A couple of friends with a very successful duo (fiddle/guitar) have started a mission to learn and play Musette as it had developed from the middle to late 1800's in Paris. I know originally the musette is a type of bagpipe which is later replaced by a button box.
If your friends want to "play Musette as it had developed from the middle to late 1800's in Paris", then no
kind of accordion would really be deemed "correct", but then neither would a fiddle or guitar (though accordion with fiddle/mandoline-banjo and guitar-banjo could be appropriate for music from the teens and twenties). The Musette genre started with Auvergnats (people from the Auvergne region) who settled in Paris, bringing their "cabrettes" (their regional name for the "musette" bagpipe) and traditional dances with them. They held "bals musette" (dances to the musette) in their back yards, in places like the rue de Lappe, at Bastille, which later became famous for its dancehalls, and where there are still Auvergnat shops to be found. I usually make a little pigrimmage there, whenever I'm in Paris, but then it's only just around the corner from the Fnac shop at Bastille where you will find the best selection of French accordion recordings anywhere.
It was only at the very end of the 19th century that migrant Italian accordionists introduced their instrument into this music, and since then many of the leading accordionists in Paris have been Italian, or of Italian extraction.
In the early 20th century the music, and the dances, started to change, the traditional Auvergnat repertoire being joined by fashionable tunes and dances, as well as Italian songs, and new "jazzy" instruments from the U.S.A. (banjos, Saxophones, "Swanee" whistles and drum kits) were introduced, so that gypsy banjo players started to accompany the accordionists (which is how Django Reinhardt started his career).
I have been asked to try the genre on EC. Okay, but I would like to know what sort of button box was refered to as a Musette Accordion so that I might have the correct idea as to sound. What am I up against here?
The typical accordion, in those early years, would have been a three-row diatonic instrument with Stradella bass (like a piano accordion), but these later gave way to Continental chromatics. The tuning was always very wide, to produce a shrill-enough sound to penetrate a noisy "bal musette" dancefloor before the introduction of amplification, and this caused the name "musette" to be given to that style of tuning.
In the 1930's the influence of swing music, mixed with musette, produced another style called "accordéon swing", that saw the introduction of the guitar. These swing accordionists preferred a much tighter tuning for their instruments, which became known as "swing".
If you want to get a taste of this music, from original recordings, you can do no better than have a listen to the double-CD's "Accordéon 1913-1941" and "Accordéon Vol. 2, 1925-1942", on the Frémeaux label, DH002 CD and F&A005 CD. I'm listening to one of them as I write. Or for a more recent take on this music, there is the Denécheau Jâse Musette's album "Le Musette à Paris", Auvidis Ethnic B 6817, which features diatonic accordion, banjo and "jâse" (drumkit).
(Edited for clarity.)
Edited by Stephen Chambers, 30 June 2005 - 08:56 AM.