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david robertson

Monster 72-Key Anglo Aeola

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This instrument has recently come my way, and I'm damned if I know what to make of it. Serial number 31282, it's listed in the ledgers as a 72-key AG. As you can see, each end has 6 rows of 5 or 6 keys, plus miscellaneous outliers. The three rows of five on the right hand give you scales of C, Bb and G#, from outer to inner. That is, a downward progression of 2 semitones from each key row to the next.

I imagine this is a unique layout, made to special order, and I'm hoping that someone much more knowledgeable than me might be able to make some sense of it. I attach pics of both ends and a diagram of the layout.

 

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What an incredible instrument David!

 

To make any sense out of the layout, I think you'll have to give the octave indication of the notes on your layout chart, otherwise it's pretty impossible to decipher. Also it would be interesting to know what the lowest note is.

 

Adrian

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David,

Without knowing the octaves, it looks like this beast is a C / Bb / Ab three-key Anglo stacked in three rows of two, with some extra bits at the bottom.

 

Wow, I wonder who commissioned it and how they played it!

 

Howzit sound?

 

Gary

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Thanks for the replies, Adrian and Gary, and apologies for omitting the octave indications. I attach a revised version of the layout diagram.

As for how the instrument sounds, well, it sounds like it hasn't been played for several decades! However, the reeds are good and clean, the 8-fold bellows immaculate, and it comes from the very best Wheatstone period. I think that with new valves and a bit of packing to make the reed pans a tighter fit, it will sound great.

 

 

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Thanks for the update David,

Having tried to figure this out for a while, I really can't see much logic in the layout at all - at least not to anyone used to playing either the Wheatstone or Jeffries layouts. It's interesting that for all the 72 buttons, it doesn't extend the normal range by very much (only a low Bb2 as far as I can see and I can't even see an A6, which you usually get on a Wheatstone RH). Granted the lowest octave seems chromatic, though not in both bellows directions and it's the first Antique layout I've seen with a Low D3. On the other hand you get tons of duplicates,- three push low C3s for example, though why you'd ever need them all, I am quite at a loss to imagine. At the same time, there's no draw equivalent and the low C# is only on the draw. To make the most out of this unicum, you'd probably have to abandon any other known layouts and immerse yourself in this one, unless you play strictly along the rows, in which case its extra rows are also a bit redundant.

Anyone seen the light yet?

 

Adrian

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Thanks Adrian - not just me then! My own conclusion was 'so much choice, so few benefits'. In fact, several disadvantages, since the layout makes it impossible to play across the rows. And with all three key rows crammed into an octave and a half, the range is less than exciting. Now, had it been arranged with an F row below a conventional C and G, that would have been quite something...

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Perhaps it's for someone who really just played along the rows and never got too fancy in what they did, but wanted one single instrument to use whether playing with fiddlers for morris, brass bands with the SA, or a singer (perhaps themselves) whose voice really liked Ab? Didn't someone post an auction for a four-row anglo Jeffries Bros a year or two ago which was more or less four one-rows (perhaps Bb/F/D/G or some keys like that)? (Edited to add: someone rather well-off, to have commissioned an enormous one-off like this?...)

Edited by wayman

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Just wondering whether this concertina was designed purely for playing complex chordal progressions, with little or no intention of use for melody playing?

Edited by malcolm clapp

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Possible, I suppose... but probably not by the previous owner, who, apparently, was an upholsterer who didn't read music, and used to play the odd tune in his local pub for half a pint. I'm told he never had two pennies to rub together, so I'm guessing he wasn't the original owner!

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Okay, I think I might have it :-)

 

As Wayman has suggested, it was probably for someone who wanted to play using the same fingering patterns in C, Bb and Ab. To this end each of the three main rows of six buttons has an exterior row of five buttons with the same relationships to the main row in all three cases. I suggest somebody had their own way of playing cross row on 2 rows and simply selected which 2 depending on the key. I haven't quite got how the extra inner 'half-rows' work, though - any ideas?

 

All in all, it seems a complicated way of doing things to me, which wouldn't necessarily result in being able to comfortably play in any more keys than say, a 40 button instrument- and you'd also be stuck only being able to play this single instrument. The question is where the basic layout comes from, because it's neither the Wheatstone nor the Jeffries 'standard'.

 

Adrian

Edited by aybee

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I have finally had a long look at the note chat.

 

I can't tell whether this is a logic puzzle to which there is an answer if we stare at it for long enough...

... or whether this is a cruel joke the concertina makers of yore decided to play on future organologists.

Edited by wayman

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I have a picture in my head of the inventor spending long evenings toiling at his desk, surrounded by piles of paper covered in complex note diagrams, convinced that his revolutionary new layout is going to put his name in the musical history books. Then the guy at Wheatstone looks at the finished layout, scratches his head, counts up the buttons, and quotes an exorbitant price.

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This would happen once or twice a year at the Button Box -- that a special order would come in for an anglo with a really unusual button layout. Never something for which there would be additional buttons beyond 30/31 and unique ends to be made[1], but bizarre one-off layouts for a 30-button anglo. Occasionally, the shop pushed back, pointing out that the instrument would have no resale value, that the player would have no resources or teaching materials ever, etc. Generally, this had little effect on someone who had spent long evenings at their desk coming up with something (sometimes they even admitted they had never seen or played a concertina before, but were absolutely certain their layout made more sense than the one that has been used and refined for over a century). I personally think the Button Box should have charged a hefty fee for this sort of service, to be paid to the concertina maker who had to suffer through making these...... -_-

 

[1] I *did* make two concertinas with custom-designed ends for myself... but they were modelled closely on the well-established 38-button Jeffries pattern!

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I've got a 30 key lachenal Anglo that has a similar layout to the core of this one - Ab top row, then Bb middle, then C bottom.

 

It's actually quite intuitive if you play on the pull, and it's great for playing Buddy can you spare a dime :-)

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David, When you prepared your lay-out, did you use the sound you heard when squeezing the box, or the note values stamped on the reed shoes? Did you allow for adjustment to modern tuning?

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Over the years I have learned never to trust whatever is stamped on the reed shoes. No, the readings were taken from my trusty tuning meter, and I did make allowance for the old tuning. So barring transcription errors, what you see is what you get.

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