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9-13 December, 2020

Kiscsősz, Hungary

 

 

 

9-13 December, 2020

Kiscsősz, Hungary

 

 

etnik Archív
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News - MEDIAWAVE Foundation

2009-02-06

"Two minute tango like the intensive experience of the drama of a lifetime" - an interview with Astillero (ARG)


Astillero will open the concert series of next MEDIAWAVE on 25th April. This article is from 2007, before the band came for it's first European tour.

- Since the band is unknown in Hungary, please summerize the story of Astillero!


- Astillero exists since nearly three years. All of our musicians are experienced in playing all kinds of different styles of traditional tango music and do know each other through different tango-projects. Out of this profound knowing of the tradition the musicians of Astillero have founded this group in order to develop the styles of the past, to serve as a contemporary, new language of the younger generation that expresses our times and the reality ‘the Buenos Aires reality’. All the music is composed by the members of the group and the arrangements are worked out all together. This is a new aproach of developing arrangements in tango, coming more from the customs of rock-bands.

 


What does Tango music mean for Argentina, how has it changed through the time?


- Well, in the 40`s and 50`s Tango was THE popular music of Buenos Aires. There had been up to 600 (!) orchestras working in different locations of the city, the so called golden age of the tango; a massive movement which in this dimension is impossible nowadays, in our split-up globalized world. Indeed, the tango (originaly coming from the poor working class) recently is a sub-culture that is favoured by a very small percentage of middle-class people, (young and elder ones) with higher education. Still (or again) tango is present in the city, including the TV and radio-stations; but also many commercial products, full of clichees for the tourists. Indeed the tango has become popular again (in Buenos Aires and the world) for about ten years. It would have been died out during the 70`s and 80`s without artists like Piazzolla.
 

- In Europe there several films and CD selections have been made about Astor Piazzola and your music is also very close to his style. Is his tradition kept alive in Argentina? Do musicians interpret his music in their own way?


- The situation in Europe and in Buenos Aires is quite different. In Europe there are numerous musicians (most of them classical trained) who play Piazzolla’s music and his original arrangements. This aproach nearly doesn`t exist here. One of the most important parts of tango’s identity as popular music is the arrangement. Every group or orchestra plays its own arrangements. Most local groups play old style danceable tango, they play the so-called milongas. Tango to listen to - as the music of Piazzolla - is something rare. Our music originates from the tradition of tango (including Piazzolla), but doesn`t stop in the 50`s, like most Argentinian groups – no, it is proceeding Piazzolla and is using elements of modern styles such as rock, Argentinian folklore, western classical and contemporary music. Our performances are supported with a significant use of visual tools such as video-clips played during live shows.

 


- What is your opinion about the tango interpretation of Gotan Project? Do young people in Argentina listen to it as well?


- The project is well known over Argentina, people listen to it and there are many groups here doing „electro-tango". As young but experienced tango musicians our opinion is that this music is not really tango. It maybe very good music and some of this projects (first of all bajofondo tango-club) is very well done. But talking about the genre tango, electro-tango doesn`t fit into the very clear identity of this music. It`s first of all electronic pop-music, with a flavor of tango. The result is achieved by adding the typical sounds (the bandoneon) and melodies of tango. But the time-concept of tango and of electronic ambience music is absolutely antithetic. Music is always (also) about breaking up the ordinary, subjective experience of time. Electronic music comes from the tradition of groove orientated music (coming from Africa, Jazz, all different styles of US- pop music). This music tries to break up the ordinary experience of time with endless repetitions of the same patterns. Groove makes us loose our conscious time-experience (in Africa, in religous rituals drummers play until they reach trance). Means the subjective experience of time is, that we have passed a lot of time, but in the end it feels like only a moment. What tango wants is exactly the opposite: it tries to make us feel a two minute tango like the intensive experience of the drama of a lifetime. We intend to express e.g. a very specific idea in a very concentrated and attentive way. A very important implement in tango, to reach this high concentration is the rubato-like phrasing. These are the time-shifts that only human beeings are able to produce which requires a very high level of concentration (listen to the orchestra of Pugliese!). This is something, that computer-programmed electronic music isn`t able to. So, the subjective experience of time is that we feel two minutes like an intensive and much longer period of time.

 


- What is the role of visuality in your artistic concept?


- There is no concept. Tango is a very visual music and has nothing to do with concepts of abstract, so called „absolute" music of some flows of European contemporary music (like serialism). Since tango has been developed as music and dance at the same time, , it already has got the visual element of the dance from the very beginning. The lyrics are also very narrative, full of metaphors and symbols, which in a way, are also considered as visual elements. Carlos Gardel has made lot`s of movies already, in which he sang some tangos and the plot of the movie was interlaced in the song as kind of a video-clip. Then, in the 50`s the singer Edmundo Rivero (with the orchestra of Aníbal Troilo on his side) made video-clips. One of these was the one he made using the famous tango „Sur", in which he is singing and different images of the city - especially of the southern suburbs - fade in.
Nevertheless our lately composed tango-music is full of visual ideas, which are also a great help for all of our musicians in understanding and ‘feeling’ a specific piece, or part of a piece. Focusing on these visual ideas make organizing the whole arrangement and the interpretation of a piece much easier.
The idea of adding video-clips to our live-shows came naturally.And then we just tried it out. It turned out, that the music is strong enough to survive next to the very expressive images. Even more: we think that the video-clips are merging with the music and help to comunicate the ideas and the atmosphere of the different pieces and make them even more concentrated. It happenes very often that (e.g. in the live-shows of Gotan Project) video-clips catch too much attention and the music looses energy, becoming only a kind of ‘background-sound’ for the video.Our music can assert itself.


- What are your artistic ambitions for the future?


- To survive. Indeed the sucessfull, artistic developement of this project is very much connected with the circumstance that there is nearly no market here in Argentina to sell this kind of music. We have been playing our new kind of music for nearly three years now. We have become very successfull in the sence that many people already know and love our music.We are present in TVs, radios and newspapers, but we nearly haven`t earned any money yet. This strange situation has got several reasons. One of the reasons is that in Buenos Aires we have a very strong movement of laities. On one hand this is beautiful, because there are so many creative people who have a regular day-job to make money, but in their free time e.g. they act in a theater- group. These people invest all their energy and time to develope e.g. a good tango-orchestra. So, many of these groups of laities play/act on a very high level – BUT they destroy the market. As they make a living with their day-jobs, they don`t really care, whether they get payed adequately for what they accomplish, they simply want to show it in public... But for this reason neither the organisers nor the audience wants to pay for a professional group adequately, since they also find another good group of laities who play nearly for free. Really, it is nearly impossible for a freelance musician to survive simply playing the music he wants to play. Even the most recognised musicians have to teach for economic reasons and keep 20 up to 30 pupils to make their living. So, the artistic ambition for the future would be pushing the development of our new music, to follow the embarked path. But this will only be successfull if we find a way to earn some money through our project; because without earning any money it is very difficult to keep up the energy and all the input, because all of us have to put so much energy and time doing what-so-ever just to survive, nearly working day and night.


- What kinds of music have effect on you in these days?


- Why we have found each other and have developed this new style of music so successfully, is probably because we all have a very similar taste of music. Of course one of us listens more to one kind of music, the other to another kind of music. But in general we listen to (and also our music is influenced by) the following very different kinds of music:
of course, all the different styles of Tango music of the past (the original recordings of the great orchestras of the 40´s and 50´s), Piazzolla, The Beatles, Rock Music (most of the 70`s like King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath,...), Tom Waits, all the different styles of Argentinian folclore, European classical and barouque music... only to name some of them.


- And please tell me a few words about the present situation of the original folk tango.. is it lively or not? Is there anybody keeping the roots? Or it is a stupid question and it is a part of your life? Does tango mean the same in the villages and in towns?


- The answer of this question has got already something to do with the next one.
In Argentina there are two different phenomenon of popular music:
1.: There is a vast variety of different styles of folklore. The provincial music of Argentina – very few people living in enormous territory of this incredible huge country.
2.: Tango, the music of the metropolis of Buenos Aires;– 14 million people living together in a very small area.
The history and the identity of these two phenomenon is very different. But both of them have been existing for 80-150 years; and both of them are rooted mainly in the different styles of folklore of European immigrants. How the different styles had been generated it depends on the different conditions how people were living at the different areas of Argentina. The dominant nationality of the late immigrants plays also an important role in forming the music. ( e.g. Llamamé sounds very similar to south-german, austrian and polish folk-music, because these had been the biggest groups of immigrants in the north of Argentina) Level of education and qualities of culture of the people had a huge impact on developing the cultural capital. (Buenos Aires is the center of cultural life of Argentina, of course).

 


So, what is the different history of folclore and tango until nowadays?


- Again:
1.) The different styles of folklore are the authentic ways of self-expression of people living at the countryside. Simple people, agricultural workers, who have developed very simple and charming styles of music and dancing. This tradition is still alive even in these days. Even young people meet each other, celebrating a festival and their customs with their own style of folklore. These styles live along in their simplicity until today and (almost) never change. If you’d try to develop this music in a more complex way you’d surely destroy the simple identity of it and it would loose its charm. This is the big difference between folklore and tango.
2.) The tango is music of the city and have been many times transformed from an initially very simple style into a more complex, artistic and profound music. In the following I will try to explain the history of tango in a few sentences: the first tangos arised about 1880. The music and dance of the different groups of immigrants (mainly Italian and Spanish) who had been hanging out in the port of Buenos Aires. A very difficult and socially explosive situation at that time. The vast majority of the immigrants came to get some territory of land in the provinces of Buenos Aires to make a living as self-employed farmers. But these dreams bursted. Some great land owners already had divided the whole land among each other and all the millions of immigrants stranded in the city of Buenos Aires and didn`t even have enough money to return to their home countries. In the first era of tango between 1880 - 1920 in Buenos Aires the number of inhabitants increased from 2 million to 8 million people. A terrible situation, tenements, the so-called „conventillos" had been bursting, a tremendous overrun of men in the city, unemployment, poverty and delinquency. In this milieu the tango arised.
In the beginning it was despised by the cultivated middle- and upper-class as an obscene dance. But around the year 1910 the tango came with some Argentinian seamen to Paris and has instantly become very popular and danced by the Bourgeoisie. This was the first boom of tango. As the educated middle-class orientated itself very much at the European metropolis´ (first of all Paris) the tango entered the saloons and cafés of the city. From that time on the tango transformed itself in different waves from a very simple popular music to a more complex one; classical trained musicians extended the posibilities of arrangement, instrumentation, harmony, introducing techniques of counterpoint, virtuosity,... the lyrics became a special genre of highly advanced poetry... and the dance evolved itself as an expressive improvised couple dance. So this ability of the development of the tango is the biggest difference to folklore. Inside of the tango, similarly to European classical music, many musicians developed very personal styles. This individual part of the identity of the tango, and the circumstance that it evolved itself throughout different times, is very important to understand. Because of the evolution of tango, the styles of the different epoques are using it. Today, if you sing a tango in a Carlos Gardel style, that’s only a cliché. The reality, the style and the fashion of the people of these times in the city of Buenos Aires had been completely different, whereas the life of the simple people of the provinces haven`t changed that much.

 

- What feelings do you have when leaving for Europe?


- We are very excited! The roots of our culture are in Europe. Almost all Argentinian inhabitants descend from European immigrants. Many of our values and the systems of education are very much European.
 

peter pusker

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