Harry Mairson is professor of computer science at Brandeis University and a cello maker. He is interested in designing and using software to inform the artisanal practice of making classical stringed instruments. A recent project is the publication of a folio of CT images of the 1700 Stradivari “Stauffer-ex Cristiani” violoncello, in the collection of the Museo del Violino, in Cremona, Italy.
At Radcliffe, Mairson is building a digital library of iconic instruments from the Italian golden age of violin making. The work includes deconstructing this data into the proportional Renaissance geometry that was used to design these instruments, further work on a “cello compiler” that translates these designs into computer numerically-controlled fabrication, and using computer-manipulable representations of this Renaissance geometry to explain the evolution of instrument forms.
Mairson received the BA in mathematics from Yale University in 1978 and the PhD in computer science from Stanford University in 1984. His research has included analyzing algorithmic aspects of programming languages, proving theorems about the necessary and sufficient resources needed to implement features of modern functional programming languages. Mairson has been building musical instruments for decades, including an apprenticeship with the harpsichord maker Mark Stevenson in Cambridge, England, during the late 1970s. He has participated in the Oberlin Violin Makers Workshop and has presented his Digital Amati project at such venues as the American Musicological Society, the Association of Computing Machinery, and the British Violin Making Association.