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Stephen Chambers

Russian Odessa Duet Concertina

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... its use of the "hard sign" (ъ) I think makes it Russian before the spelling reform.

As far as I know there was a proposal for a spelling reform before the revolution. It was accepted after the revolution in 1918-1919.

Assuming that our Ivan was a loyal follower of this reform :unsure: , the instrument was made before 1920 :unsure:

Having been made aware of these issues by yourselves, I did a bit of Googling and found that this reform was a very important change. Comprehensive spelling reform aimed at mass literacy was one of the first acts of the democratic provisional government in the 1917 Revolution. Immediately the Bolsheviks seized power they ratified and imposed further sweeping spelling decrees.

 

So I doubt if "our Ivan" had any option but to be a loyal follower of these changes, unless he fancied moving to Siberia ... :o :(

 

(It seems that the Tsars had feared that popular literacy might incite the serfs to rise against their bondage, and there were terrible penalties for peasants who defied the laws that prohibited them from learning to read.

 

Nevertheless, the Academy of Sciences had produced a plan for spelling reform in 1904, further modified in 1912, which meant that a blueprint for reform was ready and available in 1917.)

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I wonder why it has such redundancy on the keyboard. On one end:

 

The first white column is ABC

The second white column is CDE

The third white column is EFG

The last white column is GBA

 

So with three rows of black notes interleaved, 21 buttons provide only an octave, for which 12 buttons would have sufficed. A 42-button Crane provides three octaves with the same total number of buttons, with just 5 repeated notes. Perhaps the maker didn't have many reed sizes available. Or perhaps "wor Ivan" liked buttons in adjacent columns to go up in thirds giving some Anglo similarity.

 

I was surprised to read that serfs were prohibited from reading in tsarist Russia. I was aware of an apparently contradictory fact that Russia was the first country to have a system of "universal" basic education: in 1786 Catherine the Great required every town and district to open a basic school. Evidently the "universality" didn't extend to the serfs.

 

'tother Ivan

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I was surprised to read that serfs were prohibited from reading in tsarist Russia.  I was aware of an apparently contradictory fact that Russia was the first country to have a system of "universal" basic education: in 1786 Catherine the Great required every town and district to open a basic school.  Evidently the "universality" didn't extend to the serfs.

Or not all tsars/tsarinas had the same attitude toward the subject? :unsure:

Throughout history, many enlightened policies have been undone by subsequent generations. :(

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I was surprised to read that serfs were prohibited from reading in tsarist Russia.  I was aware of an apparently contradictory fact that Russia was the first country to have a system of "universal" basic education: in 1786 Catherine the Great required every town and district to open a basic school.  Evidently the "universality" didn't extend to the serfs.

Well it seems that Soviet estimates of Russian literacy rose from 40% of men and 16% of women in 1897, to 93% of men and 82% of women in 1939, and that most of the progress took place in a single decade.

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This amazing concertina has now arrived, so I can report that the 7" measurement is across the points, and that the height is 6 1/8". This means that the seven rows of buttons fit into only 2 5/8", but they are still further apart than those on an English.

 

The action resembles that inside the bass end of a button accordion, the coloured glass (?) buttons being stuck onto the ends of long metal rods, and the steel reeds are mounted on three long brass plates inside each of the ends.

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The action resembles that inside the bass end of a button accordion, the coloured glass (?) buttons being stuck onto the ends of long metal rods, and the steel reeds are mounted on three long brass plates inside each of the ends.

As somebody said recently,
Some pictures would be a big help.

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How bout a photographer I know of one going cheap. House trained as well.

Not if he's got an expensive "concertina habit" to feed ! :blink:

 

Actually, I do have a perfectly good Olympus somewhere, but most of my possessions are in storage at the moment.

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Stephen,

so how does it play, what's your playing experience with it so far?

I'm curious, because it is such a radical design - what are its pros & cons?

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tis a shame I was looking forward to hearing how she honks.

 

Not to mention seeing how it was held / played.

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tis a shame I was looking forward to hearing how she honks.

Well "honk" is about all she will do at the moment !

 

Unfortunately the bellows are rotten and full of cracks (and will get worse the more they are used), some of the buttons stick and many of the reeds are out of tune and/or make croaking sounds.

 

In the meantime I have much higher priorities for now. I've been out of action since February last year, due firstly to the failing health of both my parents and then my own accident, and I need to get a business going again. To that end I just got back from the Music Fair (Musikmesse) in Frankfurt, and I have my concertina-making project to get on with. Even my "new" tenor-treble Æola will have to wait until I have the time to give it a retune/overhaul.

 

And believe it or not, I have actually stopped looking at eBay ! :blink:

 

Not to mention seeing how it was held / played.

As I think Jim suggested, it seems to have been supported by the players thumbs, sticking up at 45º, passing through smaller straps to those for the hands. In its present condition it is hard to make sense of the fingering, but there seem to be both high and low notes on both ends, so perhaps it is not a duet after all.

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Well best of luck on all counts.

 

 

I'm trying not to think of business or work. Though there is an empty shop near here that keeps calling to me everytime I pass by...

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Stephen Chambers mission in life must be to go where none of us have been before on ebay!  Keep up the good work Captain Chambers! and keep us informed of the alien artifacts that you uncover on your noble trek!

Well, in my pursuit of free reed history I do sometimes reach the outer perimeters of the eBay galaxy, but I didn't get an example of a Klingon "may'ron" yet, so I'm still searching ... :unsure:

Er, or maybe it isn't an "Odessa duet" at all, but a cunningly disguised "may'ron" ? :huh: :blink: :unsure:

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"It's a concertina Jim, but not as we know it !" wink.gif

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

... while I would certainly not consider it an accordion, it is just as certainly pushing the envelope on the "concertina" classification. Maybe we need a new term. "Concordion"? "Accertina"? Or something completely different? "Yurt box"? "Geodescant"?

 

But if I had to pick one or the other, I guess "concertina" would be it.

 

How about "Melharmonium"? At least, so suggests an 1894 U.S. Patent that I've stumbled upon, whilst looking for something else - which is often the way research "discoveries" happen! :rolleyes:

 

Though the fingering is different, compare the ergonomics of Leonid-Platonowitsch Schpanowsky's concertina-shaped Melharmonium (Fig. 7 on page 2 of his Patent) with the slightly later, more-developed instrument I bought in 2005:

 

post-436-1111121153.jpg

 

IvanBlaginOdessaConcertinaLH.jpg

Concertina by Ivan Blagin, Odessa.

 

Whilst Gorka Hermosa's "The Accordion in the 19th Century" (page 29) provides good evidence of a link between Schpanowsky/Shpanovsky and Blagin, though using the slightly different English translation "Meloharmonica" for the name of the instrument:

 

"A peculiar prototype that did not succeed, but which, respecting its conception, can be denominated free bass. It was the one that in 1888 L.P. Shpanovsky (state school inspector in the Russian province of Kherson and stayed in Odessa) asked I.F. Blagin and E.V. Nikolaev to build; he wanted a chromatic accordion with piano keys on both keyboards (which they called meloharmonica) with bellows straps for both hands. It was created to accompany school choirs and it was displayed in numerous exhibitions in Chicago, Paris and Antwerp."

As does Alfred Mirek's "Reference Book on Harmonicas (Accordeons)" (page 26) which is probably his source:

 

"Schpanovsky's MELOHARMONICA. It was so called in the name of L.P. Shpanovsky, the inspector of the Public Schools in the province of Kherson. The instrument was invented by him in 1888, Odessa. It contains two melodic keyboards of the organ type. The model had some points of similarity with "Concertina". When pushing the key it was one reed which made a nice sound. On squeezing and releazing the bellows one may find the sounds alike. The harmonicas were made for work with the choirs at schools. "Meloharmonicas" were else produced by the best Odessa mechanics I.F. Blagin and E.V. Nikolaev. Made by these masters "melogarmonicas" were highly praised at numerous exhibitions being displayed in Chicago, Paris and Antwerpen."

The catalogue of The Worlds Columbian Exposition 1893, Chicago, shows that Shpanovsky exhibited his instruments there as "Meloharmoniphons" and it was in that year that he applied for his U.S. "Melharmonium" Patent (above):

935. SHPANOVSKY, L.

Odessa.

Meloharmoniphons with 27 and 32 keys.

These instruments are manufactured since 1889 in Odessa under the direction of the exhibitor and inventor; as a trial they are ordered in other towns. Up to the present over 200 meloharmoniphons have been made. Material local; sale to primary and other schools in Russia.

Department L. Group 158. Class 935.

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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Since it seems that the Russian name for the instrument is "Мелогармоника", perhaps it would be best to use Mirek's transliteration of that and call it a "Meloharmonica"? (Rather than using the confusing 19th century versions "Melharmonium" or "Meloharmoniphon".)

 

And, having found a Cyrillic keyboard online to type the Russian name, and Googling that word, I've been led back to an intriguing post on Concertina.net; "And this text too, which, by the way, refers to the invention of the bizarre Odessa duet found some years ago by Stephen Chambers"; only it's in Russian... :unsure:

 

Can anybody help with a translation of the relevant part?

Edited by Stephen Chambers

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