Mari Kimura is a New York composer and virtuoso violinist whose music includes haunting low notes on the violin called sub-harmonics. . . Problem is, these sounds aren’t supposed to be possible.
The tones she plays are in the register of a cello, and usually cannot be made from a violin. Even she is stumped about how it works. I don’t really know what it is I do, she said, because she learned it by trial and error.
A team of scientists in Norway, is the latest to take a crack at the puzzle. Kimura has said that she has been making these sounds for more than ten years. She demonstrated her ability to top scientists in the US, but they gave up trying to find out how the effect happens.
Stringed instruments work by having a string being vibrated. The string is shortened or lengthened using the fingers. The shorter the string, the higher the pitch and vice-versa. Normally, you would not be able to make a pitch lower than the lowest note on an instrument because you can only shorten the string, not lengthen it. The sounds that Mari produces are of a pitch that requires a string longer than the strings on the violin.
She says: As an artist you are always searching for ways to expand the sound. Oh yes, in case you were wondering, there *is* an audio example. There are more examples of longer pieces on her site.
Mari has a really cool CD out where she combines her amazing technique with electronic elements. Check it out here .
**UPDATE** I’ve been in contact with Mari and the physicists studying her technique. I’ll be writing a followup to this article explaining it all, how she does it and the physics behind it.