At this moment, somewhere in the world, the music of Astor Piazzolla is being played.
The emergence of New Tango master Astor Piazzolla is a Horatio Alger story for our time. Here’s a small, would-be hoodlum, the lame son of immigrants living on New York City’s Lower East Side, who grows up to become one of the foremost composers of the 20th century. And in that becoming, he contains multitudes.
He’s a porteño, as inhabitants of Buenos Aires are called, but a porteño born in Mar del Plata, a seaside town 250 miles south. He’s a New Yorker, but not quite an American. He’s an Argentine who, when he returns home, is 16 and doesn’t speak Spanish.
He knows his De Caro and Troilo and Vardaro, he studies his Bach and his Bartók, he holds onto the rhythms of Jewish weddings and the swing of Cab Calloway, and of all that and more, Piazzolla creates a music so personal that it touches a global audience.
And thus, the kid who once hated the scratchy tango records his father played every night, to feed his nostalgia for what it once was, grows up to be modern tango’s most important composer and to give the music a future.
His music speaks of roots and displacement, hope and loss. It’s the music of a street fighter, generous but rough, always on guard, always as close to love as it is to anger and always, always, on the move. It’s a music in which tenderness has an unsentimental edge. It’s a music of beauty, seductive mysteries and hard truths, and as it speaks of struggle but also possibility, we hear our humanity.
Tóquese un tango, maestro. Play a tango, maestro. No, not one of the old ones, one of yours.
– Fernando Gonzalez