Since the subject of many tango lyrics revolves around nostalgia, it seems appropriate to kick this off with a video from our very first performance in September of 2011. We’ll be updating each week with our thoughts and ramblings on the creation of new tango music for dancing, danceability (whatever that means), the past and future of tango music, and comparisons of the main brands of yerba mate. (haha)
Here’s what Alex had to say a year and a half ago as we were premiering these compositions:
“On the Process of Composing New Tangos”
“The first tango I composed was when I was at Reed College in 1998. I was excited by my first attempt, but quickly realized that it was a daunting task to try to compose something new and exciting, especially since there were thousands of tangos already out there, and put composing aside. Since then I have been arranging tangos: that is, taking tangos that have already been composed and giving the melodies to certain instruments, adding harmonies, variations, counter-melodies, etc. to make the composition come to life in an ensemble. I have listened to many recordings, read every book that was published in Spanish by tango musicians in Buenos Aires on the subject of composing/arranging tangos, did transcriptions, did revisions… I felt like I was starting to get closer to sounding like the originals (closer, but still very far!), when I had an interesting conversation with a pianist from Buenos Aires. He told me that in Japan there are already orchestras that sound exactly like Pugliese, exactly like D’Arienzo, note for note, but he felt that that had already been done. Where was the sound of these Japanese musicians? He told me he was less interested in hearing copies of the originals, but listening to complete originals: what would tangos from Portland sound like?
Andrew Oliver has played piano with the sextet many times, has done quite a bit of transcribing and musical work for me, and has a superb ear. When I approached him about composing new tangos he was interested and we got to work. We decided to try to stay completely within the genre of tango — that is, not trying to fuse it with jazz or other world music. Would we be able to fool people into thinking this maybe could have been composed in Agrentina in the 1920′s? That was our goal. We used our ears to dictate whether some musical element made one of our compositions sound “more like tango” or “less like tango,” even though it was hard to describe intellectually why we were making those decisions.
The result, so far, is 7 original tangos: two milongas, two valses, two slow, lyrical milonga camperas, and one crunchy, straight-up tango for dancing.”