restricted access 2. Accordion Dreams
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Two Accordion Dreams I emerged from sleep disoriented, half-awake, still wrapped in a dream. An accordion dream, once again. I could feel the nocturnal music, refusing to retreat in the face of insistent morning sounds: Steve shifting beside me, child stirring, cat scratching, city street noises filtering through the window along with the sunlight. But I kept dancing with the accordion. It was playing itself, playing me, as the bellows opened and closed. In and out, ebb and flow, no beginning and no end, with the music all around. Expanding me as far as I could go, then drawing me back in, then filling me up, and sending me out again.As natural—and essential—as breathing.And then the music, a river flowing through my fingers and onto the buttons, spilling into the air. Now, coming to wakefulness, I held the remnants of the dream through lingering sensation more than sound. I could still feel the weight of the accordion, the heft of it, in my hands. So real, so present—and oddly familiar, this little box I had heard and finally seen from a distance, but hadn’t yet touched. Its music had haunted my days and now it began to infiltrate my dreams, with a sweet and unrelenting embrace that refused to let me go. The accordion dreams didn’t come to me right away. The quiet fire I felt after my first trip to New Orleans started slowly, with few visible signs, aside from the pungent Louisiana flavors beginning to creep into our cooking. But my new passion was brewing, right along with the chicory coffee. I sent away for catalogs featuring Louisiana foods and gifts, and I began to devour books by Louisiana writers—like Ann Rice’s vampire chronicles and James Lee Burke’s hard-hitting Cajun detective series, and then Kate Chopin’s early feminist classic The Awakening . I watched and re-watched “The Big Easy,” captivated every time by the transformation of the repressed East Coast attorney as she 15 16 Beginnings succumbed to the steamy ambience of New Orleans—helped along by the seductive charms of a cop whose Cajun accent came by way of Hollywood. But mostly, I fed my appetite for Cajun music—a hunger that was beginning to turn into a craving. I started out with two tapes, a pair of cassettes in constant rotation between our home stereo and my Walkman. But I needed more. I began to haunt record stores, just as I had always lost myself in bookstores, following a twisting path that left me feeling greedy and a little dizzy, not quite sure what I was looking for, as one thing led to another and then another. BeauSoleil, the band so proudly introduced to us by Papa Joe, provided the point of entry. Following their trail, I discovered an album called “Home Music,” by a trio called the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band. It caught my eye for two reasons. I recognized the fiddler . And—unlike all the others I’d seen—this group included a woman. The cover was an old-fashioned tableau in sepia and blue: three musicians seated around a campfire at dusk, their figures in sharp relief against the clouds looming behind them, filling the night sky. On the left, Michael Doucet, the fiddler from BeauSoleil. In the middle, a rugged-looking man named Marc Savoy, holding a small accordion on his knees, and smiling broadly at the pretty darkhaired woman beside him. Ann Savoy looks pensive as she gazes down, absorbed in her guitar. Their music startled me at first. The sound was so spare—just those three instruments, along with the faint metallic tinkling of a triangle or the scratch of a rubboard on a few tunes. There was no drum, no bass, and no heavy amplification. As for the singing, the two men sounded heartfelt, but a little raw, something like Papa Joe. Ann’s contrasting voice had a sweet, pure tone, with an almost otherworldly stillness, especially on the slow tunes. The whole effect was unsettling, and so different from the polished, accessible music of BeauSoleil, with their rollicking Caribbean rhythms and sly humor. Then I played the tape a second time, and something began to shift. The music didn’t seem raw—just direct and passionate. As I kept listening, I realized the simplicity was deceptive. Savoy-Doucet Accordion Dreams 17 had refined Cajun music down to its fundamental elements. Now...


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