CONVERSATIONS with Ed Tracy

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Conversations featuring authors and influential leaders in the arts, media and business.

CARL BECKER & SON - CRAFTING MUSIC WITH PAUL BECKER

Becker violins and cellos -- and the family that makes them -- have a long and storied history. The craftsmanship involved in a "Becker" is an art form all to itself, developed and handcrafted with techniques passed down from generation to generation. Four generations, to be exact. When you ask PAUL BECKER about the extraordinary value and longevity of these instruments, he says, in the proper hands, they only improve with age … and can be immortal.

A visit to the new West Hubbard Street location of the Becker shop in Chicago will give anyone a greater appreciation for the artistry involved in creating these fine instruments. Handcrafted to exacting measurements, each has its own tonal identity, sized to fit the artist and adjusted to their own particular requirements. It is hard to imagine the patience and precision necessary for this highly-detailed work that has kept Paul Becker busy since he got his first bench in the family shop at 13 years old.

What has happened in the decades since was the topic of our conversation when we took a tour of his shop. We brought a 100 year old violin -- a Tracy family heirloom -- for show and tell to see whether or not there may still be some music in it and we discovered more about the Becker family’s extraordinary contribution to creating and preserving their craft.

Why instruments are invaluable …
“Well it is art … Art has a beauty. It produces a human voice. It recreates not just a beauty to look at but a beauty to listen to.”

On the intricate detailing and craftsmanship …
“Everything on a violin is important … ten hundredths of an inch, not one hundredth of an inch ... The measurements are incredibly important. This is much finer than a human hair. You cannot see these moves, yet, you will know those moves … anyone will hear those moves … any musician will feel those moves.”

How to create that special sound …
“I am dealing with engineering, chemistry, psychology, hearing … I mean the hearing part is an amazing thing … being in touch with how what I hear makes me feel is what creates that special sound.”

The inspiration behind a musical masterpiece …
“What I am looking for is an instrument that inspires the musician so they want to practice and find that violin … another corner that is in it … a sound or feel they did not have prior. I am looking for that in my work and if I can inspire a musician, then I am more likely to get that masterpiece of a performance from them.”

Loyola University Chicago
2015 Illinois Family Business of the Year
Small Family Business of the Year
Carl Becker & Son Ltd.
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Paul Becker of Carl Becker & Son talks about a 100 year old violin at his shop in Chicago. March 24, 2017

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