CMC S89-1858; PCD 94-687-004

By Maher Akili, 1949- ; Syria; wood, ivory and mother-of-pearl inlay, metal strings; 105 x 39 x 24.5 cm. CMC 78-399

The lute is the most important musical instrument in the countries of the Near and Middle East. An ancestor of the Western lute, it spread through Islam in various forms. The "violut", as its creator calls it, which was designed between 1967 and 1975, constitutes a synthesis of modern experimental research and the art of making traditional stringed instruments. Marrying traditional techniques and innovation so as to extend the instrument's acoustical range, it features sympathetic strings added to the soundboard and inlays on the back to enrich the tone of the violut.

The art of the stringed-instrument maker combines the functional with the aesthetic, wedding the beauty of the sound to that of the object. The age-old arts of marquetry, inlaying with ivory, ebony or mother-of-pearl, and engraving precious metals accentuate the shape of an instrument. But they also observe the acoustic principle that the diversity of the materials used improves the timbre. This art, which seems inherent in lute-making, was perfected when the decorative arts were flourishing in Islamic countries. Maher Akili used geometric forms on his violut to create a motif in mother-of-pearl and ivory that is repeated four times. The initial diamond motif expands into a six-pointed star, simultaneously evoking the image of a hexagon and an abstract floral theme.