Friday, June 30, 2006

As Each Month Should End

National Accordion Awareness Month ends on a good (if overwhelmingly minor and skwaunky) note. I trust everyone has been vaccinated by this point, and that you'll all be oom-pa-pa'ing into July with a patriotic confidence that will ensure that no flags will be burned, and that for the rest of the year all tunes are in 2/4 time, and played in a major key.

But we accordionists are a bunch of bleary eyed romantics and we will forever live in June- -we'll walk in 3/4 time, settle for the occasional mention over the next 11 months, and practice hard so that next year we'll be as big as- as popular as- but better than, America's Soccer Team.

So, to end the month Kim received her accordion in the mail yesterday! She got in on Ebay from a fellow named Ignaz who lives in Germany. Hers is a circa 1960's Weltmeister with a rich, wobbly, and yes, skwaunky musette. Hopefully, by this time next year I'll be posting recordings of our duets, and inviting all of you to our new apartment for a dance party (accordion music only).

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Death By Musette on the Radio

It's true, after 6pm, on the Global A Go-Go show hosted by Bill Lupoletti, tomorrow (Friday) on Richmond's independent (and absolutely amazing) radio station, WRIR.

Should you choose to do so, you can tune in via the internet.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I finally read the summer fiction issue of the New Yorker last week (well, everything except the fiction- I'm kind of anti New Yorker fiction- it's a long, not so interesting, story that involves my father saying: "Mike, people who have everything like to be depressed by the books they read- it makes them feel less guilty about their wealth"). The summer fiction issue's focus is war, and in it is an excerpt from Operation Homecoming- a writing program funded by the NEA that will be publishing a collection of poems, emails, and letters that have been exchanged between soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and people at home. It's a heartwrenching, and heartbreaking collection and I couldn't help think about this guy while I read them. He's a part of the Dark Horse battalion- the same group of Marines that my sister's boyfriend belongs to.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Last Night's Party

Todd and I played first and I have never been so nervous- during our first song, Ca Gaze, I looked down at my hand thinking I would direct it to do what it was supposed to do but all I could do is marvel at the spasms it was experiencing. After the first few tunes I remembered that I could look to, and rely on, Todd to keep me on task and confident- as he often does.
As I often do, I set up my camera and took a picture every few minutes. Unfortunately, Chris Freeman is either too tall, doesn't play sitting, or I didn't think that his head might not be included in the frame. Regardless, Chris Freeman is an amazing songwriter and entertainer- I have never seen someone so happy to sing songs that are at once hilarious, intelligent, and biting. Send him an email and he'll send you a cd, free.
Jon Felton and Soulmobile played third. From the left: that's Adam on trombone, egg shaker, and trombone case (he's Naomi's nephew); next is Elizabeth on cello- like the others, friendly and warm, she understood my hesitancy to let a blanket of mine, made for me by a former student's mother, to go with them to Tennessee (in the end her understanding led me to give them the blanket); then there's Jon- a magnetic person and performer whom I've known for about eight years and whom I credit with having brought a public tenderness to the male population of Frostburg that didn't exist before he arrived- he's the captain of the Soulmobile and is an excellent, if sometimes reluctant driver; BJ is the multi-instrumentalist in the band- he plays nearly every instrument and plays them all very well- he sings, and is quick-witted, and as is rare, his quick wit is sweet rather than acid; Todd, another multi-instrumentalist who is in (at least) four bands these days- Todd is the person everyone calls when they need help- he could be a session musician and maybe that will happen someday; Lindsay plays the tambourine, the mandolin, has lots of piercings, and an insouciance that is betrayed by her beautiful, punk-rock soprano.

The night felt as much like an evening around the campfire as it looks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Want One?

The CDs are made! Todd mixed the ten tracks and I've made a simple sleeve with cover art (above) and the titles of the songs on the back. The CDRs are even labeled. Those of you who remember Sadhu know that this isn't the first band I've been in that's had a CD, but this is the first time I've been able to record all of the accordion tunes I play on something other than a hand-held tape recorder, or answering machine. It's neat to be able to hear myself from another direction- playing an instrument is very different from listening to that instrument. On a couple of the tunes my bass lines really sound like a tuba! I love this as the tuba is the instrument I plan to learn after I learn the musical saw.

So, if you'd like a CD, send me an email with your address, and I will get to work on getting you one in the next couple weeks.

Also, as I mentioned the other day, Thursday night at our apartment Death By Musette, Chris Freeman and Jon Felton and His Soulmobile are playing. Starts at nine- bring something to chew or sip.

ALSO I have in the works some words about current exhibits in Richmond that I saw last week by: Alyssa Salomon, Ted Victoria, and Langdon Graves. I will post about these soon.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

June isn't Over

Mama here is Amy Jo here. This picture is a good accompaniment to David Sedaris' story about his father desperately wishing that his children were musical and that if they were the family could resemble the Dave Brubeck quartet. I think the story is called "Papa Wasn't a Rolling Stone" and you can find it somewhere on the internet.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Land Speed Record

Tonight Todd and I recorded all of the Death by Musette tunes that we play together. We did this in record time (three hours) and hope to have a CD to give to our friends Jon Felton and His Soulmobile when they come through town next week. I've been playing these tunes for years and Todd is mighty quick when it comes to pumpin' nylon (and steel). Reno (Todd's cat) took a nap in my accordion case while we played.

The Soulmobile will be enroute to Tennessee to play at a festival organized by their friends the Psalters and they, along with Chris Freeman, Todd, and myself are going to play music next Thursday evening. You are invited, bring something to eat- it's going to be a mighty sleepover.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Just Visiting

I took this one.Kim took this one.

A couple of weeks ago Kim and I spent some time with my 4x5, George's lens, and some very out-of-date Polaroid film. Is there anything to make you think that the picture of me isn't from the early 70's? There aren't any plants, and there isn't an ashtray at my feet....but other than that? Kim in her simplicity embraces the zeitgeist whereas I'm afraid I look like I just got in from mowing the lawn.

Early Morning Activity

I like making and photographing piles- it's really kind of embarrassing but I'm going to post these words and risk all the assumptions about my maturity, my id, and my relationship with not only the toilet but also my mommy. Plus, why would I bother making a pile if I didn't plan to share it?

Monday, June 12, 2006

I was at my Nana's apartment this weekend taking care of her while my mom was enjoying some much needed respite from her duties as health advocate and care giver for Concetta Sturniolo.

Nana was diagnosed with cancer last November and at that time had the tumor (on her bladder) cauterized to slow down the onset of the cancer. In the past few weeks the tumor has been acting up again and she had to have it cauterized again, as well as have a neprastomy because the tumor is blocking her ureter and she isn't able to urinate.

Having a neprastomy involves an incision being made in the patient's side and a stint (or drainage tube) being inserted into the kidney so urine can run directly from the kidney into a bag that is attached to the leg. Coincidentally, having had this procedure likens my Nana's situation to my Pop's- Pop had had colon cancer in the 70's and spent nearly 30 years with a bag attached to his body. In a way, I think my Nana feels closer to my Pop now - it's almost like there is a small part of her that is accepting her fate a little more easily because she knew that having a bag was something Pop had experienced, and this makes her feel a little closer to her best friend who died four years ago.

On Saturday my cousins Christina and Michelle, and Michelle's husband Stanley visited from CT and NYC (respectively) and when asked how she was doing upon their arrival Nana said (with a wry look, a lowered brow, and out the corner of her mouth): "I stink on ice!"

Nana has always had a great sense of humor- it's dark and hilarious and she's not shy about letting a person know how she feels. She and I always spend some amount of time talking about how she might best go about jumping off the balcony of her apartment.

When my Pop got really sick in 1997 I became his caregiver for a while- I did everything- I bathed him, I fed him, I changed the bag. I did, saw and experienced things that inverted my ideas of what it was to be a grandchild. I wasn't asking of him, he was asking of me, and all of a sudden, with his big hands in mine, trimming his toenails or cutting his hair I realized that suddenly I was an adult. That happened again this weekend.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Something other than a polka?

From Bamako, Mali Seydou Keita opened a photo studio in 1948 after having stumbled on picture making while working making furniture. His became the most important studio in Bamako and his work is generally viewed as being illustrative of the coming change (independence) of Malinese culture, and indicative of a photographic sophistication most non Africans didn't think existed.

Read more here, see more here.

Blog post format ripped off from both Concientious and Meet Me in Ataxia, Baby!, two excellent photo-centric blogs.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Roy Bertelli

The wonderful Kim Wolfe, future accordionist and keyboard (QWERTY) wiz was searching about for 'cordeans and came across Roy Bertelli, a man after my own heart. Not only is he an accomplished player but he has also reserved a burial plot for his accordions in front of Abraham Lincoln's grave in Oakwood cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Word is that he is often found sitting atop his memorial playing tunes and greeting the many visitors (to Lincoln's grave, not his).

Pictures and info from a website by a programming couple in Seattle who went on a trip to all of the states whose names begin or end with the letter "i".

Go here for more (includes an excellent excerpt from a travel guide that describes Bertelli's soon-to-be instrument tomb).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Jenny Wilson!

This is my friend, former bandmate, and the focus of a fanclub that I started a bunch of years ago (actually, it was only a bunch of t-shirts that said "The Jenny Wilson Fanclub", but what is written becomes truth, at least after 7 years, right?). The band was called Sadhu and we were anything but a group of ascetics- we were better described by the quote (by our post-Jenny drummer Robert, wearing a nicotine patch): "this isn't a band this is a cancer cluster". Jenny was our drummer until she moved to the West coast to be with her boyfriend (hence the need for the t-shirt). That's my first accordion she's looking at... adoringly(?) I doubt it, but I did catch her at a moment when she seemed to be glancing in the direction of that old, wheezy, honking beast.

Friday, June 02, 2006

As Promised

This is Art Van Damme. He's a jazz acordionist and if you want to read about him and his fancy shirts, go here.

Shigeo Kawashima 3

Kawashima's sculpture is complete!

The opening is tonight 6-8pm at Visarts, hope to see you there.

It's National Accordion Month!

In honor of the month, the instrument that I play, and to all those squeezing before and after me, I'll be posting a number of accordion related pictures over the next week or two.

This picture is of Amy Jo Sawyer- a player I know little (or nothing rather) about but I think she may have been related to the Sociable Sawyers. You'll have to wait and see who they are.

Accordionists (a certain type- the type that establish things like the National Accordion Awareness (?) Month and endlessly cite all the pop stars who play the accordion as proof that it's not the domain of dorkdom) in the US are overwhelmingly concerned with righting the image of the accordionist in this culture. In the rest of the world the accordion is a staple of most cultures and isn't derided the way it is here.

If only we could hear the beautiful Amy Jo play for us today!