Thursday, January 13, 2011

Foreshadowing and Alternative Tango Music

I met an eclectic and tasteful musician to whom I described Alternative Tango music. Helpfully, he gave me some wonderful music to listen to ... really brilliant stuff: authentic and inventive ... with the hope that I might be able to use some of it.

I know I can dance to some of it. I go to a lot of alternative Tango events just for fun. So I can do it. But I'm "looking for new songs". Because the alternative tango songs get boring pretty quickly. Good tango music shouldn't be like that. The great traditional music, which generally has poor sound quality and no hint of modern sensibility, is still easy to dance to over and over again. Sometimes it gets tiring, but there's something in the structure of the music that gives it legs. Let's call it "S".

I finally have realized the reason Alternative Music doesn't inspire Tango for very long. It's because the special quality, "S", needed by Tango cannot be "discovered" in a song. The song needs to be composed and played with "S".

I've also finally realized the essence of "S". It is foreshadowing. You need to build the music, or the song, with a lively attempt to communicate to the dancer (which could be an appeal to instinct or to intellect) the thing that is coming next. This "S" is everywhere in Golden Age tango music. You can find hints of it in other music -- a rhythm, after all, conveys a kind of primitive S, but doesn't change, so it's not interesting "S".

I don't think there will be a new Golden Age for tango music (and perhaps not for Tango dancing) until we see a modern, complex, interesting and exciting movement of composers who are interested in the foreshadowing that dancers need to help them decide upon their next steps.


Blogger Tine Herreman said...

Agree about the foreshadowing! I had discussions with a famous tango musician (both classic and modern) about this - the ingredients of modern danceable electronic tango. It has to have lots of breaks/ rhythmic accents in it and they have to be predictable - so you can feel them coming and the leaders can impress the followers with their musicality.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Santiago Gala said...

I think I have found a number of groups/musics of contemporary tango music that do have consistently this kind of foreshadowing: Otros Aires, in their milongas, and Carlos Libedinsky/Narcotango, for Tango.

One important part of it is that the predictability should not be boringly precise, as in those monotonic rhythm boxes that ruin any fun in the dance.

2:05 AM  
Blogger Philip said...

Yesterday in class I had a quick discussion about what makes golden age tango music much better to dance tango to than most modern music, and that is the rhythm.

Golden age tangos didn't use drums or drum machines. Traditional tango music has a 'wider' beat (even Biagi) compared to the rhythm produced from a drum kit because it is produced by the strings and the bandoneons. Even during Dixieland drums were common, and the reason tango orchestras eschewed from using drums in their arrangements must be considered to have been deliberate.

Tango music with its wider beat is far more forgiving to dancers and directly influences the step and so forth.

Of course this is only one piece of the puzzle, but perhaps someone more qualified can take the seed of this idea to germination :)

The foreshadowing you mention is intimately coupled with the simple and predictable structure of most tangos, through the repetitions and variations right up to the final cadence (which is the truest signature of tango).

6:42 AM  
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2:21 AM  

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