How do you start a kickass international accordion orchestra – and why would you do such a thing?
A month ago I was asked by SEED+SPARK if I’d talk about the creation of the Free Reed Liberation Orchestra as part of their arts/ecology/creativity series The Seed Hour 2021. I did it and here’s the recording of that conversation. Steve Gruverman and Matthew Bampton, orchestra members, joined for the conversation. There’s a bit of front matter, including the wonderful Jasmine Gillison singing two songs, and then the accordion talk begins. Enjoy!
This was a piece I wrote (lyrics) for my second CD (which you can listen to over on the right, or download from Bandcamp). The idea was that there was this fictional between-the-wars crypto-anarchist, quasi-mystical accordion orchestra uniting squeezers everywhere. And this is their anthem.
I had no idea, at the time, that the FRLO would become and actual real thing nearly two decades later. I am grateful beyond measure for everyone in the group — squeezers and friends — who, I think, experienced a bit of trepidation when I asked them to sing.
There was also some emotion with the line about mothers, which should not have surprised me (mothers are complicated things). Steve said to me, “I don’t get this line about mothers.” To which I replied.
I wrote this around the time after my Mom died. It’s not really ABOUT MY MOM, just that I was feeling warmly about the idea of mothers. The FRLO in my mind, in 2006, was a … dance band that played in dives in a 1930s Svengali landscape. John Barrymore might bring Marion Marsh there while they’re on vacation in Vienna, trying to avoid the press and the police, and maybe get their hands on some absinth. The FRLO would be playing there, and they might dance, or they might not.
Something different for this blog. This is a piece of music I wrote and recorded. Imagine it’s the soundtrack for a movie or story. What would that story be? Think of the silent movie days, where a musician would play music to accompany the silent film. In this case, you’re given the music and you have to write the story. Enjoy. Share results in the comments or just keep them to yourself. Just trying to add some art and joy into the world. Here’s the full score.
Tune 17 in the Bal Folk Tune Book, this scottish has a nice harmonic ambiguity. A lot of different choices could have been made. In the end, for the A section, I went with Amin-F-Dmin-Bb. All the thirds in the chords are off, so the major/minorness is just implied. The B section is Amin and then G (with a smattering of D thrown in).
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Huzzah! I have not only created a logo for the Free Reed Liberation Orchestra, but also set up a small shop and created some merch. Go over to the Accordeonaire shop for all the mugs, tee shirts, hoodies, stickers, etc. that you need, AND support the FRLO and accordion love in the process. Thank you!
Mazurka Auvergne (#134), Mazurka de Samatan (#142), and Mazurka (untitled, #136) played on my Hohner Erica, in A. The unnamed Mazurka is a variation on one that I play a lot, but it’s very similar to a version played by Gentiane, found below. Also includes their version of the amazing Brezon Valse.
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Continuing the Bal Folk Tune Book Project with three 2-beat bourrées — “Les Moutons” #153 “En Passant la Rivière” #144 “Bourrées Dérobée” #148 — done in a fairly straightforward style. The first and third tune are in G, the middle tune is in D. That was a choice I made, since it is a completely diatonic tune, and usually for that sort of thing I would either transpose to a home key for this box (G/C) or get a different box in the right key. I did neither of those things and, because the key is a not-home one for that box, it sounds clunky to me when I get to the C#.
Well, that is why I took up the project — aside from obviating pandemic madness — to push me further in my playing. I’m almost ninety tunes into the Bal Folk Tune Book Project and the low hanging fruit is disappearing.
“Valse à Bonnejoie” is a tune I first heard of Frédéric Paris Carnet de Bal cassette. It’s a standard in the repertoire, and one that I sort of ignored for years and years. Who knows why? (Hint: not me) It’s also #103 in the Bal Folk Tune Book. Even though it is written in D, I am playing it in G. So there. Take that.