Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fussell and Faust, w/Accordion

Last night I was reading Paul Fussell's humorous classic on class, named, straightforwardly enough, "Class," when he discussed symphony orchestras, which exemplify the hierarchies that shape our sense of what's best and worst and create various unrecognized snobberies. In this scheme violins are best, and accordions down somewhere near the kazoo.

Which made me look on Youtube for something by accordion genius Guy Klucevsek. I found this excerpt from an original score for F.W. Murnau's 1927 silent film "Faust," recorded live at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on Feb 6th, 2003.

Part of the appeal, aside from the awesome four horsemen of the apocalypse, angel, and devil, is the how this Faust subverts assumptions about class without even seeming to try. Faust as 1927 silent movie. Highbrow meets lowbrow. My guess is that the original audience was more prole than middle. Opera: high class. Jazz: low class. Accordion: no class. Performed at MIT: class X.

In my circles, we tend to talk about five classes: owning, professional-middle, middle, working, and poverty class. Fussell enumerates nine: Top out-of-site, upper, upper-middle, middle,
high-proletarian, middle-proletarian, low-proletarian, destitute, bottom-out-of-site. His scale, while too unwieldy for use in groups, explains more. The top and bottom, he says, exhibit the tendency of extremes to meet. Neither top out-of-sight nor bottom out-of-sight will, for example, carry any cash.

Both, also, have exploded over the 25 years since he wrote.

Fussell describes a tenth category of creative-types who are often also class exiles of sorts. This is me. Class X. Largely free of class anxiety. Often employs adverbial form but says 'fuck.' In control of own labor. Doing work I like. Well-read yet avoidant of best-sellers. Strangely eclectic. Indifferent dresser. Etcetera.

Class X is the place to be.

The musicians, by the way, are: Phillip Johnston: saxophone, piano, ukulele; Kate Sullivan, voice; Guy Klucevsek: accordion; Tomas Ulrich, cello.


Bruce Triggs said...

Guy Klucevsek (pronounced "clue-sev-ek") is the guy!

I want to write a book called, "Accordion Renaissance," about the fall and return of the squeezebox in white north-american music. Well, I want to read it, but might have to do the writing to get there.

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