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Composer and accordionist Guy Klucevsek
(Photo by Elenora Alberto)
From polka to post-modern, and John Williams to John Zorn, accordionist Guy Klucevsek has expanded the repertoire of his versatile instrument for more than 40 years. He brought his squeeze box to The Monadnock Center for History and Culture on November 7 at the beginning of his first residency at The MacDowell Colony.
Klucevsek explained that at MacDowell, he prepared for a week-long retrospective at New York’s premier new music club, The Stone. For six consecutive nights in March, Klucevsek will present a different project with a different set of musicians, taking a look back at a 42-year composing career.
The New York native introduced the accordion as a concert instrument, and described some of the composing techniques he’s developed. He also played some of his pieces to a rapt crowd, and explained his process of arranging and revising older works that will be featured in the March retrospective series.
The composer said that a lot of his music was written for dance and theatre, so it requires specific orchestrations. “In The Stone concerts I’m going to have a different ensemble each night,” he said, requiring a lot of revising and re-orchestration.
The accordion, said Klucevsek, is an instrument that came out of popular culture, and when he got serious about it in the mid-1960s, he started to view it as a life-long pursuit. That was about the time people like Virgil Thompson began writing commissioned pieces for accordion, and Klucevsek as a teen started playing the new pieces for competitions.
“I completely fell in love with them,” he said. Previously, if you were an accordion player, you played a transcription or a new arrangement of piano music. “But the new music, in many cases, turned out beautifully.... and it eventually morphed into me composing my own music.”
The composer, who is a 2010 United States Artists Fellow, says that “the creative part of being a musician took over my life in a good way.” He has worked with Fred Frith, Aaron Jay Kernis, Bobby Previte, Mary Ellen Childs, John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, Bill Frisell, the Kronos Quartet, Natalie Merchant, and many others.