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Jonathan Goldman: The buttons on Pandora's box: Experimental bandoneon music by Kagel, Tudor, Mumma and Oliveros

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  • Seminar
When Oct 29, 2010
from 04:00 PM to 05:30 PM
Where Room A832, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke St. West.
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It is difficult to parse the web of associations which clings to the bandoneon, that large concertina invented in mid-nineteenth-century Germany. Like the accordion, it evokes pre-modern folk traditions despite its decidedly modern mechanical construction. Its buttons  are a cipher of the industrial revolution as well as an unlikely precursor of the digital age. As an import which became profoundly embedded in the Argentinean tango tradition—alongside the topos of the guitar (cf. Plesch)—it is also a symbol of immigration (cf. Pelinski). Finally, as a symbol of Argentina abroad, it could be used in the 1960s and 1970s as a tribute to artists living under military rule.

In 1960, Argentinean-born Mauricio Kagel composed Pandorasbox (Bandoneonpiece), a theatrical work in which the performer speaks, gesticulates, and spins on a rotating platform. His friend, the pianist David Tudor, had acquired a bandoneon shortly thereafter and began to perform on it extensively, playing not only Pandorasbox but also works he commissioned, such as Gordon Mumma’s Mesa (1966), later used by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in which sound captured from six microphones passes through four voltage-controlled attenuators. Other curious commissions followed, included Stanley Lunetta’s A Piece for Bandoneon and Strings (1966), in which the strings in question are electric cables. Tudor’s explorations culminated in his own magnum opus bandoneum entitled Bandoneon! (A Combine), a multimedia work with live electronics and visual projections produced at the now famous Nine Evenings organized by Experiments in Arts and Technology (E.A.T.) in 1966. This paper traces the history of an unlikely avant-garde encounter with this instrument via the Kagel-Tudor correspondence, the archives of the E.A.T. events and interviews with Mumma, Oliveros and Cross.



Specialising in 20th-century music history, Jonathan Goldman is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the School of Music of the University of Victoria. Editor-in-Chief of the journal Circuit, musiques contemporaines, he completed undergraduate studies in philosophy and mathematics at McGill University. He went on to earn an M.A. and PhD from the Université de Montréal under the supervision of Jean-Jacques Nattiez, with a dissertation which deals with form in the thought and works of French composer Pierre Boulez. Dr. Goldman wrote the preface to Leçons de musique (2005), a collection of Boulez’s writings published in France by Christian Bourgois. His book The Musical Language of Pierre Boulez: Compositions and Writings will be published in January 2011 by Cambridge University Press (Collection: Music Since 1900, Arnold Whittall, dir.). Jonathan Goldman also performs on the accordion and the bandoneon, focussing on tango repertoire; in 2002, an arrangement he made of an orchestral piece by Astor Piazzolla was published by Éditions Henry Lemoine.

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