The Classy, Classical Accordion

Sunday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times had an interesting piece on the accordion’s role in classical music and film. It covers the instrument’s history and mechanics before focusing on classical accordionist Nick Ariondo, composer Samuel Zyman, and prolific soundtrack accordionist Frank Marocco. Ariondo explains what makes the accordion so expressive — and difficult to play:

“When you see the piano side of it, complete with white and black notes, you expect to see hammers, not valves. But this is a push-and-pull reed instrument. When you pull out on the accordion, you’re sucking air into it. It sounds like a harmonica. The bellows is like the bow on the violin. It’s very difficult to master.”

I detect a somewhat snooty tone in the article, particularly the emphasis that the “accordion is not just an instrument of the people.” Then again, maybe I’m just hurt because Frank Marocco’s comment — “most of the accordion players never took it much further… they learned to play a little polka, a little waltz, a march, and they’re satisfied” — hits a little too close to home.


  1. My beef with the article is the way the author assumes that a musical instrument has to be used in “classical” pieces to be valid.

    Why can’t an instrument used by regular folk be a valid instrument? Why does it have to be given a “snoot factor?”

  2. I agree, JM. One of the things I love about the accordion is how well it fits with so many musical styles — highbrow, lowbrow, and everything in-between.