Today is the official birthday of the accordion.
Cyrill Demian, a piano and organ maker from Vienna, presented the ‘musical’ instrument to the Austrian patent office on May 6, 1829. Just a couple of weeks later, on May 23, the patent was granted,
And the world changed forever.
The beginnings of the accordion are hotly debated. Some, quite a few actually, researchers and experts claim that Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann (pictured below, there was no picture of Cyrill) invented the Squeeze Box, but most give credit to Cyrill.
The first one had five keys with a small manual bellows, but Cyrill said that other keys could be added. He called it the Handaoline.
Of course, everyone jumped on the bandwagon, and that’s exactly what happened, more keys, more and more keys, until it morphed into the gigantic monstrosity we know and er, love today.
It is considered a free reed instrument. That’s an instrument which produces sound by blowing air across a reed or tongue, causing it to vibrate. But, there’s a caveat. The reed must vibrate freely – which is where I’m guessing they got the name. Vibrating freely simply means that the reed can’t touch anything as it vibrates. The concertina, harmonium, and even a leaf instrument are all considered free reed instruments.
But, back to the accordion. The annoying device caught on. It is used in all kinds of music; from traditional to popular to classical to rock!
Stereotypically associated with Polka music, the squeeze box is global. It’s international growth can be attributed to Colonialization. When the Austrian Arch Duke came to Mexico as Emperor, he brought the accordion. And before they knew it, it found its way into mariachi music! The instrument is a big deal in Columbia and Brazil, former European colonies.
And the list of people who play the accordion is huge. Really huge. I was stunned!
Frankie Yankovic is known as America’s Polka King.
And no relation to Frankie, Al Yankovic of Weird Al fame is a big squeezer.
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam – plays the accordion,
Pete Townshend of the Who – plays the accordion,
Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco – you guessed it, plays the accordion.
Gee, and we all thought it was just Lawrence Welk!