Of the instruments labeled as “sexy” – guitar, saxophone, violin, cello, etc. – there runs a common theme: the instrument itself complements the instrumentalist’s image. Guitars are phallic. Saxophones tighten muscles. Violins feature the frame. Cellos are curvaceous. These sexualized traits lend credit to the instrument’s popularity, because as visual creatures, we drink deep the seductive imagery of someone making musical love to an instrument.
Like the poor sucker picked last in an elementary game of dodgeball, however, there is in fact an instrument last on this list – the least sexy of all instruments - and that title, not surprisingly, goes to the accordion.
“It’s basically like wearing an air conditioner,” says 25-year-old Rhode Island resident Cory Pesaturo, holder of such titles as World Jazz Accordion Champion, World Digital Accordion Champion and World Acoustic Accordion Champion. Pesaturo first picked up the accordion around the age of nine; though, he admits, “if it was around 12 or 13, I would have been smart enough by that point to have said, ‘I ain’t playing the accordion.’ I’d have played something that gets girls.”
Pesaturo thankfully pushed through the pubescent era of shame going on to become the first American since Peter Soave, some 25 years ago, to win a World Accordion Championship. All the while, though, the accordion’s sexlessness shadows him.
“You’re carrying a big box. No matter how much you move, it’s still not sexy,” says Pesaturo, citing that its “heavy” and the “shape of it is a problem.” Combined with the aforementioned comparison of the accordion to an air conditioner, it’s easy to imagine an accordionist’s sexual struggle: Who can swagger around stage while carrying – and playing – a stupidly heavy box of an instrument, and with such finesse as to evoke in the audience that all-too-common, heart-pounding heat of lust and desire?
Moreover, the sexual crisis worsens when taking the accordion’s sound into consideration, argues Pesaturo. “I hate the sound of the accordion – the full-on master switch, I just hate it,” says Pesaturo. “I love the bassoon [switch], love the clarinet [switch], some of the violin switch and the musette switch for French or folk stuff, those are great. But the full-on accordion, I hate it, seriously can’t stand it. It just sounds like... an accordion.”
To remedy the sound problems, Pesaturo built himself an electronic accordion, one that lights up like a miniaturized rave so as to and distance the instrument from its dreary oom-pa-pa past. Plus, a built-in electronic system can imitate more than 40 different instruments or sounds. It’s honestly a wonder Pesaturo isn’t mobbed by groupies just by putting the thing on.
As for the air conditioner-image issues, Pesaturo has a secret project in the works: “I’m making an accordion, with the same engineer that did the [custom] lights, that is a completely different shape.”
The details of this new accordion, however, remain a mystery, and only time will tell if the ugly accordion duckling blossoms into something more than an underappreciated eyesore.
Pesaturo returns from a cross-continent tour to play with Brown University’s Big Band on December 6. Free. 8-10pm. Grano! Center, and Marinos Auditorium, 154 Angell Street. 863-3234.