A multidisciplinary study of the phenomenon of violin vibrato
Thesis (MMus (Music))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009
Violin vibrato is the action by which a violinist periodically changes the frequency of a sustained note by moving the finger on the string, rapidly backwards and forwards. If it is artistically applied, it adds life, character and warmth to an otherwise dull sounding note. Although it has been used since the sixteenth century, very little research has been done on the reason why humankind would experience such periodic fluctuations as an object of beauty in violin performance. In answering the question, this study explores a variety of angles of approach in order to understand the phenomenon in its full context. The history, development and geographical origin of the technique are firstly discussed in a diachronic fashion and provide the background for the subsequent synchronic research on the physical nature of violin sound and violin vibrato. The vibrato rates and widths of four virtuosi are measured and compared to highlight the differences and individuality which are argued to be a contributing factor to the perception of beauty of the technique. It is established in the final chapter that the brain is stimulated more by sounds with periodic changes than those that are presented in the steady-state which cast some light on why vibrato may be experienced as an appreciated addition to sound. The thesis aims to present a unique view on the possibilities of interdisciplinary research of the phenomenon of violin vibrato. It further aims to present the research findings in a concise, logical, and systematic manner that could be of interest to both musician and scientist.