🎵 The song for this post is Pasoori, by Ali Sethi and Shae Gill. 🎵
I got asked why accordion? yesterday and I gave my cheeky answer (because it fucking rocks!!) but then took the long way of explaining something about it I really like, thought I'd share it here.
First, there are some practical qualities I like that I mentioned when talking about the harmonica lacking them. The accordion:
Can make lots of sounds at once! Piano does this fantastically, where you can play chords or individual notes on both hands. Guitar is more a "one or the other," but guitar chords with their overtones are iconic, it's rare someone thinks it's "hollow."
Can be sung on top of! I want to sing songs for friends and family.
Piano and guitar are classic choices, but I like accordion because it has weird editorial. To explain what I mean, I'll reference a favorite blog post from 2007, Understanding Web Design, by Jeffrey Zeldman. He talks about how web design isn't poster design, or book design, or illustration, but more like fonts:
Great web designs are like great typefaces: some, like Rosewood, impose a personality on whatever content is applied to them. Others, like Helvetica, fade into the background (or try to), magically supporting whatever tone the content provides. (We can argue tomorrow whether Helvetica is really as neutral as water.)
Which web design is like that? For one, Douglas Bowman’s white “Minima” layout for Blogger, used by literally millions of writers—and it feels like it was designed for each of them individually. That is great design.
In a similar way, I think piano and guitar are the Minima, or Helvetica, for instrumentation. They're beautiful instruments, and they can support virtually anything! But they do this at the expense of some character. I don't think the accordion is fully Rosewood or Comic Sans or Papyrus, but it's something.
And I recently learned it's not just one thing: they have buttons on the sides called registers, which can make you accordion can sound like a lot of different things. You can even change registers in the middle of the song!
But it always sounds like something extra. A honking machine. A weird clarinet. And I can't resist working with and around that constraint.
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