Secrets in the "House of Stathopoulos"

Part III. Hidden secrets in the attic?

"House of Stathopoulos" Bouzouki or Mandocello?: Created by SDimis (c) 2011

Two days ago I got an unexpected email from the physicist and luthier, Gianni Koukourigo.

In his email he had attached a document with his full presentation regarding the long-term research, he has performed on A.Stathopoulos instruments.

I have to admit, that his views and opinions, give a new perspective on how A. Stathopoulos may had designed his instruments, in an attempt to decode, maybe for the first time, the uncommon position of fret marks that most of Stathopoulos "bouzoukia" have.

Without expressing my personal opinion, and after taking the permission from Mr.Koukourigo I quote his entire research, in an attempt to translate it in the English language from the original Greek.

I think it is worthwhile to read and extract your own conclusions!

"Somewhere at the turn of the 19th century to the 20th, some very unique bouzouki instruments, made a meteoric appearance in Greek Lutherie.
The particularity consists of a number of features, unknown until then not only to the way the Greek bouzouki instruments had been designed, but also to the whole Greek instrument making craftsmanship

The overall architectural design of these instruments' bowl, but also the design of individual
components and elements, characterized by a mature, mandolin style approach.The technical perfection of their structure, shows a long evolutionary process, while at the same time shows the results of collective creation (named and anonymous).

Rare and precious woods, have been used for their construction, (curly maple and Brazilian Rosewood) and materials which we meet for the first time in bouzouki instrument construction, while their use stops simultaneously with the disappearance of this type of instruments.

Something similar happens with the technical design. The technique which been used for the decoration of the capping strip of Evangelidi's bouzouki, was a mixture of animal glue and dust, poured in suitable grooves, which refers directly to Italian workshops.

In Italy this technique has been in use since the baroque era (Stadivari Helier violin). The elegance and the design and the flawless execution of the inset, describes a gifted artisan.

The rosette of the Geli bouzouki is striking for the Empire style, the purity of cut and the micro sculpture.
The pick-guard which this instrument carries, is the product of industrial production, supporting a similar dynamic in instrument making. Made by Galalitho, a modern industrial material of that era,which replaced the expensive and hard to find tortoiseshell in many uses, we find it here in the classical form of Neapolitan mandolin's butterfly.

At the instrument making level, the "dance" of the novel features, continues .Especially the small scale, lenght of strings (63 cm),the eight keys, and a very special way that the whole construction inset, unfamiliar to the Greek lutherie of that era.

These two instruments of Evagelidi and Geli, are not a safe sample to extract conclusions.
Probably an expert in history of mandolin's lutherie, would slightly laugh, to the characterization as bouzoukia, with whatever that might mean ... and if he was in the mood he would indicate the cottage industries where these instruments had been built.

The great similarity of these instruments, with the musical instruments built in the workshop of Anastasios Stathopoulos, and the large number of "Stathopoulos' instruments which were produced, makes it legal and safe on the statistical method.

At this point it will become a theoretical interpolation, which combined with the historical evidences of that era, and will be used as a tool for analyzing the statistical results. Initially, I will first state the necessary parameters to determine the type of a stringed musical instrument.

The Lutherie uses three major categories of parameters:

The first has to do with the musical instrument as a material unit, and the methods used for its construction and decoration.
The second refers to the number and type of strings, the way the instrument is tuned and played.
The last category has to do with the type of music and repertoire.
There are few times when some "intangible" features of a musical instrument, altered or became illegible over the years, and some parts were replaced by other parts, unrelated to the original. Proper utilization of remaining stable characteristics, combined with proper knowledge of historical conditions, helps to effectively recover the lost information.

One such a valuable asset, is the "Simeiothesia", the way (position) that fret marks placed, over the fretboard, to indicate the main tunes, with a scope to facilitate the player.

Accordingly to the European Fret-mark position (Simeiothesia), inlaid frets placed at the specific position on the instrument's fretboard to match the notes Do, Re, Fa, Sol, La. This is used in stringed instruments with frets.

Often, for reasons of aesthetics, or prestige of the player, some of them (fret marks)
skipped, without damaging the tonal sequence of those left on the fret board.

Accordingly to the American Fret-mark position (Simeiothesia), inlaid frets placed to indicate the numerical position on the fretboard. Used for reading a respective guitar tabs, and greatly to simplify the learning of guitar.
In all photos of Stathopoulos "bouzouki" instruments which have been posted on the internet , the form of the resonator is very similar to the resonator of mandola instrument.

The dealer Bernuzio has even referred to G. Tsoulogianni, the similarity with the Mandolas of Washburn, and thus, someone can extract the meaning from the curses of luthier Karamba.

The length scale in most instruments is 65 and a 64, very close to the scale of the Mandocello or tenor Mandola (63 cm, as the cello).

The eight tuning Machine Heads have a functional value, since the six ones used for the guitar were definitely cheaper (see exsachorda-{three course bouzoukia} at the label of Theodoro Karamba).
From the eleven instruments, ten adopt the European Simeiothesia, while the U.S.Simeiothesia, follows only one (Property St.Kourousi). At some of them. the fret marks are not in all positions (South Dacota museum).

Five out of the eleven, have a full Simeiothesia, 2, 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 17.
The rules of European Simeiothesias give to the twelfth fret, the note Do. The musical instrument at that time which had all these characteristics was the Mandocello, tuned Do, Sol, Re, La.

In two out of the eleven, a full number of fret marks is been placed at the positions: 2, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19
The instrument of the museum of the North Dakota has fret inlays at the positions: 2, 5, 7, 12 and 14.

Using the same rule, at the 12th fret the note Sol is been detected.

A little research on Lutherie documentation of that time period, indicates the tuning of the tenor mandola and octave mandolin, which is Sol, Re, La, Mi.

For the bouzoukia of Mr.Politis and Mr. Dimitrianakis, is unknown the initial Simeiothesia, due to change of the fret board, while accordingly to luthier Mr.Karellas they had a "non bouzouki type" Simeiothesia before changing the fret board.

A reference to musical trend in the U.S. at that time, is very useful. Mandolin "lives" its golden period, worldwide, from 1895 until 1915. Specifically, Unites states at the times of A.Stathopoulou , lives at the rhythms of mandolin's sounds. Along with the famous Artistic Groups of Mandolinates which still exists up to these days, a series of mandolin clubs also established at that era. At the same time, the mandolin quartets first appeared, in correspondence to violin quartets, with a wide and rich repertoire consisted of two mandolins, a mandola and a mandocello or tenor mandola.

These are unexpected findings , since not even one bouzouki exists, among the eleven surveyed!
Stathopoulo's target group was the large Italian minority, and a piece of wealthy Greeks. It seems that the luthier care less for the rebetes of Katsaneva's Cafe. He knew from the times he lived in Smyrna, the vulnerabilities of these instruments and he was experimenting, increasing many times the length of the scale, or changing the shape of the resonators to achieve more powerful bass. His professional success confirmed his choices.

Nevertheless, the Simeiothesia of mandocello (Do, Sol, Re, La), offers the possibility of ambiguity, which was used appropriately by bouzouki players of Diaspora. Easily Stathopoulo's instruments could be converted into three-string tuning that is Do-Sol-Do. The increase of the string scale by two centimeters , combined with the low tuning provides a "modern" acoustic version, in comparison to laouto-bouzouko of 72 cm. Perhaps here lies the cause of the distinctive sound, that the bouzouki has in some recordings made in United States.

Some of these instruments accompanied their "successful" owners, at their return trip to Greece. In Greek lutherie these instruments officially naturalized as bouzoukia. The charm they engage on Greek players and luthiers is great. Their influence is evident in the instruments of Kopeliadi and Panayis Bros. As bouzoukia also will be treated on the Greek luthier's bench. Greek luthiers will replace the finger board and they will change the Simeiothesia (position of fret marks) on them. With the new inlaid fret marks placed at 3, 5, 7, 10,12, they are now officially bouzoukia, leading to wrong conclusions.

The above analysis brings additional beneficial conclusions. The instruments of Evangelidis and Gelis are clearly of Italian origin. The first, indicates the Simeiothesia of mandocello,where the second presents a welcome ambiguity- and since the lack of Simeiothesia of the tenor mandola is compatible with tuning Re-La-Re. Made in Naples for the golden youth of Smyrna and Athens. And a version ( hypothesis) less risky than to attribute almost magical powers to a long-term convict. There was a kind of relationship between Geli and Eva-Geli-di? The convicts in prisons were creating nicknames, shortening their last name. I would have chosen it.

From left to right according to the rules of the European Simeiothesias.
Bouzouki, Mandocello, Tenor Mandola.

Bouzouki, Mandocello, Tenor Mandola.

The red outline, is the outline from the bouzouki of Mr. Spiliopoulou, while the yellow outline, corresponds to the mandola from the left picture.
The difference in yellow line, which shows over the maximum width , is mainly due to the bend (
cranked soundboard), which is perpendicular to the floor, while the remaining part is due to lateral support (perspective)"

Written by Physicist and Luthier, Giannis Koukourigos.


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