Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lured by Bandoneόn’s Intersection of Tango and Classical

Ástor Piazzolla with his bandoneón in 1971.
Ástor Piazzolla with his bandoneón in 1971. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Well, the concerto has been held, and the CD has been released, but I hope that like music, this musician and his obra will remain...


J.P. Jofre, the 29-year-old master of the bandoneόn, started out as a drummer. At the Escuela de Musica in San Juan, Argentina, he also studied the double bass, bassoon, vibraphone, voice and piano. But everything changed when he was 17 and an uncle played him a recording by Astor Piazzolla, the great Argentine bandoneόnist and composer.

“I said: ‘Whoa! This is amazing,’” said Mr. Jofre, who moved to New York from Argentina five years ago. “Piazzolla’s music was classical, and it was tango, and it had the power of heavy metal. It was a lot of things mixed together.”

Mr. Jofre, whose full name is Juan Pablo Jofre Romarion, has just released his first CD, “Hard Tango” (Round Star), which includes several of his own classical-tango hybrids, as well as a handful of arrangements, among them a quirky, sharp-edged arrangement of John Lennon’s “I am the Walrus.”

“He’s a very creative composer,” said the reed player Paquito D’ Rivera. “He’s trying to do something different by learning from musicians who play in different styles, and cross-pollinating those styles with tango.”

Though it looks and sounds like an accordion, the bandoneόn is actually in the concertina family. German immigrants brought it to Argentina, Mr. Jofre said.

He remembers being surprised by the bandoneόn’s complexity when he first tried to play one. The instrument has rows of buttons on each side of the bellows. Each set of buttons produces a distinct timbre; moreover, the buttons’ pitches differ depending on whether the instrument is being opened or closed.

Musical worlds merge between a young composer’s fingers.

“The first thing I did,” Mr. Jofre said, “was sit at the piano and figure out what note every button on the bandoneόn played. It took me a week, and then as soon as I was finished, I found a book that explained it all.”

A touring bandoneόnist whom Mr. Jofre approached for lessons arranged for an introduction to Daniel Binelli, who had played in Piazzolla’s sextet. Mr. Benelli encouraged him both as a bandoneόnist and as a composer.

Mr. Jofre has taken Mr. Binelli’s advice, creating versions of his works for different ensembles to ensure performances. His “Milongon” exists for his quintet, jazz band and string orchestra. His biggest work so far, a bandoneόn concerto, will have its premiere next March when he performs it with the Symphony Silicon Valley, in San Jose, California.

Like Piazzolla, he is interested in exploring tango as a classical form, a notion that still divides.

“My music theory teacher didn’t like tango at all, but my harmony and orchestration teacher used to say that tango was chamber music,” Mr. Jofre said. “For me, tango has to do with secrets, with beauty and mystery, and simplicity as well. But one of the main things is the bandoneόn. Yes, you can have a tango without it. But it’s the sound that gives the music its stamp.”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, July 6, 2013

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Disco Science" music tops in cardiac massage

Posted: 03 November 2011

A person practices CPR compressions on a mannequin. (AFP Photo/Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)
PARIS: A millennium dance-floor hit, "Disco Science", is better than "Achy Breaky Heart" for helping victims of heart attacks but neither meets the grade for inclusion in first-aid guidelines, according to an unusual study.

Rhythmic music has long been suggested as a tool for medical workers learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Healthcare workers in Britain were once advised to recall a quirky 1950s children's song, "Nellie the Elephant", in order to get the right rhythm of chest compression.

Rather more macabrely, their counterparts in the United States experimented at one point with the Bee Gees' 1970s pointy-finger disco hit, "Stayin' Alive".

The songs did inspire first-aiders to get the right rate of chest compressions.

But they failed to help them achieve the correct depth of compression, which is five to six centimetres (two to two-and-a-half inches).

Keen to explore the link between backbeat and heartbeat, researchers carried out an experiment on the sidelines of a conference of Australian paramedics.

Seventy-four volunteers delivered CPR to a dummy as they listened on headphones either to Billy Ray Cyrus' 1992 country hit "Achy Breaky Heart" or Mirwais' "Disco Science", or heard no music at all.

"Disco Science" came out tops in terms of meeting the compression rate.

Eighty-two percent of those who listened to it got within the optimal range of 100 to 120 compressions per minute, compared to 64 percent for "Achy Breaky Heart" and 65 percent for no music at all.

Even so, regardless of the music, a third of compressions were still too shallow and more than 50 percent of the volunteers adopted the wrong hand positions.

Given the combined importance of correct depth and rate of compression, the researchers are unconvinced that music is the best guide for CPR, and suggest that a metronome or some other audio gadget may be better.

The study, headed by Malcolm Woollard, a professor of health and life sciences at Britain's Coventry University, appears on Thursday in the specialist publication Emergency Medicine Journal.

- AFP/al

Taken from; source article is below:
"Disco Science" music tops in cardiac massage

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Domingo sings farewell to Washington

08 May 2011

Placido Domingo
WASHINGTON : At 70 years old, he climbs ladders, rolls on the ground and his voice shakes the room - Placido Domingo is Oreste in "Iphigenie en Tauride," a performance-style farewell to the Washington National Opera, which the Spanish tenor has led for 15 years.

Visibly tired but delighted, Placido Domingo earned a long ovation on Friday night on the stage of the Washington National Opera (WNO). He steps down as general director on June 30.

To mark the occasion, the tenor gives eight performances in the role of Oreste in Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera that premiered in Paris in 1779. It's the same role he performed in Madrid on his 70th birthday in January, at the Teatro Real opera house.

Alternately, he leads Donizetti's opera "Don Pasquale", as conductor until May 27.

The role of Oreste was originally written for a baritone but adapted to the tenor voice of Domingo, who began his career as a baritone at the age of 18 in Mexico, before being told he in fact had the voice of a tenor.

In this production from Opera de Oviedo (Spain), Domingo's Oreste is Iphigenie's long-lost brother who is condemned to death. It's not an easy turn for a septuagenarian, who last year underwent surgery to remove a cancerous polyp from his colon.

Domingo as Oreste arrives on stage in chains, and guards throw him to the ground, before he is to be sacrificed to the gods by his sister, Iphigenie. But brother and sister find the courage to escape and triumph over their oppressors.

Though he is leaving as general director, Domingo doesn't plan to disappear.

"I am singing because I can," he told The Washington Post. "But why I am still able to sing, you know, this is a big mystery for me.

"I think that one day I will have the feeling that that's it and I will go out and I will say to the public 'Ladies and gentlemen, that was my last opera performance,'" he added.

The WNO last year appointed Philippe Auguin of France as music director but Domingo's replacement has not been named.

Born in Madrid, Domingo moved to Mexico as a child with his parents, who ran a company that performed zarzuela, the traditional Spanish operetta.

Domingo, well known to popular music audiences for his "Three Tenors" performances with Jose Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti, made his operatic debut in a leading role as Alfredo in Verdi's "La Traviata" in Monterrey, Mexico nearly five decades ago.

The Grammy-winner's repertoire encompasses 134 stage roles - a number unmatched by any other celebrated tenor in history.

Domingo was to be honored Saturday by the WNO's signature event, the Opera Ball, a lavish fundraiser being held in the chancery of the Chinese embassy in Washington.

On Tuesday, the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, presented Domingo with its "Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award" for his music and humanitarian accomplishments.

US Vice President Joe Biden attended the event on Tuesday and could not resist the opportunity to link Domingo to the big news the day before when US commandos killed Osama bin Laden.

"Placido Domingo is probably the only man who could appropriately sing their praises," Biden said of the commandos.

Domingo remains director of the Los Angeles Opera through 2013.

- AFP/al

Taken from; source article is below:
Spanish tenor Domingo sings farewell to Washington

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