Every country has its famous people. People become famous because of positive or negative things that they do in their life. However, most people become famous because of the contribution they make in their fields they engage in. There are those who gain fame because of their contribution in sports, music, politics, education and other fields. This paper looks at Astor Pantaleon Piazzolla an Argentinean tango composer and bandoneon player born on March 11 1921 and died on July 4 1992. In his music careers he was able to revolutionalize traditional tango music into new style of tango music known as Nuevo tango.
This new style of tango music incorporated elements from classical music and jazz music. He is reknown for his performance of his own compositions which hand different ensembles (Azzi, pg 3-5). Astor spent most of his childhood years with his family who lived in New York City. It is here where he was exposed to jazz music and music done by J. S Bach at his early age. He acquired a mastery of four languages while in New York City. He could speak in Spanish, English, French and Italian. While he was thirteen years old he met Carlos Gardel who was a great figure of tango music.
He returned to Argentina in 1937 where traditional tango music was the order of the day. He performed in a number of night clubs with a number of groups including the famous orchestra of Anibal Troila, which at that moment was the most famous bandoneon player and also band leader in the country. It was in 1950 when he composed the sound track to the film Bolidos de acero. He entered his Buenos Aires symp0hony in a contest of composition where he won a grant from the government of France to take study in Paris. He left with his family for Paris in 1954. He credits his music careers from the support that he received from Nadia Boulanger.
After introducing his new approach to tango music, he became a controversial figure both musically and politically in Argentina. Some of the biggest resistance that he met in Argentina was the idea that everything else would change in Argentina, but Tango music would remain the same. Despite the resistance that he met him his own country his music got a lot of acceptance in Europe ands also in North America. Some of the liberal segments in the Argentinean society embraced his new style of tango music. They were mainly the people who were pushing political change in Argentina at that moment.
During the time when Argentina was under military dictatorship, as from 1976 up to 1983 he lived in Italy although he would visit Argentina in many times to record his music (Piazzolla & Gonzalez pg 7-11). His musical style of nuevo tango was different from the traditional tango in some ways. This is because it incorporated elements of jazz, the style also used extended harmonies and dissonance. There was also the use of counterpoint and extended compositional forms. His fusion of tango with other recognizable western music element got a lot of success to the extent that it he produced a new style which transcended all these influences.
It is this success and individuality in his compositions led to the particular influences that he made with his music. He used passacaglia technique of circulating bass line and harmonic sequence. He depicted sense of democracy and freedom among the musicians by the improvisation that he did by borrowing from jazz in concept but practically involves a different vocabulary of scales and rhythms which maintained the parameter of the established tango sound world (World Saxophone Congress & North American Saxophone Alliance pg 35-37).
When he composed Adios Nonino in 1959 he developed a standard structural pattern for his compositions. The compositions involved of a formal pattern of fast slow fast slow coda. The fast sections of the compositions had emphasized gritty tango rhythms and angular melodic figures. The slower parts involved the use of string instruments or his own bandoneon which acted as lyrical soloists. The piano was used as back bone of percussive rhythm. He used quintet of bandoneon which most people consider it to be the most successful instrument in all his works. This is because of the great efficiency in the sound produced.
The sound produced covers and imitates most sections of a symphony orchestra. Despite the use of the quintet in most of his music and also the use of ABABC compositional structure he used other forms of music and combination of instruments. In 1965 he produced an album which contained composition done in which he collaborated with Jorge Luis Borges. In 1968 he wrote and made a production “operita”, Maria de Buenos Aires which included also of ensembles, for example, percussion, three vocalists, flute and a movement in Piazzolla own style of rhythms (JSTOR (Organization) pg 16-18).
By 1970s, he lived in Rome where he performed more fluid musical style which had more influence of jazz music. His music at this moment was also simpler and more continuous. In the 1980s he had become rich and famous person. He became an autonomous artist and wrote some of his most multi movements works. Some of the works he wrote include La Camorra, which was a suite in three ten movements inspired by Neapolitan crime family. He made three albums in New York with second quintet.
He described this to be his greatest thing that he ever did in his lifetime. He did away with quintet and formed a sextet which had an extra bandoneon, piano, electric guitar. He also wrote music for his ensemble which was more adventurous in harmony and also in structures that all his previous work. He was able to respond to the growing popularity of non western music. He did this by finding ways in which he incorporated new styles into his own music (Groppa, pg 181-182). He had an open minded attitude to the styles which existed.
This helped him be able to hold the mindset of an 18th century composing performer. He assimilated all the national flavors of his days in to his composition. He wrote his music with a sense of direct social relationship and first hand performing experience. According to biographers it is estimated that Piazzolla wrote around three thousand pieces and recorded almost five hundred songs in his careers. In his music Piazzolla epitomized our situation in the world we are living to day by fusing folkloric beauty and contemporary tension.
His music challenged the traditionalist and made those who were adventurous asking for more of that kind of music. His music had message for the generations to come. His nuevo tango music attracted most popular and jazz musicians in many parts of the world (World Saxophone Congress & North American Saxophone Alliance pg 35-37). Despite the critics that his music received from the conservative government his music stood the test of the time and made a lot of impact to the society. He suffered thrombosis in Paris in 1990 and later died two years later in Buenos Aires.