by Piotr Michalowski
In the popular culture that dominates our times, accordionists have to fight for their dignity, countering dull stereotypes. And perhaps because they get no respect, a small number of them have been making an unusually striking impact on contemporary music, bringing about a renaissance of the instrument. From zydeco to tango, jazz, and even symphonic music, artists with strong personalities are utilizing various squeeze boxes in ingenious ways. In a new world in which rock is no longer just guitars, jazz is no longer simply about trumpets and saxophones, and the very genres all blend, every instrument gets its due, and accordionists have hit back with a vengeance. There are even all-accordion bands such as Accordion Tribe and Motion Trio.
Sweden's Lars Hollmer is one of the most original members of this new tribe. He began his musical activities playing rock with friends in his hometown of Uppsala. Now known primarily for his accordion, he also plays the piano, melodica, and various other instruments. What has made him stand out from the beginning, however, is his compositional and conceptual ability; as with Astor Piazzolla, to whom he has sometimes been superficially compared, his instrumental work and compositional work are inseparable. As everyone who has ever written about him notes, the main characteristic of his art is that it defies all attempts at facile classification. I must admit that until recently I knew little about his work, but having listened in a short time to a selection of his impressively large discography, I can only concur.
If I had to choose one word to describe Hollmer's music, it would be kaleidoscopic. Rock rhythms, various European, South American, and Asian folklike refrains, jazz riffs, nineteenth- and twentieth-century symphonic strains, and schmaltzy Swedish pop swirl by. The word eclectic does not do this justice; he is more what the French call a bricoleur, a melder of bric-a-brac. His music is just like the famed Chicken House in which
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