Squeeze-the-box. (Los Angeles Accordion Festival)
The accordion (also referred to as a “squeezebox”) is one of several European inventions of the early 19th century that used free reeds driven by a bellows. Although, an instrument called an accordion was first patented in 1829 by Cyrill Demian in Vienna, the accordion's basic form is believed to have been invented in Berlin in 1822 by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann. Demian's patent covered an accompanying instrument: an accordion played with the left hand, opposite to the way that contemporary chromatic hand harmonicas were played, small and light enough for travelers to take with them and used to accompany singing.
Invented in 1829, its popularity spread rapidly: it has mostly been associated with the common people, and was spread by Europeans who emigrated around the world. The accordion in both button and piano forms became a favorite of folk musicians and has been integrated into traditional music styles all over the world. The accordion appeared in popular music from the 1900s-1960s. This half-century is often called the "Golden Age of the Accordion." In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the accordion declined in popularity.
The organization mounted retrospectives of the work of local artists such as Mel Chin (1985), Jesse Lott (1987), and Dee Wolff (1989), and functioned as a venue for performances and installations that had limited commercial appeal. Their support of challenging work by local artists, especially those who were too young or controversial to be featured in the city's galleries and museums, contributed to Houston's emergence as a leading art center in the 1980s.
The accordion has traditionally been used to perform folk or ethnic music, popular music, and transcriptions from the operatic and light-classical music repertoire. In popular music, it is now generally considered exotic and old-fashioned to include the accordion, especially in music for advertisements. Some popular acts do use the instrument in their distinctive sounds. In 1993, during their MTV Unplugged performance performance, Nirvana's Krist Novoselic used accordion while covering The Vaselines song Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam. Perhaps the most famous accordionist in popular music is "Weird Al" Yankovic, who has used the accordion in every album he has recorded, most extensively on his debut album. Tom Waits used an accordion in his video for the song cover of Downtown Train in 1985.
It has grown in popularity also among classical composers like Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky or Umberto Giordano. The earliest surviving concert piece is Thême varié très brillant pour accordéon methode Reisner, written in 1836 by Miss Louise Reisner of Paris. The first composer to write specifically for the chromatic accordion was Paul Hindemith. Other notable composers also have written for the accordion during the first half of the 20th century.
On February 9, 1989, a fire rendered the Travis Street location uninhabitable. The center subsequently found more spacious quarters in a 1920s cotton warehouse, which was remodeled with grants totaling $46,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cultural Arts Council of Houston, the Transco Energy Company, and individual pledges. The organization opened at its new location in the fall of 1990. In addition to gallery and performance areas, the new space includes DiverseBooks, an art bookstore, which sponsors PhoneWorks, a phone-in poetry-reading service.
The best of accordion music is coming to LA in bulk at the SqueezeFestLA, presented by the Los Angeles Accordion Festival. On Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at LA County’s historic John Anson Ford Amphitheatre we’ll have an opportunity to enjoy the three bands that incorporate this exotic instrument into their work. For a musical time-travel will bring us:
Vagabond Opera, the six-piece Portland band is fearlessly comprised of musicians and neo-bohemians with lashing, amorphous purpose. Described by the Washington Post as “A band of ceaseless charisma, boundless energy, impeccable musicianship and more than a little touch of both the naughty and exotic.” the group delivers passionate offerings of Bohemian cabaret for young and old. Paris hot jazz, gut bucket swing, tangos, Ukrainian folk-punk ballads, klezmer and vigorous originals meet a world of riverboat gambling queens, Turkish belly dancers, and the enigmatic Marlene Dietrich. Weaving elements of Kurt Weil, Duke Ellington and Edith Piaf with absurdist flair, theatrics and an old world mood, Vagabond Opera presents the new wave of opera–lusty voices singing in 13 languages and presenting a cabaret of rich musical phrasing, sparkling lyrics and indomitable stage presence, all played with exuberance, skill and a gritty Vagabond edge. This is Opera liberated and reinvented for everyone!
Conjunto Los Pochos' core members, Otoño Luján (button-accordion) and Elliott Baribeault (bajo sexto) met in 1996 at the California Institute of the Arts. The two Southern California natives played traditional conjunto music as a duet at backyard barbeques and for anyone who wanted to enjoy Conjunto music. In the summer of 1997, the four-piece ensemble "Conjunto Los Pochos" was born and has performed regularly at the Annual Grassroots Music Festivals in New York and North Carolina and at the Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio, Texas. The band has appeared on KMEX/Channel 34’s “Los Angeles Al Día” and has performed alongside legendary musicians such as Poncho Sánchez, Los Dos Gilbertos, Flaco Jimenez and Little Joe y La Familia. The band's name initially came about to address the perceived peculiarity of a bunch of [primarily] acculturated Mexicans (Pochos), barely speaking Spanish and playing "Norteño" music (border music from Northern Mexico). Ironically though, this music - having stemmed from the merging of European and Texas-Mexican cultures in the late 1800's - continues to reflect the process of Pochismo (or acculturation) through its lyrics and music.
Feufollet has often been referred to as the future of Cajun music, a more current assessment must admit that they are now the present of Cajun music. Once idolized at early age for their precocious musicianship and sent all over the world as youthful emblems of Acadiana’s cultural resurgence, the members of Feufollet have, in the meantime, grown into the music as young adults leading the way once again as Cajun music extends itself into a new century. What sets Feufollet apart from other young bands is this ability to speak—and especially sing—in Cajun French. Their mastery of the language along with the music has enabled them not only to understand songs from oral tradition, but has opened up the creative possibility of writing new material—all with a beguiling mix of authoritative voice and youthful passion, seriousness of purpose and artistic risk-taking.
All of them are going to amuse us in the beautiful Hollywood Hills, the 1200-seat Ford Amphitheatre on Sunday, June 28. Let’s squeeze the box together!