Mad cows

By Miranda Wilson

There’s been a bemusing EU diktat on the permissible uses of certain parts of animals that could end up banning the production of gut strings for early musicians for fear of Creutzfeldt-Jakob, or mad cow disease. I don’t use gut strings myself, but as an enthusiastic fan of historically informed performance practitioners, I can see that such a ban would be disastrous. I don’t know if anyone in America produces gut strings, but this could be their big chance to increase profits, I suppose.

I wonder what on earth the presumably faceless bureaucrats behind this think we string players do with our equipment. I may be wrong, but I have never heard of anyone getting peckish in the practice room and having a surreptitious gnaw on their string. Strings are expensive, even if you buy them online. I thought the Larsens and Spirocores I habitually buy (Larsen Soloist on the top two, Spirocore tungsten and Spirocore silver on the G and C) were horrendously overpriced until I heard what some of my HIPP friends were spending on their gut strings, and that shut me up. You’d really have to be hungry to chew your way through the several metres of wildly expensive strings that experts claim would have to be ingested before you could be at risk for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Musicians are notoriously poor and hungry types, but they’re not that desperate. (If they wanted to eat animal guts, there are cheaper and easier ways, such as going to a restaurant of which I was very fond when I lived in Texas. It was so authentically Mexican that the waitresses didn’t speak English, so I’d randomly jab my finger against something in Spanish on the menu that I hadn’t had before. Once it was tripe. Urrgghh.)

Update: Italian health ministry grants exemption for suppliers of beef gut. Hooray!


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