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HPSCHD-L  April 2001

HPSCHD-L April 2001

Subject:

Re: creep and stuff or metallurgical masturbation

From:

Stephen Birkett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Harpsichords and Related Topics <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 16 Apr 2001 23:56:46 EDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (108 lines)

Nick, what are we going to do with you:
>
> This stuff has NOTHING to do with historical harpsichords.
>
Well, Nick, I'm glad we've discovered that. You will certainly want to
send a strong letter of protest to Pendragon Press (P.O. Box 190,
Hillsdale, NY 12529), the publisher of Martha Goodway and Scott Odell's
book "The Metallurgy of 17th and 18th Century Music Wire", for having made
such an inexcusable error and placing it as #2 in their series "The
Historical Harpsichord".  Or you might prefer to call them at (518)
325-6100, or send them a forceful email ([log in to unmask]) and request
that they withdraw the dangerous book from sale, lest it bore someone to
death. While you're at it you could also send a protest letter to the
editor of the series, Howard Schott. They really shouldn't be going around
misleading innocents thinking that metallurgical techniques might provide
useful information about historical technology and historical harpsichords.
Such careless publishing certainly besmirches the good name of Frank
Hubbard, to whom the Historical Harpsichord series is dedicated.

> Last week, one of the European builders was going in about Young
> Modulus.  As an architect I probably know a hell of a lot more about Young
> and the Modulus of Elasticity, or Hooke's Law than ANYONE else on this
> list.  We have to take rigorous exams to get out state license - and
> Young's Modulus is a very fundamental theory of Strength of Materials.
>
Come on Nick. Who are you trying to kid? You and I both know that the
basic theory of elasticity is pretty simple stuff, so don't try to pretend
it is something esoteric that requires specialist training. My 16 year old
has just studied Young's modulus in his high school physics course. As for
the other more metallurgical stuff, it isn't particularly difficult either
- I've seen much of it used as supplementary topics in A-level courses. Is
architectural training backward or something?

> What is absurd is that Thomas Young 1773-1829 wasn't even alive when
> harpsichords were built, so I doubt that Ruckers, Taskin or Shudi had any
> idea of the yield stress of the wire they were using.
>
Well, Nick, if you mean a quantitative idea of yield stress, you ought to
recall from your architectural training that, in the 1630s, Galileo was
doing exactly those types of experiments, putting metal rods under
tension. You will also recall that he was well aware in 1633 that the
breaking strength of a rod is proportional to its cross-sectional area,
even though he didn't describe this in terms we would using "breaking
stress". And Robert Hooke published his famous "ut tensio, sic vis" law in
1678, which pretty much laid the foundation for the modern theory of
elastic bodies. Again it is hardly relevant that he didn't use the
"official" modern terms to describe it. This technical knowledge was
obviously well-known during the period of historical harpsichord making.

Not that these facts are of any importance whatsoever to the issue at
hand. Historical craftsmen from at least the early 16th century obviously
had an empirical understanding of elasticity, and the relationships
between wire, tension, stress, and creep, just as do many modern builders
who choose not to express these in quantitative scientific terms. It was
their business to know such things and apply them in designing and making
their instruments. They weren't stupid. And they didn't fear to tread in
other design directions, clinging to grandad's discoveries, for lack of
Young's modulus, as you have suggested.

I'm a little confused about your derision of modern metallurgical
analysis, Nick. Do you mean that *all* modern technological tools should
be eschewed when investigating historical instruments? So you have thrown
away all your modern printed books about harpsichords (wrong printing
technology), and you're always careful to use quill pens for recording
observations. And you won't have forgotten that photographs of all kinds
are expressly forbidden, so it won't matter to you that you have had to
put away your electric lights for looking at antiques in dingy musuem
basements. Candles are so much more quaint. And Nick, I'm sure you make
efforts to confirm that you don't ever use any information which may have
been derived from modern analytical laboratory techniques.
Dendrochronological dating of instruments, of course, is the work of the
devil. You will definitely want to tie both them hands, and one foot, well
and truly behind your back when you examine old instruments. No cheating
allowed. You obviously wouldn't ever buy an instrument from a builder who
cheated, either, would you? If you really think this way then obviously
you will want to close down your computer immediately, since, after all,
it is an inappropriate and dangerous modern technology for discussing
historical harpsichords.

You're still there, Nick? Phew. There must only be certain types
of modern technology that you don't allow. Is it some personal grudge
against metallurgy? Is there some past injury from flying metal debris due
to excessive stress? Or maybe the architectural practice is just causing
too much stress for you. Perhaps you could enlighten us about which modern
technologies are ok by your standards, and which are likely to currupt the
innocent and produce b..a..d harpsichords with nasty modern ideas. Maybe
it's ok to use modern analytical techniques provided they simply don't bore
you. We'll have to try harder to keep up the excitement.  How about issuing
chapters in a serialized novel format: "Plight of the blocked
dislocations", or "The Mysterious Creep in Basingstoke"?

> You're boring! Get a life! (or get a good harpsichord and learn to play
> it!).  Or if I Remember a post of yours from a week or two ago, weren't
> you still trying to familiarize yourself with Wally Zuckermann's book!
>
Now this one is no longer funny, Nick. You really ought to apologize to Jim
Bunch for the insult. There is no need to deride the genuine efforts of
others.

Stephen

Stephen Birkett Fortepianos
Authentic Reproductions of 18th and 19th Century Pianos
464 Winchester Drive
Waterloo, Ontario
Canada N2T 1K5
tel: 519-885-2228
mailto: [log in to unmask]

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