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James Plamondon

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  1. Gentlepersons, I assure you that everyone in this forum has been most kind and considerate of my sometimes off-center curiosity. All I wanted to do was take up a new instrument. Who woulda thunk it would conjure up all these interesting questions? Just goes to show you, life's unpredictable. Like, just when I was about to order The Button Box's last Stagi Hayden, Bob Gaskins scoops it. If I'd kept my mouth shut about how cool the Hayden really was... Phew. Making all of those facial expressions is tiring. One more, and I'm outa here. --- James
  2. Richard -- I appreciate your response, and hope that you will be able to answer a related question. "Hayden" duets are now available (or imminently forthcoming) from a number of vendors: Dickinson, Dipper, Stagi, Marcus, and of course yourselves. It is entirely likely that, in the absence of any validation of their conformance, these manufacturers' keyboard layouts will vary -- one from the other -- in button size, spacing, slant, position (relative to the center of the palm rest, say), and perhaps in the placement of special buttons. This would not concern me, except that Brian Hayden is quoted as saying "Its these little bits that are important" and also that having larger-than-usual (6mm) buttons with a very specific spacing "has worked out extremely well, even when you are playing only three parts. With four or even five parts, then you have to have it, and because of the fourths and fifths, that tips the balance between being able to play four parts and five parts." http://www.maccann-duet.com/williams/hayde...-chat/index.htm Mr. Hayden's patent rights to The Hayden System have expired, so he is no longer in a position to dictate strict conformance as a condition of licensing. This introduces an ambiguity into the market: what exactly is a Hayden Duet, and what is not? It is possible that I am the only one with such concerns -- being from the IT industry, in which rigid standards are essential, perhaps makes me overly sensitive. If not -- if others share these concerns -- perhaps they could be addressed by having Brian Hayden give your forthcoming Morse Hayden Duets (and those of other manufacturers, such as Marcus Music) some kind of "seal of approval," confirming that their design conforms to the latest version of The Hayden System. What do you think? Thanks! :-) --- James
  3. Gentlepersons, The left hand button/note layout of the Hayden System is a thing of beauty. http://www.maccann-duet.com/hayden/Hayden-...yden-System.pdf But I wonder -- why isn't the right hand note layout a mirror image of the left (with additional keys as space allows)? After all, my right hand is the mirror image of my left. Shouldn't the notes on the buttons be mirrored, too? Then I could hit the same notes with the same fingers on both sides. True, the left hand is playing chords while the right is playing melody (generally speaking), but the melody and chords are intimately related (also generally speaking), so that's a reason to mirror them. I'm sure that there's a good reason for lack of mirroring. What is it? Thanks! :-) James Plamondon P.S.: I am sufficiently impressed by the beauty of the Hayden layout, that I'd like to see the original patent. Yet an online search of the US and UK patent databases failed to turn up any patents for Brian Hayden (or Brian G Hayden). (I admit that I have never before searched for patent information, so I may have done it wrong.) Can anyone here tell me where to find a copy of the patent, or more info that would help me locate it online?
  4. Dear Mr. Morse -- You said above that, for your forthcoming Morse Haydens: Can you please tell me more about the much-anticipated Morse Hayden? - How many keys? - How much do you expect to charge? - If your reed maker works out, when will you begin production? - Give your existing pre-orders, if one were place a pre-order today, when could one expect to take delivery? - Following the example of the Concertina Connection's offer to buy back its Jackie student English models at full price on the purchase of one of its more up-scale Englishes, can you commit to buy back the Button Box's Stagi Haydens from those upgrading to a Morris Hayden when they become available? - All else being equal, and with the full understanding that the folks at the Button Box and Marcus Music are good friends, what specfic advantages will your Hayden have over that version being produced by Marcus Music, that would lead the wise and informed consumer to buy yours rather than Marcus'? Looking forward to your response, I remain Respectfully Yours, James Plamondon
  5. Jim, et al., -- I appreciate your taking the time to point out the errors in my admittedly limited understanding. Plese allow me to show you the same courtesy, and do not hesitate to correct any errors you find herein. When it comes to getting the facts right, I am a glutton for punishment. :-) You ask how many concertinas I've encountered in which the "duplicate" buttons were actually tuned to different notes. This is a very reasonable question! :-) Sadly, I must confess that I have encountered precisely one concertina in my entire life -- my mom's broken Bastari Anlgo -- so I have no data to offer on this point. However, I would argue that such anecdotal evidence is not compelling in any event, as the vast majority of surviving mean-tone concertinas would have been re-tuned to equal-temperament, concert-pitch tuning in the intervening years. (Perhaps a professional concertina restorer could chime in here.) You ask where I get my understanding that the English concertina was designed to be tuned to the mean-tone system. Good question! :-) Here's a link to a discussion of the evolution of Western tuning systems that specificially discusses both the English concertina and Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier," placing both in context: http://www.ubmail.ubalt.edu/~pfitz/play/re...ef/tmprment.htm The relevant passage is as follows: Now, I have no idea whether any of this is true or not. The author is from the University of Baltimore (I gather, from the URL), but I can't trace the author back any farther than that. I admit to being embarassed by my ignorance, but I've tried to find answers to these questions on the Web with no success. I appreciate your generosity in taking the time and effort to offer your suggestions. Looking forward to hearing more from you all, I remain Yours Respectfully, James Plamondon
  6. Jim, BellowBell, et al., Thanks for the very informative and helpful post. It helps a lot. BTW, I think one gets the emoticon from placing a lower-case 'b' immediately before a right paren, like this: --- James
  7. Dear Dr. Atlas, et al., I assure you that I did not mean to "charge" CSFRI with anything, and apologise for giving any offense. Quite the contrary, I stated that I must be missing something -- as indeed it appears that I am. Hopefully, your reply will tell me what I was missing. :-) Similarly, I am confident that you will be able to dispell my wayward guesses about why the concertina lost its popularity. I particularly look forward to your thoughts on the English concertina's timbre and tuning, which I suspect would benefit from scholarly consideration. I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to respond to my inquries. I did not expect them to be addressed by such an illustrious member of the concertina community as yourself. Respectfully, James Plamondon Abashed Newbie
  8. Gentlepersons, I have no evidence of Wheatstone's commissioning such works, and apologise for sounding as if I did. From what I had read, I had ASSUMED that he had commissioned some of the concertina-specific works. That's certainly what I would have done in his place, to help overcome the chicken-or-egg problem. I am surprised that this was not the case (although I am not arguing the point). I've ordered your book from Amazon, Allan, but have not yet received it; once I do, I hope that my signal-to-noise ratio will improve. Thank you for pointing out this error. :-) --- James
  9. Gentlepersons, One more topic, and I'm done for the night (Australian time). Please don't hesitate to direct me to a different forum if these topics are inappropriate for this group. The early English concertinas were originally tuned in the mean-tone system. Later concertinas were manufactured in the equal-temperament system, and most previously-manufactured mean-tone concertinas were re-tuned to the equal-temperament system. Also, older concertinas were tuned to the "old pitch," rather than to "concert pitch," and were subsequently re-tuned for that as well. It occurs to me that these shifts in tuning could have significant effects on the harmonics of concertinas. Check out this set of articles: http://eceserv0.ece.wisc.edu/~sethares/ttss.html The basic idea is that the timbre of any kind of instrument -- the spectrum of sounds that it emits when played -- is better suited for some scales than for others. Note that the timbre of an instrument is affected, but not dominated, by the specific notes that it's playing. So re-tuning a concertina to equal-temperament tuning and concert pitch should not dramatically affect its timbre. (But maybe it could. I'm no expert; I'm feeling my way along a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.) As the articles above show, the correspondence between the concertina's timbre and its scale matters a LOT to how well it produces chords and fits in with other instruments. Let's presume for the sake of argument that Wheatstone got the timbre of the English concertina just right -- exactly perfect for the mean-tone tuning system in old pitch. Then by definition this timbre CANNOT be exactly correct for the equal-temperament tuning in concert pitch; its chords will be off, and it won't sound quite right with other instruments. Or maybe Wheatstone got it all wrong at first, but lucked out such that the timbre was exactly right when re-tuned for equal-temperament and concert-pitch. Or maybe both tunings were significantly off. In any case, it suggests that new reeds etc. could be designed to make the concertina's timbre fit modern tuning better, so that concertinas can sound better than ever before. Interesting, yes? So, I wonder...does anyone know: 1. What was the timbre (spectrum) of the original English concertinas, and how well did it correspond to the mean-tone, old-pitch system in which they were originally tuned? 2. When these concertinas were re-tuned to the concert-pitch, equal- temperament scale, how did retuning affect their timbre, and how well did the resulting timbre match the new scale? 3. What are the timbres of the accordion-reed-based concertinas being manufactured today? How does their timbre differ from the old concertinas? How well do they fit the concert-pitch, equal- temperament scale? If I've completely misinterpreted what I've read, or am rediscovering the wheel ("Look, everybody! It rolls!"), or have otherwise gotten my facts wrong, please don't hesitate to let me know. Thanks! :-) --- James P.S.: I did not post this in the "history" section, because it seemed to me that it is relevant to all concertinas being played today, whether antique or modern.
  10. Gentlepersons, I apologize for my too-frequent postings. I can only plead an insatiable curiosity, and hope that you'll tell me if my questions are adequately dealt with elsewhere. Much is said by concertinists on the Internet about how much better concertina reeds sound than (hawk, spit) accordion reeds. Knowing nothing about it, I am certainly not going to disagree, but I do wonder: what, exactly, is the difference? Specifically, how does the timbre/spectrum of a "true concertina reed" differ from that of an accordion reed? I mean, acoustic theory, metallurgy, and machining are all far better understood now than in the 1840's, so presumably one could make a reed today that sounded exactly like the originals, or far "better," however "better" was defined. So, what's the diff? Thanks! :-) --- James
  11. Gentlepersons, Note that although I advocate the free downloading of CSFRI's public domain archive "as is," note that CSFRI still has the opportunity to profit by adding value. Bear with me for a minute, and I’ll explain how. It is my understanding (and please jump in here if I'm wrong on this) that Wheatstone's English concertina was originally designed to conform to the old mean-tone tuning system. In that system, to make it possible to play in the full range of keys, the G-sharp and A-flat had to sound different from each other, as did D-sharp and E-flat, as explained here: http://www.ubmail.ubalt.edu/~pfitz/play/re...ef/tmprment.htm In the currently-standard equal-temperament tuning system, the notes in these pairs are “considered to be the same,” so the reeds sounded by pressing the G-sharp and A-flat buttons are tuned to sound the same. This is also true of the D-sharp and E-flat. (The old concertinas were also originally tuned to 'old pitch,' not to modern 'concert pitch,' but that is a different issue, which is not relevant to this discussion.) Consider, then, any song written or arranged for the English concertina in the mid-1800’s. It would be arranged for mean-tone tuning, because that’s how they were all tuned then. QUESTION: would such a song sound somehow “wrong” if played on a concertina that had been tuned to the equal-temperament system (as essentially all concertinas are, now)? If so, would rearranging it slightly make it sound closer to the composer’s original intent? Presuming that the answer to both questions is “yes”… Here’s the point: CSFRI has the opportunity to *create* intellectual property from its collection of public-domain material by rearranging the songs as described above and copyrighting the results. CSFRI could then quite reasonably charge for access to these new, copyrighted versions of the previously public-domain works. Presuming that CSFRI renewed its copyrights periodically, and that the world’s jurisdictions continue endlessly extending their copyright expiration deadlines as they have for the past 75 years or so, CSFRI can own these copyrights *forever.* Also notice that collections (anthologies) of public-domain works are also copyrightable. By collecting its archive into a single anthology, or set of anthologies, CSFRI can create copyrightable intellectual property, even if it does nothing else to the original works. Note, however, that this copyrighting would put CSFRI in a conflict-of-interest position. On the one hand, CSFRI is requesting donations of copies of public-domain works, explicitly in order to share them with the world. Imagine that CSFRI produces new, copyrighted versions of these public-domain works, as described above. Imagine further that it places both versions on its website for downloading: the original, public-domain versions for downloading at zero cost, and the copyrighted versions at some non-zero cost. People would tend to choose the free versions, all else being equal, even if they didn't sound quite right, because people are cheap. One way around this would be for CSFRI to add significant value to its copyrighted versions. One obvious way to do this would be for CSFRI to include (along with its sheet music) a sound file of the song being played properly. If it did this for its copyrighted versions, but not for its public-domain originals, then it would be fulfilling its stated mission to share the contents of its public-domain library, while still having a way to generate at least a modest revenue stream. What CSFRI should *not* do, is try to “add value” by printing its copyrighted sheet music and shipping it to purchasers. As mentioned above, shipping paper detracts value, unless the sheet music would be too thick for end user to print out themselves (and even then, one should have the soft-copy option). Why am I going into all of this detail? Because profit is *good.* I want CSFRI to understand how it can make a good, honest profit from its activities, while still meeting its stated public-service aims. …unless I am myself missing something critical, which is entirely likely, given my state of perpetual and ever-increasing ignorance – in which case I beg your forgiveness and look forward to your assistance in correcting my mistakes. :-) Sincerely, James Plamondon
  12. Bellowbelle— You’ve sparked some thinking (always a risk) in my musically under-educated brain (extremely dangerous). Someone, please jump in and correct me before I get completely off kilter. :-) It is my understanding that Wheatstone specifically designed the 48-key English concertina to have the same compass as the violin. This was no accident. Had Wheatstone not done this, he would have faced a classic chicken-or-egg problem: no one would buy a concertina before there was music for it, and no one would write music for it before the “installed base” of concertina players was large enough to make publishing concertina music profitable. By matching the compass of the violin, Wheatstone made the English concertina “backwardly compatible” with the existing body of violin music, so that concertina players had something to play when they had worked through their introductory tutors. This overcame the chicken-or-egg problem, allowing the market to grow large enough to (hopefully) justify the publication of concertina-specific compositions and arrangements. Wheatstone also commissioned concertina-specific compositions, but I submit that this was more a marketing ploy (“Look! Serious music from serious composers! The concertina is a high-class instrument!”) than a serious attempt to subsidize a significant body of work. Thus, even today, the modern player of a 48-key English concertina could simply pick up a piece of violin music and have a go, with a reasonable expectation of compatibility. However, violin music is usually written to take advantage of the unique features of the violin. The physical shape of the violin and the physical mechanism by which it is played lend themselves to certain combinations of notes (together or in sequence) and idioms. For example, the violin can glissando smoothly from one note to another, along the same string. The English concertina has completely different physical constraints. For example, the concertina can play more notes simultaneously than a violin can (not being a violinist, I’m out on a limb here). But the concertina can’t glissando smoothly between notes, since each note is on a separate reed. (I understand that Wheatstone experimented with a “gliding reed” concertina which could have overcome this constraint, although the solution would probably have introduced new and different constraints). The layout of the buttons on the English concertina introduce yet another set of constraints, making some note sequences and combinations easier and some harder, leading to a different set of idioms than is used on the violin. These constraints can be thought of as the walls of a box (getting back to your posting, BellowBelle). To play the English concertina within the violin’s box will work – you can do it – but it doesn’t get the best out of either the violin music (which will always sound better on a violin) or the concertina. When playing the concertina, it’s always better to play music which has been composed, or at least arranged, for the concertina – that is, which has been designed to fit inside the concertina’s constraint-box. That way, the player can exploit the strengths of the concertina (e.g., chords), and avoid its weaknesses (e.g., glissandos). Which brings me to my other posting, enquiring about the availability of Regondi’s tutor. Being the recognized, unmatched master of the instrument, both as a player and as a composer, at the peak of the instrument's popularity, it is reasonable to expect that Regondi’s tutor is still among the best ever written. Regondi understood the concertina’s constraint-box better than anyone before of since (although, should the concertina regain popularity, his virtuosity is will certainly be eclipsed eventually). It is likely that the subtleties that he transmitted in his tutor have been simplified away by later tutor-writers, who either didn’t understand the subtleties or didn’t want to bother teaching average students about them. Since it’s been in the public domain for over a hundred years, let’s get a copy of Regondi’s tutor scanned in and posted online for others to download and/or reissue! --- James P.S.: To paraphrase Mark Twain, please forgive the long posting; I didn’t have time to write a shorter one. :-)
  13. Gentlepersons, The Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments (CSFRI at CUNY) has an extensive collection of sheet music for the English concertina, the Regondi tutor, and other interesting public-domain material that various donors have provided. http://web.gc.cuny.edu/freereed/library/mu...concertina.html CSFRI's website laudably states that it "is devoted to fostering and serving as a resource for scholarly research on all aspects of all free-reed instruments" and has "the aim of making its collection accessible to those interested in the subject." To achieve this aim, the obvious next step is for CSFRI to scan its collection of public-domain sheet music and make it available for free download, allowing people to print out the results themselves or at their local copy shops (on larger paper, if desired). For thicker works, such as tutorials, the new print-on-demand technologies can produce bound books one at a time for a very reasonable price. CSFRI could send in a copy of the tutor, and have it available on Amazon a week later, dirt cheap. http://www.lightningsource.com CSFRI's website says that it intends to make "the collection available to those who would visit us, or—when copyright does not stand in the way—through xerox duplication." But this statement makes no sense. Xerox machines are a SECURITY system, in which a piece of paper is a token indicating that the bearer has the right to access the information copied onto it. No paper, no access. It's a way of HIDING information, not of sharing it. If you want to SHARE information, you put it on the Internet, so everyone in the world can download it. That makes the Internet the perfect vehicle for the accomplshment of CSFRI's stated aim. Given that most of CSFRI's library of English concertina material has been in the public domain for over a century, copyright doesn't even come close to standing in the way. Can it be that CSFRI actually intends to hide its collection behind a wall of paper copies? I prefer to believe that I misunderstand the intent of CSFRI's "availability" statement -- surely, I'm missing something. Can any of the readers of this forum clear up this misunderstanding? Thanks! :-) --- James
  14. Gentlepersons, Why did the English concertina, apparently once so popular in Victrorian times, lose so much popularity that its players became nearly extinct? Before investing serious time and money in learning to play the instrument, it seems only reasonable to ask. Was it easy to play poorly, and hard to play well, so that it became the mark of a dilettante? Was Victorian England so racist that the concertina's domination by an Italian virtuoso doomed it? Was it simply too expensive, so that its popular support -- despite becoming large -- was not able to reach critical mass? One can't help but wonder why the saxophone -- invented about the same time -- continues to thrive as a mainstream instrument, while the concertina has become a curiosity (relatively speaking). Perhaps the saxophone was assisted by the rise of jazz, for which it was so well-suited. Is the concertina demonstrably ill-suited to the styles of music that rose to popular prominence during the concertina's decline? Or was it so strongly associated with the older styles of music that it became a badge of uncoolness (as the accordion still is, from the mainstream perspective)? Or, what? I'm not sure that this is the right forum for this, but it can't hurt to ask. At worst, asking exposes my ignorance -- but that's too vast for me to hide in any case. :-) Thanks! :-) --- James
  15. Bellowbelle -- If I can paraphrase, you're saying that the serious concertina student should (a) understand the intervals and hence arpeggios and chords that the layout of the English keyboard makes most natural, and then ( practice those. Further, that your concertina contrivances were specifically designed as examples of this approach. Is that a fair summary? If so, it sounds quite reasonable to me, although I'll need to work my way through some more introductory material first. I've poked around your website a bit, and your example do indeed seem interesting -- although it's going to take me a while to get there. I'm coming back to instrumental music after a 25-year hiatus, so I have some catching up to do. :-) Please let me know if I've misunderstood you. One other point. Playing the MIDI versions of your various concertina contrivances, I got a very strange combination of instruments, none of which sounded much like a concertina. Is there a software concertina (MIDI instrument, sample file, whatever) that I need to download/install to make 'em sound right? If so, where can I get it? Thanks for your post! :-) --- James
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