"Dead man's fingers." Were the fungi that occur in Transcarpathia Stradivari's assistants?

Ivan Kuzovych, "Staryj zamok"  16 November 2012 13:46  289624549 025097
"Dead man's fingers." Were the fungi that occur in Transcarpathia Stradivari's assistants?

The head of the scientific department of Uzh National Park Inna Kvakovska told that this fall, quite generous for mushrooms, in the course of one of the scientific expeditions to the Stinka mountain on the outskirts of the village of Sil in Velyky Berezny district researchers had found an unusual type of fungus - xylaria longipes. It is hard in texture, grows on dead wood, its fruiting bodies are similar in shape to a dark gray or black mace, 4-10 cm tall, which gave it its English name - dead man's fingers.

- It is interesting - continues biologist I. Kvakovska - that scientists have discovered the amazing ability of this and another type of fungus (physisporinus vitreus) to positively affect the quality of the wood. In particular, Professor Francis Schwartz from the Swiss Federal Laboratory of Materials and Technologies "Empa" invented a method of processing wood, which changes the acoustic properties of the natural material. 
The invention is based on the use of special fungi and can bring the modern violins to the sound of famous creations of Antonio Stradivari (this was described in the journal "Science Daily").

Professor Schwartz believes that the two types of mushrooms (physisporinus vitreus and xylaria longipes) are able to decompose spruce and sycamore (two main species that are used in the manufacture of violins) to the extent that the sound quality is much improved.

The researcher explains that usually fungi reduce the density of the wood and affect the speed of the sound waves. But the unique feature of these mushrooms is, on the contrary, a significant thinning of the cell wall material. 

And even in the later stages of decomposition, a solid wood structure is preserved, so the speed of sound waves remains high. 
Even after the exposure the wood remains resistant to deformation, and the material is subsequently treated with gaseous ethylene oxide that completely stops further sprouting of mushrooms. 

Now Professor Schwartz is working on the project, in the course of which by 2014 he plans to make 30 violins from the "contaminated" wood. The scientist believes that the discovery may in the future provide an opportunity for young musicians to play the instrument that by the sound quality is close to expensive and not affordable for most talents Stradivar's violins.   

The great Italian master used the wood harvested in the cold period between 1645 and 1715. In the long winter and cold summer tree grew particularly slowly and evenly, so the resulting material was characterized by low density and high modulus of elasticity - qualities necessary for perfect sound of an instrument. Until now modern masters could only dream about the wood with such tonal qualities - says the publication.

It is possible that the great master of Cremona also knew about the properties of fungi assistants, as that period long winters and cold summers not only forced the trees grow slowly and evenly, but also contributed to their intense exposure to various types of fungi. Perhaps, Transcarpathian maples, sycamores and firs infected with xylaria longipes, will serve in the future as a material for creating unique musical instruments.

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