BBCの放送を文字起こし: The Concertina Man
The Concertina Man
The story of the invention in the 19th century of the musical instrument, the English Concertina by British scientist Charles Wheatstone.
It’s the sound of Music you may not have heard before, but in 19th century London, 150 years ago, it was all the rage.
And there are still people who are passionate about it. This BBC World Service program tells the story of what’s probably the only musical instrument to originate in 19th century Britain, the place called by the Germans The Land Without Music. It’s also the story of the scientific genius who invented it and the enthusiasts who are struggling to keep its memory alive.
The English concertina was invented some 170 years ago by a man who was something of a scientific genius, Charles Wheatstone. Later, Sir Charles Wheatstone. This Victorian era was an age of invention, novelty industry, the growth of cities all round excitement. Bob Gaskins As an American enthusiast and scholar of the English concertina, which I think always liked the idea that it was a shockingly new instrument, worked by almost magical principles to produce so much noise in such a novel way, just like the latest electronic keyboard today.
The entire scientific principles of how to produce sound are quite different from traditional instruments. And so it was quite a shocking departure from the world of string quartets and pianos and all that. The Wheatstone family were not scientists, but musical instrument makers. But in the Victorian era, Discovery was not a particular specialist activity. It flourished in the very air.
Brian Bowers, a former curator at the Science Museum in London, is Wheatstone biographer. Wheatstone was interested in the physics of musical instruments. He had a real scientific bent and wanted to know how things worked and why the sound was transmitted. If you look at a violin, the sound is produced in the string and transmitted down the bow to the sounding board and so on.
And he was interested in that and then asked questions like, How far can you transmit the sound? I’m sure that as a boy, you took two tin cans or two your ear cups and tied them together with a bit of string. Wheatstone did that sort of thing and got a sound. You could communicate over straight lines, keeping the string told.
That’s right. But Wheatstone thought, well, perhaps we could have a communications system around London. He talked about the possibility of broadcasting. You might, for example, listen to concerts at home or listen to parliamentary debates instead of having to write to the next day to read it in the paper. This never really took off, though. In my father’s shop, he arranged demonstrations for the public where they had a concert with musicians unseen on the upper floor and sound transmitted by a stretched choir down to a soundboard, which was dressed up like an ancient Greek lyre on the ground floor.
And he charged the public to come in and listen to this, and he got their money out of them. So it worked. But that was just an extravagant novelty compared with the clever squeezebox designed by Wheatstone, the English Concertina. To hear how that came about, I journey deeper into South London to the Horn in one museum. Among other curiosities.
The Horniman museum has a huge and distinguished collection of 7000 musical instruments from all over the world. Margaret Birley is the collection’s keeper in the late 18th century. A lot of scientists and musical instrument makers became very interested in the principle of free reeds. A free Reed Instrument has a series of reeds which are attached at one end over an open frame, and when air is passed through them, they vibrate without touching the sides of the frame.
So they are quite different from the beating reeds of clarinets and oboes, for example, which beat against a surface. And many continental musical instrument makers started develop instruments. And in London, Charles Wheatstone started experimenting with free reeds himself. And the first instrument that he patented was this Symphonium, which is a mouth burn free reed instrument, which looks like a little wind up toy.
It’s about five centimeters by five centimeters. It has an oval mousehole and a series of buttons. The side. And really, it encapsulates the layout of what was to become the bellows blowing concertina. Enthusiasm for this distinctive instrument seems to take people like a fever. One of those who’s caught it and become an expert is Stephen Chambers in Dublin and the Irish Republic.
Wheatstone seems to have combined the features of that Symphonium, which was a small mouth organ with buttons on the side, which is the instrument that is really described in the patent with the accordion, which was invented in Vienna in 1829, also by Sarah Damien, and that produced the first English concertina. Now, if said something which goes against what is normally accepted, which is about the development of the concertina out of the Symphonium crossed with the accordion, I think some people would regard that as rather sacrilegious, but it certainly makes sense.
We know that Wheatstone was selling Damien’s accordions and you only have to look at the instruments to see similarities in the design and even the materials that were used in the very first instruments, which probably didn’t appear until the end of about 1833. We’ve already heard at the start from another perfectly rational man who’s been infected with the sound and the craftsmanship of the English concertina.
Bob Gaskins is a computer whiz from Silicon Valley, California, who in a previous life was one of the inventors of that pervasive computer presentation software called PowerPoint. It now dominates hundreds of thousands of meetings, large and small, every day of the year all over the world. Having made his fortune in 20th century information technology, Mr. Gaskins is now free to concentrate on the technology of an earlier age.
In his snug little house in San Francisco, an antique which survived both the 1906 earthquake and the one in 1989. Bob Gaskins prized apart one of the many concertina wire in his collection to give me a glimpse of what makes Winston’s invention so special. So State of the art, you might say. Here it is, a two handed bellows squeezebox with little buttons on both ends.
Press a button and air is force through a tiny resonating chamber at one or other end of the instrument. And it makes more than a tiny noise. The way that you make noise that we can investigate by looking inside the end here as this just looks like an island with holes in, but it’s more common. Has holes all around the edge and well, there’s one hole for each of those pi shaped resonance chambers.
And if we open it up, we’ll see the mechanism by which the buttons on the outside allow you to open one chamber at a time. So that’s beautiful. We have for each little domed button is connected to a lever, and each lever has a spring on it that holds a pad down firmly covering one of those holes around the circumference.
And if you push down on a button, you lift the pad that allows air to go through the corresponding hall so that the air passes through the corresponding resonating chamber and excites one of the reeds because you can hold down several at a time. So you can play as many reeds at a time as you want, right back across the world in London.
They remember Sir Charles Wheatstone for much more than merely his early musical inventions. A torrent of ideas poured out from the man. He became a professor at King’s College and he undertook to investigate into typewriters, electric clocks. And most famous of all, the electric telegraph tiptoe. With the BBC World Service into the Augusta surroundings of the Royal Institution.
Here’s where Charles Wheatstone would introduce his latest findings to an audience of his fellow eminent scientists. Unless that is the great man was overtaken by a bout of extreme shyness to which he was prone. Frank James is a reader in the history of science at the Royal Institution. The three decades between 1830 and 1860 were some of those Remarkable in human history begat all sorts of technologies being developed the railway technology, gas technology.
If you think about it, when Faraday was born in 1791, you could only send a message to Rome at the same speed as you could have sent it. Britain’s Posthuman Empire. By the time Foley died in 1867, it could extended it to the matter of seconds, and Wheatstone was very much part of that world. He was important, was recent, was extremely important in developing the electric telegraph, which was the first means of communicating at a speed faster than a horse could go, basically.
So that laid the pathway for telecommunications on the Internet and everything we know today. Well, that’s right. I mean, everything since the telegraph, the telephone, the television, radio is simply a variation on the theme that The Savage by Wheatstone, the science was very distinguished, but the music, the music had a life of its own.
A virtuoso of today, Douglas Rogers, giving just a sample of the size and virtuosity of a hand-held instrument. Most people today will think of it as a squeezebox if they think of it at all. But journey back through the decades of the 1840s and 1850s, and the English concertina was the darling instrument of the English middle classes. And, says Douglas Rogers, the English concertina had its own sensational continental star performer.
We said, Invent the concertina run by the 18 2931, that sort of thing. And it coincided this invention with the arrival in this country of this young genius. One Julia reckoned the prodigy on the guitar. He was already famous throughout Europe, and he was helped by the romantic past that he seemed to have had and his beautiful appearance and having this young genius with such great musical potential, I think creates an interest in the cunning mind of Charles Wheatstone.
He had this newly invented instrument. He wanted to promote it. Perhaps the young Julia might consider taking up the instrument to see what he could do with it. And that’s exactly what happened. There’s a little vignette of Burgundy going to eat stones in Conrad Street and the young Julia being shown the keyboard of the instrument and launching it from there on.
And in 1837, he launched it good and proper at the Birmingham Music Festival, which was under the direction then of Felix Mendelssohn. And this really did bring it to public notice. If you look at the journals of the time, they’re full of admiration for not only the genius of the performer, but the wonderful qualities of the little concertina, tiny instrument became great in his hands, and it sort of reflects the rise of the parlor, the rise of a Victorian, wealthy middle class with high ceilings and nice rooms and probably carpets to keep the sound down a bit and time to spare and and leisure, very much so that you had to have a lot of
leisure. And I suppose most of the amateurs were ladies of leisure. I wouldn’t agree necessarily about the carpets because they did have purpose built music rooms and all of these places and did some of the great virtuosi such as Julia Rigg unto himself and Richard Blake, Rove and George Case were invited to some of these country houses for the weekends where they were remunerated very satisfactorily and played to these rich amateurs.
And indeed a lot of their compositions were devoted to these people and have had the instrument’s popularity resulted in a flood of musical arrangements, the great composers of the time. All rewritten for the amateur whose fingers could manipulate the tiny buttons while pushing and pulling the bellows, generating enough puff to emulate the sounds of, half an orchestra that had died at the height of the concertina craze, which stands firm, was joined by dozens of others, hundreds of craftsmen scattered around London, making components by hand.
And the mighty British Empire ensured that the English concertina traveled all over the world, as shown, many of the traditional music club in South Africa recalls the concertina rose in popularity all over the world because of the fact that it’s so small and portable, it’s much easier to transport than your piano, for example. And therefore it finds itself in folk musicians hands all over the world.
Large quantities were definitely exported to South Africa. One of the theories is that in the times of the gold mines and the diamond mines, there were a lot of Volkswagens carrying supplies from the coastal towns up to the high felt where the mines were. And it was a fairly lonesome road for the guy driving the Volkswagen. And you would just sit playing.
His concertina size is important and portability is important, but I think the thing that influences it the most is the sound that it makes. The South Africans have developed a distinct playing style over the years. Different from any other musical style of concertina playing. The South Africans have got to shake a vibrato kind of method that I haven’t come across in any other place in the world.
Back across the world in London. As Queen Victoria moved into old age, the middle class soldier of the English concertina faded. It was left to old soldiers and sailors to vamp mournfully on it. The Victorian bravura of the concertina was replaced by a sort of plangent loneliness. Enthusiasts, though, kept it alive. One afternoon last winter, the American concertina aficionado, Bob Gaskins, took me out into the countryside north of London by train to meet the man who now continues the Wheatstone tradition single handedly.
If you fight your way through, I’m sure you some of my other people make concert dinners. But only Steve Dickinson has the rights to the name C, Wheatstone and Co, which he bought when the firm closed in London in 1975, along with some of which stands original equipment the size it’s going to be. Yeah. He’d say to them, Boy, now yours is going to be special, is it?
Absolutely. It’s going to be a boy. No wood made from old boy. Now that Steve has gold, gold, light fittings all round with red felt special melodies, you should explain how the bellows are made. Well, they’re made up of lots and lots of little bits all glued together. Some people think it’s one piece and people have actually been known to sort of spend a lot of time trying to work out how to make them as one piece.
The main thing is the delicacy of this really influences how the subtle playing of the concertina, the ability to control the tone precisely in the light depends on each of these pieces being done just exactly right and inexpensive Concertina suffered perhaps the most from for Bela’s liking. Steve Dickinson’s spends endless hours in his workshop doing by hand all the separate acts of craftsmanship that finally create a seaweed stoned concertina that has a waiting list of what?
When? At least five years. People say, I want a concertina, and I’ll say, Yes, that’s probably four or five years down the line. When I get around to doing yours and I say, Why? I thought you had them in stock. And they don’t realize that every single bits and piece is made by hand. It’s not quite as somebody once said to me, a sycamore tree and a goat got in one end of the workshop and a musical instrument comes out.
The other. I mean, there’s an element of you buy wood that’s been milled for you and you buy leather that’s been tanned for you after that. Well, after that, it’s up to you, really. We live in a consumer society and people think that things just come off the shelf or in a situation where somebody has seen an instrument I’ve just finished and they kept saying, Yes, but where do you get this from and where do you get those from?
And who makes those for you? And they could not comprehend that all of it was actually made to Don’t work out in my world just to be the Backstreet Girl. Among the people who still play the Concertina are those inspired by the folk revival of the 1960s, when even rock groups such as the Rolling Stones adopted the in your hands convenience of the concertina to produce a loud, striking and retrospectively grassroots sound for players such as Douglas Rogers, who absolutely treasure the complicated did history of the English concertina.
It’s quite a task to retrieve the reputation of this versatile instrument from the 1960s bands who made it one of the distinguishing features of modern folk music. The English concertina is more than just a niche instrument, says Douglas Rogers. And his latter day wizardry evokes the dazzle of the great Julio Riggen, the 150 years ago, and the inventiveness of Sir Charles Wheatstone, the concertina man and in a way, and it sounds a bit elitist, perhaps, but when the Concertina was suffering its demise in late Victorian times, it was being seen more as a street instrument and therefore it rather sullied its appearance on the concert platform.
When I’m trying to promote what I want to do with the instruments, trying to bring out its fullest potential right up the full range of the instrument of all its expression, and try and sell this point to promoters all they can hear in their minds is the very wonderful, the fact of folk music. So you have a considerable job to do when you step onto the concert platform.
Do you want to get people in on whatever it is they come expecting something else? Some perhaps. I don’t think anyone comes along expecting just folk music. Of course there are going to be a lot of people to come along to the concert who are keen on the concertina, but I am at least getting to a position where in the concertina world I’m quite well known.
So people will come along expecting to hear the sort of stuff I do. It is gratifying to find that those people, even knowing that I do this classical approach, are still amazed by what the country could do, even though they may have played it themselves, you know, for the last 20 or so 30 years. Because to me it is a different instrument from what you normally hear.
You know, it has a different power range and so on. In Victorian times, the continent was regarded as having sufficient interest in its sound to be able to sustain a full performance, more tonal variety, for example, than the clarinet. And indeed, it was often described as having a certain talking quality, a voice. Of course, because you can do all the different voicings, it’s unique.
It’s the only really indigenous English instrument.