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March 6, 2015

Going to see Daniel Kahn tonight at the Electric Eye on Main tonight?

Got to play a little Russian garmon last night at the I thought “garmon” was Russian for “little diatonic accordion,” but it is more complicated than that!

I didn’t realize how different they were from our diatonics. Wikipedia is actually pretty helpful right now.

Have you seen one? They look like small two-row accordions with a lot of bass buttons. But the buttons are all unisonoric (same note played pumping in and out). The treble is laid out in a diatonic do-re-me scale, with three accidentals added on top. So it’s diatonic but unisonoric (and maybe chromatic with the accidentals, I haven’t counted). Fun to play! Holding three notes next to each other gives a major chord, but the pattern changes as you move around. I gather they come in different keys. I’d love to have one of these to mess with. Pretty nice sound on the master with LMH (low, middle, high reeds).

The bass side is weird too with the inside (of three) row all individual basses in a do-re-mi scale, and the outside two rows are bass-chord combos (like more familiar diatonics I think, but still all unisonoric.)

Russian accordion history has sort of a parallel development with the West through the long distance and separation. I assume they think our slew of diatonic systems are weird too. (I gather they have some bisonoric in-out systems as well, but this one is really popular.) All the world’s people should solve their differences by inventing the widest variety of accordions they can. Keep people too busy to fight.

I know there’s some folks in the Azeri community in town who play what Wikipedia calls the “oriental” garmon. My favourite unique design with piano key layouts on both hands. Right side is a tiny piano keyboard, while the left side is buttons, but laid out like piano keys! Totally unique in the world as far as I know. Somehow the design made its way from some experiment in a factory in Russia and caught on in Azerbaijan and Iran.

Bruce Triggs, Accordion Noir Radio

twitter: @AccordionBruce

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