Marcel Wanders Designs The Whisperviolin

Marcel Wanders designs the whisperviolin

After years of performing at the highest level, virtuoso violinist Monica Germino was diagnosed with hyperacusis (extreme sensitivity to sound) and had to abandon her usual performances. As a result, special compositions have been written for the musician, most notably MUTED by composer Louis Andriessen, and custom violins have been designed for her to perform. One of those is a collaboration between Dutch designer Marcel Wanders and built by master Bas Maas of the Netherlands.

Marcel Wanders Whisperviolin

As fans of unusual and modern instrument designs, news of this cool one by one of our favorite designers, Marcel Wanders, definitely caught our attention.

Violinst Monica Germino
Violinst Monica Germino amongst her collection of mutes. photo: Anne Reinke

Luthier Bas Maas and designer Marcel Wanders (a personal friend of Germino’s) created an entirely new, ingenious, lower-decibel instrument, inspired by and loosely modeled on the 17th-century pochette violin but created to explore the world of quieter sounds.

monica germino with marcel wanders
Marcel Wanders worked closely with Monica to design the Whisperviolin

Designed specifically for Germino, the Whisperviolin allows her to explore the outer limits of the audible, the universe of expression and tonal subtlety that hides in extreme quietness.

whisperviolin front and profile on white

Partly printed in 3D, lovely ornamented, the whisper violin uses special plugs to damper sound volume and protect its performer Monica Germino, who suffers from an ear condition that creates extreme sensitivity to sound. The design shows a strong sumo man, who holds up the weight of the strings.

marcel wanders whisperviolin sumo man detail

marcel wanders bas maas whisperviolin

At risk of never being able to perform again, Monica found a new perspective with the Whisperviolin.

Monica with wanders violin photo5 from bas andreeson

Monica with wanders violin photo from bas andreeson

Marcel Wanders Bas Maas with whisperviolin

Germino with her whisperviolin

Violin made for quiet compositions

Designing and building the violin:

A computer generated image of the Whisperviolin

bas maas violin makers storefront

violin design

violin design

making the whisper violin

marcel wanders violin for germino

bas maas and monica germino testing out the violin
Bas Maas and Monica Germino testing out the violin in progress
Monica playing an earlier version of the Whisperviolin

Dubbed “the quietest violin piece ever written,” “MUTED” was composed by Louis Andriessen, Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe for Monica Germino after her diagnosis. The four composers each created four fragments, which were completed by one of the others and fused into one by Andriessen. The starting point was the enormous collection of dampers (or mutes) that Germino owns. In addition to the whisperviolin specially designed by Marcel Wanders and Bas Maas, Germino plays three other violins in the performance including her own Ceruti violin and a rare frame violin.

Monica Germino violins
Monica Germino’s other violins used in MUTED. from left to right- mr. blue (with tapping glove), a ca. 1970 frame violin, a J. B. Ceruti violin (1802), a ca. 1870 frame violin

Muted may be the quietest piece ever written for violin, but it was riveting in this intimately powerful performance.” – New York Times

Filmmaker Bas Andriessen has followed Monica and MUTED from the start for a documentary about the unusual composition and violinist Monica Germino. Still being edited, the film ends with the completion of the whisperviolin and the culmination of a year’s touring with MUTED. Keep an eye out for it.

Monica and whisperviolin no text

Information and images courtesy of the following:
Marcel Wanders
Maas Violbouw 
Bas Andreissen
Monica Germino