This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the inner workings and cultural significance of the accordion. It then sets out the book's purpose, which is to reevaluate the accordion and the many musicultural traditions associated with this instrument. It considers the specific histories and cultural significance of a variety of accordion traditions to shed light onto the instrument's enigmatic popularity in the New World. Because power relations between the social elites and the working class—often immigrants or marginalized ethnic communities—have shaped the accordion's histories across the Americas, issues that emerge as pivotal include identity, discourses of inclusion/exclusion, marginality, and cultural agency; music's capability to engender community; sound aesthetics; and the accordion's place in mainstream and “world music.” An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
Keywords: accordions, musical instruments, New World, immigrants, identity, marginality, cultural agency, sound aesthetics, world music