The life, times, and travels of a remarkable instrument and the people who have made, sold, played, and cherished it.Nothing matched the violin for universal and varied expression, Jean-Jacques Rousseau declared in 1768. Affordable, portable, and equally adaptable to Bach, Beethoven, jazz, klezmer, reels, ragas, gypsy fiddlers, and indie rock, as David Schoenbaum notes in this original study, it is still unmatched as an icon of globalization.
First spotted in the mid-sixteenth century, it had become the instrument of kings and courts by the mid-seventeenth and the instrument of choice for some of the world's greatest music by the mid-eighteenth. By the late twentieth century, Jewish boys and Asian girls had made it an instrument of social mobility; the Cold War had made it an instrument of soft power; and artists, writers, and Hollywood had made it into art, novels, and movies. Today, Asian foundations compete with post-Soviet billionaires for Italian specimens with brand names that Coca-Cola might envy at dollar prices in eight figures, and contest winners come from almost everywhere.