Here’s an interesting one!  It’s also about as rare and obscure a find as you can get.  Like some of my other recent blogs, it’s not actually a harp guitar, as one can plainly see – though the hollow arm with its elaborately carved terminus may remind us of one.  At the close of this article, I’ll include both the original source material (all in Portuguese), and the past and present guitar experts who have enabled this wonderful snippet of guitar history to cross my desk.

The performer and inventor is Francisco Pistoresi of Sao Paulo, Brazil (dates unknown).  The design of the instrument is like nothing else I’ve ever seen.  Its striking hollow arm and elaborately carved headstock – though on the “wrong” side, and without any extra strings – brings to mind Taraffo’s harp guitar, as does the incorporating pedestal.  Could the builder have been aware of the Genovese virtuoso?  We now know that Taraffo toured South America in 1921; but that is well after the 1914 newspaper notices of the invention.

More importantly, what’s up with the ovoid body, and how exactly is he playing the strings with his right hand?

Ah hah! That’s Pistoresi’s invention, the “Diamenophone” – described as a “very simple, small unit” that can “be applied to all string instruments, to produce a continuous or prolonged note.”

Unfortunately, I haven’t actually been able to determine whether the entire instrument (this particular “backward” hollow-arm 6-string guitar) with the device installed is itself the diamenophone, or if it is just the device itself.  A newspaper review mentions Pistoresi demonstrating it both on the guitar and also on a cello to good effect (using his device in place of the standard bow).

Regrettably, there is no other real description of the apparatus.  The review states that the instrument (presumably the pictured guitar creation with the “bow-like keyboard” installed) “perfectly resembles a powerful organ or harmonium.”  So how was the “bow-like” effect achieved?  Was it some sort of miniature, detachable hurdy-gurdy contraption?  Was it thus powered?  And how?  It looks like Pistoresi is resting his hand over a small 6-note button “keyboard,” likely each one assigned to activate one of the six strings.  The strings appear to be attached to the tailblock and run under some sort of coverplate or housing for the device.

By the reviewer’s account, the result was quite something, noting that the “vulgar, and therefore worthless” guitar was, “through this device, completely transformed, acquiring a higher dignity.”  As for the cello, it was “played without a bow and perfectly yielded a very pleasant tone with great intensity.”  They go on to suggest that it would be better applied to the piano and harp (now that would have been something!).  But they are nevertheless smitten with the original “diamenophone,” writing. “The demonstration we saw convinced us completely of the great value, artistic invention and the bright future that it has in store. From what we have heard, we believe that the musical art will be transformed with this invention.”

I would love to hear this thing, wouldn’t you?!

A second newspaper notice is fairly indecipherable as regards the instrument (original Portuguese below, better translations welcome).  It announces a concert showcasing the instrument and mentions that Alfredo Pistoresi (Francisco’s son) “will leave for Europe in order to present his invention, which is called ‘Diamenofone,’ at the Music Center of Milan.”

Note that this second newspaper article (July 1914) calls the “invention” the “Diamenofone” (with an “f”).  Curiously, the first article (Feb 1914) presented earlier does not give the actual name of the invention or any special instrument. The spelling I use equates to the Anglicized spelling, but also comes from the caption in the following full-page article from the Portuguese magazine O Violao (“The Guitar”), January 1929 (note that they include an extra “a” – typo?).  Perhaps a Portuguese researcher can determine whether an “f” or “ph” spelling would have been more likely – and also what “diamen” was meant to imply.

The other curious thing is that while the first newspaper article is about Francisco and his invention, the second implies that his son Alfredo is the inventor.  Perhaps his son simply took a hand in promoting the instrument and the writer was confused (or perhaps it is simply my poor translation). The musical selections of both demonstration/concerts are given as well, with two shared pieces between father and son.

Another son of Francisco – “Aristodemo Pistoresi, one of the greatest virtuosos of Brazil” is shown on the O Violao page above with his luthier/performer father. There is much information on his concertizing and repertoire contained in the Antunes source listed below.

I am presuming that Pistoresi, described only as the “inventor,” built his own instrument.  He is described as a luthier by Antunes and there is this surviving mandolin known from an online auction listing.

The Diamenophone is certainly both an extremely unusual invention and an unusual guitar design…I wonder if there are any other records of what might have happened to this remarkable experiment?!


This article was made possible by certain individuals, most notably Randy Osborne of Fine Fretted String Instruments, of whom I’ve spoken of in the past.  He first shared the wonderful O Violao page with me, explaining how he happened to obtain it:

“The first person to credit is Ronoel Simoes (1919-2010), the world-renowned classical guitar record collector, who had over 8,000 discs of that one genre in his collection. There are videos on YouTube where you can see him in his home and the discs in a cabinet. He had done radio shows with these discs since the early 1950s and was known as far away as Brazil to Japan and the UK – in fact, he contributed to the B.M.G. magazine in England during the same period. It was Ronoel who collected the complete series of O Violao magazines.

“The second is my colleague, Ivan Paschoito – a published music transcriber in Sao Paulo. He was a colleague of Ronoel and acquired the xerox copies due to that friendship. He sent me the copies via the ‘net and when I saw this photo I immediately thought of your great work and website.”

Randy additionally located and pointed me to the Pistoresi mandolin and, more importantly, the 2002 thesis by Gilson Uehara Antunes, entitled “Américo Jacomino ‘Canhoto’ e o Desenvolvimento da Arte Solística do Violão em São Paulo” (Americo Jacomino, “Canhoto,” and the Development of the Art of the Solo Guitar in Sao Paulo).

Antunes’ thesis includes the two newspaper notices discussed above, along with some additional information on the three guitarists of the Pistoresi family.  His research “intends to study the beginning of the development of the guitar in Brazil, mainly in the city of São Paulo, and also to introduce the life and works of Américo Jacomino ‘Canhoto,’ the greatest Brazilian guitarist in the first quarter of the twentieth century.”

Translating all this information has been a challenge. Randy provided a first pass (he reads several languages), and I did my own through various Internet translators, all of which yielded slightly different alliterations. I then consolidated these variations to create my own interpretations for the story above.  Again, if others would like to help out, here is the original text of the applicable source material:

The 1-page O Violao article (O Violão, Janeiro de 1929):

O Violão em S. Paulo

E’ que a divinal artista Josephina Robledo, depois de estar no Rio, transladou-se para á Paulicéa, ali prodigalisando sabios ensinamentos ás mocas da alta sociedada e rapazes de real merito, uns já tendo estudos adeantados do mavioso e querido instrumento, outros iniciando seus primeiros passos sob a direcçáo da divinal Valencia.

Feitos os alicerces, lançada a semente em terreno assas fertile, certamente ella havia da medrar com pujança e excessive vigor.

Foi o que succedeu. O Violão se infiltron nas altas camadas sociaes de S. Paulo e é cultivado com enorme carinho.

Francisco Pistoresi com o seu Diaamenophone, instrumento de sua invençáo.

O mesmo surto que tem tido o Violão nesta cidade, já se irradiou para outros pontos do paiz, onde a disseminaçáo da sua cultura cada vez mais se avoluma e cresce.

Por isso mesmo S. Paulo não podia deixar de formar na vanguarda desse movimento. Ali, como aqui, sen ensino é bastante intense e já se encontram além dos professores, amadores de real merito.

Aristodemo Pistoresi, um dos maiores virtuoses do Brasil.

Pertinent sections from the 2002 Masters Thesis by Gilson Uehara Antunes,“Américo Jacomino ‘Canhoto’ e o Desenvolvimento da Arte Solística do Violão em São Paulo”:

Já em 1914, no dia 22 de fevereiro, o violonista e luthier Francisco Pistoresi, realiza recital de violão apresentando um instrumento de seu invento denominado diamenofone, no qual se flagra um aberto ataque de preconceito ao violão. O jornal O Estado de São Paulo escreve22:

“Com seleta assistência, composta de representantes da imprensa, artistas e professores, realizou-se ontem, no salão nobre do Conservatório, a experiência do interessante invento do Sr.  Francisco Pistoresi. Esse invento consiste num pequeno aparelho, muito simples, destinado a ser aplicado a todos os instrumentos de corda, tanto de arco como de teclado para a produção de nota contínua ou prolongada.

“Ouvimos a execução de um pequeno repertório ao violoncelo e ao violão, sobre os quais está aplicado o referido aparelho, e a impressão que nos causou foi excelente. O violoncelo executado sem arco, com perfeição emitia notas muito agradáveis e de grande intensidade.

“O violão, que atualmente é um instrumento vulgar e, por isso, sem valor, por intermédio desse aparelho fica completamente transformado e adquire uma dignidade superior.

“Tal instrumento, executado com a nota contínua, assemelha-se perfeitamente a um poderoso orgão ou harmônio. “Estas são as aplicações atuais e iniciais do invento. Porém onde ele produzirá melhor resultado será no piano e na harpa, conforme pretende fazer mais tarde o inventor.

“A audição a que assistimos convenceu-nos completamente do grande valor artístico do invento e do brilhante futuro que lhe está reservado. “Consideramos, somente pelo que tivemos ocasião de ouvir, que a arte musical ficará transformada com esse invento. “Foi o seguinte o programa a que obedeceu a audição:

C. Gounod: Ave-Maria
R. Schumann: Traumerei
E. Dunkler: Reverie
G. B. Pergolesi: Sicilienne
A. Stradella: Preghiera

“Para finalizar a experiência, o sr. Francisco Pistoresi executou ao violão a Traumerei de Schumann, tendo sido acompanhado ao violoncelo pelo professor Simoncelli.

“Enfim, tratando-se de um invento muito recente é impossível dizer-se desde já, em uma simples notícia, as vantagens de suas aplicações”.

Os termos utilizados para o violão, como sendo “vulgar, e por isso sem valor”, demonstram como ele é visto por pelo menos uma parte da sociedade. Mas Alfredo Pistoresi apresenta em julho do mesmo ano seu invento para o público, com divulgação da imprensa, antes de tentar seu sucesso na Europa. Sobre a audição escreve o jornal O Estado de São Paulo23:

“Conservatório Dramático e Musical – Amanhã, no salão deste estabelecimento realiza-se um concerto em que será posto à prova um invento do fabricante de instrumentos de música, sr. Alfredo Pistoresi. “Trata-se de dar a dois instrumentos de corda o som contínuo, coisa até hoje desconhecida. Pelo invento do sr. Pistoresi, esses dois instrumentos produzirão em força,  sonoridade, harmonia e intensidade, uma riqueza musical que dez instrumentos juntos não produziriam. “O sr. Pistoresi vai partir para a Europa, a fim de apresentar o seu invento, que se chama ‘Diamenofone’ ao Centro Musical de Milão. “No concerto de amanhã, às 20 horas, será observado o seguinte programa:

Primeira Parte
Godard: Berceuse de Jocelin
Schumann: Traumerei
Gounod: Ave Maria
M. Giuliani: Gavotta (solo para guitarra)
Becker: Scherzo

Segunda Parte
Rossini: Stabat Mater (cujus animan)
Handel: Largo Celebre
Boccherini: Minuetto
Dunkler: L’Absence
Wagner: Tannhauser Marcha

“Tomam parte nesta audição os srs. Professores Savério R. Simoncelli e Floriano Steffan. “Os bilhetes acham-se à venda em todas as casas de música”.

É a última notícia sobre o diamenofone, que pelo visto não alcançaria a pretensão desejada por Pistoresi.

22 “Um interessante invento”. O Estado de S.Paulo, ano 40, coluna Artes e Artistas, 22 de fevereiro de 1914, p. 03.

23 “Concerto”. O Estado de S. Paulo, ano 40, coluna Artes e Artistas, 04 de julho de 1914, p. 05.