Born in 1948, Los Angeles accordionist James Nightingale premiered several works for accordion by contemporary composers in the 1970s, for which he earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship-Grant in 1975. Also in 1975, he took part to the first International Accordion Symposium in Toronto, Canada, directed by Joseph Macerollo. In 1976, he created the Los Angeles Accordion Arts Society. In 1977, his version of Mauricio Kagel’s Pandorasbox adapted for accordion appeared on an Orion Master Recordings LP. Recently, Nightingale played saxophone on Andrew Ford’s A Martian Sends a Postcard Home CD published by Australian label Tall Poppies in 1999, and was involved in music theatre projects like the 2003 opera for children The Adventures of the Black Dot (see here).
♫ On this fine LP, James Nightingale takes full advantage of the Free bass accordion, which is generally used in the context of contemporary music. It allows the player greater flexibility on the left-hand buttonboard and a range of 3 octaves, compared to the traditional accordion with its limited range and preset chords. In addition, most tracks on this LP are recorded with an amplified accordion to which it is easy to add sound effects or ring modulation, a technique popularized by George Crumb’s Black Angels string quartet (1970) for electrified string and glass instruments.
The LP opens with an exquisite harp and accordion duet, titled Entente, composed by Nightingale himself in 1971. Wonderfully recorded, the piece exposes with some refinement the similarities in resonances from both instruments, as well as their capacity to create bold tone clusters. Arcana, composed in 1970 by Danish composer Per Nørgård (b1932), is a joyous carousel of complex, whirling rhythm patterns for three similarly pitched instruments (accordion, electric guitar and small percussion like vibraphone, marimba or drums). On Dinosaurus, also from 1970, Arne Nordheim uses a pre-recorded tape of treated accordion sounds and noises, in a surrealist dialogue with Nightingale’s live instrument. Originally written for David Tudor, Mauricio Kagel‘s Pandorasbox, written 1962, is a colouful and playful scenario for accordion, voice, and inside the piano resonances. Close to German Musik Theater, it goes through many theatrical gestures and contrasted moments. US composer Richard Grayson uses ring modulation rather sparingly during most of his composition for 2 accordions titled Promenade, composed 1977, except near the end of the piece, where both instruments produce unexpected, grotesque, supernatural sounds.
- James Nightingale Entente (8:28)
Lou Anne Neil, harp
- Per Nørgård Arcana (13:2)
Stuart Fox, electric guitar
Tom Collier, percussion
- Arne Nordheim Dinosaurus (9:37)
Arne Nordheim and Mogens Ellegaard, tape
- Mauricio Kagel Pandorasbox (9:04)
- Richard Grayson Promenade (7:44)
J.N., accordion+ring modulator
Barbara Beisch, accordion+ring modulator
Total time 48:05
LP released by Orion Master Recordings, Malibu, CA, 1977