restricted access Chapter 1 From Old World to New Shores
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1 From Old World to New Shores helena simonett Inhisarticleonimmigrant,folk,andregionalAmericanmusics,PhilipBohlman engagestheaccordionforcommentingonterritorialtransgressions.Theinstrument ’spopularappeal,heholds,wasmainlyduetoits“adaptabilityanditsability torespondtoawide rangeof musical demands in thechangingculturalcontexts” of the New World.1 Despite its malleability, the accordion remained an emblematicimmigrantinstrument ,asymboloftheworking-classpeople,throughoutthe twentieth century. Yet the accordion has challenged and transgressed its social associations many times during its relatively short history of nearly two hundred years. During the first decades after its invention in the early 1800s, the accordion was an upper- and middle-class instrument: its buyers were young, urban,affluent,ambitious,fashionconscious,andfutureoriented—inshort,early nineteenth-century “yuppies.” Each instrument was meticulously handcrafted, which made the early accordion costlier than a guitar and put it out of reach for the common people. The finest materials were used—polished ebony wood for the frame and delicate kidskin for the bellows. Labor-intense filigree carvings and spangles, inlay, rhinestone, and ivory work decorated these luxury models, created in a process involving hundreds of hours of labor. This first essay briefly traces the history of the accordion from its humble beginnings in the early 1800s to its meteoric rise and consolidation as a truly global instrument. Although the Viennese organ and piano manufacturer Cyrill Demian was the firsttohavehisnewinventionpatented(1829),numerousotherEuropeaninventerswerecookinguptheirownversionsoffree -reedinstrumentsatthesametime. Demian’saccordion,“alittleboxwithbellows[and]fivekeys,eachabletoproduce 20 helena simonett a chord”2 —hence its name—topped an invention frenzy among instrument makers , but it inspired rather than stopped their creative zeal. Once an instrument circulated, it was subject to a restless continuation of improvements. In fact, the accordion was itself a continuation and a perfection of many late eighteenthcentury experiments with free-reed aerophones: in 1770, a Bavarian musician performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, on a “sweet Chinese organ”—most likely a Chinese sheng. The sheng is an ancient free-reed instrument that consists of a wooden mouthpiece attached to a gourd equipped with bamboo pipes of varying lengths. It is believed that the early European attempts to create bellows-driven instruments based on the free-reed principle—tongues that are vibrated by an airflow—were derived from the sheng. In 1779, a portable free-reed organ called theOrchestrionhadbeendevelopedinSt.Petersburg,basedonideasforatalking machine developed by an acoustics professor in Denmark. The invention of the Pys-harmonika (Vienna, 1821) and the Äoline (Bavaria, 1822) followed. A Viennese music-box maker patented his “Harmonika in Chinese manner” in 1825, calling himself a “Certified Music Box- and Mouth-Harmonica-Maker.”3 Europeancountriesinthenineteenthcenturywerecloselyconnectedthrough travelandtrade.Itisnosurprise,then,thatDemian’saccordionappearedinParis the year after its invention. The patent protected his invention until 1834, but not in a foreign country. Thus, Parisian instrument makers immediately copied the novelty. Six years later, there were twenty accordion and harmonica makers registered in Paris. With some modifications of the Viennese model, they tried to appeal to the sophisticated Parisian ears.4 M. Busson in Paris added a piano keyboard for the right hand, a novelty that became known as accordéon-orgue, flûtina, or harmoniflûte. With its casework made in rosewood and inlays of ivory and mother-of-pearl, it was geared “towards the ladies of the better society and advanced to a desired bourgeois object of female distraction.”5 Unencumbered by gender expectations, the novel instrument was indeed considered suitable for youngwomen.Busson’snewinventionwasshownattheWorldExhibitioninParis in 1855. The popularity of the accordion continually increased as the number of published method books, some printed in two or even three languages (German, French,andEnglish),indicates.“Itwastheaccordion’suniformtone,considered novel at the time, and its breadth of nuance-rich music, as well as its portability and affordability, that endeared it to large populations.”6 The flourishing French accordion production came to a halt during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), after which Italian manufacturers from Stradella pushed onto the market. The luxurious artisanal Stradella model was one of the two main Italian accordiontypestosucceed .7 Intheearlydecadesoftheaccordion’sconquest,theinstrumentfounditswayintotwomusic -lovingtowns:StradellainthenorthernItalian province of Pavia, a region that at the time was under the power of the Austrian 21 From Old World to New Shores Empire, and Castelfidardo, located in the province of Ancona (Marche region) in central-eastern Italy. The latter town, marked by its old castle and surrounding walls, was the place where in 1860 a decisive battle between the Piedmontese troops and the papal army laid the groundwork for Italy’s unification. Immediately after the annexation of the Marche region, “we witness the birth of the first accordions and concertinas which were probably introduced to the Italians by French troops allied to the Papal...