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Meet the Maker: Douglas Martin

Meet the Maker: Douglas Martin

by Barbara Goldowsky

previously published in American Lutherie #90, 2007

The violin is about the only man-made device that is made today exactly as it has been for the past 300 years. Now, finally, a revolution may be under way, according to Joseph Curtin of Ann Arbor, Michigan, the craftsman who just recently was awarded the first MacArthur Fellowship ever granted to a violin maker.

The cause of his startling statement is a balsa-wood violin that produces the powerful sound and excellent response everyone in the profession strives for. The unusual instrument’s creator is Douglas Martin, an amateur maker from Maine, who first introduced it to colleagues in July 2004. Since then, Mr. Martin’s work has sparked such enthusiasm that a special “Festival of Innovation” has been added to the Violin Society of America’s upcoming convention, from November 10–13, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

The new program’s goal is “to explore the future evolution of the violin — to inspire makers to follow their creative dreams wherever they may lead,” according to Fan Tao, a research scientist and a director of the VSA. In the society’s most recent newsletter, Mr. Curtin, also a director, claims that the traditional violin is “obsolete,” and urges members to “judge for yourself — join in the arguments, hoot or applaud — but don’t let the revolution start without you!”

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