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'As a work of art it is unique'

Swedish artist Lars Widenfalk has sculpted a black stone violin that creates sweet music.

  • By Jyoti Kalsi, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 February 1, 2005
  • Tabloid

Swedish artist Lars Widenfalk has sculpted a black stone violin that creates sweet music

It is the only one of its kind in the world - a violin sculpted from polished black stone. Modelled on a Stradivarius, it was created by Swedish sculptor Lars Widenfalk. But it is much more than a beautiful sculpture - it is a violin that can be played.

The Swedish royal couple especially visited Widenfalk’s studio to hear it and well-known Scandinavian musicians have performed on this violin at prestigious concerts.

Named after one of the sweetest songbirds in the world, the Blackbird is a rare musical instrument with a deep soulful sound. And it is now available for sale in Dubai.

“As a work of art it is unique. But to me it means much more, because it has been carved from my grandfather’s tombstone. It is a priceless piece and I will sell it only if I get an offer I cannot refuse, from someone who appreciates its true artistic value,” says Widenfalk.

“Stradivari made many violins and each is priced at millions of dollars, whereas there is only one Blackbird,” he adds.

The sculptor is in Dubai to participate in the EMAAR Art Symposium and has brought the Blackbird in the hope it will be played at the symposium’s opening ceremony.

Surprisingly, Widenfalk does not know how to play the violin or any other musical instrument. Yet, he was able to create this replica of a Stradivarius, just by following the legendary violin maker’s drawings.

As a sculptor, Widenfalk often works with diabase, a dense crystalline rock derived from magma, which solidified 1.6 billion years ago.

His creations are allegorical, depicting man’s brief passage on Earth through sculptures of houses without walls, often occupied by figures inspired by ancient Egyptian statues.

The idea of constructing a musical instrument from diabase came to him while he was working on a sculpture for a building in Oslo. As he worked on the rock with hammer and chisel, it gave off a strikingly beautiful sound.

Sound of earth

“It was the sound of Mother Earth and I wondered if it could be captured in an instrument carved from the stone that had emerged from deep inside the Earth,” reminisces Widenfalk.

“Just a few months ago I had acquired the headstone from my grandfather’s grave, which had been removed after the construction of a bigger family grave.

"The stone was of exquisite quality and blackness and I realised that the size was perfect for turning it into the first and only playable stone violin the world had ever seen or heard,” he adds.

Widenfalk immediately set to work, creating the violin section by section. He spent two years working on this project and devised various technical solutions to translate Stradivari’s wood-based designs to diabase stone down to details such as the 2.3mm thickness of the belly plate.

“What drove me on was the desire to discover the limits to which this stone can be pushed as an artistic material,” he says.

The material from the headstone was not enough to make the back plate, so he went to the mountains to cut out a block of Harjedalan rock, which resembles diabase. He finished the interior surface with real gold leaf to get the finest possible tone.

To get the true music of the Earth, in addition to the mineral world, he also wanted to use material from the animal and plant kingdoms. So he used black ebony for the finger board, pegs, tailpiece and chin-rest. The inspiration for the animal material came from the name of the violin.

“I had heard that Stradivari often named his creations after birds, so I decided to name my gleaming black violin after the melodious blackbird.

"And since the blackbird’s bill is yellow, it seemed perfect to make the bridge from the yellowiest ivory that could be found, which is mammoth ivory,” explains Widenfalk.

It took many months for the sculptor to establish contact with a Russian artist, who helped him to source the ivory from Siberia, deep in the permafrost.

First notes

“It was a wonderful moment when I fitted the bridge and tightened the strings and I was shaking with excitement when the first notes rang out and my black stone violin trembled to life,” remembers Widenfalk.

Swedish composer Sven David Sandstorm was the first to perform on this violin. He composed music especially for the instrument and the first performance was at the Swedish pavilion at the World Expo 1992 in Seville, Spain.

Since then the violin has been exhibited and played in Washington and other European cities.

“At two kilos it is heavier than wooden violins, but it gives you the feel that you are carrying Mother Earth.

"I hope it will be played in Dubai at the opening of the symposium; and I will be happy if it is bought by a collector here because this beautiful new city is the perfect place for a unique work of art like the Blackbird,” says the sculptor.

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