Over the last six months or so, I have been following very closely
Mimmo Peruffo's research on gut strings, and in particular everything
related to his new-old loaded strings. I have always been interested
in research methods and reconstruction, and Mimmo's method of writing
up his research on his web pages in the form of articles that he
constantly upgrades, makes it possible to have an insight into how he
works and how his research is progressing. A few months ago, a number
of photos of unrestored lutes appeared on this page,
and I hope to use them in a message that I have already almost
completely written concerning RH positions in Baroque lute playing,
which could complement from a slightly different, and obviously less
infrormed, point of view, the very interesting remarks of Anthony
Bailes on this issue in the latest lute news.
Most recently, I noticed that Mimmo's loaded strings, on this page,
seemed to have changed colour from a dark brown to a dark red.
I asked Mimmo about this, and he told me that he had continued
refining the loading recipe for the thinner strings, and this slight
change in colour, that also evokes Mace's reference to red Pistoys,
was part of that process.
When, in a recent message, I announced this change to the list, I
received a few off-list messages from lutists who had put in early
orders for the new loaded strings, and who were beginning to feel
rather impatient waiting for news of their strings.
As I was also hoping for these strings on my new lute and wondering
whether they would arrive on time, I told Mimmo about this, and he
replied that since he had announced the new loaded strings, he had
just not been able to give over enough of his time to make them
readily available. He knows that a number of lutists are waiting
impatiently, and he understands how they may feel. This is partly due
to the fact that it has taken more time to improve the loading
process for the smaller lute strings (and that is why he sent out a
few large diameter test strings, mainly 11c-C diapasons for D-minor
lutes, just before Christmas). Since then he has managed to improve
the thinner strings (6c and 7c on a D minor lute), which should solve
the crucial problem of stopping down on 6c to 8c, but he is also
waiting for a special gut that can give even thinner strands, as this
will give an even truer small diapason.
I know from his answers to my questions, around the new Year, that
Mimmo was working on the loaded strings all through the break from
Christmas to the new year, when he made most of the progress on the
small strings. Unfortunately, since then, in the last few months, he
has had to carry out urgent research on certain instruments that
became briefly available for his examination, and also Ukulele
players chose to make Vicenza the centre of their Ukulele festival,
because of the presence of Aquila strings there. Obviously, this has
given him much extra work, on top of his usual responsibilities, that
all take him away from the loaded strings. In fact he tells me he is
quite alone on this work that he has to do entirely by hand in any
spare time that he can find. If the production of synthetics can be
semi-industrialized, the production of loaded strings is completely
In order to save him more time, and because the message should be in
English, I offered to give the gist of his words to the list.
I would like to add, that from discussions with Mimmo over a number
of months, I understand that he has been researching the loading
process for some twenty or so years, never giving up in spite of some
failures and half successes resulting in the 1990 version of the
loaded strings that had some problems of uneven loading. He estimates
that he made around 1,500 experiments, read some hundreds of
manuscripts and old books with the hope of finding the best recipe.
In fact many people predicted that the search was as hopeless as that
of the holy grail (several people told me that the problem was
inherent to the loading process, itself, and thus unsolvable).
Fortunately, Mimmo is very single minded, and perhaps more
importantly, both a string maker, a chemical engineer and perhaps,
ever so slightly an alchemist. Through the tone of his messages, it
is easy to tell how happy he is that one of his life's goals has
almost been achieved. He tries to find some time each day just to
enjoy those strings on his lute. Although, he has obviously had to
develop a stubborn patience to keep working on them against the odds,
so that from his perspective of thirty years research a delay of a
few months, does not seem very much time to wait, nevertheless he
does regret that it will take him some time to be able to respond to
orders for these strings, so that more lutists will be able to enjoy
them, as he can at present.
I suppose the recent improvements may make-up for the wait, as
Benjamin Narvey, Lynda Sayce, and Michael Lowe have already had very
positive things to say about both the loaded and the demi-filé
strings, when they were able to try them out in Greenwich. The most
important thing perhaps being that these loaded strings work in tune
with their paired octaves when stopped down, which is not such an
easy thing to acheive.
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