A Web of Music

Golden Orb Spider
A golden orb spider, photo by
Sam Fraser-Smith

We’ve written here a few times about spider silk and the scientists and artists have looked outside the web to find creative uses for the durable threads. Here’s another use of spider silk, one that’s music to our ears.

Traditionally, violin strings were made of the oddly named catgut (catgut is not cat, but rather sheep intestines) and today most strings are made of a blend of metal and nylon. Last March, scientist and violinist Shigeyoshi Osaki created violin strings by twisting together thousands of strands of golden orb spider silk.

Osaki used only the “dragline” silk (the silk spiders use to anchor the down their webs) from around 300 female golden orb spiders to create his strings. While the strings were weaker than catgut, they were stronger than the metal-nylon blend.

Of course, when it comes to violin strings, strength isn’t the most important factor. So how do these strings sound? According to Osaki the sound is “soft and more profound,” but you can judge for yourself by listening to a sample of spider-silk music as played by Jun-Ichi Matsuda in this video

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