The Catgut Acoustical Society Library

File #:S2571

Name:Saunders Research Group

Dates:1959 - 1965

See also:S2570 - FAS; S3225 - JCS

General Information:

This group evolved slowly. After CMH had finished her first viola in 1949 (the only one she planned to

make) Louise Rood (Professor of viola at Smith College who played chamber music with FAS) and

Helen Rice (of Amateur Chamber Music Players fame) introduced her and the viola to Saunders. He

looked the instrument all over, tapped it, blew in the f-holes and said "Young lady I shall be interested in

your next one." He gave CMH several reprints which indicated that he had never made any drastic

changes to the violins he studied. So CMH offered to make one that he could cut up. This worked so

well, she made several more. Saunders did over 300 tests on these using mainly his "loudness test" (see

Notebooks). Shipping instruments back and forth from Montclair to South Hadley with suggestions for

experiments gradually developed into quite a program over the next ten years, with CMH adding her

ideas for tests and changes. The violas in the experiments and the regular ones she was making during

this time were checked twice a year with Helen Rice's musical friends who met in Stockbridge, MA or

in NYC. R E Fryxell, a chemist, who was the cellist in the Stockbridge gatherings, became very much

interested in the experimental instruments and visited Saunders several times. From these discussions

Fryxell started doing some research on properties of wood for violins. After J C Schelleng's retirement

from Bell Labs he contacted Saunders on the acoustics of the cello, and was subsequently introduced to

CMH who lived near him. This started a long and fruitful interchange between Saunders, Schelleng,

Fryxell and CMH on violin research. The early correspondance was not kept, but the lively interchange

between Schelleng, Fryxell, Saunders and Hutchins from 1961 through 1965 is in Files 101 and 102. It

was during this time that the Catgut Acoustical Society (a name jokingly suggested by Schelleng) was

formally started just a few days before Saunders died on June 9, 1963.

File Contents:


Tech correspondence: (Part 1: 1959-1963). Corresp and tech writings, graphs, charts and diagrams

for and by FAS, JCS, CMH, Fryxell and Scanlon. These years led up to the forming of the CAS.

Much but not all tech work herein was ultimately published.

Key Words:


Tech correspondence: (Part2: 1964-1965) Content is as in file 101 but spans the two years after

Saunders' death.

Key Words:

Last modified: 27 June 1998