Before Marion Jacobson discovered the accordion, she was a classical music critic for The Washington Post and an academic with a doctorate in ethnomusicology from New York University. But after wandering into Manhattan’s Main Squeeze accordion store in the fall of 2001, she knew she had found a new passion. So, needing to make space in her cramped Brooklyn apartment for her first child, she traded a Baldwin upright piano for a friend’s ruby-red Delicia Carmen accordion. Now Jacobson’s piano is the house instrument at the Brooklyn music venue Barbes, and Jacobson is the author of “Squeeze This!: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America,” out this month from the University of Illinois Press. She spoke to The Arty Semite about her dream instrument, her “desert island” album and the man she considers the “Michael Jackson of the accordion.”
Ezra Glinter: In your book, you use the phrase “accordion industrial complex.” What does that mean?
Marion Jacobson: The Accordion Industrial Complex is the official, self-appointed voice of the accordion world. They’re usually well-spoken accordion players with some kind of business investment in accordions, whether they’re studio operators or have a relationship with factories. These are people — men usually — with the biggest stake in keeping the accordion at the forefront of culture.
Yet the accordion isn’t always taken very seriously. Why is that?