Eyeing one of those fancy, but pricey, electronic accordions? Why not build your own? Lee O’Donnell did just that. He took a toy melodeon (diatonic accordion), replaced the keys and reeds with electronics, and wrote some software to generate sounds with every push and pull. The result is a very capable electronic accordion, capable of producing everything from the sound of a traditional accordion to a retro
8-bit video game.
For years, accordionists have been exercising their hands and arms while their poor feet wither away due to neglect. But no more! Behold the foot bass (or “Basse aux pieds”), a 12-key bellows-driven instrument played entirely with your feet. Invented by Joseph Alexandry in 1894, this instrument was (supposedly) popular in the first half of the 20th century and, thanks to renewed interest by contemporary musicians, is poised for a comeback. A brand-new foot bass, built by Harry Geuns in Belgium, will set you back nearly 2000 Euros, but at least your feet will never be bored again.
I’ve run across some colorful accordion cases over the years, but I really like this one from Alaska artist Tam Johannes. An accordion player herself, Johannes has been “jazzing up” her cases using a combination of mosaic and decoupage, incorporating everything from tarot cards to game pieces. We’ve recently cast aside our hard-shell accordion cases for soft ones (more comfy and easily portable), but I’m guessing there are some readers out there with funky cases of their own. Leave a comment — even better, show us a photo — if you do.
Bruce at Accordion Noir forwarded us a strange Russian news article about a “Monster-Accordion” that will be unveiled at the Kremlin in April. The instrument will be the centerpiece of a celebration of the accordion’s 100th birthday:
“Precise dimensions of giant accordion remain unknown, but according to the art director of the holiday concert the height of the instrument will be several meters. To make the instrument sound two people will draw bellows and several people will push keys of the instrument.”
“Several meters” high? I wonder if this giant accordion is related to this one built by Giancarlo Francenella in Castlefidardo, Italy. That accordion — which is more than 3 meters tall and 2 meters wide — requires two people to play it, one on the keys and another to push the bellows. (Sounds like the punchlinke to a “how many accordionists does it take to screw in a lightbulb” joke…) If you want to see it in action, the accordion was recently transported to the Tate Modern in London for an exhibition and will be there through April 26th.
What’s not to love about this album cover? The purple cuffs, the pinky ring, the thumbs… and, of course, Valentino’s magical Cordovox. I tried to find a clip from the album, but all I could find was this review of Valentino’s “Live in Las Vegas” CD. I’m pretty sure it’s the same guy, but if anyone has more information about this master of the Cordovox, leave us a comment.
If you’ve ever thought “they just don’t feature enough throat-singing accordionists on Let’s Polka,” today’s your lucky day. Oidupaa Vladimir Oiun is a famous throat singer from Tuva (a southern Russian republic) who sings in the kargyraa style, a deep undertone technique. Oh, and he sings while accompanying himself on the accordion. Oiduppa’s singing is more emotional and less traditional than typical kargyraa but, then again, Oiduppa was a non-traditional guy, spending more than half of his life in jail. This song, written by Oiduppa and dedicated to the Tuvan people, comes from the album, Divine Music From a Jail.
We’ve posted clips of forró — a style of dance music from Brazil — before, but never quite like this. Our pal Squeezyboy turned us on to an entire cottage industry of mashups that combine forró with modern pop songs. While you think everything might sound better with some accordion, they aren’t all winners; but we definitely share his love for this forró remix of the Gnarls Barkley hit “Crazy.” I’m not sure who’s behind this accordion mashup madness, but I dig it.
You may think of Grace Jones as a model, a disco diva, an actress, or a tempestuous artiste, but probably not as an accordion player. And yet here’s a clip of Jones performing the strangest version of the classic French chanson “La Vie on Rose” I’ve ever heard. Of course, she isn’t really playing the accordion so much as using it as a prop, though she certainly strikes an intimidating pose. (Watch her performance of Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” for an example of her excellence at accordion-holding, if not playing.)
We’ve seen self-playing accordions before, but this is the first time I’ve seen a Hohner Magic Organa — an automatic accordion built in the 1920s. (Not to be confused with the non-magical Hohner Organa, which was a portable organ.) Music rolls inside the accordion are moved with a spring-wound mechanism over 44 tubes to generate sounds, while a foot pedal connects to the accordion via a hose to power the mechanism.
This particular instrument was recently up for auction on eBay and, while bidding reached $2,750, it still didn’t meet the reserve price. As fun as an automatic accordion sounds, $2,750 could buy you a lot of lessons on a real accordion…