April Foolish episode of Accordion Noir Radio tonight playing music by artists I wrote about yesterday who played accordion upside down. Good fun.
Playlist: Read more…
Going to see Daniel Kahn tonight at the Electric Eye on Main tonight?
Got to play a little Russian garmon last night at the squeezeboxcircle.org I thought “garmon” was Russian for “little diatonic accordion,” but it is more complicated than that!
I didn’t realize how different they were from our diatonics. Wikipedia is actually pretty helpful right now. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garmon
Have you seen one? They look like small two-row accordions with a lot of bass buttons. But the buttons are all unisonoric (same note played pumping in and out). The treble is laid out in a diatonic do-re-me scale, with three accidentals added on top. So it’s diatonic but unisonoric (and maybe chromatic with the accidentals, I haven’t counted). Fun to play! Holding three notes next to each other gives a major chord, but the pattern changes as you move around. I gather they come in different keys. I’d love to have one of these to mess with. Pretty nice sound on the master with LMH (low, middle, high reeds).
The bass side is weird too with the inside (of three) row all individual basses in a do-re-mi scale, and the outside two rows are bass-chord combos (like more familiar diatonics I think, but still all unisonoric.)
Russian accordion history has sort of a parallel development with the West through the long distance and separation. I assume they think our slew of diatonic systems are weird too. (I gather they have some bisonoric in-out systems as well, but this one is really popular.) All the world’s people should solve their differences by inventing the widest variety of accordions they can. Keep people too busy to fight.
I know there’s some folks in the Azeri community in town who play what Wikipedia calls the “oriental” garmon. My favourite unique design with piano key layouts on both hands. Right side is a tiny piano keyboard, while the left side is buttons, but laid out like piano keys! Totally unique in the world as far as I know. Somehow the design made its way from some experiment in a factory in Russia and caught on in Azerbaijan and Iran.
I just realized it’s Johnny Grande’s Birthday! Every week when it’s time to do Accordion Noir radio, (listen Wednesday 10-11 PM PST) my phone reminds me with this song. Now you can have it to prepare for Accordion Noir too!
Download ringtone thing: Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rocking Little Tune,” featuring Johnny Grande on accordion.
Someone suggested we share ringtones to remind folks to support Accordion Noir and help us make our fundraising goals to keep our home Co-op Radio on the air. So let this be Accordion Noir ringtone #1.That’s fitting since Johnny with Bill Haley and the Comets had basically the first Rock ‘n’ Roll hit records back in the 1950s. If we get just a fraction of the 20 million listeners that single had, we’d be doing pretty much all right.
“Rockin’ Little Tune” is a cool number. It has that familiar “Rock Around the Clock” beat. But with accordion. Grande only played piano on the Comets’ big hits but usually live he played accordion so he could move around on stage.
The song’s from one of their later records, and it’s a treat if you can find it. Rock and Roll Stage Show gave the rest of the Comets (not just Haley) a chance to shine. What a treat! We played it on Accordion Noir Radio back when we did a “Rock ‘n’ Accordion History of Rock and Roll” episode a few years back. Worth taking a listen.
And get back to us later if you want more squeeze-tones.
I’m not sure this is a useful idea, but I have a hankering to share the long list of quotes and annotations I gathered by reading many fantastic articles, theses, and dissertations on Irish accordions and concertina (I also have Scottish ones). I think I’m just procrastinating to put off the task of incorporating them into the “Celtic Accordion” chapter of my history of the accordion book project. Oh well.
I don’t know if anybody will find them interesting but I thought a look at the raw material I’m working with might appeal to a few, if only to critique my amateur print-out of the information. It’s long and does not have complete academic annotations of the sources. In my original they link to the full texts or at least full documentation. The book’s bibliography is going to be an epic separate job.
This is just a little look into what I’m trying to get my head around coming in as almost totally ignorant of Irish music. I will never be an expert here and hope for guidance and compassion from readers. I’m not much of a hoarder as far as sources. If somebody else wrote a book on Irish and Scottish accordion then I wouldn’t have to. (Maybe wait until I’m done this since I’ve started?)
So here’s a very long, boring-looking, stack of commentary and quotes I really liked about Irish Traditional squeezebox. It’s in vaguely chronological order starting in 1829 or so when the accordion was patented. Together I feel like they tell the story of how the accordion (and concertina) came into this music. Some of them I found profoundly insightful and moving. Let me know if any of this makes sense. My dream for he whole accordion history book is to inspire more work on neglected culture and artists. Maybe a pile of disorganized sources like this is just the thing to get somebody started? There, no more procrastinating. Read more…
On the UK-based Accordionists Forum, Joe from Chicago asked about my favourite episodes of the Accordion Noir radio show. The program is actually turning eight years old on December 1st, 2014, so that’s a lot of episodes to think back on. I’d love to hear from any listeners about their favourite Accordion Noir Radio moments (or least favourite, I don’t pretend we can’t improve or that we always meet all tastes). It is fun to look back at the titles we made up for our old podcast (2006-2012). We continue today of course and you can listen on the new Co-op Radio.org podcast site.
A favourite of mine was when Jared Snyder joined us to talk about the lost African American accordion tradition. (Lead Belly’s first instrument.) One listener didn’t like it because we talked too much. It’s true I could talk about this stuff all night; consider yourself lucky it’s radio and you can turn me down. AccNoir-2011-11-09, African Americans played Accordion before they played the Blues, with Jared Snyder
Another show had the distinction of us totally trashing our playlist and spontaneously coming up with a new themed show when another DJ rushed in to the station and told us that there was a riot in downtown Vancouver after a hockey game. So as the show ran we came up with an hour of “riot themed” accordion music on the spot. That was good radio. AccNoir-2011-06-15, Accordion Riot in Canada
I appreciate any episode where my co-host Rowan was gone and out of loneliness I improvise explanations as to where he was (investigating accordion-playing penguins in Antarctica, cleaning the streets of Vancouver with a leaf-blower attached to his accordion, and my favourite, when he actually arrived just in time to join me from the International Space Station in a live broadcast while they deployed their “accordion folded solar panels.” Awesome. AccNoir-2009-03-27, Mix Up, and up, and up…I’d always rather have him there in person of course. (Ironically at this very moment I’m out of town and Rowan is holding down the show without me. I hope he had me travel somewhere interesting.)
I look back favourably on some of our theme episodes.
The Rock and Roll history of Accordion was really fun. AccNoir-2008-04-18, Rock ‘n’ Accordion Show though I notice the level of my voice is too low, sorry.
AccNoir-2010-07-28, Cylinder Recordings from the Future! All recordings at least 80 years old! Much of this old-school show was based on work I did annotating a selection of the old squeezebox cylinders at UC Santa Cruz’s Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/index.php
AccNoir-2009-01-16, Lars Hollmer Tribute A commemoration of the founding member of the Accordion Tribe Lars Hollmer. I so wish we could have had him and the whole Tribe play here. He is missed.
AccNoir-2010-11-24, Grand ol’ Accordion Opry I started uncovering just how much early (pre-1960) country music had accordion and had to do a special.
A somewhat bizarre combo: (first the promo ad) Accordion Noir, Brasil-Finland Fundraiser Promo!
AccNoir-2008-10-24, Brasil-Finland International Friendship Episode! The full show: (We went back and forth with one track from Brazil and then one from Finland for the whole program. Silly fun.)
Holidays are always great themes:
AccNoir-2008-10-31, Halloween Fundraiser
AccNoir-2011-03-09, International Women’s Day 100 year anniversary
Accordion Noir 2013-12-25, Jingle Bell Rocks rocks (3 hour not-all-accordion Christmas show!) This monster 3-hour Christmas show was darn jolly.
AccNoir-2009-02-06, Rowan at the Movies Rowan’s film-music nights are great.
And I have a soft-spot for the wacky “other instrument”-Noir shows we’ve done during Vancouver Co-op Radio’s fund-drives:
AccNoir-2010-04-09, Jaw Harp Noir PRA (Pre-Recorded Announcement)
AccNoir-2011-09-23, Accordion Resistance Special Ukulele Gudge-show with Barbara Adler
AccNoir-2011-10-19, Hurdy Gurdy Noir (fund-raiser, part I) with Bev Dobrinsky of Zeelia
AccNoir-2011-10-26, Hurdy Gurdy Noir (Fund-raiser part II) with David Burda!
AccNoir-2011-04-20, Banjo Noir, the announcement!
AccNoir-2011-04-20 (pt 2 of 3), Banjo Noir First Hour, with Linda Bull and Sue Malcolm
AccNoir-2011-04-20 (pt 2 of 3), Banjo Noir Second Hour, with a little bit of Linda Bull and Sue Malcolm
Weirdest show we ever did?
Theremin, Musical-Saw, Glass Harmonica! (Announcement)
AccNoir-2010-10-27, Theremin, Musical-Saw, Glass-Harmonica Noir. (full, long show)
In some ways I might be most proud of the little promo announcements I make for the show, various specials, and our Festival and events. Those take a lot of editing and are really fun. I’m working on a new one now. (Note, “PRA”=”Pre Recorded Announcement,” in radio-speak.)
Accordion Noir Historical PRA (perhaps my favourite promo for the show. Silly.)
Accordion Rock ‘n’ Noir PRA by Accordion Noir
Accordion Noir Electronica (dub) (the wordless base for a promo. Samples from ten different accordion artists.)
AccNoir-2010-05-12, Electronica/New Time PRA (the announcement as broadcast with me talking. I’m proud of this one.)
Accordion Noir, Brasil-Finland Fundraiser Promo!
Accordion Noir: Halloween Fundraiser PRA Announcement: Oct 31, 2008
Ukulele Noir! April 24th takeover show, promo ad!
And if you doubt the power of radio: My daughter wanted a teacher, and found one!
Harriet’s plea for a girl piano-accordion teacher in Vancouver!
I’d love to hear if you had favourite Accordion Noir moments over the years. I don’t know if I can trust the numbers at all, but the old podcast claims to have had tens of thousands of downloads of most of the shows. I don’t know what to make of those, but we’ve definitely had many thousands of real listeners, and it is a humbling privilege to do the show if folks appreciate the music we share.