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The Accordion in the Americas

Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More!


Publication Year: 2012

An invention of the Industrial Revolution, the accordion provided the less affluent with an inexpensive, loud, portable, and durable "one-man-orchestra" capable of producing melody, harmony, and bass all at once. This rich collection considers the accordion and its myriad forms, from the concertina, button accordion, and piano accordion familiar in European and North American music to the more exotic-sounding South American bandoneón and the sanfoninha._x000B__x000B_Capturing the instrument's spread and adaptation to many different cultures in North and South America, contributors illuminate how the accordion factored into power struggles over aesthetic values between elites and working-class people who often were members of immigrant and/or marginalized ethnic communities. Specific histories and cultural contexts discussed include the accordion in Brazil, Argentine tango, accordion traditions in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, cross-border accordion culture between Mexico and Texas, Cajun and Creole identity, working-class culture near Lake Superior, the virtuoso Italian-American and Klezmer accordions, Native American dance music, and American avant-garde. _x000B__x000B_Contributors are María Susana Azzi, Egberto Bermúdez, Mark DeWitt, Joshua Horowitz, Sydney Hutchinson, Marion Jacobson, James P. Leary, Megwen Loveless, Richard March, Cathy Ragland, Helena Simonett, Jared Snyder, Janet L. Sturman, and Christine F. Zinni.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Music in American Life

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. viii

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pp. 1-18

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...

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Chapter 1 From Old World to New Shores

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pp. 19-38

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...

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Chapter 2 Accordion Jokes: A Folklorist’s View

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pp. 39-43

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...

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Chapter 3 From Chanky-Chank to Yankee Chanks: The Cajun Accordion as Identity Symbol

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pp. 44-65

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...

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Chapter 4 ’Garde ici et ’garde lá-bas: Creole Accordion in Louisiana

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pp. 66-86

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...

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Chapter 5 “Tejano and Proud”: Regional Accordion Traditions of South Texas and the Border Region

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pp. 87-111

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...

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Chapter 6 Preserving Territory: The Changing Language of the Accordion in Tohono O’odham Waila

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pp. 112-135

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...

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Chapter 7 Accordions and Working-Class Culture along Lake Superior’s South Shore

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pp. 136-155

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...

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Chapter 8 Play Me a Tarantella, a Polka, or Jazz: Italian Americans and the Currency of Piano-Accordion Music

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pp. 156-177

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...

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Chapter 9 The Klezmer Accordion: An Outsider among Outsiders

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pp. 178-198

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...

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Chapter 10 Beyond Vallenato: The Accordion Traditions in Colombia

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pp. 199-232

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...

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Chapter 11 “A Hellish Instrument” The Story of the Tango Bandoneón

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pp. 233-248

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...

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Chapter 12 No ma’ se oye el fuinfuán: The Noisy Accordion in the Dominican Republic Sydney

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pp. 249-267

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...

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Chapter 13 Between the Folds of Luiz Gonzaga’s Sanfona: Forró Music in Brazil

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pp. 268-294

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...

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Chapter 14 The Accordion in New Scores: Paradigms of Authorship and Identity in William Schimmel’s Musical "Realities"

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pp. 295-314

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...


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pp. 315-318


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pp. 319-322


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pp. 323-330

Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover

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pp. 331

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094323
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037207

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Music in American Life