig’s piece by subscribing to the Field Noise podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And you can learn more at fieldnoise.com. As always, you can learn more about Phantom Power and find transcripts and links to the things we talked about, including those beautiful plagne patterns. It’s all at Phantompod.org. You can also subscribe to our show there or wherever you get your podcasts. And please, we’d love it if you’d rate and review us in Apple Podcasts. That does make a big difference. Find us on Facebook and Twitter. Today’s show was edited by Craig Eley and Mack Hagood. Music was by Blue Dots Sessions, except for the piece you’re hearing now which is courtesy of Mark Bianchi. The archival interview clips of Carleen Hutchins were provided by filmmaker James Schneider. The Interview with Quincy Whitney was recorded by Andrew Perella at New Hampshire Public

Radio. Thanks to our season two intern Gina Moravec. Phantom Power is produced with support from the Robert H and Nancy J. Blaney endowment, the Miami University Humanities Center, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

[violin music fades out]

[MACK]

Being a Luthier of violins.

[CRIS]

Derived from the word loot, originally a loot maker.

[MACK]

Oh, really? That’s where the word comes from?

[CRIS]

That’s right.

[MACK]

Wow, that’s that’s so Renaissance Festival.

[CRIS]

Oh, yeah. I got my little furry tale already.

[MACK]

That is another whole topic like how did cosplay become something that you see at the Renaissance Festival? I totally don’t get it.

[CRAIG]

Season Three phantom power.

[MACK]

I’d even seen Furies at the Renaissance Faire. I mean, people are jousting. And there’s like a giant mascot sitting next to me.

[CRIS]

We’re not going there.

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