The Accordion in the Americas
Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More!
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
Title Page, Copyright
When my grandfather would reach for his button accordion, a pre–World War I Schwyzerörgeli (“little Swiss organ”), his grandchildren would gather at his feet and listen. I marveled how his calloused fingers could run so effortlessly up and down the keyboard...
Chapter 1 From Old World to New Shores
In his article on immigrant, folk, and regional American musics, Philip Bohlman engages the accordion for commenting on territorial transgressions. The instrument’s popular appeal, he holds, was mainly due to its “adaptability and its ability to respond to a wide range...
Chapter 2 Accordion Jokes: A Folklorist’s View
People tell jokes almost everywhere, and as a folklorist trained in the 1970s, tape recorder in hand, I collected them at parties, at work, and in taverns. Of course, nowadays the joke tellers are more active than ever at collecting jokes themselves, using the Internet. I Googled...
Chapter 3 From Chanky-Chank to Yankee Chanks: The Cajun Accordion as Identity Symbol
The diatonic button accordion has been played by musicians the world over, but it has attained a uniquely prominent status in Louisiana Cajun culture. Over the decades, this one particular type of accordion has served as a tabula rasa onto which have been projected...
Chapter 4 ’Garde ici et ’garde lá-bas: Creole Accordion in Louisiana
Any effort to trace the history and development of Louisiana Creole accordion must first take on the task of defining the term “Creole” in the context of Louisiana. It may seem a simple task: take Mark DeWitt’s definition for Cajun accordion in the previous chapter, and...
Chapter 5 “Tejano and Proud”: Regional Accordion Traditions of South Texas and the Border Region
At the 1993 Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio, the pioneering accordionist Narciso Martínez did not perform as he had done almost every year since the first festival in 1982. His death in June 1992 marked for many conjunto musicians and enthusiasts the end of an era...
Chapter 6 Preserving Territory: The Changing Language of the Accordion in Tohono O’odham Waila
Waila music, like the poetry of the Tohono O’odham poet, linguist, and distinguished professor Ofelia Zepeda, is plain and direct, yet evocative and invigorating. The accordion and saxophone entwine like the dancers and celestial bodies...
Chapter 7 Accordions and Working-Class Culture along Lake Superior’s South Shore
In the winter of 1981, Bruno Synkula of Ashland, Wisconsin—a house-party musician and maintenance worker born in 1919 to Polish immigrant parents—told me that he learned to play button accordion as a kid from an Italian neighbor, a disabled “ore puncher” who...
Chapter 8 Play Me a Tarantella, a Polka, or Jazz: Italian Americans and the Currency of Piano-Accordion Music
In 1971, Roxy and Nellie Caccamise traveled from the small town of Batavia, New York, to Bruge, Belgium. Pioneers of the piano accordion in upstate New York, they had been selected to represent the American Accordion Association at the World Championship competition...
Chapter 9 The Klezmer Accordion: An Outsider among Outsiders
There are many Jewish musical cultures spread across the world today, yet klezmer, the instrumental music of the Eastern European Jews, enjoys almost universal popularity.1 It is generally accepted that clarinet and violin are traditional klezmer instruments, as defined...
Chapter 10 Beyond Vallenato: The Accordion Traditions in Colombia
The accordion1 is considered to be at the core of vallenato style and sound, and vallenato itself is undoubtedly the most widely recognized Colombian popular music genre in and outside Colombia since Carlos Vives’s stunning success with his 1994 pop-fusion album...
Chapter 11 “A Hellish Instrument” The Story of the Tango Bandoneón
Argentina’s most popular music genre, the tango, had already enjoyed a long history before the bandoneón became its quintessential instrument. Known as a danceable music genre, tango involves everything from poetry, song, gesture, and narrative to philosophy...
Chapter 12 No ma’ se oye el fuinfuán: The Noisy Accordion in the Dominican Republic Sydney
Merengue is widely recognized as the national music of the Dominican Republic, its most popular and best-known export. Originally a representative of the country’s northern Cibao region, this music and dance became a national symbol, first in reaction to the United States’s...
Chapter 13 Between the Folds of Luiz Gonzaga’s Sanfona: Forró Music in Brazil
Though Brazil is perhaps better known for its hot and sultry samba rhythms, its sun-kissed beaches, and the delicate swing of its bossa nova, it also has a longstanding accordion tradition spanning most of the twentieth century that plays an important role in the story...
Chapter 14 The Accordion in New Scores: Paradigms of Authorship and Identity in William Schimmel’s Musical "Realities"
The American composer and accordionist William Schimmel (b. 1946) has composed four thousand works over a twenty-year period, none of them original. In fact, all of them are based, thematically and structurally, on the works of other composers. Works that reference...
Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover