Jonathan Cooper -- Violin Maker

Dec 20, 2011, 07:35 PM, Downtown, Portland, United States

Amazing Grace, Renee Fleming and Mark O’Connor

AMAZING GRACE… RECORDED IN THE NOTABLE ALL HALLOWS CHURCH IN THE GOSPEL OAK SECTION OF LONDON. SUNG BY THE OPERA STAR RENEE FLEMING. ACCOMPANIED BY WORLD RENOWNED VIOLINIST MARK O’CONNOR. THE VIOLIN… MADE IN PORTLAND, MAINE.

35:09.765 – 35:40 So what I’m doing now is I’m planning across the… to create that curve… using a very small plane almost like lines on a TV set creating the curve… (with ambient sound of the planning)

JONATHAN COOPER IS A VIOLINMAKER AND A TRADESMAN. HE BUILDS HIS VIOLINS TO MATCH THE UNIQUE NEEDS OF MUSICIANS LIKE MARK O’CONNOR.

22:46 – 22:59 you know one of the more interesting parts of the trade is that you have to be fluent in a number of different things… you have to have at least a basic understanding of a lot of different things… you have to understand metallurgy to an extent to understand your tools… you have to understand art to understand form… you have to understand sound… to certainly deal with what people are telling you… I think that’s very, very important and um history to know the context of where these things come from and where they’re going… because certainly the violin is an icon.

JONATHAN’S GOOD AT WHAT HE DOES. HE’S CREATED OVER 325 INSTRUMENTS SINCE THE MID 80S. AND… AT $15,000 EACH… THEY’RE AN INVESTMENT. ARTISTS LIKE ALEX AND TATIANA HARGREAVES ALONG WITH RECORDING ARTIST BRUCE MOLSKY USE HIS INSTRUMENTS TO PERFORM BOTH CLASSICAL AND BLUEGRASS MUSIC. PLAYING THEM AS BOTH VIOLIN AND FIDDLE.

8:03.625 – 8:25.00 You know they’re essentially… it is the same instrument its just a different name… it’s the same body shape, the same size… there is no difference um it’s just a term and in most peoples minds fiddle has come to mean you know maybe more country oriented or folk oriented kind of use of the instrument but really the name is interchangeable I mean there are violinist who call it their fiddle and there are fiddle players that call it their violin and so you know…

WITH ALL OF JONATHAN’S SUCCESS YOU MIGHT EXPECT HIM TO BE A LITTLE TAKEN WITH HIS OWN TALENT… BUT HE’S NOT. HE’S GRATEFUL FOR HIS TRADE AND HE’S ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE WORK.

18:04 – I mean I just feel extremely fortunate that I can get up every day and do something that I’m interested in… I’m thrilled by it… you know every day for me to work on it… I don’t ever come in here looking to go Oh god I’ve got to make a violin you know heaven help me… I always look at it and think Oh yea I can’t wait to do that… I’ve got this idea I want to try out… this varnish thing I want to work on … I still remember how that last thing I want to see if I can alter that a little bit… we’re… all violin makers… we’re always, at least everyone I know is always in pursuit of making a better instrument and you know I’m just grateful to have the time to do it… to have discovered it early enough in my life so that I could do it… and to have the time to do it… and to me that’s great.

BUT… JONATHON NOT ONLY BUILDS VIOLINS HE PLAYS THEM. DOES HE THINK OF HIMSELF AS A FIDDLER OR A VIOLINIST?

24:20 Oh I’m a fiddle player…

JONATHAN GETS UP AND WALKS AROUND THE SHOP. HE FINDS A FINISHED VIOLIN NEARBY AND BEGINS TO TUNE IT.

Ambient sound… tuning the violin

I mean I’m not a trained violinist… not a classical violinist at all… I was self-taught… I was a guitar player and you know the odd thing about it is that a lot of times when we’ll get together at some sort of collegial situation where there’ll be a whole lot of violinmakers who are working for classical players as well… we’ll all sit around and play fiddle tunes for the most part… or a lot of us will… some of us will go off in reed quartets with other players but a lot of violinmakers are old time fiddle players or bluegrass fiddle players.

JONATHAN WENT ON TO SAY THAT ONE OF HIS FAVORITE PIECES OF FIDDLE MUSIC WAS AN OLD SONG DONE BY BRUCE MOLSKY CALLED PEG AND ALL. RECENTLY, THOUGH… ... #maine #portland #Violin