Music Is So Beautiful!
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Music Is So Beautiful! 

Interview with Walter Rios, Argentine National Treasure Accordionist of Bandoneon 

   Walter Rios attends the opening performance of 2018 Shenzhen "Belt and Road" international music season, and joins hands with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra to play the masterpiece of the tango master Piazzolla, Free Tango and Goodbye Nonino
  Mr and Mrs Rios have held a concert at the DDC Theater in Beijing, which was widely welcomed by Beijing youth.
Performance stills of Walter Rios
  Walter Rios opens the Accordion Master Class at the Central Conservatory of Music, photo: Walter Rios take a picture with CAO Xiaoqing, professor of the Accordion Department of the Central Conservatory of Music and the students
  Walter Rios opens the Accordion Master Class at the Central Conservatory of Music, photo: Mr and Mrs Rios take a picture with PU Cunxin, vice president of the China Federawion of Literary and Art Circles, president of China Theatre Association. Cao Xiaoqing, professor of the Accordion Department of the Central Conservatory of Music and the students
  Walter Rios is today's Argentine national-treasure-level Bandoneon accordion player and the representative figure of the country's tango music. He is considered as the best inheritor of Astor Piazzolla, and his performance of Astor Piazzolla's works under his adaptation is hailed as the most unsurpassed version of the post-Piazzolla era. Hence, how could I miss the opportunity to explore tango music as the artist came to China?
  Q: I have listened to many versions of Libertango, some was composed by various instrument or in form of A Cappella and etc. I am most curious about the very reasons behind for this work's high popularity?
  Walter Rios (Hereinafter referred to as "W"): Libertango is a work for a dance group. It is one of a series of works, there is also other works, such as American Tango amongst others. This work is basically a one-rhythm type, as its rhythm is fixed with light melody, it can be used for dance. Interestingly, there was once a French-born African-American musician, Grace Jones, who made lyrics for Libertango and sang it. Piazzolla was quite angry and thought that such an adaptation had broken his music, but later due to the popularity of this version, he had received a lot of royalties, he then found that that was not bad, it could make a lot of money (laughs). Horacio Ferrer, founder of the Argentine National Tango Institute, also wrote a lyric for Piazzolla's piece. The main melody part had lyrics, and the part of the variation becomes onomatopoeia. Each person's arrangement is different, but the core remains the same.
  W: Piazzolla's creations are very productive. For example, Four Seasons and Forgotten belong to his different creation periods. Winter in Four Seasons is one of his favorite movements. As a composer, he will judge his own work, which is better or worse. When I was in Los Angeles, I had a version of "Libertango" with the Forever Tango Dance Group. In 1997, I also adapted a Violin Tango in Japan, together with an Argentine dancer accompaniment. It was also very popular. Therefore, the audiences will also choose the works they prefer.
  Q: Many people in China began to pay attention to Piazzolla's tango, mostly from MA Youyou's album Tango Soul, and later it gradually became quite popular on the track list of teachers and students of professional music colleges. Why is Piazzolla, but not other tango composers, so widely recognized internationally?
  W: There are mainly two reasons for this:Firstly, it is due to the whole environment factor. In the 1950s and 1960s, Piazzolla's situation in Argentina was most unsatisfactory. The nuevatangohe started in the country has suffered a great blow in Argentina, especially because of the criticism from some traditional Tango insiders, which made it difficult for him to continue to stay in the country, but to travel abroad. In addition, he has a very strong creative ability, so he naturally received recognition and acceptance from other countries' music circles. In contrast, other tango musicians are very comfortable in Argentina, and they definitely have no urgent need to go to other foreign countries. And there are very few people who have stayed abroad for such a long time as Piazzolla. For the second reason, Piazzolla's creations are heavily integrated with Western jazz and classical music, and are more easily accepted by Western audiences.
  Q: The emergence of new things is always accompanied by strong opposition from the traditional faction, which is a very common phenomenon.
  W: In the history of Argentine tango, there are two very important tango figures: one is Carlos Gardel, and the works One Step Away as we are very familiar is his creation.
  In addition, he has also created a large number of works and starred in many films. Before Gardel's appearance, the overall style of tango was easy and pleasant, but he actually turned tango into a sad music, which was also attacked by many people at the time, and even it was declared that Tango was dead. Gardel has been involved in a large number of films, which were not produced in Argentina, but in New York, and these occurred as his innovations were beyond the understanding of the Argentine people and were not recognized, forcing him to go out. His tango masterpiece One Step Away and My Dear Buenos Aires were all created in New York, and later gradually accepted by his countrymen. So this situation is exactly the same as Piazzolla.
  Gardel's creative peak was after the 1930s, however, he passed away young in 1936, so his golden age was most short. Piazzolla also had his own peaks of creation probably around the 1960s and 1970s, and Horacio Adolfo Salgán, one of the two representatives of Piazzolla's pioneering era. Though enjoying a quite low reputation internationally, his popularity and acceptance in Argentina far exceeded Piazzolla.
  Q: So can we say that the international and Chinese audiences are different from the aesthetic preferences of tango?
  W: This is not just an aesthetic issue, but a matter of cultural differences. These traditional tango people rarely go abroad, or occasionally have the opportunity to travel to other countries, so foreign audiences rarely hear the music created by these people. However, there are a large number of composers in the traditional tango field in Argentina, which are far more famous than Piazzolla. Their audiences are mainly dancers, because tango itself is a kind of dance. For example, Aníbal Troilo, Juan D'Arienzo, Carlos Di Sarli and etc are the musicians who are very significant to Argentines. 
  So Tango has many genres and styles, featuring their own characteristics and a large group of audiences, not just those of Piazzolla. For example, the Tango Ball, almost every dance group in Argentina has its own allocation of the music, and its popularity in China is also high, although Uruguay claims that this work is theirs.
  This kind of different passion at home and abroad respectively also occurs to bossa nova of Brazil, which has been widely spread overseas, but not accepted by traditional Brazilians. Because samba is a tradition, and the combination of samba and jazz has become Bossa Nova, which I really like this fusion.
  The situation in Argentina is that once people accept a musical tradition, it is most difficult to accept innovation based on it, which is also due to the relatively strong traditional forces. Tango now has basically reached the globalized level, and it has been widely accepted in Russia, Finland and Japan.
  Q: When I watched some of the works you played, I heard the part you created yourself, and where did this composition basis or style come from?
  W: Firstly, I like melodic works myself and jazz as well. Whether it is a traditional or a new tango, the space that can be changed is very large except for the main theme. Therefore, I will play my own style of arrangement according to my own preferences and standards without affecting the main theme of the works. For example, "Adiós Nonino" has countless versions, and I am playing my own version. Including my composition, it is also able to let the orchestra accept it in a better way. Everyone likes it, as the difficulty is not as large as that of Piazzolla, and the general thinking is closer to modern people.
  Question: As far as I know, Bandoneon is also a very difficult instrument in the accordion family. Where is this difficulty reflected? 
  W: The button has only one tone when the ordinary accordion opens the speaker, while as for the Bandoneon, the opening and closing of bellows indicate different tones, which is a dual system. The Germans invented the Bandoneon with the hope of replacing the organ, which was too large and the Bandoneon was very light.Moreover, there are many categories of Bandoneon, starting from beginner to the advanced. It can not only play tango music, but also local traditional music, even any type of music, such as classical, jazz, country and so on.
  I learned the accordion entirely because of my father, who is an accordion player. When I was four years old, my father played jazz music. I liked it very much at that time, so I didn't get involved in the Bandoneon playing from Tango. Even though I am labeled as a tango musician, I also played a lot of tango and recorded a lot of albums accordingly. So I can't shake off this identity. But for me, Bandoneon doesn't just mean tango.
  I have worked with many other musicians and music groups of different music genres and styles. For example, rock and jazz, I have even recorded works with the well-known national singer of Argentina, Merecedes Sosa few days ago, which have nothing to do with tango. I have also a lot of cooperation with musicians from North America, Brazil, Turkey, and Israel, which is a pleasure for me.
  Q: So your creative philosophy is very young and inclusive, and the music-concerned activities you currently being involved in are just the current trend - cross-border music.
  W: Human life is limited, so we have to fully enjoy these beautiful musics. So I want to try a variety of music. I have been to many countries and found the beauty of each of their own music, and the instruments I play can also participate and quickly integrate into this shared state. 
  The musicians of the countries I work with are all gathered up due to Bandoneon so as to create some interesting or meaningful works. All life experiences come from music, and the music is so beautiful! 
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