An x-ray that could lead to beautiful music

Marc Sanchez Nov 29, 2011

One day in 1988, radiologist Steven Sirr was called to the ER to x-ray a gunshot victim. Sirr happened to be practicing violin at the time, and in his haste, he brought the instrument with him. After the official x-ray, he decided to give a dose of radiation to his violin. He was stunned with the detail, and over the years, with help from other techs and instrument makers, he refined the process. Cut to this year when Sirr and his partners got permission to check out and x-ray a Stradivarius from the Library of Congress. They made over 1000 scans of the instrument to create three nearly-exact replicas.

Sure, that’s a great story. You’ve got your gunshot victim and a fantastic story arc of one man’s passion to succeed, but I like to imagine it this way, in an excerpt from the play: “Afterhours at the X-Ray Technicians Convention”

The scene is a half-lit ballroom with a few warming trays of rubbery chicken, scattered chairs, and crumpled table clothes. A group in orange scrubs is laughing at a fracture in the shape of giraffe; two women, each with a glass of barium, chase after a couple good-looking knuckleheads who have decided to dress in only x-ray aprons and goggles. One tech, Steven, stands in the corner. He’s a little shy. He doesn’t really fit in. But, HE’S A DREAMER!

Steven: Hey guys, what if we throw something new into this CAT scan thing-a-ma-jig.

Hunky Tech #1: You mean like a cat.. huh… get it?

Women Techs: (laughs)

Steven: No, I’m thinking something to make the world sing.

(Techs in orange scrubs stop laughing and scowl)

Steven: What if we took a violin. No wait, what if we took a Stradivarius violin, x-rayed it with super-microscopic detail, and made an exact copy.

Hunky Tech #2: I’d rather spend an week picking out errors in metaphalangeal joint pictures, Rudy.

Steven: Uh, okay… it’s Steven, by the way. And mark my words: I will x-ray a violin, and people will know my name!

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