Saturday, April 26, 2014


Today, more or less I suppose and why not, I'm celebrating the hundredth birthday of my violin, pictured above. Back when I acquired it on this day in 2007, Mighty Reader gave the instrument the nickname "Czech Hussy" because not only was it built (sometime in 1914) by a Czech luthier, this violin also alienated my affections from the serviceable Chinese violin I owned at the time. The Czech Hussy is a fine violin, not a world-class concert-quality instrument maybe, but certainly a pretty good fiddle. With the exception of the house, it's the most expensive object I own. I don't know if the man who carved all those bits of wood, glued them all together and varnished them in the shape of a violin had any idea his handiwork would still be in use a century later. I am happy that it is.

Violin shop, Saska Street, Prague, October 2013. Photo by Mighty Reader

I have a fondness for handmade objects that are both useful and beautiful. Mighty Reader can tell you about my obsession with small boxes; I have rarely met a small, handmade box that I did not covet. A small handmade box that also makes music is a pretty impressive thing. About twenty-three years ago I had the chance to buy a 3-octave clavichord from a guy on the street on Capitol Hill here in Seattle. He wanted about a hundred bucks for it but unfortunately I did not buy the thing. It had a nice tone, strung with brass. The guy had built it himself and really needed money. I remember the keys were mahogany and ebony, very lovely. The case was unfinished and made of maple, I think. I hope someone owns that clavichord, and plays it regularly.

Me and Josef Haydn's fortepiano, Vienna, October 2013. Photo by Mighty Reader


  1. Happy birthday, violin! As it happens my daughters had their recital yesterday; they've been playing violin for about 18 months. Their teacher is Czech. He'd probably be thrilled to see your violin! (Ours are Chinese student violins--nothing special at all but good for what they are. The previous owner is a teenage boy now playing a Good Violin. He was the final number at the recital.)

  2. I once had a romantic, whiskey-filled weekend with a Czech hussy in Bowling Green, Ohio, when she went cougar on me in 1972, but that is a completely different story more suitable for Hustler magazine than here. In any case, I enjoyed your lovely posting.

  3. Oh, that hurts my heart that you didn't by the clavichord! But I'm glad you own that violin. My father plays the violin, viola, and mandolin. I remember, as a child, going with him to pick up a new violin from an independent seller at his house, and my father talking about how expensive it was, and important. I really should find out what kind of violin he bought that day. He still owns it. I took lessons from my dad when I was younger, but gave it up. I then picked up the clarinet in junior high and played it through my second year of college. I haven't played that instrument for so long now. *wince* Thirteen years. I wish I'd stuck with the violin, honestly.