Functional Stone Violin Gives ‘Rock Music’ a Whole New Meaning

Blackbird is a unique stone violin carved by Swedish sculptor Lars Widenfalk, based on drawings by Stradivarius, but with modifications that allow it to be played.

Lars Widenfalk came up with the idea of creating a violin out of stone in the late 1980s, while chiseling away at a piece of diabase and being impressed by the pleasant sound it made when hit with hammer and chisel. It wasn’t until 1990 that he finally got his hands on a piece of diabase large enough to be sculpted into a life-size violin, but as soon as he did, he got to work. In the end, he needed a second piece for the back of the violin, but after two years of hard work, Blackbird, the stone violin named after the homonymous bird, was finally completed.

Photo: Gabriel Urbanek / Lars Widenfalk via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

“It was the sound of Mother Earth and I wondered if it could be captured in an instrument carved from the stone that had emerged from deep inside the Earth,” Widenfalk told Gulf News, in 2005. “What drove me on was the desire to discover the limits to which this stone can be pushed as an artistic material.”

Believe it or not, the first piece of diabase obtained by the Swedish sculptor for his unique project came from his grandfather’s tomb. When the family grave was renovated, a large piece of diabase was discarded, so he claimed it as the main medium of his one-of-a-kind diabase violin. However, the first piece proved insufficient, so Widenfalk  ended up sourcing Harjedalan rock, which resembles diabase, from Sweden’s mountains.

Even though the entire soundbox of the Blackbird violin is carved out of the black volcanic rock, the whole instrument weighs just 4.4 pounds. That’s because Lars Widenfalk managed to get the thickness of the soundbox walls down to only 2.3mm. The artist spent months working on ways to respect Stradivarius’ designs and adapt the, to his stone creation.

Because there’s only so much you can do with stone, Blackbird also features black ebony for the finger board, pegs, tailpiece and chin-rest, as well as a bridge made from yellow wooly mammoth ivory sourced from the Siberian permafrost.

Finished in 1992, the Blackbird diabase violin was first played by Swedish composer Sven David Sandstorm, who composed music especially for the instrument. The first performance was at the Swedish pavilion at the World Expo 1992 in Seville, Spain, but the diabase violin has been touring the world ever since.

“At two kilos it is heavier than wooden violins, but it gives you the feel that you are carrying Mother Earth,” Lars Widenfalk said.


But how does it sound? Well, there are plenty of videos showcasing the sound made by this unique musical instrument, so you can judge for yourself. To me, it sounds like any other violin, but I have read comments from people who say that it sounds terrible compared to wooden Stradivarius violins. Still, it’s worth remembering that Blackbird is an artwork made by a stone sculptor, not some musical masterpiece.

According to The Vintage News, Blackbird may the world’s first stone violin, but it is not the only one. Czech artist Jan Rericha has reportedly created several functional violins from marble, a stone much easier to work with than diabase. His instruments are also considerably heavier than Lars Widenfalk’s diabase violin, weighing between 8 and 14 pounds.

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