Back to list

Classical music fan gains savvy by sculpting instruments

2011/09/21 16:22:30

His baton is a chisel that crafts mini violins one-twelfth of their original sizes, the tool that allows amateur sculptor Lin Chih-peng to conjure up his own orchestra and express his enthusiasm for classical music.

Lin, who studied graphic arts and now works for a printing company, has been fascinated with classical music since junior high school, but he never had the opportunity to get formal music training and satisfy his desire to play an instrument at a high level.

He taught himself to play the recorder and the flute, but that was not enough. His passion for music was only satisfied 10 years ago while he served in the military.

That was when Lin, 33, found discarded wood in his barracks and used it during his free time to carve his first mini piano sculpture. That was just the beginning.

As Lin dove into the world of mini instruments, he was surprised to find himself immersed in an immense universe, never suspecting the staggering variety of instruments that have existed since ancient times.

Instead of discouraging him, Lin's realization only spurred him him on, and his first goal, which he's still working on to this day, was to try and replicate all representative violin models of each era since the Renaissance and display them in three dimensions.

The challenge has gone far beyond simply carving wood, as each instrument must be carefully researched. Lin scours books and pictures to look for clues on each one of his subjects and then carefully learns the different sounds they produce.

In developing his line of mini violins, for example, Lin has found that many of the precious instruments do not exist anymore, forcing him to try and compose the appearance of each instrument from pictures or fragmented descriptions in literary accounts.

Once Lin has researched his subject, producing it is just as taxing, with a tiny violin taking three to four months to complete. Great patience and fine carving skills are absolute musts in trying to make small-sized instruments, he said.

Asked how he has managed to move seamlessly between the two different fields of art and music, Lin said borders between the two do not exist, and he has been able to apply what he knew about fine arts to music.

"In colors, you have red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple. Music is do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti. Both are seven in number," he joked.

While Lin has developed the skills necessary to master his hobby, determination is also essential. Lin said the passion one feels at the outset can be quickly dissipated, as has been the case with many people who learned the skill from him with great interest at first but then gave it up.

Some, Lin said, could not stand the long hours needed to complete a project while others grew dispirited after cutting their own fingers in the process.

Besides concentrating on every single step, Lin also sets high standards and will throw away any work without hesitation if it falls short of perfection, even if his family and friends are more than happy to scoop up his rejects as if they were treasures.

Despite his devotion to his hobby and hard work, Lin's efforts have not yet drawn much attention in Taiwan. "Many people see the delicate pieces as simple decorations and are unable to appreciate how precious they are," so he does not plan to sell them, Lin said.

But he sees his hobby as "restoring history, preserving the past with every obsolete instrument that is reproduced." The happiness his pastime gives him is indescribable, he says.

After being committed to the art form for more than a decade, Lin said he hopes he can extend his hobby to other instruments after completing the violin family.

Currently he has completed 110 pieces of works, including several ancient Chinese string instruments.

His goal is to build a museum of mini instruments, where he can collect all the miniatures of every kind of instrument and create a "super-mini" orchestra for the eye, telling the story of each piece through the information he has gathered. The museum itself will also be small-sized, just like a doll house, he explained.

The super-mini band will play the finest music, with Lin, holding his chisel, as its maestro.

By Shen Meng-yan and Kendra Lin, CNA staff reporters