MANIC MONDAY | Can Breaking a String Really Blind You? Two Zany Czechs Put the Theory to the Test
Trigger warning: snapping strings. Watch at your own discretion
For the latest installment of the Ševčík Lab video series, VC Artist violinist Josef Špaček and cellist Tomáš Jamník set out to debunk the myth that legendary violinist and pedagogue Otakar Ševčík had developed an eye disease from a string snapping in his eye.
Convinced that it was highly unlikely for a breaking string to have the capacity to do that much damage to a player, Špaček and Jamník created a series of tests where they intentionally wound up strings to the point of breakage in order to confirm their hypothesis.
In a special effects studio in Prague, the duo armored up in lab coats, heavy-duty plexiglass goggles, and protective gloves, carried out the tests with both metal and gut strings.
As for the results, let's just say that it's a good thing they were wearing those goggles.
"To be honest, we were quite shocked by the result," Špaček told The Violin Channel. "In all seven cases, the string hit the protective helmet covering my face, and often right where my eyes are! It was also surprising to see how little it takes to break a string (tuning it up only about a fourth)."
When asked if participating in the experiments triggered any particularly horrific memories of snapping strings, Špaček recalled, "Like most musicians, I have broken strings while practicing and luckily for me only once on stage."
"The last time I broke a string was during a recording session. I was in the coda of the Martinu concerto, which is ferociously fast, when my E string broke. It snapped on my left-hand fingers and gave me a pinch, nothing serious, but it was still quite a shock. Breaking a string is always a surprise, and you can see in the most recent video that even with the protective goggles, I still reflexively pull away."
The video has been released on Youtube ahead of next month's Ševčík Academy in the Czech Republic from August 8-20, where Špaček and Jamník will be on the violin and cello teaching faculties.