Stephen Cuttriss is a multi-instrumentalist and early-career academic based in Melbourne. He is an ethnomusicologist and specialist in Latin American music, holding a PhD in Anthropology. His research examines the cultural resurgence of Argentinian tango music in 21st century Buenos Aires. As part of his doctoral fieldwork, Stephen spent 2016 living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying the bandoneon. He has quickly become one of Australia’s premier bandoneonists and tango specialists.
As a soloist Stephen has performed and recorded with some of Australia’s most sensational classical music figures including the Nexas Quartet and pianist-composer Daniel Rojas. As co-founder and creative director, Stephen also performers regularly throughout Australia with the Mendoza Tango Quartet. At home in Victoria, he is a co-director and the first bandoneonist of the Melbourne Tango Orchestra, and regularly performs other groups including Faro Negro. He has performed at numerous festivals across Australia including the Woodford Folk Festival, National Folk Festival, Lorne Festival of Performing Arts, MONA FOMA, Cygnet Folk Festival, Australasian World Music Expo, Queensland Music Festival, Snowy Mountains Music Festival, Illawarra Folk Festival, Caloundra Music Festival, Manifest Festival and Brisbane Festival.
Orange Chamber Music Festival asked Stephen, what brought him to Tango Music:
Originally studying Classical piano as well as piano accordion I always had a broad interest in a range of diverse musical traditions. I had a particular fascination with folk and traditional music from around the world and understanding the cultural contexts they came from. I became very interested in the discipline of ethnomusicology – the study of music in culture – and decided I would pursue this pathway as a musician and researcher.
As with many classical musicians, my first encounter with tango and the bandoneón came about through the music of Astor Piazzolla. I then began exploring tango more deeply, becoming acquainted with more of the traditional and popular repertoire and composers of the 20th century. It was at this time that I found a bandoneón for sale in Brisbane, QLD and started the very arduous journey of learning this infamously difficult instrument.
By chance in 2014, I encountered contemporary tango music from Argentina for the first time. This music was part of a musical revival movement burgeoning in Argentina, driven by young musicians who were inspired by the traditional sounds of the orquesta típica (tango orchestra) as well as by contemporary genres such as rock and punk music. This experience left me absolutely astounded and mystified by all the possible creative trajectories that tango music could take. I decided I wanted to investigate further and learn more about the contemporary revival of tango music in Argentina. Soon after I commenced my PhD as an ethnomusicologist investigating this very topic.
My doctoral research took me to Buenos Aires for a year to conduct fieldwork within the contemporary tango music scene. Over 2016 I spent many hours immersed in this cultural sphere, developing an understanding of the multifaceted nature of contemporary tango music in the 21st century. During this time I also had the opportunity to dedicate time to studying the bandoneón with master teachers and perform live with tango ensembles in Buenos Aires.
Since returning to Australia I have had the great opportunity to use all of this knowledge to contribute to the growing tango music scene we have here in Australia – I have had the opportunity to work with musicians arounds Australia playing everything from traditional tango music for dancers to more contemporary chamber music. It has been quite a journey!
Daniel Rojas is a Chilean-born Australian concert pianist and highly acclaimed composer specialising in the rich and vibrant Latin American musical aesthetic. In his performances, classical works by Spanish and South American composers are presented alongside music from diverse indigenous, folk and popular traditions, as well as his own compositions and exhilarating off-the-cuff improvisations. Rojas’ well-known warmth and entertaining manner, combined with his pianistic prowess and compositional skills create a truly unique and memorable concert experience for his audiences.
Proclaimed as “a master of his instrument” (The AU Review) Rojas has performed with numerous classical and world music ensembles (such as Jacana, Tigramuna and the Great Bowing Company) in Australia, Asia, and South America. 2013 engagements include The Metropolitan Orchestra’s world premiere of Rojas’ work for marimba and orchestra (Claire Edwardes as soloist); as soloist for his Piano Concerto no.1 with the Sydney University Symphony Orchestra, and various other solo and duo performances around Australia.
He has also composed and conducted for film, and is a passionate music educator, working with communities, schools and festivals. Invited for residencies at a number of institutions around Australia including the Queensland Music Festival, Rojas is currently Associate Lecturer in Music at Sydney University.
Rojas was awarded his PhD in composition from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2012 and has won several prizes for his compositions including the Fellowship of Australian Composers Award. Published by Reed Music Australia and the Australian Music Centre, in 2012 Rojas released his well-received solo album, Latin Piano Expressions.
To find out more about Daniel and Stephen, find out more HERE
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