In the early 1500s the first violins started popping up in Italy. However, they had slight differences from the modern day violin that is so beloved today. For example, the strings were made from something called “catgut.” Although the strings were called catgut, there is no feline relation. In fact, they were almost always sheep or lamb products. For roughly 300 years these were the types of strings that every musician used. It wasn’t until the 1800s when only one of the strings became more popularly made of metal. Then later on, during war times, it was harder to have animal trade so people resorted to using more and more metal strings instead of catgut strings. Eventually, as the industrial revolution happened, it made more sense to completely switch from catgut strings to just metal wound strings.
This innovation in stringed instruments that was centuries in the making was a product of evolution. At the very beginning of it all, catgut definitely made the most sense for stringing a violin. The materials were in abundance, if strung properly it produced a great sound, and really it was the only way to do it. However, as time went on, people began to realize that the tradition was antiquated and ineffective in comparison to the new materials that were available. So naturally, everyone started making the switch from strings that were made from animal intestines that broke way too often to a longer lasting more efficient string material. This is a great example where people have looked at all of the evidence in front of them and decided that the old tradition was out of date.
At the root of it all, we owe everything that we are today to survival of the fittest. The idea of survival of the fittest is the reason why so many people are alive today. If it weren’t for our ancestors looking out for each other trying to survive, the population would be very different now. However, I think an important distinction needs to be made
between surviving and living. To be in survival mode is like always being careful about whether or not the action you’re about to take will lead to death. Survival mode usually corresponds to life or death. However, to live is to experience the world and all of the fruit it bears. A relationship in survival mode is because it’s convenient and mutually beneficial to both partners survival. In that case, what they get out of the relationship is someone who is watching their back. However, a relationship in living should be that both partners are contributing because they love each other. The actions that they take aren’t because secretly somehow they will benefit themselves. It is not a selfish relationship in comparison to that of the survival mode. Everything the couple that lives does is for each other without expecting some kind of reward for doing so. I think survival mode sounds like a thing of the past, and now we have moved far past it into just living. So now the question is, am I going to string my violin with catgut or metal wound strings?
The catgut strings are a feature of survival mode. That was literally the only way that anyone could string their violin. The method was archaic and sometimes cruel to animals, but it was necessary to play the beautiful music that some of the best composers that have ever lived wrote. What is important about musicians in the 19th century is that they were right in the middle of surviving and living. They were the ones who saw the outdated traditions and decided that with the tools that they had at their disposal they could create something better. I believe that our society is the same as those who decided to create something better in the 19th century. We don’t have to be in survival mode anymore. We have the means to create a new kind string. The only thing that is standing in the way of playing our violin is its need to be strung.