Working with Composers
Resources and Links
On this page you will find a selection of sources for composers wishing to learn more about writing for the accordion. I regularly work closely with composers to introduce them to the instrument's notation, technique, and the variety of sounds that can be squeezed (pun intended) from it.
The accordion is a relatively young instrument, only invented in the early 19th century (1829, to be exact), and has since been through many changes and developments. It is a highly mechanical instrument (described by my father as a 'musical typewriter'), and has a combination of different keyboard systems and registers (which alter the tone and pitch). All these buttons, levers and valves give it an expressive flexibility and range similar to that of an organ.
I hope the resources here will encourage you to explore the accordion further, and if you have any questions or would like to know more please get in touch!
The early accordion, patented by Cyrill Demian in 1829 in Vienna.
Starting Points for Composers:
1. Start listening!
To the right you'll find a Spotify playlist of a selection of original compositions and transcriptions for the accordion. This is only a small selection, but should start to introduce you to the tonal qualities of the instrument and the various techniques and sonic effects derived from them. (Most of these are solo works, but there are some chamber and orchestral works mixed in as well to give a sense of how the accordion sound blends with other instruments.)
2. Find an accordionist!
There are a variety of different handbooks and guides out there on how to write for accordion. However due to the great difference from instrument to instrument, these often offer different views on notation, range, organology of the instrument. This can be a bit overwhelming and confusing when you're approaching the instrument for the first time, so the best thing to do is find an accordionist who can introduce you to their instrument.
In the UK there are two classical accordion departments in music conservatoires - in London at the Royal Academy of Music, led by Owen Murray, and in Glasgow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, led by Djordje Gajic. If you're looking for an accordionist to work with you may be able to get in touch with a student or teacher through these institutions.
Composers are also always welcome to contact me with any questions!
My trusty modern Bugari 'Prime' free-bass accordion, with all it's bells and whistles.
A handful of composers who have written for accordion:
- Sally Beamish (Accordion concerto: The Singing, and Take Two for Cello and Accordion)
- Luciano Berio, (Sequenza XIII 'Chanson')
- William Grant Still (Aria and Lilt)
- Jukka Tiensuu (Anomal Dances, Concerto for Quarter-Tone Accordion)
- Rebecca Saunders (Flesh for Solo Accordion with Recitation)