A Cultural History of the Accordion in America
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Illinois Press
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I am lucky to be able to thank a long roll call of people who helped make this book both doable and fun to write. If it weren’t for my accordion teachers, Walter Kuehr and Charlie Giordano in New York City and Peggy Minore Hart in Albany, New York, my involvement with the accordion would not have built up enough momentum for a book. The commitment, knowledge, and generosity of all the accordion people I have interviewed over the years inspires sincere...
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Like many who started playing the accordion in the late twentieth century, my introduction to the instrument happened quite unexpectedly, resulting from a series of chance encounters. While strolling down Essex Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side on a brilliant fall day in 2002, I impulsively ducked into Main Squeeze Accordions. I do not recall what drove me into the store to examine the used and new squeezeboxes, browse through sheet music, and...
1. Advent of the Piano Accordion
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The lushly symphonic sounds of the accordion filled the parlors, salons, and concert halls of nineteenth-century Europe. Accordion scholars generally trace the beginnings of their instrument’s history to the “Demian,” a new free-reed instrument patented by Austrian organ builder and inventor Cyril Demian in 1828.1 These diatonic button accordions were equipped with two, three, or four rows for a variety of harmonies, and could create multivoiced textures and...
2. Squeezebox Bach: The Classical Accordion
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As one of the first recitals featuring the accordion in a major classical music venue, Magnante’s concert reflected a significant shift from the familiar, everyday contexts of earlier accordion performances: theaters, barrooms, and hotel ballrooms. Magnante’s concert offered the earliest presentations of the accordion by formally dressed artistes performing classical repertoire onstage. These presentations were characterized by the selection of repertoire...
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3. Squeezebox Rock: The Rise and Fall of the Accordion in American Popular Culture
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The perspective I have taken on accordion advocates in the previous chapter may have created the impression that the accordion’s place in American mainstream culture was secure. Ensconced in the cultured musical institutions, the accordion would continue to develop as a concert instrument, safe from the influences of ethnic music and the vicissitudes of popular taste. Such was the highbrow vision for the accordion. However, events in American culture of the...
4. Crossover Accordionists: Viola Turpeinen, John Brugnoli, and Frank Yankovic
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Accordionist Viola Turpeinen began her career entertaining Finnish-American farmers and mineworkers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1920s. Furthering her art through studies with Italian accordion teachers, she moved to New York City, where she won a larger audience in the city’s Finnish halls as well as in theaters and ballrooms throughout Manhattan. Although Turpeinen recorded for Victor and performed on radio broadcasts, it was her live performances...
5. New Main Squeeze: Repositioning the Accordion in the Music Industry
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Anyone who read magazines and newspapers or heard popular music on the radio and television in the 1990s might have noted a new wave of fascination with the accordion. Keyboard was among the first observers of the phenomenon, reporting that “against all odds, despite the image problems and all the high-tech hoopla, the accordion is back.”1 There had been dramatic surges earlier, in the 1930s and 1940s, peaking in 1955 when accordion sales reached their height. ...
6. Out of the Closet: Reimagining the Accordion in American Popular Culture
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Ten years into a new century, it is time to evaluate these observations and measure the inroads the accordion has made into the musical lives of Americans. I’ve described how, in the 1960s and 1970s, many Americans suddenly felt uncomfortable with the accordion and wished to shed its wholesome, mainstream, and white ethnic cultural baggage. As America moved into the era of disco, electronic music, and rap music, the dramatic changes in the musical...
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When Helmi Harrington, a musicologist and curator of the World of Accordions Museum, responded to my 2003 request for information about the history of the accordion, she said earnestly, “it’s about time someone approached this topic in a serious-minded way.” Echoing many other accordion devotees I interviewed, Harrington suggested that her interpretation of the scene as a whole, as well as her explanations for her own involvement in it, would depart from my own. ...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World