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American Luthier
Carleen Hutchins—the Art and Science of the Violin
Quincy Whitney

2016 • 312 pp. 16 illus. 6 x 9"
Biography - Musicians & Composers / String Instruments / Women's Biography

$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-592-3

$34.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-927-3

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Whitney’s biography . . . is engaging and contains many fascinating details.”—The Strad

The female pioneer who revolutionized violin acoustics and built the first violin octet

From the time of Stradivari, the mysterious craft of violinmaking has been a closely guarded, lucrative, and entirely masculine preserve. In the 1950s Carleen Maley Hutchins was a grade school science teacher, amateur trumpet player, and New Jersey housewife. When musical friends asked her to trade a trumpet for a $75 viola, she decided to try making one, thus setting in motion a surprising career. A self-taught genius who went head to head with a closed and ancient guild, Hutchins carved nearly 500 stringed instruments over the course of half a century and collaborated on more than 100 experiments in violin acoustics. In answer to a challenge from a composer, she built the first violin octet—a family of eight violins ranging in size from an eleven-inch treble to a seven-foot contrabass, and in register across the gamut of the piano keyboard. She wrote more than 100 technical papers—including two benchmark Scientific American cover articles—founded an international society devoted to violin acoustics, and became the only American and the only woman to be honored in Cremona, Italy, the birthplace of Stradivari.

Hutchins died in 2009 at the age of ninety-eight. The most innovative violinmaker of the modern age, she set out to explore two worlds she knew virtually nothing about—violins and acoustical physics. American Luthier chronicles the life of this unsung woman who altered everything in a world that had changed little in three centuries.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Whitney’s work is an excellent opening salvo into Hutchins research, laying solid groundwork for future work. The lay reader will thoroughly enjoy the colorful characters, the interlacing storylines, and the amazing serendipity that so often seemed to come to Hutchins—and that she grabbed with both hands. Scholars and luthiers will be fascinated with the tale of a lifetime’s achievements in violin acoustics.” —Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society

"[This] biography of Carleen Hutchins . . . should be of interest to anyone involved in violins and violinmaking and in the interface between science and music. . . Probably no other modern figure has left as significant an influence as Carleen Hutchins on successive violinmakers and on the ways that the violin is understood."—Fiddler Magazine

“An engaging, entertaining, accurate, and informative work, especially to those with an interest in music and acoustics. Having researched extensively Carleen’s life, Quincy Whitney has done a phenomenal job.”
Acoustical Society of America Journal

“Far more than any other person, Carleen Hutchins ignited in me a lifelong curiosity and reverence for the art and science of violinmaking. She opened my ears to the inner voice of an instrument, and opened my eyes to the endless and wondrous landscape of the inspired luthier. Moreover, she proved beyond a doubt that an American woman could stand shoulder to shoulder with the legends of her field.”—David Finckel

“As a music educator since age fifteen, and having had the pleasure of playing on the viola of the Apgar quartet (which Virginia Apgar built under Carleen’s instruction) in 1994, I am delighted to read this insightful book about the pioneer luthier Carleen Hutchins, which I highly recommend to music lovers!”—Yeou-Cheng Ma, Children’s Orchestra Society

“In the face of intransigently traditional classical musicians, instrument sellers, and critics, Hutchins, a biologist and skilled woodworker, married music with acoustics to make a new family of stringed instruments. The conductor Leopold Stokowski celebrated her ‘monster’ viola, and Yo-Yo Ma won a Grammy performing on her vertical viola. A book for music lovers, scientists, historians, and fans of strong-minded, highly skilled women.”—Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, author of Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles, and Momentous Discoveries

“Whitney skillfully combines a forthright narrative of Hutchins’s personal life with the complex scientific challenges she undertook, while keeping us mindful of the greater history of the violin as the creation of Renaissance craftsmen and vehicle for the artistic genius of performers.”—Sally B. Brown, co-chair of the Visiting Committee of the Department of Musical Instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“An underappreciated American genius, Carleen Hutchins broke gender barriers in two fields simultaneously, challenged the status quo, and was vilified for it. By holding up the light of reason to string instrument acoustics, she brought violinmaking into the twentieth century and succeeded in creating the first truly matched violin family in history: the violin octet—a crowning achievement in the field of lutherie.”Joe McNalley, The Hutchins Consort


Long-Listed for the The PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography (2017)

Author Photo

QUINCY WHITNEY, primary arts writer for the Boston Sunday Globe NH Weekly for fourteen years, was a Eugene O’Neill Critic Fellow; Salzburg Seminar Fellow; Metropolitan Museum of Art Research Fellow; and Hosking Houses Trust (UK) Fellow covering the 2013 Ashmolean Museum “Stradivarius” exhibition. She is the author of Hidden History of New Hampshire and lives in New Hampshire.

Click here for author's website.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:01 -0500