I am not an accordion hater. To me there is nothing inherently wrong with accordion music in itself, but like so many things, an accordion can be used improperly and for nefarious purposes.
I’ve been a sappy sentimental tourist in Europe before, and I vaguely (but fondly) remember the first time I heard someone playing La Vie en Rose along the Champs. I remember wondering where all the anti-accordion sentiments I’ve heard over the years came from. While it may not be the most beautiful of instruments, surely it deserves this reputation less than other more irritating instruments (I’m looking at you, piccolo). On the contrary, the accordion provides ambiance and atmosphere.
I got to thinking that maybe it was simply a problem with over-exposure. If you have to listen to accordion music all the time, whenever you’re out and about in a European city, then perhaps you do just get sick of it. Vigelands Park has its fair share of accordion players, especially in the summer, and so I’ve had a chance to put this theory to the test over the past few years. Every day that it’s sunny, we load up the grill bag and head to the park. More often than not, there is an accordion player hanging around busking for spare kroner. I find that I don’t mind this. Quite the opposite, I continue to enjoy the ambiance and the music lends a hint of the old-fashioned to our modern lifestyle, reminding me of old Audrey Hepburn movies where Europe was a far-away land of fantasy, rather than an everyday reality.
This year all of my accordion tolerance has finally been drained. As I said, the instrument itself is not to blame. Rather, I have finally been exposed to shameful accordion misuse. Our entrance to the park has fallen victim to the worst accordion player I have ever heard! I cringe whenever I walk past, and I even have fleeting fantasies of kicking over his little container of donations (no huge tragedy, since he appears to earn no more than one or two kroner per hour) to force him to stop playing for a little while. I’ve also considered paying him a few hundred kroner to go away, but I fear this might just encourage him to come back.
Imagine the accordion equivalent of the worst American Idol audition, and play it on a continuous loop. That should give you the basic idea of what this is like. He “knows” only three songs: Für Elise, The Godfather theme, and the Chicken Dance. And none of these he plays at all correctly or particularly well. He knows a few bars of each and repeats them endlessly until awkwardly transitioning into the next one. On one occasion, he played his adaptation of the Chicken Dance non-stop for at least ten minutes straight. The Chicken Dance is far from my favorite tune under the best circumstances, but after ten minutes of an out-of-tune accordion rendition I was about to pull my hair out. Since this guy plays right across the street from our apartment, he is almost impossible to avoid.
To remedy this kind of problem and to preserve the good name of the instrument, I think someone needs to introduce an “Accordion License.” You can only play in public if you have undergone extensive training and passed a rigorous exam in order to prove that your accordion playing will not harm the general populace.