Susie and I just watched a French semi-documentary semi-fictionalization of the life of Bach on NetFlix. It was not terribly interesting, save for a great deal of Bach's music ostensibly played and sung by bewigged musicians, but one anachronism really stuck out. The bewigged violinists and violists were using modern, not Baroque, bows. Those of you, if there are any, who listen to early music regularly will know that there is a marked difference between the sound of a Baroque violin ands that of a modern violin. The Baroque sound is softer, less brilliant, less metallic, as it were. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the strings of the early instrument are made of animal gut, not of metal. The second is the nature of the bow. A modern bow bends inward, so that the hair is pulled tighter between the two ends. This produces a greater vibration when the bow is pulled across the strings. The Baroque bow actually bends outward a trifle, with the result that the hair is somewhat looser. This is exactly similar to the difference between an old bow [as in bow and arrows] and what I believe is called a "compound bow." The quickest way to tell the difference between the two musical bows is to look at the point. The early bow has a long graceful point; a modern bow has a shorter, stubbier point. This is occasioned by the different way in which the hair is attached to the bow. The difference in sound, by the way, is not a result in differences in the instrument itself. There are considerable differences between a Baroque violin and a modern violin, but a Stradivarius with metal strings played with a modern bow will have a quite brilliant sound.
As I have remarked on this blog before, the early music performances in Paris are, by and large, not at all comparable to those in Boston, Western Massachusetts, or elsewhere in America, so I guess it is not surprising that when the French make a movie about Bach, they use musicians playing with modern bows.