Squeeze This!: A Cultural History of the Accordion in America
By Marion Jacobson
University of Illinois Press
Main Squeeze Orchestra and Walter figure prominently in this book, beginning with the very introduction and the birth of the accordion universe as we know it:
Like many who started playing the accordion in the late twentieth century, my introduction to the instrument happened quite unexpectedly, resulting from a series of chance encounters. While strolling down Essex Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side on a brilliant fall day in 2002, I impulsively ducked into Main Squeeze Accordions. I do not recall what drove me into the store to examine the new and used squeezeboxes, browse through sheet music, and talk at length with owner Walter Kuehr. (…) I do recall my feeling of awe when Kuehr strapped on one of his wood-framed accordions, made to his specifications in a factory in the Czech Republic, and a velvety carpet of free-reed sound washer over me.
“Here’s a little Cajun tune,” he said, launching into “Jambalaya.” He then gave his interpretations of klezmer, French musette, and an Italian song, each time flipping another switch to alternate from the dark, low reeds of the Cajun and klezmer tunes (the bandoneon switch) to the lighter, sweeter textures of French and Italian music (the musette switch, with two reeds tuned slightly apart, creating a reedy vibrato. With only one instrument, you can travel the world.
I was also fascinated by the physical dynamics of the instrument, the way Walter and the accordion seemed to breathe together, and how this awkward-looking box could be transformed into something that looked like an extension of a player’s body. “You hold it close, you practically embrace it, and it breathes. And you can get every effect you want out of it,” said Kuehr. “You can sound sad or silly, and you can make someone laugh or cry. That’s harder to do on a piano.”