William Castle -
© William Castle 2013
8 Welsh End, Whixall,Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13 2NU
The longer I make instruments, the more I am convinced that it is the character of the maker which gives character to an instrument. Some of this is expressed by design, in the choice of the wood and the model, etc, but more importantly it is the maker’s conception and concentration that determine the qualities of the finished instrument. To use a musical analogy, it is not just the difference in technique, but the artistic interpretation which differentiates one person’s performance from another. To allow that flow of intention to come through in my work, I always try to do the parts of the instrument which are most important for the tone in one movement, as if it were a recording done in one take. Because this phase includes most of the work on the body of the instrument, much of the visual character of the instrument is created at the same time.
It is this way of working which makes each instrument unique, but at the same time roots it in the family of instruments that I have made. Whether the sound [and the look] of a particular instrument suits an individual musician is totally dependent on whether it gels with their own intention and style of playing, and the only way to find out is to play it. This is the reason why I prefer not to make on commission, but make instruments that I want to make and then let each player find out if it is going to work for them.
My introduction to instrument making came when I was still at school, my enthusiastic woodwork teacher recognising my interest in both music and woodwork. After school I was accepted at the Newark School of Violin Making, where besides learning the basics of violin making and repairing, I became interested in the recognition of instruments made by the old masters, and their differing styles of work.
On qualifying in 1982, I moved to north Germany to join the workshop of Geigenbau Machold in Bremen, which had a worldwide reputation for restoration work. Besides doing set ups, tonal adjustments and restoration, I had the opportunity to work on and study many of the classical Italian instruments which passed through the shop. Studying these instruments made me realise that it was not an absolute precision of execution but the fluid expression of intent, combining an understanding of shape, proportion and a mastery of technique which made them so special, both visually and tonally. It was this understanding which I determined to make the basis of my own work.
In 1985, I returned to England and settled in York, where I quickly became busy with repair work, a useful but nonetheless awkward interruption to making new instruments. Since moving to rural north Shropshire in 1996, however, I have been free to concentrate solely on making new instruments, which are played by discerning professionals and amateurs throughout this country and abroad.