Posts Tagged With: music

Film Review: Accordions Rising

My favorite type of novel is when an author takes obscure subject matter or a little known historical occurrence then expands upon it, slipping in a perspective to make entertaining reading. I gain knowledge in an area where I had little or none without the drudge of academic study, all in the midst of pleasure.

That’s how I felt when I stumbled upon the films of Roberta Cantow. Earlier I reviewed Clotheslines. Now she’s just released Accordions Rising. Originally, I wasn’t necessarily attracted but remembered the unique spin she put on Clotheslines, which was really a statement on the status of women. So I watched the new one and became engaged just as I do with the type of novel I mentioned.

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This filmmaker moves you well beyond the instrument’s association with street vendors, Lawrence Welk and the polka to its surprising—for me—modern-day use in orchestral, experimental, jazz and ambient music. And history? How about accordion during rituals of Vodou’s Marie Laveau? Beyond the music itself, she features the accordionists giving voice  on how they came to their instrument. These are the kind of stories I personally love, plus all the examples of its role in traditions across the world. Then there’s the power of the accordion that you can hear throughout the film. Depending on the focus of the musician, it can take you on an emotional ride. And I guarantee you’ll be tapping your foot.

I was curious as to what drew Roberta to undertake all the intense research, time and other investments a documentary requires to do well…for something so unpopular. So I wrote to her and asked. I learned as much from her answer as I did from the film. I’m sharing a bit with you here.

 Let me start with this: The accordion, I have come to understand, is far less ‘obscure to mainstream’ than one might think. In fact, although I was not able to include all of these examples due to licensing issues, the list of musicians that play or include accordions is quite long. All with names that are familiar: Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, etc.  The instrument was simply not foregrounded. It certainly did fall out of favor at one time, but there has been a resurgence for the last 20-30 years.

When I began, my knowledge of the instrument was thin. I had enjoyed a set of disks called Planet Squeezebox going all the way back to the late 80’s, the accordion in every corner of the world. In the 90’s I started seeing photographs and graphic images that piqued my interest. I attended the San Antonio International Accordion Festival, and it was as if I were lit up. I loved that it had a home in so many different cultures and styles of playing. I thought that it reflected the diversity in our culture (and our world) today. I was also extremely intrigued with the people who were using the accordion differently and unexpectedly in new music and avant-garde forms. My eyes were opened wide to the versatility and various passions of the players. I felt that it didn’t deserve to be ‘maligned’ the way it was, so I set out to set the record straight. I begin the film with these words…. ‘I have often been drawn to the misunderstood….’ and that is true of the subjects of many of my films.

With both of Roberta Cantow’s films I’ve seen thus far, a major take-away: When you think you know something—if you take it at face value—you don’t know anything.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can see it for free or $2.99 otherwise. And tell her what you think in the rating and reviews section.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, cultural interests, Film Review | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Perfect Order of Unexpected Music

My friend Oscar and I are in Paris for a brief respite before heading south in a few days to walk the Camino de Santiago. Today we ventured out of town via train. I was looking forward to returning to Barbizon, the picturesque village tucked in next to the Fontainebleau Forest where artists like Rousseau, Millet, Corot and others painted and made up the Barbizon School. I didn’t take into account the complications of getting there without a car, particularly the last leg which indicated we’d likely be stuck there for the night. So, quite disappointed I decided we’d better go back. We arrived at Gare de Lyon, one of Paris’ train hubs, and did some people-watching for a while before heading down the stairs to the metro. 

  
I commented to Oscar there used to be musicians playing in the metro. We hadn’t seen any since we’d been there, and I missed it. Half a beat later I heard strains of music, dashed around the corner…and what are the chances?  A bit of real-life déjà vu. As if on cue, the musical ensemble Classique Metropolitain struck up Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major just as they did in 2008 when friends and I stumbled upon them in Place des Vosges. The  unexpected music made my spirits soar immediately as it did back then, the time and place anchored in my memory.
   

     

Disappointment forgotten. How often is it that we’re able to relive life’s small pleasures that aren’t so small?

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To see the original post on Unexpected Music with You Tube video of Classique Metropolitain, go here.
Categories: Gratitude, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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