un petite histoire de musette: origins

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PARIS, 1880. Immigrants from a rural region of France called Auvergne settled in the Bastille district of Paris .

These Auvergnats partied to music played on the bagpipe. The French industrial revolution of the 1880’s brought Italian immigrants, and their accordions, to these same Parisian working class neighborhoods. [1][2][3]

The two cultures clashed and for a while, and the Italians were not accepted. As the story goes:

One day a brave Italian accordionist asked to jam with a group of Auvergne musicians. They hit it off and Bal-musette was born.

The accordion’s mechanical superiority and ability to play melody and accompaniment edged out the bagpipe in the more progressive waltz groups. This mechanical superiority allowed for a new approach to musette melodies. The first genius of musette accordion was Emile Vacher. Vacher’s music inspired dancers and his virtuosic compositions inspired musicians. [5]

As musette’s popularity rose, venues dedicated to Bal-musette sprang up not just in the Bastille but all around Paris. The demand for Bal-musette musicians to play at the clubs created the ideal conditions for a culture of accordion virtuosi to follow in the path of Vacher and move the genre forward.

Go Further

Paris Musette Documentary – THE preeminent documentary work on musette.

Box of Thrills – A very nice work of writing by an informed journalist.

Wikipedia: Bal-Musette

  1. and a few other Parisian neighborhoods  ↩
  2. Historically the bagpipe and things that sound like a bagpipe get called musette, remember this ↩
  3. Why Italians and accordions? Demian patented the accordion 1829, in Vienna, Austria. Italy is a country which lies in between Austria and France. So Vienna, Italy, Paris. Demian ↩
  4. Note the lineage of fine Italian heritage accordionists: Murena, Azzolla, Galliano, Vietty.  ↩
  5. Vacher is to Musette as Louis Armstrong is to Jazz. No understanding of musette can be had without commited listening to his music. Vacher basically invented the style of ornaments, tripolets, etc.  ↩

 

Dallas Vietty is a Philadelphia based jazz accordionist and accordion educator. As a musician he performs around the United States. His past projects have allowed him to perform the some of the top music venues: Jazz at Lincoln Center NYC, Iridium NYC, Kimmel Center Philadelphia, Catalina’s Los Angeles to name a few. As an educator Dallas is a pioneer in online accordion education through his learning website rebelreed.com.

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