‘Orchestra in a Box’ explored through Arts and Resilience

Thus far, the Arts and Resilience Program has welcomed a physician-poet, music conductor, playwright, actors, and an opera singer showcasing the connections among arts, humanities, and medicine. This month, accordionist Roberto Rodriguez and music historian Roger Wood, PhD, shared the fascinating history of the accordion—the orchestra in a box.

Jonathan Garris with the Office of Communications detailed the presentation.

Cross-posted from Scoop

Arts & Resilience explores origins, evolution of the ‘orchestra in a box’

Houston-based accordionist Roberto Rodriguez and Dr. Roger Wood, music historian and author, gave an entertaining and informative presentation Wednesday afternoon on the cross-cultural origins and appeal of the accordion, as part of the ongoing Arts & Resilience Program – a series of events designed to link the arts and humanities with medicine at McGovern Medical School.

Wood said he opted to focus on the accordion as it was a ubiquitous instrument that most people are familiar with but might not actually know much about. He reached out to Rodriguez, a full-time musician who studied button accordion with legendary accordion player Leonel Pulido, who plays across a number of diverse genres including country, blues, rock, and conjunto among others.

Wood likened the accordion to being “kind of a whole orchestra in a box,” with a diverse range of designs influenced by a large number of cultures from around the globe.

“Some have piano keys, some have buttons, and others can be heavy or small,” Wood said. “It’s a very versatile instrument in the way it’s constructed and the kinds of sound you can get out of it.”

The origins of the accordion can be traced back to Berlin in 1822 and the invention of its earliest form by Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann. Accordions spread across many parts of Europe, including Italy, France, and Russia, particularly due to its affordability and portable nature. Wood said the instrument would evolve over time, such as removing the need to blow into the accordion itself, and would see different variations such as the diatonic button accordion and the piano accordion.

Rodriguez performed several songs during the presentation and spoke about the technical aspects of the instrument. He compared both his own diatonic instrument with that of a piano version, and how the former won’t necessarily have a full range of notes while the later has a chromatic system and how it can be used for many different playing styles. Rodriguez has done similar lectures at the university level about the instrument, but said he was happy to talk at a medical school for the first time and promote local music.

“I’m all for the arts, and it’s great for people to know what’s in the city and what’s around them,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a great opportunity to come out and talk about my experiences with the instrument and performing here. I would definitely like to come back.”

The next event in the Arts & Resilience Program will be held at 4:30 p.m. April 18 in MSB 3.001. It will feature Dr. Sandy Frieden, instructional assistant professor of German at the University of Houston, with a presentation titled, “How To Watch A Movie.” The program is sponsored by the Dean’s Office in collaboration with the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics. For more information, visit the program’s website here.