Maestro Maolin Song
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A giant tree in the forest

Newspaper Interview with Maestro Maolin Song

Published on March 6, 1998, China Daily

Song Maolin’s violin craft hailed

  The way Song Maolin drives his car offers some clues about his personality: sure and steady. But the old suit he is wearing doesn’t give away his status as a successful craftsman and business man.

  Song is a master violin maker and the managing director of Beijing Forest Musical Instrument Corporation Limited, which exports more than2,000 violins to U.S.A., Germany, Austria, Swiss, Sweden, Britain Italy, Holland and Singapore each year.

   The very first time he touched a violin, he told Beijing Weekend, was in 1968, when he was a 16-year-old student at Beijing No 127 Middle School. He borrowed a violin from a neighboring granny, and although he had only played erhu, he was able to play it and thus joined the school’s propaganda team – an honor for a student at the time.

  But soon the neighbor asked him to return the violin because she was afraid it would be damaged. “I was very upset about it,” said Song. After three days, he borrowed it again, promising not to play it and to just “have a look”.

  “I wished with all my heart to have a violin of my own.”

   So Song began to learn carpentry at age 17.

   “My parents were not able to plan for my future, so I planned it for myself.”

   But then a political movement came for young people to go to the countryside, and Song Maolin went to Wuliangsuhai in Inner Mongolia to work as a carpenter, beginning in 1970.

   However, Song’s love for the violin was almost innate, for once there, he made his first violin.

  Baotou Song and Dance Ensemble came to Wuliangsuhai to perform, and they brought with them a cello, which was much admired by the people there. Song at that time could do excellent carpentry work, and encouraged by his fellow regiment soldiers, he began to make a cello. Fifteen days later, he brought out two cellos – one of which was said to have “wonderful timbre”- from the carpentry workhouse. The news spread and there came somebody who wanted to exchange a cello with one of Song’s. But the leader of the regiment Song was in refused without hesitation, saying that the cello was “born in the regiment and so is our own child.

   From then on, making violins became Song’s life-long pursuit. The leader recognized Song’s potential and not only created the conditions for Song to continue making violins in the regiment , but also gave him a two-month holiday a year to study violin making at the Beijing violin Factory. There, he got to know Dai Honglin a master violin maker, and became his apprentice.

   The working conditions at Wuliangsuhai were very poor. Song Maolin had to work in his spare time and often forgot to eat dinner because he became so absorbed in his work. He had no paint and had to use yellow earth to paint the violins. But the violins he made did sell in Baotou City. “I could sell a violin for 300 Yuan – quite a lot of money at the time,” Song recalled.

 In 1978, Song Maolin came back to Beijing. He was fortunate enough to be admitted to China National Opera Theatre as a scenery maker. At that time, most of his contemporaries were jobless when they first came back to city. But Song couldn’t forget the days when he made violins.

“I missed violin making,” Song said. So in 1986, he established Maolin Musical Instrument Corporation Limited. The first days were difficult, but Song was confident. “Business will go well as long as your goods are of high quality.” In 1992, he set Beijing Forest Violin Limited .Now 90 percent of Song’ violins are exported to a dozen foreign countries and are fairly well received.

Driving into Song Maolin’s factory, the first sight was stacks of timber occupying the whole yard. One would wonder why he stocks so much wood. Talking about wood, Song has a lot to say. “Although technique is very important in making a good violin, good timber is also an important factor,” Song said.

He found that timber from old houses makes excellent material for violins, so he offer appears at old house demolishing sites looking for old timber.

But wood has also been the source of a major problem for him. The wood commonly used to make violins – white fish scale pine – is endangered, for it is also used to make disposable chopsticks. In Northeast China, many factories are using the pine tree to produce these chopsticks. The Japanese have the pine trees in their country, but they don’t use them in order to maintain resources. Instead, they introduced a chopsticks – making machine to China and in return imported disposable chopsticks. This kind of tree is favored for its fragrant wood. “This is plunder in another form,” Song said, anger in his eyes. Ten chopsticks are the material for a front piece of a violin. But 10 chopsticks are worth less than one Yuan, when a violin is worth more than 3,000 Yuan.

Now this kind of tree has been nearly exhausted from Northeast China. Song has to turn to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for pine trees. He bought wood by hundreds of cubic meters and hopes to match Japan’s conservation efforts.

 “The Germans have a law stipulating that only those who make musical instruments can fell a certain kind of tree. We Chinese should also have such a law,” Song said earnestly.

Now that Song’s expertise as a virtuoso violin maker is becoming known, many musical troupes and individuals are asking him to make violins for them. But Song is still the regiment soldier who was crazy about making violin. He pours his heart and soul into it with the guiding philosophy that violin making is not only a trade but an art. He pays great attention to the quality of his violins. Once he burned 300 violins which had flaws. The violins made in his factory are all hand-made. Song firmly believes that hand-made violins are better than those made with machines. I can’t cheat my customers with machine- made violins,” said Song, who also makes violins for children. “Our children’s violins are the best in the same effort to produce them.” I hope there can be more violinists in future generations. And my violins won’t let them down.”

China is developing fast. As material life becomes rich, people are developing more spiritual pursuits. More Chinese people will enter the field of music,” Song predicts, “and my violins will help them achieve their goals.”  

  Maoling Song and his daughter, Sonya Song

 

 

中国的斯特拉迪瓦里

“森林提琴”创始人、董事长

宋茂林大师简介:

 

宋茂林先生现任中国提琴专业委员会副会长、中国乐器协会理事、中国中央歌剧院乐器研究室主任、中国交响乐团高级弦乐技师、中国低音提琴协会会员、美国提琴学会会员,在提琴制作研究领域里耕耘了40余年,是中国当代著名制琴大师中的佼佼者。先生早在70年代(与现任中央音乐学院提琴系主任,全国人大常委郑荃)从师于首位获得国际制琴金奖的戴洪祥大师。

1952年,当他降生到这个世界时,他贫困的家庭并没有带给他花一般的幸福生活,他的父亲和母亲都是平谷农村老实巴交的农民,由于家里孩子多,本来一贫如洗的家庭更是雪上加霜,在宋茂林先生的童年记忆中,饥饿和缺衣少穿永远是深刻的印记。

先生从小就对音乐有着浓厚的兴趣,从11岁开始,跟着二哥学拉小提琴,并越来越被小提琴那悠扬而高雅的音色和旋律所吸引。在那个年代,这种乐器相当稀少,练习的机会自然不多。当他发现邻居的老奶奶有一把小提琴时,就借来不断地练习,达到了近似痴迷的状态。后来由于种种原因,提琴被要走了,从此,先生算是与提琴结下了不解之缘。

没有琴,也买不起琴,怎么办?焦渴无奈中的先生便萌生了自己做琴的念头。先从木工学习开始,经过自己数年的刻苦钻研,他的提琴制作技艺有了一定的水平。在那个年代,先生随着社会的大潮在内蒙古生产建设兵团下乡插队了。繁重的劳动并没有消磨掉他对提琴制作艺术的执着追求,只是苦于没有合适的制琴材料。一次偶然的机会,他发现了一块废弃的枕木,通过一个多月废寝忘食的精雕细琢,终于制成了二把提琴,并利用文艺表演的机会进行了现场演奏。那纯正而悠扬的琴声最终于引起了内蒙古包头市文工团团长的注意,从此得到了文工团的认可和支持。70年代初,制琴技艺日渐成熟的先生拜师于我国著名提琴制作大师戴洪祥的门下,他是中国第一位获得世界提琴制作比赛金奖的中国人,经过在北京提琴厂几个月的专业学习,先生的制作技艺突飞猛进。凭着对提琴制作的执着追求,他在戴洪祥老师的带领下共同总结出了一套“纯手工制琴流程”,得到了世界著名制琴大师和专家的赞许,其中包括当代著名制琴大师莫拉西先生,英国大师比尔,奥地利物理学家阿丹卡先生,意大利提琴评委维多先生等。从此,先生的制琴技艺便受到了业界的极大关注,声名也渐渐鹊器。

学成之后为了可以继续从事并进一步的研究提琴的制作艺术,宋茂林先生着手进行提琴制作公司的建立。建厂之初,他发现首先要解决的是提琴的用料问题,当年戴老的一句话提醒了他“木料好加上好工艺,提琴的音色就错不了”,于是为了寻找到最好的制琴材料,他踏遍了祖国的山山水水,历尽艰辛,经过无数次考察,终于在新疆和四川找到了最理想的木料——新疆的千年鸡腿松与古云杉,其完美均匀的木质纹理让人着迷,和四川的优质枫木,以其独特的眩目花纹而著称,对于提琴音色的助力是无可比拟的,集这些千年古树的精华,最终使“森林”牌提琴的音色有了质的飞跃,并得到了权威机构和世界著名制琴大师的认可,尤其是意大利“提琴制作艺术”杂志社社长,AWLAJ专家委员会会长卡尔洛·维多先生的肯定,证实了最好的提琴制作材料在中国,也向全世界证明了中国是优秀提琴的“育儿箱”。1985宋茂林先生建立了北京茂林提琴有限公司,美国华人乐团中提琴首席刘立舟先生使用的演奏琴就是宋茂林先生于八五年制作的;

1986年在全国提琴制作比赛中,宋先生制作的中提琴荣获全国第三名,得到专业的肯定之后,1992年宋先生成立了更大规模的纯手工制琴出口型企业北京森林乐器有限公司。首届哈萨克斯坦国际弦乐比赛中,中央音乐学院王昌海教授带队的比赛选手玛莎和康文婷使用森林中提琴在比赛中荣获金奖和哈萨克斯坦作品奖。在比赛结束后有很多观众和音乐家们到后台观看玛莎比赛中使用的中提琴,当得知是一只中国提琴时,大家哗然了——“中国的中提琴竟有这么好!” 同时获奖的俄罗斯选手使用的是价值20万美金的德国提琴,但评为一致认为宋老师的琴的三、四弦音色的强度要更胜一筹。 2007年,在日本举办的世界名琴鉴赏会上,宋先生的中国小提琴技压群芳,音色被鉴定为最接近斯特拉迪瓦里名琴的一支琴。

 

为更好地繁荣中国高雅音乐,先生本着对消费者认真负责的宗旨,决不允许自己的一只有质量问题的提琴流入市场,也曾亲手烧毁掉数百只质量不过关的成品提琴,价值几十万之多。公司连年通过国家技术质量监督局的产品合格验收,并获得北京市产品质量监督检验所授予“森林提琴,质量可信”的荣誉称号。

先生和他的学生:

40余年的制琴道路上,先生培养和扶植了一批又一批优秀的提琴制作师和成功的提琴生产企业家,其中较著名的有被誉为“世界提琴之乡”美誉的中国平谷区东高村镇的众多优秀企业,包括北京华东乐器有限公司、北京艺苑乐器有限公司、北京鸿升韵提琴有限公司、牡丹江和音乐器有限公司等,为提琴制造业的发展作出了巨大贡献,他们的成功直接推动了中国成为世界提琴制作大国的进程。先生的学生们经常带着自己制作生产的提琴来向他讨教,品评与交流;一个个来自于我国偏远地区的普通农民经过刻苦钻研与先生的严格教诲在提琴制作的海洋中建立了属于自己的岛屿。他们感谢宋老师不但给予了他们丰富的技术经验而且让他们改变了自己的人生观与价值观,且使自己的人生之路更加灿烂和辉煌。

在培养人才的过程中,先生从不吝啬地传授自己多年积累的制琴经验,他认为中国的提琴制造业要在世界站稳脚跟就必须提高自身的质量,那么只有具备高素质与造诣的制琴人,才能够制造出高质量的得到认可的好琴,只有达到了提琴高品质的普及,才会有赞扬与响应;为了发展家乡的提琴事业,宋茂林先生亲手扶植了多家提琴生产企业,在今天被世人誉为“中国的克雷莫纳”的平谷区东高村(先生出生的地方),几千名农民“制琴师”数10家提琴生产企业,就有数家企业是经过先生的扶植与培养而走向成功之路的。提琴制造业是劳动密集型行业,能耗低,污染小,利润丰厚有着广阔的发展前景。提琴发展需要不断的前进与创新,在中国提琴事业迅猛发展达到更高境界的过程中,需要大量的热爱提琴、了解提琴、精通提琴制作的朋友来共同努力。中国在世界提琴之林已成为了一名“巨人”,这就更需要我们有更多、更优秀的制琴师来共同维护来之不益的成就,在中国专业纯手工提琴制作领域里创造更大的辉煌。