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LIAG scientist dates gut strings of early musical instruments for the first time

Dating gut strings of early plucked instruments with the electron spin resonance method (ESR) - this was achieved for the first time by LIAG scientist Dr. Sumiko Tsukamoto. In the field of music, she thus provided important information for early European plucked instruments such as baroque guitars or harp lutes from the 19th century.

These early plucked instruments had disappeared from musical use by the middle of the 19th century, and were only given renewed attention with the increased interest in earlier music in the 20th century. So far, however, there is little information on how the early European plucked instruments were originally played: Some aspects, such as the thickness of the gut strings, are largely unknown. Tsukamoto now shows in an open access publication that the electron spin resonance (ESR) signal from oxidized iron in remaining old gut strings on early plucked instruments can tell whether a string is as old as the instrument or much younger. Such information helps musicians to handle the instruments. The determination of this authenticity information of gut strings thus contributes to the revival of old instruments and music.

The study was first presented in the UK Luminescence and ESR Meeting in the University of Glasgow. The second author of this paper and musician Taro Takeuchi played instrument a baroque quitar and a harp-lute in the university chapel, as a part of the event.

The complete study can be downloaded here


About the author Dr. Sumiko Tsukamoto 

Dr. Sumiko Tsukamoto has been a leading scientist in the field of optically stimulated luminescence and electron spin resonance dating. Her research at the LIAG includes the age determination of sediment and rock deposits based on special properties of small quartz and feldspar grains. Such age determinations contribute to understanding the temporal change of climate, for example the age and duration of cold and warm periods, in different regions of the world.