The Double A and the Double Z - Piazzolla and the Bandoneon, cont'd

Pt 2. The Left keyboard (Bass)

The Bass keyboard on the Doble A is found on the left-hand side of the instrument in a setting much more simple than the treble keyboard. The blocky form of the extra resonating chamber takes up the space that on the right side was occupied by the decorative harp opening. The 33 keys above it seem to arrange themselves in a far less coherent grouping. The first key in this cohort works out as the year 1960, when Piazzolla and his family returned to Buenos Aires.

Although Piazzolla still had his critics in Argentina, he also had his supporters, the 5th key on the bass keyboard marks the year Piazzolla worked with the celebrated argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The 8th key represents 1968, the year of the premier of "María de Buenos Aires", an operetta that Piazzolla wrote alongside the poet Horacio Ferrer. In 1970 Piazzolla’s solo work "Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas." (the four seasons of Buenos Aires) was released to widespread acclaim.

When 1973 comes around, so much happens that the 13th key is scarcely big enough to contain it. Astor has a heart attack, possibly brought on by overwork. The former Argentine leader Juan Domingo Peron returns from his Spanish exile in June, bringing with him a balmy summer of hope that would begin the country's descent into a winter more terrible and brutal than anyone could have imagined. Piazzolla moved to Italy for the good of his health. In 1974 he recorded "Libertango" in Milan. In 1976, the 16th key, he would read the newspaper that told him of the "Proceso de Reorganización Nacional" - The military dictatorship that had seized his homeland.

In 1981, the 21st key, Piazzolla has been an exile for nearly a decade. He returns to Argentina occasionally to give performances. Despite overtures from the dictatorship he tries to stay out of politics. Piazzolla meets the famous Argentine footballer Maradona in Paris, far from the Barrios of Buenos Aires.

The 23rd key sees the fall of the dictatorship one year after the Argentine defeat in the Falklands war. Though they were defeated in war, the Argentine people had liberated themselves from the generals. A national cultural resurgence begins, including a renewed enthusiasm for Tango. With winter finally over, Buenos Aires experiences a long-awaited springtime. At the Teatro Colón in the city centre, Piazzolla leads the Buenos Aires Philharmonic in a performance of his music.

The 27th key, 1987 is the year When Piazzolla returns to new York to play a concert in Central Park, his boyhood haunt. He would return to the US in 1989, to record with the Kronos Quartet. This album "Five Tango Sensations" would be Piazzolla's last.

The 31st key marks the year 1990. Whilst in Paris, Piazzolla suffers a cerebral haemorrhage. He enters a coma from which he will never return.

There are 71 keys on a Double A and 71 years of Piazzolla's life. However, the keys on the Bandoneon are not sequential and notes from different Octaves often sit side by side to each other. Any order I apply to these keys must therefore be arbitrary. How can I say which are the final keys that will mark his passing?

On the bass keyboard of a 142-tone Doble A, two keys stand out on their own. "A-flat/G 4" and "F/G-flat 2" they are separate in their own row as Piazzolla was separated in the last two years of his life, 1991 and 1992. Separated from the world and separated from his music. I choose these two to mark Piazzolla's end as the last of my 71 witnesses to a life lived with a remarkable and enduring passion.

Adiós , Maestro.

The Double A and the Double Z - Piazzolla and the Bandoneon

The Alfred Arnold 142-tone Doble A will always be the Bandoneon I associate with Astor Piazzolla. It is a Doble A that he is holding in his Mar del Plata statue. An austere, plain-cased, Doble A in those 70's moody black and white photos. It is a Doble A that sits on display in the Centro Cultural Néstor Kirchner, labelled "a Bandoneon used by Astor Piazzolla".

The Doble A was just settling as a design at the beginning of Piazzolla's Career and by the end was a wholly new idiom, completely separated from its roots. The Doble A had to find an audience abroad before it was celebrated at home. The Doble A is hailed by many as a peerless standard, never to be repeated.

The Poet Homero Manzi once wrote “My whole life, brother bandoneon, is concealed within your keyboard” - Manzi wrote many Tangos, before dying tragically young in his 40's. Piazzolla However, lived for 71 years. A span of creative vigour that sits in perfect symmetry with the keys of the 142-tone Doble A. 38 keys on the right keyboard, 33 keys on the left. 71 Summers when the bellows draw out. 71 Winters as they draw in.

The Right keyboard (Treble)

Though Piazzolla's story began in Mar del Plata, by the time he was 5 he was in New York. Sandwiched between the immigrants and the mobsters of Little Italy, he learnt his English from hoodlums and his Bach from a student of Rachmaninoff. 8 keys into the treble keyboard marks the point when Piazzolla received his first Bandoneon, a gift from his father. The 13th key represents the year of 1934 When, after a chance meeting, a teenaged Piazzolla was invited to tour with the legendary Tango singer Carlos Gardel, Piazzolla's father put paid to the idea, Decreeing that Astor was too young. This decision was serendipitous as Gardel and his whole orchestra died in a plane crash on that tour.

Below the right keyboard of the doble As there is a sounding hole shaped like a stylised harp. This feature is common to all pre-war Doble As. Piazzolla is said to have been fond of remarking that, had he joined Gardel on the fateful tour, then "Piazzolla would have played the Harp instead of the bandoneon!" Fortunately there are another 58 keys to consider before we actually mark his passing.

The harp sounding hole on the right keyboard.

Piazzolla would have played the Harp instead of the bandoneon!

Astor Piazzolla

If we follow the keys from number 15 to 21 we find Piazzolla's family returned to Argentina and his career begun in earnest. He finds a place in Troilo's orchestra, and even begins his own, but traditional tango holds less and less appeal for him.

The 22nd key represents 1954, Piazzolla fought his way to Paris, desperate to find validation from the famous teacher of classical composers, Nadia Boulanger. She listened to him play each of his compositions without comment until he eventually began to play one of his own Tangos. Suddenly Mademoiselle Boulanger opened her eyes and seized his hands. "This, you idiot!" she said, beaming "this is Piazzolla!".

This you idiot! This, is Piazzolla!"

Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger

Piazzolla's new style, a fusion of Jazz and Tango, met with significant opposition and controversy in his native Argentina. This "Tango Neuvo" found a much more enthusiastic audience in Europe and North America however and Piazzolla became a touring artist of International renown. This period will take us to key 38. The final key of the treble keyboard and the year 1959 in the life of Astor Piazzolla.

As the keyboards of the double A are divided, so can our lives be divided by shifts so profound that we may later seek to characterise our time as the days before and the days after them. On tour in New York, news reaches Piazzolla of his Father's death. In a stroke Piazzolla lost his most important relationship, the man in the world who he most admired. The man who he looked to for guidance and quiet appreciation. But gone also was the child who received a Bandoneon on that birthday three decades ago.

Piazzolla writes "Adios Noniño" in half an hour. He is 38 years old. The foundation years of the Treble keyboard are gone. We must look now to the left, where the sonorous tone of the Bass lies.

[ continued in Pt 2 ]

Thoughts on the "Alfa" bandoneon

Art Blog

I art therefore I blog.

typewriter image: Florian Klauer

I am drawing an Alfred Arnold "Alfa" Bandoneon (1945-1948). The first post-war model from Alfred Arnold.

The object of my Bandoneon project is to show the incredible diversity of the instrument and its decoration. 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 AA 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[1]Tourist Association Carlsfeld 2018 , "Extract from the history of Carlsfeld", viewed 23rd March 2021, 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?


1 Tourist Association Carlsfeld 2018 , "Extract from the history of Carlsfeld", viewed 23rd March 2021,

Gebrüder Meinel 142 Bandoneon

Art Blog

I art therefore I blog.

typewriter image: Florian Klauer

The photography of Christoph Paas (@alma.bandoneon) has been incredibly helpful In my Bandoneon drawing challenge. Christoph's pictures of dismantled Bandoneons on his workshop bench were very useful for me in understanding the shape of the various instruments.

Christoph showed me pictures of a "Gebrüder Meinel 142" that had been recently restored and suggested that I draw it. The instrument gave me several challenges, not least of which was the challenge of reproducing its colourful mother of pearl panels in black and white!

I'm going to expand this post later, but firstly, I just wanted to say Thank You to Christoph and recommend his work over at

The Seven Bandoneons Challenge

Art Blog

I art therefore I blog.

typewriter image: Florian Klauer

A Bandoneon is a type of German Accordion that is used extensively in Tango music. I don't know how you found your way to this site without knowing that, but here we are!

The first time I saw the decoration on a generation-one Alfred Arnold "Doble A" Bandoneon, I was shocked by how beautiful and intricate it was. I wanted to draw it. I put that drawing on t-shirts and bags so that everyone could see how beautiful it was.

Then my friend said: "I think you should draw more Bandoneons". From my research for the Doble A drawing, I had begun to discover the huge variety in shape and decoration of the instrument, so I thought that might be a fun idea.

"How many Bandoneons?" I asked. "Seven would be a good number" She replied. I don't know if she choose Seven because it is a number associated with the divine, or to have one Bandoneon for each of the deadly sins, either way she was talking about a considerable undertaking.

Bandoneons Pride through to Sloth.

"oh" I said. "it takes me about 33 hours to draw each side, so that's roughly 561 hours of work, plus however long it takes to find enough source material for each instrument".

"But Pez..." she countered; "Nobody else is doing it".

No, Nobody else is doing it.

I can't imagine why....

Reusable Mask inspired by 1940’s Bandoneons.

Reusable fabric mask featuring the grill from an Alfred Arnold Doble A bandoneon.

• Nose wire that helps adjust the mask
• Elastic bands with PVC earloop size regulators
• Pocket for a filter or napkin
• Washable and reusable

Reusable Mask inspired by 1940's Bandoneons.

Reusable fabric mask featuring the grill from an Alfred Arnold Doble A bandoneon, available now in the shop

The mask design is based on the decoration from an Alfred Arnold Doble A bandoneon

• Nose wire that helps adjust the mask
• Elastic bands with PVC earloop size regulators
• Pocket for a filter or napkin
• Washable and reusable

Artwork now available on canvas

As an experiment, I'm making some of my artwork available on canvas, starting with 12' x 12' and adding larger sizes later. The first design to be available in this format is the "Bandoneonista" design.

I'm really happy with the way the narrow space available on the 12'x12' draws focus to the detail on this design. The print and build quality are excellent.

Check it out in the shop

Production time estimates during Corona Virus Pandemic

Hi Everyone. Like all other business on this planet, my printers are encountering a range of challenges in production, sourcing, and ensuring the safety of their staff.

I've put this table together to clarify the production times you can expect for our products during this crisis:

Item type:Fulfilled In EU*Fulfilled In US*
t- shirts9-12 business days20-25 business days
dresses16-20 business days16-20 business days
phone cases2-4 business days2-4 business days
* Orders are fulfilled by nearest available facility, not all facilities are able to handle all products.
More information can be found on the printers own site here:


Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Blame it on the Bandoneon, this is where I sell my artwork, a lot of which is inspired by Tango.

I'm currently re-jigging the site to make it more art-focussed, so my apologies if this causes any inconvenience

I hope you enjoy my art even if you aren't crazy about Tango.


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