Culture Magazine

The Spider and the Fiddle

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
Are spider-strand violin strings the future of chamber music?

The Spider and the Fiddle

A golden orb-weaver spider in its web.

There's a fascinating article on the BBC News site today: a Japanese researcher has figured out how to make spider silk into violin strings.

The Spider and the Fiddle

Spider-man: Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki
 in a hammock suspended
from rope made from spider-webbing.
Photo © 2011 Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki.
First published in The Japan Times.

The strings, made from silk spun by the golden orb-weaver spider) have a high tensile strength. When bowed, they produce a softer tone than conventional strings, which are made from steel or cat-gut. The BBC article has an example of a violin played with the new spider-strings.
The scientist, Doctor Shigeyoshi Osaki of the Nara Medical University developed a method to produce large quantities of "drag-line silk" from 200 captured spiders. Each string required 3,000-5,000 strands to form a bundle. Three bundles, twisted together make up a string.
By the way, cat-gut is not made from cats--but from the stretched fibers of sheep or cow intestines. The term may be a corruption of cattle-gut, although the sawings of amateur players may suggest a small feline being tortured.
Watch Yehudi Menhuhin play the Prelude to Bach's Third Partita for Solo Violin.

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