Thoughts on the Alfa bandoneon by Pez Pearson

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As a Tango dancer and an Artist, I have always been fascinated by the Bandoneon.

Although the sound of the Bandoneon is very familiar in the Tango community, the incredible diversity of the instrument and its decoration are somewhat less well understood. I hope to correct this balance a little with my Bandoneon project, in which I create detailed renditions of seven different instruments.

I am currently working on a drawing of an Alfa Double A Bandoneon (1945-1948). The first post-war model from leading German Bandoneon manufacturers Alfred Arnold.

I selected the Alfa because of its distinctive Art-Deco sound openings and also because the first example I came across was keyed in the Peguri system. This would give me the opportunity to show a different keyboard layout than the 142s I had drawn so far.

I am using lots of different pictures for reference, not just because its less photographed than the pre-war models, but also because its so random

The main opening on the treble-side-cover is not the harp and intricate flower shape of the earlier AA models, it’s a series of geometric lines that present much less of a challenge to fabricate. Multiple units I found photographed had different line widths or slightly different patterns. A missed corner here, a strange alignment there, some of the lines are uneven, lacking the purpose and confidence of earlier designs.

The Alfred Arnold factory was at Carlsfeld, high up in the Ore mountains. Carslfeld did not suffer from bombing during the war. Instead its folk starved due to food shortages. Adults were drafted for arms production in Dessau and Leipzig. Boys and girls; the Arbeitsdienst (Labour Service) and the Wehrmacht for men of fighting age.

When I look at the post war Alfas, I see a sad monument to a Europe that has lost its craftsmen. The steady hands that built the pre-war instruments have been taken to weld machines of war, or to squeeze a trigger somewhere far away.

Europe’s ruin lay not just in its bombed architecture and looted artworks, but in the loss of the intangible cultural heritage contained in the minds of all those killed. The workers of Carlsfeld, who had been promised a new golden age, instead found themselves reduced to a shadow of their previous glory.

They improve later, apprentices learn and the old patterns return, but the Alfa model is a testament to everything the war stole from us. To the ruin of Europe, and maybe, to the wages of hate.

I have never yet heard the sound of an Alfa played in real life. I wonder if I did, would I hear the ghost of that shattered Europe in its melancholy song?

Pez Pearson is a dancer, illustrator and Bandoneon enthusiast.

On his website, Blame it on the Bandoneon, you can order prints, mugs, and apparel based on his artwork.

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