Research

Barberini Harp Project / Interviews
Mimmo Peruffo: Early Music Strings

Synopsis: Whilst there still are quite a few luthiers around, string makers are rare. String making is a secret art, passed on through oral transmission and teaching of gestures, which is how an old master from Abruzzo passed his knowledge to Mimmo Peruffo. Peruffo’s work and research aim at decoding the ancient sources, but he warns against relying solely on written accounts, mostly relayed by travellers quickly passing through. The 17th and 18th century musical string guild guarded its secrets closely, as their economic power, influence on the Pope, and their market monopoly depended on this knowledge. Peruffo shares some of it by showing how to turn casing into membranes on an oak wood stripping table, using a special tool made of split reed. Precise reconstruction of this ancient technique may not be possible, as it, Peruffo tells us, “cannot be described in a book.”

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In this edition of the Barberini Harp Project Interviews, Harfenlabor visits master string maker Mimmo Peruffo in his workshop in Vicenza where he demonstrates elements of the ancient technique of making musical strings from animal guts. Peruffo is one of the very few remaining string makers. He has learnt this secret art from an old master from Abruzzo through oral transmission and teaching of gestures. Peruffo thus warns us against relying solely on written accounts to learn about the ancient techniques of his art, as they, Peruffo tells us, “cannot be described in a book.”

© Armin Linke / Harfenlabor 2020

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