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accompaniment

When you hear the word accompaniment you probably think of music. More specifically, you likely think of the pianist or violinist who is an accompanist for a principal singer, who would be singing a cappella were it not for his or her accompanist.

If that’s what you think, then you’ve got it slightly wrong or, rather, your understanding is incomplete. An accompanist can also provide accompaniment for a lead musician playing another instrument.

(I wonder how the little peon of an accompanist feels being billed that way? Just to be clear, I’ve never seen “little peon of an accompanist” listed on a concert program, but that’s what it sounds like to me.)

What’s more, an accompaniment doesn’t have to have anything to do with music. Anything that supplements and/or complements anything else is an accompaniment. The something and the something else are usually, but not necessarily, foods.

Getting back to the musical accompaniment why is it that when there is a singer involved it’s always the player of the non-vocal musical instrument who gets billed as the accompanist? Based on my understanding, that doesn’t strictly follow from the definition of accompaniment.

There are plenty of songs that work perfectly well in instrumental versions. And often, the non-vocal musicians are just as good at their crafts as the singer is at his or her craft, so why isn’t the singer called the accompanist in those cases and the pianist, violinist or whatever considered to be the principal performer? It doesn’t seem fair to me. In my opinion, musicians should definitely launch a job action over this.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I have no vested interest in this issue. In my junior high school (I think they call them middle schools these days) music was compulsory in grades seven and eight, but optional in grade nine.

I squeaked the clarinet in grades seven and eight. My eighth-grade music teacher frequently told me that I was the worst student he ever had. Although it might not seem so from his attitude toward me, he was a compassionate teacher who always said we should see him after class if we had any problems.

One day I went to see him after class to talk to him about my problems in music. He asked me if I was taking music in grade nine. I said no. He said, “you have no problems.” He gave me a good grade.

That ended my music career. So, needless to say, I don’t provide musical accompaniment for anyone and no one provides musical accompaniment for me. Thus, I can discuss this issue without any bias.

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