Posts Tagged ‘tango music’

Milonguero Viejo

November 15, 2010

This tango by Carlos Di Sarli was dedicated to his friend Osvaldo Fresedo who recorded it in 1928 with singer Ernesto Famá.  Editorial Musical Korn published this score in 1938.  Lyrics were written by Enrique Carrera Sotelo, but Di Sarli recorded it as an instrumental.

¡DÉJAME!…No quiero verte más

November 1, 2010

Lyrics and music by Francisco Canaro, Mariano Mores and Ivo Pelay.  Copyrighted 1947 by Editorial Argentina de Musica International (EDAMI) S. R. Ltd. Lavalle 1494, Buenos Aires.

Go away! I don’t want to see you ever again.  I want to live in peace.  Then in the second verse he sings about her eyes, her lips, and the fire in her arms.  The tango ends: Come here, I want to see you with me; kiss me, I don’t know how to live without you.  Listen to a performance by Hector Morano with Orquesta Tipica Gente de Tango.

There is no fast track to dancing tango

September 30, 2010

A friend was telling me the other day about a couple who are planning their first visit to Buenos Aires in a few months.  They asked her to recommend a teacher for them to take two-hours of private lessons for ten days.  It sounded to me as though they are seeking instant gratification and are willing to pay in order to achieve their goal.  I asked my friend how they were planning to get in enough practice time each day in order to be ready for the next class.   A class is for learning; practicing is what you do on your own.

Private classes aren’t going to transform students into good dancers, no matter who is in charge of teaching.  All the technique and steps in the world of tango aren’t going to make any difference unless the students have a foundation upon which to learn tango — knowledge of the music. 

It’s common for those who come to Buenos Aires for the first time to expect their dancing to be totally transformed in a few weeks.   Many come with great expectations only to realize that they have to start over from the beginning.  And we know what that is — lots of walking and listening to the music.  It’s the foundation of dance.  Knowing the music is key to dancing well.

Months of private classes or dancing in the milongas of Buenos Aires won’t put anyone on a fast track.  There is no fast track for tango.  It takes years of listening to music so it will inspire our dancing.

One thing leads to another

April 4, 2010

Years ago I went regularly to weekend house sales to buy what I needed to furnish an apartment in Buenos Aires.  House sales and consignment shops are for bargain hunters.  Yesterday I selected two sales since they were walking distance from one another.  One was a house that is set for demolition and had sheet music on the list of items for sale.  I went there to see if there were tango scores.

I waited about twenty minutes before I was permitted to enter the house.  There on a table in the garage were piles of all types of piano sheet music.  If one had to begin purchasing all this music  for study, it would cost thousands of pesos.   I began my search to see what I could find.

In one pile I soon found a handwritten note — tangos.  I was pleased to find tangos that I knew.  Some of the scores were originals, some were photocopies.  That did not matter to me.   I found one of my favorites — Dejame! …No quiero verte más.   I like to read and study the music while listening to recordings.  I paid ten pesos for about twenty tango scores. 

Today I looked over the scores and wanted to know more about one of them— Las cuarenta by Roberto Grela and Francisco Gorrindo.  I went to Todo Tango and found a biography of Roberto Grela.  He played a special role in bringing out the best in Aníbal Troilo.  The site also has a recording of Las cuarenta with a photo of the score.

One thing leads to another in the study of tango.

Chan chan

March 24, 2010

What does chan chan have to do with tango?  They are how musicians and lovers of tango verbalize the last two notes of tango.  In musical terms, they are the dominant (fifth) and tonic (first) notes of the scale.  All orquesta tipicas perform tangos and valses that end with these two notes.  Musical compositions generally end on the tonic in the key they were written, and so it is with tango.

During one of my visits to Buenos Aires, I was told this story about a bandoneonist, which may or may not be true, but it is interesting.  He played for many years with the orquesta of Juan D’Arienzo.  Then he was hired by Osvaldo Pugliese.  He went home frustrated every night after performing with the orquesta.  He had been used to playing the chan chan accented at the end of each tango with D’Arienzo.  That changed with the Pugliese style in which the last notes were soft.  So he played the chan chan repeatedly loud and accented until he got them out of his system.

Anyone who is interested in studying the music can find tango and vals scores on Todo Tango.  The lyrics end on the first beat of the last measure with the addition of the dominant and tonic.  That, along with a strong first and third beat of each measure, is what makes tango music unique.

I asked Daniel Borelli about the recordings where the last chan (the tonic)seems to be missing.  He says it is there or the tango would not be complete — we just have to listen more carefully.  The 78rpm recordings are the most compact and have it all.  Omitting the tonic note at the end would be difficult for the musicians.

New tango is nothing new

August 20, 2009

Astor Piazzolla was the legendary innovator of a new style decades ago with his Quinteto Nuevo Tango.  Someone said that there is tango before and after Piazzolla.   His music is considered tango by people who haven’t heard tango music.  Piazzolla recordings were widely available in the USA in the early 1990s before orquesta tipica recordings, so it was common to associate his music with tango.

Many years ago I attended a concert at the Ravinia Festival by Pablo Ziegler and his New Tango Quintet.  Tango dancers in the Chicago area gathered before the concert to dance on the pavement with a portable stereo.  We didn’t know what to expect, but we thought we were going to hear tango music at the concert.  Ziegler was Piazzolla’s pianist and continued his legacy.  Professionally trained musicians provided a good performance, but it didn’t deliver the product we wanted to buy.

Walter Rios - Sixty years in MusicIf Piazzolla’s music comes on the radio, I turn it off or change the station.  I would never go out of my way to hear it.  It came as a complete surprise when I found myself at a concert this week where most of the program was Piazzolla.  Walter Rios was celebrating 60 years in music with a concert at Teatro Presidente Alvear.  I had heard him last month for Dia del Bandoneon in La Trastienda when he performed with other bandoneonists. I assumed that he would be performing tango at his anniversary concert.  The ensemble consisted of piano, string bass, guitar, percussion, synthesizer, cello and violin.  There is no need for lighting design and fog for an orquesta tipica, but this Piazzolla show had both.  I saw the piano played as never before–the keys were slapped and the keyboard cover was tapped to provide effects.  It was interesting to say the least.  I don’t usually leave a concert uninspired by the performance.

Horacio Ferrer, president of the Academia Nacional del Tango, says Piazzolla’s music is tango.  Nelida Rouchetto, secretary of the Fundación Casa del Tango, says that Piazzolla’s music is tango.  They have a right to their opinions, but neither one is a musician.  Julián Peralta, musician, teacher, and director of an orquesta tipica, says that neither Piazzolla (other than his orquesta tipica recordings) nor what is called electronic tango are tango.

Three minutes

August 19, 2009

The recordings played at a milonga are short but sweet.  Tangos, valses, and milongas are two to three and a half minutes according to the times indicated on the CDs in my small collection.  Other kinds of dance music is usually longer, so why is a tango only three minutes?

Julian PeraltaI decided to attend a music clinic at the Festival Buenos Aires Tango conducted by Julián Peralta where I knew I would get an answer to this question.  He wrote the book, “La Orquesta Tipica: Mechanics and Application of the Fundamentals of Tango” which fills the gap with material on the technical aspects of tango.  Musicians now have a source for studying the styles of Troilo, Di Sarli, Pugliese and others. 

Before I could ask my question, another participant wanted Julián’s opinion about the length of tangos.  He answered that a tango is an synopsis rather than a novel.  It says what is necessary musically and sometimes with words in a couple minutes.  It is complete with theme and variation.  I have always felt the same way.  A tango friend once said that, “tango is an opera in three minutes.”  After the clinic, I chatted with the man who posed the question and told him that I had the same one in mind.  He said he has a different theory about it and didn’t agree with Julián.  Seventy-eight rpm records had a limit of three minutes of play.  So tangos were composed and arranged to fit within the parameters of recording standards.  That seems logical, but certainly composers were more concerned with the musical thoughts for each tango, vals and milonga rather than restricting their compositions to three minutes.  The earliest tangos weren’t recorded.  Tango wasn’t written for the purpose of making money from publishing sheet music and selling recordings. 

Julián Peralta is a researcher and teacher at the School of Popular Music of Avellaneda, the National Tango Academy, and the Musical Studio of Orlando Goñi.  He was a member of Orquesta Tipica Fernando Fierro, and presently is with Orquesta Astillero and directs Orquesta Tipica Julián Peralta.  He’s only 34 years old and has many years ahead training tango musicians in the styles of the orchestras.  His school is located in San Cristobal.  His book is available from Club de Tango for 90 pesos.

On the radio…1945

July 18, 2009

I am reading the first copy of the newspaper CLARÍN published on August 2, 1945.  Among the various interesting items, there is one that demands my attention.  It’s the section for arts and entertainment with the various radio programming for the day.  Read what importance tango had at this time and how the radio stations dedicated time to providing our city’s music.  You can appreciate how all the important orchestras at this time were included in the programming.  And this is only for one day!

It begins with Tango Cavalcade at 10:00 in the morning when LS4 Radio Pueblo announces Miguel Caló and his orchestra with singer Raul Iriarte.  I want to clarify that the concerts lasted thirty minutes and were a live performance, nothing was recorded.  And to continue at 10:30, LR3 Radio Belgrano presented Francisco Canaro with singers Alberto Arenas and Guillermo Coral who later was actor Guillermo Rico.  I remind you that the pianist for this orchestra was Mariano Mores, and they premiered Adios Pampa Mia at this time.  Then at 11:00 in the morning LR1 Radio El Mundo has the honor of presenting Anibal Troilo with singers Floreal Ruiz and Alberto Marino.  And to finish off the morning, listeners could choose between Ricardo Tanturi with his singers Enrique Campos and Roberto Videla on Radio El Mundo or listen to recordings of Agustín Magaldi on Radio Belgrano. 

At 12:00, the lunch hour, Radio El Mundo broadcast news and then another program with Tanturi.  And for dessert, Radio Belgrano had Francisco Canaro.  You had time for a nap or get your work done quickly, because at 1:45 Tanturi and Canaro finished their concert for the day.  Then at 2:00 LR6 Radio Mitre began with Tipica D’Alesandro and the jazz orchestra Osvaldo Norton.  At 3:00 Radio Pueblo presented José García with his Gray Foxes.

We have arrived at 4:00 in the afternoon.  After having separated from Carlos Di Sarli, singer Roberto Rufino and his orchestra directed by Atilio Bruni are on Radio Belgrano.  At 5:00 and 6:00 at fifteen minute intervals, Radio El Mundo presented Osvaldo Pugliese with his singers Alberto Morán and Roberto Chanel.  Rest a bit, friends, because during the dinner hour we can listen to Ada Falcón on Radio Argentina and Alberto Castillo on Radio Belgrano.  We can have coffee at 9:30 while listening to Oscar Alonso on Radio Mitre and later at 10:30 Radio Mundo presents Osvaldo Fresedo for a good night.  Well, did you like this programming?  The following day included Juan D’Arienzo, Carlos Di Sarli, Rodolfo Biaggi, and more.  What times those were!

Translated with permission from Anecdotas Tangueras by Jorge Gutman. Diostango – June 2009.

Maria La Vasca

March 22, 2009

maria-de-la-vasca-carlos-calvo-2721Maria Rangolla was born in 1866  in the Basque region of France, hence the name La Vasca . The earliest documentation about her was that she had a dance academia on Pozos and Independencia where she got her start as a dancer in 1884.   Maria La Vasca opened her private dance house in 1903, and she was the madam.  Rosendo Mendizábal premiered his tango El Entrerriano (Man from Entre Rios) at Maria’s house, located on what was then called  Europa near the corner of Jujuy in the neighborhood San Cristóbal.  The façade of her house still stands today at Carlos Calvo 2721.  Her partner Carlos Kern (called the Englishman), a well-known dancer in those days, managed the house for Maria from 1903-1909.  In 1914 Juan Carlos Bazán dedicated his tango La Vasca to Maria. 

After reading Hector Benedetti‘s article about Maria La Vasca, I had to go and see the house which is six blocks from my home.   The building is now a laboratory with the façade as it was a century ago.  If only the walls could talk, imagine the tales they would tell!

Mi Buenos Aires Querido

February 3, 2009

Today is the tenth anniversary of my arrival to live in Buenos Aires. I was enrolled in a continuing education course I call “Milonga Codes and Customs” with no materials for study.  Everything was either observed or shared by milongueros.  I want to share a few things I learned.

One’s tango dancing improves in the milongas.
Attending tango classes hasn’t really helped my dancing when I think about it. What has helped me the most is going to dance, having to adjust to every partner’s style and improvising in the moment.

A man who comes to the table doesn’t know how to dance.
I learned this lesson the hard way with lots of awful tandas because I wanted to dance. It took time to be able to avoid responding to those who approach the table. I would rather sit and enjoy the music than suffer through a tanda. 

The tango embrace of an Argentine is why women return to Buenos Aires.
Tango is an embrace in Buenos Aires. Argentine men love tango and women. They aren’t shy about embracing women. Foreign women find the embrace they have dreamed of. The trip is worth it for this alone.

Each tango orchestra has a unique style just like every milonguero.
It took years for this revelation even though I am a trained musician. When it finally dawned on me, I relied on my musically trained ear to help me identify the orchestra before I selected a potential partner for each tanda. 

The organizer sets the tone of each milonga.
Not all milongas are alike. Knowing the organizer and deejay gives you a pretty good idea about a milonga. Then when you finally get comfortable going regularly to your favorite milongas, things will probably change.

There are very few men who dance tango very well.
Visualize a pyramid. The masses are at the bottom, but only a few preserver and achieve the summit. That’s the way it is in every endeavor in life. We may not be the best dancers in the world, but we can always dance our best. That’s enough.  We dance our best with those who dance well.

Respect the tradition of the cabeceo.
The cabeceo (movement of the head) has been used in Buenos Aires for decades to invite a woman to dance. It’s a test for learning patience. We should respect the tradition along with the rest of the milonga codes.

Music is why we dance.
It can inspire us. It can transport us. We need to connect with it in order to express it. Then we understand why tango isn’t just a dance, but it’s a feeling that is danced. We have to know the music well to dance well. There is nothing quite like tango.

The milongueros are a vanishing species.
There aren’t many of them left. There will never be another generation like them. They are the self-taught dancers who learned from their youth and lived for the nights of tango along Corrientes. They dance well or not at all. They taught me what it means to dance tango.