"The Scroll"  Newsletter for the Cox Violin Community

The Scroll's purpose

is to provide information and enjoyment to people interested in fine new instruments. I welcome your inquiries.

Todd Reynolds performs with Meredith Monk

Todd Reynolds performed on his Cox violin and viola, and Allison Sniffin played a Cox violin, with avant-garde composer Meredith Monk in her new work, “Songs of Ascension” in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and at Stanford University.

Jaime Laredo in France & Oregon

At a house concert in Brattleboro, VT, Jaime Laredo performed on his new Cox violin, then took it on the road to the Britt Festival in Medford, Oregon and to the Menton Festival in France.

David Kim on PBS Broadcast

Violist David Kim was featured on the “Live at Lincoln Center” PBS broadcast, on the Cox viola on loan from Ravinia’s Steans Institute for Young Artists.

Fargo

Benjamin Sung now plays his Cox violin as concertmaster of the Fargo Symphony Orchestra and on the faculty of the University of South Dakota at Fargo.

ON THE ROAD (2009)

If you’d like to find out about seeing a Cox instrument in your own area, please let me know.

Other Travels:

I’m looking forward to a possible trip to Europe early in 2010. My hope is to visit England, Switzerland and possibly Germany. Let me know if you are interested in meeting up with me.

What People Say

“I absolutely love my Cox violin. It is a joy and a pleasure to play on. It feels and sounds like I am playing on a great old Italian violin.”

Jaime Laredo
Violinist, KLM Piano Trio
Professor of Violin, Indiana University
Music Director, Vermont Symphony Orchestra

“The ¾ size violin arrived last Thursday, just in time for Jonathan’s lesson! The difference was remarkable …simply astonishing. All of a sudden, he had sound and colors. It will be very informative for the parents to see the incredible difference a fine instrument can make. I believe he is finally having fun using his imagination in his music instead of fighting with his instrument.”

Karen Hoatson
Associate Concert Master,
Redlands Symphony Orchestra
Loma Linda Academy String Program

“A relationship with a good violinmaker and person is a priceless thing.”

Todd Reynolds
Composer, Conductor, Arranger, Violinist,
member of Bang on a Can

“Playing on this viola is a pleasure. It is warm and rich, and it inspires me to search for more colors and shadings since it offers such a wonder-ful range. My colleagues in the Mendelssohn Quartet all play on 18th-century Cremonese instruments, and this viola blends beautifully with them.
I feel deeply fortunate to make music with it.”

Daniel Panner, Mendelssohn String Quartet; Orpheus Chamber Orchestra;
Faculty at Juilliard and
Mannes Conservatories

“I am thrilled with my new baroque violin by Doug Cox. It’s modeled on a Guarneri Del Gesù, and has a wonderful quality throughout; I am particularly taken with the silvery E string sound, which projects so easily.”

Daniel Stepner
First violin, Lydian String Quartet Concertmaster, Handel and Haydn Society
Artistic Director, Aston Magna Festival
Baroque violinist, Boston Museum Trio Preceptor in Music, Harvard University

“I could not be happier with the way your instrument has worked out for me. I am in love with the voice of my instrument and profoundly grateful to be its owner!”

Daniel Vega-Albela La Catrina Quartet

The Newsletter for the Cox Violin Community Fall ~ 2008

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Vermont. I am, as always, delighted to share some of the many wonderful things that have been happening in my studio this past year.

Sophie, the Studio DogMost significant has been the addition of Laurie Indenbaum as Business Manager for Cox Violins. Laurie brings the experience of starting and running her own business for 20 years, managing other small businesses, and being an accomplished fiddler. She brings with her a strong sense of organization, an unruly sense of humor coupled with good will, and an elderly dog named Woofie, who keeps our year-old lab, Sophie (see photo, right), company. I am impressed by how much her involvement is allowing me to do more and better work. I think you will find that our communications and service to you will be of consistently higher quality. One of Laurie’s first contributions was to revamp this website.

One of Laurie’s duties is to produce photographic records of my work. All new instruments are now photographed, and we are documenting as many of my 600 instruments out in the world as make their way back to our studio. We will be featuring interesting instruments on the website on a rotating basis.

4 violin makers engage in acoustic testingWe are also now doing acoustic recording and analysis of all instruments that come into or leave the studio. One of the greatest assets I bring to my work is the experience I have accumulated over the last 40 years. These acoustic analysis tools are helping me learn more from my work. Exactly how this will affect my work is not clear, but I already see improvements. I have been impressed with and inspired by the cooperative research and thinking that is happening in the Oberlin Acoustics Workshop the Violin Society of American sponsors each summer. This is truly an exciting time for violin making.

As part of the quartet theme of the year, I commissioned a new piece of music from local composer and string teacher David Tasgal. His Quartet in C, “The War for Vermont” received its first performance in June on my Lawrence University Quartet. David’s quartet uses local motifs and is suitable for the performing capabilities of young players at the beginning or intermediate level.

Our farmstead and the violin business continue to prosper and I look forward to continuing to serve you with some of the finest instruments being produced today.

Douglas Cox signature

FROM THE BENCH

Harrison Baroque Violin #611During the 1980’s almost a third of my work was in baroque form: some fifty violins, violas, celli, and violas da gamba. Since then my production has focused entirely on instruments in modern form. I have resold some of my older instruments as they have come back onto the market, but until recently I have not felt the conditions were right to invest my time in new baroque instruments.

That has changed in this past year, however, as I felt my command of acoustic excellence was at a significantly higher level, and the demand for truly fine baroque violins seemed to be strong.

This year I produced two new violins, working from areas of my greatest interest and usefulness to professional players. One is a copy of the “Harrison” long pattern Strad from 1693, a violin I worked closely with while making a copy for the National Musical Instrument Museum in 1990 (Article in VSA Journal, Vol. XI, No. 3, p. 83). The proportions of this model make it relatively easy for the performer to transition back and forth from a modern violin. The other is patterned after the “Leduc” Guarneri del Gesù violin of 1745, perhaps the strongest statement of his making and of his design genius. This is an exciting voice not usually heard in the early music world.

MAKING CONVERSATION

Eugene Friesen visited the studio for a conversation with Doug about making music

Eugene Friesen with his Cox celloFriesen is active as a concert and recording artist, composer, conductor and teacher. He is the winner of three Grammy Awards, and is known internationally for his performances with the Paul Winter Consort and Trio Globo. A love for children and education led him to create his popular program for young audiences, CelloMan, and has fueled his work teaching new cello techniques and improvisation. Friesen is a faculty member at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and lives in Brattleboro, Vermont with his family.

Doug Cox: How does exposure to other cultures help you find different voices within the cello?
Eugene Friesen: I’ve been intrigued with folk instruments from Africa: the African harp, or kora (a large gourd with a long neck, strings running down both sides of it) and the mbira, or thumb piano. I’ve become very drawn to the extraordinary complexity of the music. It’s rhythmically very sophisticated, and in the case of the Mbira, harmonically very intriguing. They have a tradition of altering the harmony in the middle of the bar somehow, and there’s a shifting quality of modulation that is really hypnotic. Contemplating these two instruments, I began to think about how to activate my left hand in a more rhythmic way so I could play some of the polyrhythmic things I was hearing these guys do between their hands. My left-hand pizzicato and hammer-offs got started as a direct result of the influence of those two folk instruments.

DC: The West has become habituated to the well-tempered piano scale, but the world is much richer than that. How has your exploration changed your sense of scale relationships?
EF: A good vibrato is thrilling because there’s an oscillation, a kind of tension, that’s very expressive. Beyond that, though, I’ve been working with blues players, harmonica players and fiddle players, who have this raucous vibrato that adds a lot of energy to things, and it’s a wonderful kind of ornamentation in itself. They not only oscillate the finger from a stopped note, but literally move it over a stopped note, so the pitch is really a wild oscillation.

When I improvise, I improvise diatonically. I love Brazilian music because of all the diminished chords and the unusual modal changes. When you improvise over that music, you have to reflect all those modal changes.

DC: How does yoga fit into your life as a musician?
EF: When I turned fifty, I began feeling so aged: creaky bones, fatigue in the middle of the day. It was about that time that I first started teaching at the Interplay Jazz yoga camp. The point is to have a human body that is free of obstructions and stays flexible. The old paradigm of the self-abusing jazz musician, with substances and late nights and whatever—this is a new model, people taking this path as a way to achieve the highest creative goals they can, and using all the tools at their command.

DC: Are your students at Berklee responsive to this idea?
EF: If they’re not responsive to it, they haven’t told me. Berklee has yoga classes and Alexander technique and Feldenkrais available. Yoga and Alexander have been indispensable for me for mindfulness of how we use our body. Ultimately it’s about the flow, maintaining a vital connection between you and your instrument. For a creative musician, improvising in the moment, the necessity to maintain respiration, a sense of composure and relaxation is critical for improvising. The moment you give over to anything like fear the flow stops, even if it’s for a brief moment.
I often speak about our practice time as a way of creating a relationship with our instrument. You bring a lot to your practice time that is related to who you are and how you are in the world. You bring to it your sense of patience, your sense of grace, your sense of self-punishment, and the way you feel about yourself influences what you get done in your practice. I know, because I feel like I have cultivated negative habits in my practice time. It’s possible to come to a relationship with your instrument, the time that you spend with it, in a more whole way. To me, breathing, flexibility, and having an awareness of things that are not related to the present moment—and where to put those things when you are working—is an important part of making the kind of progress I like to make with my instrument.

DC: It sounds as though your relationship with your students enters into non-technical realms of inner exploration and self-discovery as much as technique.
EF: My goal for the students, and our stated goal at Berklee, is to help students find their creative voice on their instrument. That goes way beyond, ‘practice this, practice this, practice this’. You can gain command of scales and harmonic environments, you can do ear training, but ultimately what is that for? What is the purpose of art? It’s a divine aim. We’re reflecting back some of the most basic and glorious aspects of the universe when we participate as creative individuals. Finding your own voice on your instrument is essentially that.

The question is: who are you and what sound coming from your instrument is true for you? I remember when I first heard these sounds for myself. It happened to be in the Cathedral in New York. I felt like my first true notes as an improviser came out of my instrument in that space. Something about the receptivity of the acoustic in that place almost separated me from the act of playing. As I observed the sound in the space, I also heard inside that sound, its inclination for how it wanted to be shaped, where it wanted to go. And that was a transformation of listening.

DC: So there are at least three elements: the musical impulse inside you, the voice of the cello, and the voice of the space.
EF: Exactly right.

DC: One of the things I deal with is the middle one: the voice of the instrument and how to shape it so that it works for the player. What does a good instrument need to do to work for you?
EF: I don’t know, but the cello you made has that. I have played more expensive instruments that didn’t have that for me. What I do like is that something responds right away to my touch. The actual quality of sound is changing a little bit for me, as I have softened my touch with the instrument. I have been a very aggressive player for a long time. The last five years, partly as a result of the work I’ve done trying to get my intonation together—and the yoga—I’ve just noticed myself relaxing and using more of my body weight to get the sound out of the instrument. As a consequence, I’m favoring a little bit less pushed kind of a sound. I’ve always used the very brightest strings, the really high tension strings, and now I’m going for a softer tension string and I find that on my cello I can do everything I need to do.

DC: What I’ve come to under-stand about instrument-making is that the instrument needs to serve the player. Being able to project contrast is more important than a particular voice. Whether an instrument is bright, or dark, or has a particular woody timbre or a more crystalline type sound, is less important than if you hear the soul and the intention of the player behind that. Does it give you dynamic range? Can you shape the color? Can the color be modulated? That flexibility and contrast is more important to the success of the instrument as a musical tool than a particular abstract quality of sound.
EF: I think sound color is everything. As I move around stylistically, I need to accompany a different style with a different color.

Visit Eugene Friesen at
www.celloman.com

A COMMUNITY RICH IN THE ARTS

The studio, with large ceramic urn by Stephen ProcterIt was with great pleasure that I recently heard the premiere per-formance of String Quartet in C, “The War for Vermont”, a piece I commissioned from local composer David Tasgal. A group of faculty members from the Brattleboro Music Center played the new work on the quartet of instruments I recently completed for Lawrence University’s conservatory. In addition to the vibrant musical culture here in Southern Vermont, we are lucky to live in an area rich in all of the arts. During the past year I have been pleased to show in my studio the work of a number of local craftspeople and artists.

When you visit my studio, you will see not only my work, but that of some of my colleagues and neighbors as well. My business manager now sits at a beautiful cherry desk we commissioned from Jason Breen, whose shop is here in West Brattleboro. And in front of the desk sits a Windsor settee made by Weathersfield chair maker and fiddler George Ainley. These two pieces together take up about the same amount of floor space as the big old desk that came with me from the shop of J. Bradley Taylor, where I started my career in 1967.

Over the summer, we also showed the work of Natalie Blake, a ceramicist, and Randi Solin, a glassblower, whose business collaboration, Fulcrum Arts, recently won a business award for its vision of becoming a regional center for fine craft collecting and education. We are also featuring a Shaker candle stand made by Philip Odegard of Westminster West. And when you arrive at the studio, you may be greeted by two monumental vessels created by Stephen Procter of Brattleboro, currently sitting just outside the studio. We expect to continue to show different artists’ work from time to time, depending on the season and what is available.