Actually, the above is such an "insert viola joke here" picture that I'm going to resist temptation and stick to the facts. It is, in fact, an unPhotoshopped viola, made by David Rivinus who, if you'll forgive the expression, clearly knows how to think outside the box. (Since I skipped the viola joke, may I suggest that, by having one of my students learn some Couperin pieces instead of the more conventional Baroque options from the WTC, the French and English Suites, etc., I can thus claim to be "thinking outside the Bachs.") I'm sure many string players have seen Rivinus's surrealistic violas before, but I'd never heard of them until I caught a little feature about a violinmaker convention on NPR a week or so ago. These violas are designed to allow for a bigger sounding box while making an instrument that feels like a violin in length, thus helping out violists who get fatigued from reaching for first position - and do violists ever really get beyond first position? (Whoops...)
But seriously, I would love to see/hear one of these instruments in action, and they are apparently already being played by professionals here and there. Meanwhile, violists, do not try this at home. Melting your viola will not produce one of these instruments - although it might still be a good idea. Call Mr. Rivinus.
By the way, just to try to make amends here, I'd like to mention that I've recently been rehearsing the first of the Bach viola da gamba sonatas with a violist, and I've rarely found anything so satisfying to play. I mean that in the most literal way - I don't find that they even need rehearsing; I'd be happy just to play all four movements over and over. I don't want any of the movements to stop. It's amazingly satisfying to let my fingers bounce through those fast movements, even when they bounce the wrong way every now and then. The funny thing is that I've known these sonatas for years, and have always thought of them as cello pieces, since I'm a sometimes cellist myself. They're fantastic pieces any way you slice them, but I've been surprised to find myself thinking that they're even better on the viola than the cello. Of course, it goes without saying that I think they're better on the piano than on the harpsichord, so I'm not in a hurry to dig out my old LP that features an actual viola da gamba and the inevitable harpsichord. Look, I'm a closet conservative, how politically correct do you expect me to be?