You still have time to turn around. Really. You can go to a different website and read about something more edifying, like American Idol, Polar Bears, or Hockey Pucks. Why would you waste your time reading this? It is my hope that if you continue reading, you will not hold me liable for any suffering that ensues as I fulfill my promise to write on the subject of...

Accordions.

One of the joys about the Internet is the chance you have to find out wonderful new things and learn about interesting people. Yet for every fascinating fact and intriguing person, there are about ten you should avoid. At least five of those ten play the accordion.

I see it as my duty as a member of the medical community to instruct you on the ways of these people so that you can avoid them. They come in many forms: some are the archetypical "innocent" polka people, while others disguise themselves, hoping to lure you into their lair only to reveal their true intent after there is no hope of escape. So I will do my best here to teach you the warning signs and so spare you the incredible trauma these instruments can inflict.

Background

First, let's put this in a historical perspective. The history of the accordion dates back to the ancient Chinese:

The Chinese Book Of Chronicles (Shujing) pinpoints the birth of music as occurring during the reign of the legendary "Yellow Emperor", Hwang Di, around the year 3000 B.C. Hwang Di's other accomplishments are said to have included the invention of boats, money, and religious sacrifice. He is said to have sent the noted scholar Ling Lun to the western mountain regions of his domain to find a way to reproduce the song of the phoenix bird. Ling returned with bamboo pipes, and captured music for mankind, taking the first step toward the genesis of the sheng and later the accordion!

The sheng, a bamboo mouth organ, is the first known instrument to use the free vibrating reed principle, which is the basis of the accordion's sound production. Shaped to resemble the phoenix, the sheng has between 13 and 24 bamboo pipes, a small gourd which acted as a resonator box and wind chamber, and a mouthpiece. Other instruments using a free vibrating reed were developed in ancient Egypt and Greece, and were depicted in many beliefs. There was also a mouth-organ in use among the Chingmiao tribes (non-Chinese people related to the Thai-speaking people of Haenan) in Guizhou Province, China that may have predated the sheng.

Historians debate which had a greater impact on the world: the sheng (which would evolve into the accordion), or Chinese water torture. Both were used ruthlessly on enemies and are largely credited, along with the Great Wall, for repelling the Huns. Some archeological evidence suggests the battle of Dai-Yoo-Dog, in which the Mongol hordes were permanently repelled from China, was won when the Chinese stationed 1,000 sheng-playing warriors on the Great Wall, causing great distress among the Mongolian forces. As they dealt with the audio assault, a flanking attack by the Emperor's guard cut through the forces, dealing a mortal blow to the enemy. Mongol illustrations of this great battle picture their forces with hands over their ears, screaming in horror as the Chinese ran them through with swords.

The Sheng was brought to the West by Marco Polo (along with spaghetti, fireworks, and the plague) and was transformed over the years to become the Accordion as we know it:

Cyrillus Damian, a Viennese instrument maker, has often been credited with the creation of the first true accordion. He was, in fact, the first to patent an instrument of that name, having received royal patronage for his invention in 1829. Damian's design featured two to four bass keys that produced chords within a range of an octave. But the first true accordion made its appearance in 1822, when a German instrument maker named Christian Friedrich Buschmann (1775-1832) put some expanding bellows onto a small portable keyboard, with free vibrating reeds inside the instrument itself. He dubbed it the hand-aeoline, and helped spread its fame in 1828 by leaving Berlin and touring with it.

It is an eerie foreshadowing as the Germans and Italians teamed together to transform the sheng to the accordion, showing just the level of cruelty these two nations are capable of. Historians have noted this and asked the question of whether the Japanese somehow had a hand in this as well. The evidence seems against this, but the historical facts are chilling nonetheless:

It is widely thought that the accordion was probably introduced to Japan by Sensuke Asahi, who gifted one to the Miho Shinto Temple in the Simone region in 1850. Syokichi Mazkichimaru did the same in 1867.

In 1887, the Japanese imported German diatonic accordions for the women of high society to play. In 1905, Russian war prisoners returned home, without their accordions. The Tanabe firm began manufacturing them, and travelling medical salesmen used the accordion to advertise their wares.

In 1931, the French film 'Sous les foits de Paris' was a huge success in Japan, and caused a demand for the Parisian accordion as heard on the soundtrack. Tambo created an accordion model with a piano keyboard named "Paris", and other models were made with names such as "Bolero" and "Scala". These were later replaced by Japanese names such as "Chyasahima" (divine island) and "Daitoa" (great Asia). Many instrument workshops were converted into propeller factories during the war, and many pre-war instruments were destroyed by bombs.

In 1932, the Tambo firm began manufacturing diatonic accordions, followed three years later by Yamaha. Yamaha also produced chromatic accordions with piano keyboards, which were not widely imported.

Clearly it was the German influence, bringing Accordions to Japan, that transformed them from a peaceable nation to one intent on world domination. It has been noted that there was a high percentage of kamikaze pilots who had family members who played the accordion. These apparent acts of sacrifice were actually an escape. Who can blame them?

So you see, the whole of history is full of accordion influences. Once you realize this, you can see the danger that this information age brings.

More to come...