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Great Advances in Viola Technology
15 Jun 2011
Inside the Classics

Let’s play a game, shall we? I’ll show you a picture, and you tell me what it’s a picture of. Okay? Ready, go.

Go ahead, click on it for the full-sized version. Take your time analyzing. I’ll wait.

Stumped, hmm? I suspected as much. Does this help at all?

…yeah, that wouldn’t actually have helped me at all either. So let’s invite the Inspector Gadget of the Minnesota Orchestra viola section to provide a bit of clarity, shall we?

Sigh. Eiji-san, that’s about as clear as mud. You’ve got what appears to be some mangled bit of cutlery attached to an oversized Hallmark card, and you’ve belted the whole thing to your midsection. Honestly, you could put somebody’s eye out with that thing! I fail to see how this invention of yours could possibly have any practical application in a symphony orchest…

OHHHHHHHH. I get it now! This… why, this is Violistic Ingenuity at it’s finest! Because, honestly, who among us hasn’t slogged through the late stages of a double or triple rehearsal day, thinking to ourselves, “Self, you know what would make playing this awkward beast of a musical instrument for a living just a little bit less onerous? If I had someone or something to just hold the darn thing up for me while I play! …jeez, I wish someone would invent something like that.” I know I have. (Mainly because I’ve known Eiji Ikeda for a good long while now.)

Still boggling a bit at the more intricate design elements of Eiji’s remarkable contraption? Here, he’ll explain everything.

In all seriousness, this is an idea Eiji (who is forever sketching out some insane/inspired new idea or other during rehearsal breaks) has been kicking around for almost as long as I’ve been in the orchestra. The earliest prototypes involved a dowel rod, a small piece of foam, and the breast pocket of his suit coat. Clearly, Ikeda-based viola-supporting technology has advanced quite a distance from those days.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no, you won’t be spotting this device at future Minnesota Orchestra concerts – Eiji has deemed it to be for rehearsal use only. But if you’re a violist wondering whether he might be willing to manufacture you one of your very own for a reasonable price, I’m betting I could twist his arm.

Oh, who am I kidding? He’s probably already got this thing in heavy production in a gleaming factory somewhere in Tokyo. Always a step or two ahead of the rest of us, that guy…

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