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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... musical instruments.


CURWOOD: This year marks the 360th anniversary of the death of the most renowned violin maker in history. By the time he died in Crimona, Italy, in 1737, Antonio Stradivari had made about 500 stringed instruments including violins, violas, cellos, and a few guitars. A Stradivarius is a cherished instrument these days, but if Stradivari were alive today, he might be hard pressed to practice his craft. Many of the tropical hardwoods, such as ebony and rosewood required to make the finest violins, are in short supply. While today's violin bodies are made from spruce, maple, and fir, the fingerboards, tail pieces, nuts, and pegs, come from those scarce and in some cases endangered tropical hardwoods. By the way, the finest strings are still made from catgut, which has nothing to do with cats. It actually comes from the nerves that encircle the surface of sheep intestines. Of course, horsehair is still used for bows.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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