EU Regulator Finally Settles Period Musical Instrument Debate


Viktoria Mullova braves Mad Cow Disease of the fingertips.

With a little help from Mad Cow Disease, officials in the dynamic and creative Belgian capital of Brussels have ruled that pre-19th-century music must not be performed on period instruments. The decade-old European Council law No. 999, which was adopted in response to an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, places tight restrictions on importation of beef products. This has made it financially impossible for suppliers to continue making gut strings for violins and cellos.

The Telegraph describes how the EU, which has yet to rule on the broader question of historically informed performance styles, is taking the Baroque repertoire out of playlists:

Special dispensations were granted to some suppliers allowing them to continue to operate, provided they complied with strict precautions.

However, the rules were toughened in 2009 and fears for the industry were sparked earlier this month after one of Europe's leading gut string manufacturers, Aquila Corde, which is based in Caldogno, near Vicenza, was told that its dispensation had ended and had not been renewed.

The company says the Italian government has not yet brought into legislation the latest EU diktats on the issue and that this means the bureaucratic burden of seeking a renewal is now too great.

It has already stopped production of the strings and will instead concentrate solely on synthetic ones.

Mimmo Peruffo, from the firm, said the difficulties it had encountered were part of a wider problem surrounding the EU regulations and predicted that other suppliers could face similar problems.

"This is a Europe-wide problem. The risk of production being closed all round Europe is very big, but there is no risk at all from the strings."

SOFRACOB, France's lone maker of gut strings, went out of business last year. In an article titled "Baching-Mad," the Daily Mail notes that in order to contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a hungry early music performer would have to eat several yards of cello string. 

Soviet-born fiddler Viktoria Mullova, who defected to the free west in the early 1980s, says she "wouldn't be able to play Bach" without gut strings.

"It would be like telling pop stars they couldn't use microphones at a concert," Mullova tells the Telegraph. "Putting metal strings on old instruments would produce a horrible, distorted sound."

In these informal times when everybody pretends they're cool with audiences applauding between movements, it may be hard to remember the monocle-popping passions the "authentic instrument" or "historically informed" debate once stirred. Audiences who first heard Bach in Leopold Stokowski's massively orchestrated adaptations and performers accustomed to loud, ringing modern instruments had a hard time adjusting to the more muted instruments and less indulgent playing style demanded by the period instrument counterrevolutionaries. 

"They say that Bach must not be interpreted and that he must have no emotion, that his notes speak for themselves, " power organist and Mike Douglas Show stalwart Virgil Fox raged. "You want to know what that is? Pure unadulterated rot! Bach has the red blood. He has the communion with the people. He has all of this amazing spirit… They're full of you-know-what and they're so untalented that they have to hide behind this thing because they couldn't get in the house of music any other way! "

For my money the period instrument movement had the same healthy effect as punk rock: Shrinking the size of the ensemble and using less resonant instruments led to more disciplined, less time-consuming performances and encouraged the band to keep the beat. 

Like all such mod/rocker standoffs, the period instrument debate eventually died down, until most people couldn't remember which side they were on in the first place. Now another clumsy set of regulations comes along to get everybody screwed up again. How long before the European Council decides to unite the unruly continent through uniform codes of equal temperament?  

NEXT: Aussie Gov't to Citizens: You Are So Fat, We Sank to the Bottom of the Map

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  1. I have a choice:

    1) Eternal scorching hellfire,

    2) Barack Obama’s eternal reign, or

    3) EU.

    I’ll pick them in the same order. I’ll take hell over Obama, and I’ll volunteer to be gutted, resurrected, and subjected to every single day of Obama for all the remainder of time. The EU comes after that.

    1. But… free health care! Tolerance and social justice!

      1. Unless you’re a Muslim!

  2. Instead of gut strings, why not use nylon?

    1. Way to miss the point.

    2. nylon strings don’t make as good a broth.

      1. I wonder if you can get the West Nylon virus from nylon?

  3. This reminds me of the recent US law banning lead in children’s products, which resulted in banning the sales of small motorcycles. (Children are known for eating batteries and valve stems, just like your violinists are known for eating their strings.)

    1. So no more Ralph Mouse?

  4. Big government nannies really do seem to have sub human even sub animal intelligence.

  5. SOFAKABOB? Some sort of kabob made of sofas?

    1. Delicious, if a bit chewy.

      1. Only if you deep-fry the sofa first.

        I was just up in Tennessee (mountain trip) and there’s nothing they won’t fry. Nothing.

        1. That’s untrue! No one fries good ‘shine

  6. I’ve been to a few baroque orchestra performances. It’s surprising how different the catgut strings sound than steel ones.

    1. This is one case where President Obama is on the right side of things. He prefers catgut strings when strangling his enemies.

  7. I hate pretty much everything I know about the European Union. Mullova should defect to the U.S.

    1. just skip a step and defect to Mars with the rest of us.

      1. I’m waiting for the transport to Freehold. I’ll be bringing my authentic Baroque recordings and a breeding herd with me (so I can sell gut strings to people with more talent than me).

  8. Threadjack. Dave Weigel bemoans the loss of Barney Frank. He really is a festering scar on Reason’s past.…..oice_.html

    1. Don’t you have to be, I dunno, a libertarian to write for Reason? I mean, you’d think so, wouldn’t you?

      1. You would think so yes. And journalist jobs are really hard to get. I know most journalists are liberals, but I can’t believe there isn’t a decent number of libertarian writers out there who would give anything to write at Reason.

        The question remains. Who the fuck hired that guy?

      2. Everybody knows that reason has no economic or philosophical tests, other than being pro-abortion, pro-pot, pro-dog and anti-cop.

        1. I bet Weigel hates dogs.

          1. Why are you obsessed with him?

        2. hey, i got 3 out of 4. plus, i can use caps if i have to!!!!!

    2. He’s getting more liberal the longer he’s at Slate. Do most journalists cave this easily to peer pressure? It’s sad.

      I do miss his prog posts, though.

      1. Weigel does. If you read the leaked journolist e-mails, Weigel really comes across as the nerd who is trying really hard to be accepted by the cool kids. I think he is pretty weak minded.

        1. It’s a good analogy but suffers from the fact that nobody cool has gone into journalism since P J O’Rourke and Hunter were swigging punch at Mott the Hoople concerts. The Tiabbi guy at Rolling Stone tries but, its mostly pathetic.

          1. Don’t insult the almighty Balko.

            If anyone is cool, is fucking Balko.

            1. I can completely understand your anger, but take a look at this:


              In positive correlative value that either Balko or The Jacket added to the profession has been completely wiped away by that single entry.

              1. ‘Any’ not ‘in.’ Jesus, some days.

        2. The sad truth of the profession, the aptitude of the typical journalist falls in a mean between rectal on Mondays and rectal on Tuesdays.

    3. What was a worse personnel move? Reason hiring Weigel or the Chargers drafting Ryan Leaf? I’m going with Weigel.

      1. Hiring Weigel is right up there with Obi Wan thinking he could train Anakin Skywalker.

    4. Umm, saying, “Liberals are going to miss Barney Frank” is not the same as “I am going to miss Barney Frank”.

      All the articles says is that the Democrats are going to find it harder to do their thing without him. Pretty accurate observation, I’m thinking.

      1. But he didn’t gloat.

  9. This is another old April 1 article, right?

    1. A clue is in the term “catgut”.

  10. In these informal times when everybody pretends they’re cool with audiences applauding between movements

    I don’t pretend to be cool with that. It’s horrible and people should be ashamed.

    1. Anyone who so applauds should be noted (no pun intended) by the staff (ditto) and escorted from the venue, following the final movement, of course.

    2. Yeah! Fuck that shit!

    3. I don’t know that people should be ashamed but what bothers me is: How hard is it to figure out? There’s a fast one, a slow one, then another fast one, and then you clap. That works for like 95% of the repertoire.

      1. All you need to do is watch the conductor.

      2. Cheers Tim!

        Applauding between movements is perfectly fine, it’s just not acceptable these days. That’s the difference.

        No need to applaud into a Bruckner-Adagio, or after *Karfreitagszauber*, obviously, but *not* to applaud after the first movement of some romantic concerto is just insane. (Unless the performer sucked, then no, he shouldn’t be applauded.) As if it was better, after the most bombastic little finale (written to elicit applause, desperately), to only get some embarrassed seat-shuffling and bronchitic coughing.

        Nor do people scoff on between-movements-applauding (BMA) because it is somehow inherently wrong (which it isn’t) or because they believe it is inherently wrong (thought they might), but because they associate BMA with ignorance. And in disdaining it they can make themselves feel smarter.*

        Anti-BMA are in their way the snooty ignorant class of the concert hall and part of the reason why concerts are ever more becoming mummification-events.

        This “Vigilant Applause Police” (VAP) is just as annoying as the “Eager Early Clappers” (EEC) that show off their knowledge of the piece by clapping right into the last note as it still hangs in the air.

        Brahms, btw., was dead-disappointed when the third movement of his Second (I believe) Symphony wasn’t demanded to be taken dacapo (!) … when the other three movements were.

        But audience idiocy / habits et al. are self-regulating. EU-idiocy is not. Another beautiful case of well-intentioned legislating idiots not thinking of unintended consequences… and when faced with it relying on their ignorance not to care about it. Arrrrrrrggggh!



        – – –

        * Imagine a concert hall 2/3 filled with the members of MCANA… and the rest of the audience aware of this. If applause broke out (wide-spread) after some first movement, none of that other third would dare object. They’d be fine with it. If they were not aware of the nature of the majority of the audience, however, they’d get their most haughty, superior stares out and mercilessly bring out the VAP.
        I’ve only been at once concert in my life, where the enthusiastic clappers actually won out. After the crazy-ass 1st mvt. of the Offenbach Cello Concerto. The experience — applause, though the concerto, too — was awesome.

      3. There’s a fast one, a slow one, then another fast one, and then you clap

        Tchaikovsky’s Path?tique trips them up every time. Nobody expects that 4th movement.

        1. Except EVERYONE who has ever listened to Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky 1 is a mess which was more experimentation than anything else. 2 and 4-6 all have 4 movements. The 3rd has 5.

          In fact, MOST romantic symphonies have 3 movements, generally something like . . .

          Scherzo (or some other similarly very fast tempo)

          1. FUCK!!

            Most Romantic symphonies have 4 (FOUR) Movements, NOT 3.

            1. The four movements of a Romantic symphony are…

          2. I wish most romantic symphonies had 3 movements. 🙂

            The point of Detour, however, is one about the reaction to the music, not the number of the movements. And in that he’s right; after the 4th mvt. of the Path?tique begins, the little voice in my head says (aimed at Pyotr Ilyich): “What the hell, you hadn’t finished yet?!”

            1. Thanks for getting my point, jens. I saw the Leningrad State Orchestra perform #6 in the 80s before a not-unknowledgeable crowd. I’d guess that 95% of the audience knew damn well that the symphony had not ended on the rousing final notes of the 3rd movement. And yet we all clapped anyway. It’s an irresistible reflex. The conductor was expecting it, and he kept his back to us, patiently holding his baton aloft till we had quieted down. The orchestra was magnificent, by the way.

  11. Will ObamneyCare be applying this logic to absorbable suture material as well?

    Granted catgut is not used as often as it once was, but still has it’s uses.

  12. I knew somone here would be able to opine on the difference between catgut and steel strings. Thanks, Warty, for confirming my belief that the borderline autistics who hang out here know something about everything.

    1. I declined going for a Ph.D. because I really didn’t want to learn virtually everything about nearly nothing.

  13. just skip a step and defect to Mars with the rest of us.

    “But I’ve got five kids to feed!”

  14. I was just up in Tennessee (mountain trip) and there’s nothing they won’t fry. Nothing.

    Or eat off of a stick. Deep fried butter on a stick should explain it all.

    I’m still waiting for deep fried iguana on a stick to gain in popularity.

      1. Beats out crunchy squirrel bits.

        I did add a mod to FO3 that introduces different types of espresso that act like different chems, and you can have the espresso maker in Megaton/Tenpenney Towers.

        I’m just dying for FO4 with the Skyrim engine. There’s also the chance for a FO MMO now that Bethesda lost its case against Interplay trying to prevent them from developing said MMO.

    1. We ate unlimited Southern multiple times. I gained three pounds, despite hiking many miles every day I was up there.

      Love that food, though. We ate at a place called Mama’s Farmhouse for Thanksgiving, which was family style–i.e., the food never stopped coming.

  15. So no more Ralph Mouse?

    You do recall that Ralph upgraded to a toy car? Clearly, we will have to ban Hot Wheels now.

  16. I wonder if you can get the West Nylon virus from nylon?

    Nope, it’s inert. West Nylon virus is a an urban legend.

    West Cylon virus, OTOH…

    1. When did you go all P Brooks on threaded comments?

  17. Even taking the Hysterical Brussels Nannies seriously, why couldn’t they source their gut from an area that had no history of Mad Cow?

    1. Dr Dean, that is crazy talk!

  18. Next, they will insist that all instruments containing any wood be subjected to heating sufficient to kill off any insect pests.

    1. Dr Truth, we’re already on it. Any so-called woodwind must be heated and fumigated.

    2. Too close for comfort:


  19. why couldn’t they source their gut from an area that had no history of Mad Cow?

    They’re too emotionally invested in their sheep.

    1. You think the euros are interested in their sheep?

  20. Is there anything that is too trivial for governments to stick their fucking noses into? Any tiny tiny sphere of our lives that they will let us live on our own?

    Even though I’m vastly skeptical of government as a concept, in the real world I could tolerate it–if the statists just knew when to quit. But there is no limit at all to their hunger for control.

    1. All things are offensive to someone somewhere. When the government is allowed to meddle in every affair, it will be inevitably be petitioned by some statist fuck to meddle in the thing that offends him. See, for example, South Carolina and Truck Nutz.

  21. No time for this. A cop in Tampa just gave an OWS protestor a dirty look.

    1. We’ve got fucking tanks, so those Stupefiers better watch out. Tanks, bitches!

      1. And nude dancers! Tanks and nude dancers!

        And the 2012 Republican Convention! With tanks and nude dancers!

        1. I’d Occupy Mons Venus, fo sho!

          1. Is that place still open?

            1. It’s like the soul of Tampa. Once it’s gone, the pirates will win once and for all.

            2. I should’ve answered this way: “How else do you think we landed the GOP Convention?”

    2. BTW, have they reported on the Richmond Tea Party being audited by the city after complaining about the city subsidizing OWS expenses? Just checked the Morning Links and the story is not even there.

  22. Off topic but sort of related. Remember when the fed invaded Gibson and took a bunch of guitars and wood because of some idiotic Indian law? Well, Gibson has now switched to used what they call – I think – baked maple fingerboards and the truth is, these new fingerboards look even better than the confiscated rose wood or ebony (whatever it was). It’s a really nice fretboard.

    1. Brazilian rosewood is almost impossible to obtain these days, anyway. Most rosewood guitar fingerboards are either Indian rosewood or Pau Ferro. They look similar, but have different tonal characteristics.

      I’ve rarely seen an ebony fingerboard on a guitar. Usually it’s used for fretless basses.

      1. Then you ain’t looked around much, says this owner of a Gibson SG Special with ebony fingerboard.

    2. The Indians have asked not to blamed for the raid because they had nothing to do with it, and didn’t think the law was even rightly interpreted by the Feds.

  23. When did you go all P Brooks on threaded comments?

    Don’t be hatin’ Pro’L Dib…don’t be hatin’! Don’t hate me because I’m bee-yoo-tee-fully unthreaded!

    1. While I support your movement, I’m used to stuff being threaded now, so I get confused. However. . .Adnotatiunculae bilicis delenda est.

    2. I was weak and gave up, Groovus still keeping it realish. However, I’m willing to rejoin when the WI loser brigade starts cascading their shit again.

      1. It takes two to tango. Or three or four or five.
        Right Warty/Epi/heller/BakedPenguin?

        1. Now your breath smells like minted flavored shit, rectal.

  24. FYI: The issue has been partly resolved:
    From Aquila Corde Armoniche Srl:

  25. Wondering how dangerous CJD is to humanity? Well, good luck finding out.
    Google has some scare stories about ‘30% increase’ that seem to suggest 4 people now have gotten it in some place or other.
    The only (undated) mortality list I could find in the amount of time I’m willing to waste was Wiki, which lists a total of 280 human ‘cases’, world-wide.
    The best info there has the first finding of a case in 1986 in England where a total of 165 people have died to the year 2009.
    1) It is largely confined to England.
    2) Even in England (the worst place in the world), there have been 7.2 deaths per annum.
    Uh, folks, we need to focus on the dangerous issues. I’d bet more people bled to death from improper toe-nail clipping in that time.

    1. As if our government would ever pass up an opportunity to throw its weight around with its own subjects!

    2. Oh, and Wiki?
      Stop the whining for dough. Sell some damn ads.
      Your pathetic ‘we’re pure’ crap is tired.

  26. I’d bet these animals are fine with plastic bagpipe changer reeds in lieu of cane, too.


    1. My lack of typing skills strikes again.

      “changer” = “chanter” just for tonight

      And a fucking MacAllister in a Sinclair for the old skool win! (Of course, Ross in a Sinclair or MacCallum for the New School win)

  27. Thank goodness we’re in the United States. Nothing like that could ever happen here.

  28. The growing idea of globalization as a significant theme and the subsequent weakening of nation-states, points to a prospect of transferring to a global level of regulatory instruments. Upon the model that regulation was no longer working effectively at the national or regional levels.

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