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Cultural Traces Around the World

Traditional Music Instrument: The Bandoneon, Part 2 of 2

2021-05-19
Language:English

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Both Ernst-Louis Arnold and Alfred Arnold were among the few notable bandoneon manufacturers in the early 20th century whose instruments are still highly valued and sought after today. After 1945, Alfred Arnold’s company was expropriated and nationalized to produce diesel engine parts, thus ended the mass production of bandoneons. Consequently, the instrument became a collectors’ item in Argentina. The shortage of new bandoneons in Argentina, coupled with the high selling price of instruments from Europe, deter students from buying them. Also, restoring old bandoneons and keeping them alive is becoming more challenging because of integral damage issues. These factors have prompted some local bandoneon restorers and tuners to resort to creating new instruments.

Juan Pablo Fredes in Argentina is credited with making bandoneon variations that are suitable for children to play with their tiny hands. These smaller and lighter instruments are made from materials sourced for the lowest possible cost, while simultaneously striving to replicate the sound of the Double A bandoneon. His goals are to make the instrument easily accessible to everyone, and to facilitate the training of young performers, hence pricing them between 1,500 and 2,000 pesos (about US$16 and $20).

Though the bandoneon is less than 200 years old, it has quite an array of prominent musicians. Let’s have a look at some of them. A pioneer of the bandoneon, Pedro Maffia, was one of the first to play the instrument a cappella. He invented the techniques of displaced accents, phrasing, and rubato. As a music teacher, he also created an important method of teaching the instrument. Next is one of the legends of tango music in Argentina, Aníbal Troilo, nicknamed Pichuco, whose more than 400 recordings and dozens of original compositions, established the basic sound of the tango. Several of his songs such as “Barrio de Tango” and “Sur” became tango standards. His orchestra is best known for its instrumentals. He inspired many younger players, including the famed progressive composer Astor Piazzolla. For his immense contribution to Argentina’s cultural fabric, his birth date was selected to commemorate the bandoneon in 2005. Bandoneon Day is celebrated on July 11 every year in Argentina.

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