Musicians have always been a daring lot–bohemian thinkers stepping outside traditional boxes to experiment with different sound forms, and branding themselves societal renegades.
Accepting silk spun from a spider as the material for violin strings has reaped more than anyone could ever have expected.
It seems that spider silk is five times stronger than steel, highly flexible and able to withstand extreme temperature changes.
Although researchers have known about the versatility of spider silk for some time, using it in this form has only recently been discovered in Japan.
Spider silk is already used for surgical sutures and even bulletproof vest material.
These advances are all the work of Japanese researcher Shigeyoshi Osaki, a professor of polymer chemistry and spider silk expert. Osaki has studied spider silk for more than three decades.
A researcher at Japan’s Nara Medical University, he has created violin strings from thousands of strands of dragline silk, which is the material from which spiders hang.
“I was impressed by the beautiful tone from the violin when I heard the music in the church … I failed many times in making strings. I decided to learn to play the violin,” said Osaki. He added that if he could understand the method that he “might prepare mechanically strong strings.”
Osaki has created 20 strings from spider silk by pulling the dragline from the abdomen of more than 500 spiders.
He spun them all together and believes that each string is comprised of about 0.6 grams of silk.
A particular spider, the nephila maculata or giant wood spider–one of the largest spiders in Japan, and part of the “golden orb-weaver” family–was used to create the strings.
So far, the musical community has responded positively to these new strings, and violin players have enjoyed their unique tone.
Osaki’s goal is to eventually create enough strings to supply an entire concert.
In addition to strength and their ability to withstand heat and cold, these strings are good for the environment as they are a natural product, requiring no energy-intensive manufacturing processes.
What more could anyone ask? Perhaps some way to thank the spiders that made it all possible might be in order?
Check out this amazing video telling the story of the incredible spider silk violin strings.