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It is the viola d'amore with sympathetic strings that most closely fits the name of the viola d'amore: viola of love. The property of resonance in sounding systems serves as a metaphor for love: one system can be set in motion by the vibrations of another; two things, people or strings, trembling alike for one another. For strings, this occurs even at very low levels of amplitude if the two strings match pitches closely (within a fraction of a percent). For the resonance of desire to occur between people, very particular if more mysterious conditions must also be met, which only deepens the fascination of the metaphor.

Makers of violas d'amore were freer in their approach to building the viola d'amore than they were with the violin, so the following features are not all found on all d'amores. Usually d'amores had flat backs reinforced inside with three cross braces. Like violas da gamba, the edges of the belly and back are most often flush with the ribs; like the violin, the viola d'amore never has frets. Often the long peg box is topped with a carved blindfolded cupid's head -- symbolizing the 'viola of love' derivation of the name. There are several forms of the sound hole, the flame of Islam and the sword of Islam (that 'viola d'amore' was derived from a 'viola of the moors,' i.e., a Turkish or Persian instrument with sympathetic strings, has also been suggested).

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Copyright © 11 January 2001 Thomas Georgi, Toronto,Canada





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