My father passed away a few years ago not long after his second stroke. But before his cognition and motor functions became impaired from his first stroke, my Father had been an amazing accordionist. He used to wake up at 4:00 am every morning and practice his accordion for three or four hours before starting his day.
He had a unique style. He didn’t play the Latin style popular in Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico or Panama. He didn’t play the dance-pop or folk music common in Europe, Russia or North America. He didn’t play cajun, zydeco, jazz, or classical.
Instead, he played gospel music almost exclusively. I deeply regret that I have no recordings of Dad’s music. I once owned a copy of the only cassette tape he ever produced, but somewhere I lost it among multiple moves and vehicle transitions. The closest accordionist I could compare him to would be the Belgian style of the late Jack Van Impe. For an example of Jack Van Impe’s playing you can view this video:
Last night I dreamed about Dad and his accordion, but before I tell you about the dream, let me give a few accordion facts, for those of you who may only have a passing familiarity with this amazing instrument.
The word “Accordian” comes from from the 19th-century German Akkordeon, derived from Akkord—”musical chord, concord of sounds”. The accordion is played by compressing or expanding the bellows while pressing buttons or keys, which causes pallets to open, which allow air to flow across strips of brass or steel, called reeds. These vibrate to produce sound inside the body.
The keyboard touch is not expressive like that of a piano, and thus does not effect dynamics. Instead, all expression is accomplished through the bellows. In fact, the bellows can be compared to the role of breathing for a singer. The range of expression possible by this mechanism is amazing–nearly as versatile as the human voice.
Here are some of the bellows effects that a skilled accordionist can create:
- Volume control, including swells and fades
- Repeated short, rapid changes of direction (“bellows shake”).
- Constant bellows motion while applying pressure at intervals
- Constant bellows motion to produce clear tones with no resonance
- Subtly changing the intonation to mimic the expressiveness of a singer
- Using the bellows with the silent air button gives the sound of air moving (“whooshing”), which is sometimes used in contemporary compositions for this instrument.
The accordion is a masterpiece of fluid dynamics and fine mechanics. For comparison, the more familiar keyboard of a typewriter is nothing compared to the mechanism which works the bass and chord valves. The airtightness of the bellows and of the valves that open and close the access of air into the reeds, consists of some hundreds of pieces built from a variety of materials, such as fir, maple, mahogany and walnut wood; metals such as steel, hard aluminum and brass; precious cashmere, felt and cloth, as well as lamb’s hide, kid and leather; celluloid, rubber and virgin wax.
Because of the complex nature of the accordion’s assembly, and the attention to detail required in order to produce a quality sound, the best accordions are hand crafted. Even mass produced accordions require a large component of hand assembly.
Manufactures continue to introduce innovations to the accordion. Various buttonboard and keyboard systems have been developed, as well as voicings (the combination of multiple tones at different octaves), with mechanisms to switch between different voices during performance, and different methods of internal construction to improve tone, stability and durability.
There are also a wide range of accordion mechanisms—buttons, keys, unisonic reeds, diatonic reeds, etc. A skilled player of one style of accordion cannot transfer his proficiency to another style. Without boring you with further technical details let me just state that my Father’s accordion of choice was the unisonic piano accordion. He had a couple of them. They were expensive, hand-crafted Italian works of art.
In my dream, I was with my Father. He was not impaired by a stroke in any way, but he knew that he was dying from some condition that my dream did not specify. Before he left this world he wanted to pass his beloved accordion to someone who would appreciate its worth and take care of it.
We found ourselves in some sort of a public area, such as a shopping mall. We were there to meet a prospective buyer. He was a blonde guy probably in his late twenties. Dad had played some of his music for this fellow and now the prospective buyer had Dad’s accordion and was trying to imitate his style.
It didn’t go well at first. He faltered and played wrong notes. It was awkward. Then the guy stopped trying to imitate Dad’s style and began to play his own music. As he did so, a transformation occurred.
Suddenly the young man and the accordion became one. The music that flowed from the pair of them was haunting and riveting and breathtakingly beautiful. I couldn’t even begin to describe it. The closest that I can come to describing it is a saxophone playing smooth jazz, but that is only a feeble caricature of what I heard. This guy made sounds come out of that accordion that I didn’t know an accordion could make. There was none of the choppiness normally associated with many genres of accordion music. It was smooth as butter with golden tones and…well, nevermind! It is impossible to describe it.
I was stunned and deeply moved. Tears flowed down my cheeks at the exquisite beauty of it. My father, also, was visibly touched. His jaw sagged and he seemed mesmerized. When the music ended, there was no doubt that Dad was going to entrust his accordion to this virtuoso.
The dream ended with my father asking the buyer where he had learned to play like that. The guy responded with a self-effacing smile, shrugged, and said that he knew such-and-such and so-and-so, naming two people. I don’t remember the names he gave, but one of them was Italian. In my dream, I instantly knew that these were two of the biggest names in accordions. I believe at least one of them was a manufacturer–probably the Italian, since accordians are very close to the heart of generations of Italians, and many of the best accordions are built in Italy.
As explained above, there are four main components to an accordion which enables it to make music. These components are (1) the bellows, (2) the reeds, (3) the mechanism (buttons/keys/pallets/etc.), and (4) the musician who operates the previous three. Let’s look at these components one at a time.
The purpose of the bellows is very simply to move air. As we explained above, the design of the accordion’s bellows allows the operator to have great control of the airflow and produce a variety of nuance and effect. This makes it similar to human lungs which drive air across our vocal chords in order to produce our voice.
Of course our breath is also what sustains human life, as 12 to 15 times every minute our cardiovascular system replaces toxins, waste, and carbon dioxide with antibodies, nutrients and oxygen.
So what does breath symbolize in Scripture?
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
Here in Genesis we can see the association between the likeness of God and the breath of God. When God created the first man, Adam, the intimate act of divine respiration…the impartation of God’s breath suggests an infusion of His likeness. Man was created in the image of God through the very act of breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. This doesn’t anthropomorphize God. Rather, it elevates man to being identified at his core as a spiritual being.
In the New Testament, the Koine Greek word for spirit and breath and wind are all based on the same word, [pneuma]. Jesus said,
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63).
True life comes from the spirit. Not from the flesh.
While speaking to Nicodemus in John chapter 3, verse 8, Jesus told him,
“The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Later, as Jesus hung from the cross, bearing the sins of the world, the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke both say that Jesus “breathed his last” (Mark 15:37, 39; Luke 23:46). Some translations render that He “gave up his spirit”. This indicates that the spirit and the breath are closely intertwined if not synonymous.
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples. They were overjoyed to see Him. And Jesus then “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).
Here again we see the breath of God corresponding to the giving of the nature of God. There is a sanctifying effect to the breath of God—in receiving it we are made to reflect God’s likeness. We do not become our own gods, but we are given a sobering, humble perspective on our own mortality. No matter what we have or are, death is always but one breath away, and God can reclaim His breath of life any time He so chooses.
David makes this clear in in the Psalm 39:5:
“Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath.”
Our lives, everything we strive to do, everything we work for, is like a single breath for God.
So, in summary, bellows drive air like breath which represents the Holy Spirit who sustains our spirit and gives us the ongoing continuous gift of life.
In general, there are four kinds of reeds named in the Bible:
(1) The writing reed, Arundo scriptoria , which was used for making pens.
(2) The papyrus. “Gnome“, translated “rush” and “bulrush” refers to the celebrated paper-reed, Papyrus antiquorum , which used to be common in some parts of Egypt. Although it is extinct in Egypt it still grows in other places such as Syria. It was used for making paper, shoes, sails, ropes, mattresses, etc. The Greek name is Biblos , from which came our word Bible–book–because books were made of the papyrus paper.
(3) The water reed. This is the “Agmon“. We find it referred to in scriptures such as Job 40:12, Isaiah 9:14, 1 Kings 18:21, Isaiah 36:6, Ezekiel 29:6, Matthew 11:7, Matthew 12:20, and Isaiah 58:5. This type of reed is also called a “rush”. It denotes some aquatic reed-like plant that grows in marshy ground, probably the Phragmitis communis or the Arundo isiaca. It is slender and fragile, and is used as a symbol of weakness and of instability.
(4) A stronger reed is the “Arundo donax“. This is the true reed of Egypt and Palestine. It grows 8 or 10 feet high, and is thicker than a man’s thumb. It has a jointed stalk like the bamboo, and is very abundant on the Nile. Paul Johnson, in his History of the Jews states that the reed was used by the Jews as a symbol of justice. It was also associated with power, authority and legitimacy. Undoubtedly, this is because it was so consistent in length and diameter that it could be used as a standard measuring device. A “reed” was equivalent to six cubits. For instance, in Revelation 21:15, an angel used a reed to measure the New Jerusalem, its gates, and its walls. Other uses for this reed were arrow shafts and (pertinent to our topic) a wind instrument.
So we see that reeds can symbolize weakness and undependability, or they can represent the complete opposite: power, authority, legitimacy, dependability, and the standard by which worthwhile things are measured.
In short, the mechanism is nothing but a bunch of complicated linkages and doo-dads and whatnots that can either prevent or enable the airflow across the reeds. The mechanism can do nothing on its own. It must be activated by the will of the musician.
This is the source of the music. Without him, the accordion would merely be a silent box. It is his talent, creativity, and interpretation that determines when and how the air flows through the reeds by means of the mechanism. Although a quality instrument is an important component in the performance, allowing the artist to achieve his goal and accomplish his work, when they hear an accordionist performing, the typical audience spends minimal time admiring and praising the instrument. Instead, the honor and applause goes to the musician.
In my dream, there were two musicians
My father was the old, dying outgoing musician.
The buyer was the young, talented, vibrant incoming musician.
So What is the Message?
I believe the two musicians correlate to the two kinds of reeds.
My father was dying. He was my fleshly father. I believe he represented our flawed and mortal fleshly identity. He was the weak and flimsy reed.
The buyer represents Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, who bought humanity with His blood. He is the noble golden reed which establishes the parameters of the New Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 says this,
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
His purchase is the theme of Heaven’s praise:
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation’.” (Revelation 5:9)
Notice that reference to the new song? I’ll get to that in a couple of sentences.
So if the buyer is Jesus, what is the accordion? It is what he bought, obviously. We are the accordion. Without Him we can do nothing. Without his breath in our lungs, we have no life. But with Him at the controls, our song has become a new song.
Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. (Psalm 98:1)
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:3)
I believe that this dream came now to indicate that the time of our transition from defeated fleshly ones to overcoming mouthpieces of His glory is upon us.
Get ready to sing a new song. We have transitioned from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. (Jeremiah 31:4)
HALLELUJAH! The new song is going to take your breath away!