‘A truce with the trees’: Rebecca Solnit on the wonders of a 300-year old violin
Made with all-renewable materials, this violin from 1721 reflects a time of magnificent culture – a global gathering from before the climate crisis
Rebecca Solnit. — Thu 7 Jul 2022
For the last 50 years, David Harrington, the founder and artistic director of San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet, has been playing what he calls “pretty athletic music” on a violin made in 1721. I’ve heard him play all kinds of compositions on it, from the galloping notes of Orange Blossom Special to the minimalism of Terry Riley and even the occasional bit of Bach. The instrument made by Carlo Giuseppe Testore in Milan has survived three centuries, providing music for countless audiences, and can be heard on more than 60 Kronos albums.
When I first learned the age of the instrument I was filled with wonder that a delicate piece of craftsmanship could endure for centuries, that something so small and light could do so much, that an instrument made in the 18th century could have so much to say in the 21st. It felt like a messenger from the past and an emblem of the possible, a relic and a promise.
This violin is from before. Before James Watt made the steam engine a voracious, ubiquitous device devouring coal and wood and then oil, driving mills, looms, pumps, then locomotive and steamboat engines. Before we began gouging out the Earth so frantically to feed those steam engines and then those internal combustion engines. Before we dug out so much of the carbon that plants had so beautifully sequestered deep in the Earth eons ago. Before human impact exploded into a destructive force with the power to change the acidity of the oceans and the content of the atmosphere. Continue reading Big Tip for Long Life: Fiddle Around, Folks