Next to the deerstalker hat and the pipe, the item most often associated with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective is the Sherlock Holmes violin. And while the pipe and hat are clearly accessories, the violin appears to be central to the character of Sherlock Holmes and teaches us a little more about what makes him tick.
In A Study in Scarlet, Watson offers the following:
That he could play pieces, and difficult pieces, I knew well, because at my request he has played me some of Mendelssohn’s Lieder, and other favourites. When left to himself, however, he would seldom produce any music or attempt any recognized air. Leaning back in his arm-chair of an evening, he would close his eyes and scrape carelessly at the fiddle which was thrown across his knee. Sometimes the chords were sonorous and melancholy. Occasionally they were fantastic and cheerful. Clearly they reflected the thoughts which possessed him, but whether the music aided those thoughts, or whether the playing was simply the result of a whim or fancy, was more than I could determine.
If you have heard that kids who play music do better in school, there seems to be plenty of studies done to support this.
Recently on Facebook, an interesting post came across my newsfeed. It was about the playing of musical instruments and how the various parts of the brain react as the person plays. The video from the Ted-Ed lessons describes how the brains of those playing a musical instrument light up like fireworks in the auditory, motor and visual parts of the brain.
From a site called quora.com, the violin helps Sherlock think in these ways:
- Distancing. leave the problem alone for awhile
- Meditation. Clears the mind
- Distraction from physical needs
- Enables creative process
Sherlock Playing Violin in the Original Stories
Interestingly, Dr. Joseph Bell, who was the inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes had little musical interest and apparently neither did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Did Sherlock paying violin allow his brain to think about the current mystery he was trying to solve? Was Holmes able to use his powers of deduction while all the time playing the violin?
Examples of Sherlock playing violin is in many of the stories and of course the television shows and movies. In the Adventure of The Cardboard Box, Sherlock Holmes over lunch with Watson talks constantly about violins and offers up that he purchased his own Stradavarius from a broker in Tottenham Court Road for 55 shillings. In Holmes’ own estimation that Stradavarius he purchased was worth at least 500 Guineas; quite a steal! In The Adventure of The Mazarin Stone, Dr. Watson describes a visit to 221B Baker St where he notices “‘the scientific charts upon the wall, the acid-charred bench of chemicals, the violin-case leaning in the corner, the coal scuttle which contained of old the pipes and tobacco’.
Does Benedict Cumberbatch Play Violin ?
Many of the actors who have played Sherlock Holmes over the years have learned how to play the violin in order to bring reality to the part. Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Jonny Lee Miller and yes, Benedict Cumberbatch all learned from teachers how to play the violin. You can even download the BBC Sherlock violin music from Amazon.
Holmes obviously very much enjoyed music and playing the violin. As Watson notes in his writings from A Study in Scarlet he is quite unsure on whether Sherlock playing violin had any effect on his problem solving. Imagine Holmes in his chair playing, Watson in the corner listening and observing Holmes, then with a burst of energy they would be off; “the game is afoot”!