A few steps away from the Cremona Violin Museum, in the Lucchi store in via Monteverdi 18, we meet Marta, the daughter of the great bow-maker Giovanni. He has in his hands the autobiography his father wrote shortly before dying “Nell’arco di una vita”. Together we look at the photos of the book and the memories emerge, full of affection and admiration for a father who certainly left a deep mark in the life of Marta.
My father was curious. He has observed everything around him. He identified the problems, sought solutions with tenacity. He spent a lot of time taking apart, reassembling, making hypotheses, verifying them, making mistakes and learning from his mistakes. In our bathtub at home, he tested the effect made by various substances on the elasticity and resistance of the horsehair. And once he tried to put a bow in the microwave oven … He never stopped. He shared his discoveries with others and asked, he always asked everyone, because he was convinced that from everyone he could learn something new.
But had he done some scientific studies?
No. He had studied music. He graduated in double bass and then started playing. His first profession was that of the musician. In Sweden and then in Bologna, in the theater. He liked to play, but the passion for mechanics, which as a child led him to disassemble everything, accompanied him to in the theater. He played until the day when, almost by accident, after using a bow for years, for the first time he asked himself: how do I change the horsehair of my bow? He asked his friends musicians. Then he tried to change the hairs of his bow by himself and he understood how to do it. He also understood that he liked it and that he was able to do it well. Little by little, in an era in which the profession of bow-maker in Italy was not widespread, he found himself changing horse-hairs to all the bows of his orchestra. Then he asked how to build a bow and … he continued his life by asking questions and chasing the answers.
Often the right question, at the right time of life, opens the door to a series of questions that lead far … And so, of question in demand, became a bow-maker and then a teacher in the first course for bow-makers in Italy. But how did he come to think of the Lucchi Meter?
For a long time he tried to understand what were the characteristics that made a simple piece of wood suitable or unsuitable to become a bow. He was looking for an objective system to “measure” the quality of wood. He had done a lot of tests, for example, by loading weights on the wooden boards to evaluate their resistance, but then realized that it was not dependent on the weight resistance that a piece of wood was suitable for becoming a bow. Then, one evening, watching a documentary on television, he had the right intuition. The documentary illustrated the techniques used to measure the depth of the sea floor. My father understood that, with a similar system, one could measure the transmission speed of sound in the wood. It was not easy to switch from intuition to construction of equipment suitable for the purpose: he had to consult many experts and make many attempts before getting what he wanted, but in the end, in 1983, he succeeded and his discovery revolutionized the world of the bows construction.
On a table, in a leather bag, the Lucchi Meter prototype shows off. Marta caresses him with her eyes.
The Lucchi Meter now allows anyone to assess whether or not a wood is suitable for the construction of a bow and the Lucchi values are now accepted everywhere to determine the price of wood for bows. But the most important thing is that the bow-makers do not lose more hours and hours of work by filing a wood that will eventually give life to a bad bow. If the wood is good, and you know it before starting to work it, only the skill of the bow-maker will determine the good result.
At the door faces a customer who wants to buy some horse-hairs. Greeting Marta and I go out thinking that I have to go back to let her explain me how to choose a good bow and how to keep it in shape. See you soon, Marta.