back to Tango Tales
|TANGO HOME | NEXT PAGE | TANGO RESOURCES|
"I was writing symphonies, chamber music, string quartets.
But when Nadia Boulanger analyzed my music, she complained that she
couldn't find any Piazzolla in there. She could find Ravel
and Stravinsky, maybe Bela Bartok or Hindemith, but
never Piazzolla. The truth is I was ashamed to tell her
that I was a tango musician, that I had worked in the
whorehouses and cabarets of Buenos Aires. Tango musician
was a dirty word in Argentina when I was young. It was the
underworld. But Nadia made me play a tango for her on the
piano, and then she said,
"You idiot! don't you know, this is the real Piazzolla, not the other one? You can throw all that other music away". So I threw away ten years work, and started with my nuevo tango in 1954." - Astor Piazzolla
"I think that music or styles of music should not be
explained, especially NEW TANGO. You feel it or not. If it's old fashioned, or
traditional, or contemporary, that's another story. This music is trying to be another story, it's just
a new way of feeling the music of my city, Buenos Aires. Some musicians (the non-deaf ones) love it and
people who love music also, but our "tangueros" hate me, only because I changed the old tango. I only turned it upside down like a stocking, but the question is why
did I do it ? Tango, like jazz, must change. There was a needing of new music (harmonies, rhythms, melodies, arrangements) and 40 years of battling against enemies who wouldn't accept it."
Astor Piazzolla, New York, July 1987
Astor Piazzolla was the undisputed master of the modern Tango, what he called "Tango Nuevo". He blended tango with classical and jazz influences, making it a music to attend to, rather than background entertainment.
On top of a foundation mixing classical instrumentation (piano, violin, bass) with jazz guitar is Piazzolla's bandoneón.
His music, a fusion of folkloric beauty and contemporary tension epitomized our situation in the modern world. Listeners all over the world eventually fell under the spell of his "nuevo tango." Piazzolla took this 'New Tango' back to the concert halls, composing and performing works for chamber ensembles like Kronos Quartet, larger groups like The Orchestra of St. Luke's, and even an opera company. These works brought his once radical music back into the mainstream. His concerts were filled with jazz and classical music lovers - he did not play the tango for dancers.
Piazzolla was the culmination of the post-golden age vanguard and one who had divorced himself entirely from tango tradition. Though he rejected and criticized much of what had preceded him, it must be remembered that he was already an established band leader by the height of the 'Golden Age'. By 1945 he had already recorded 25 albums as a band leader.
He was very conscious of the tango's lineage, and went to great efforts to preserve the essence of the tango.
Horacio Malvicino, a member of Piazzolla' s newly formed 'Octeto Buenos Aires' recalls the events leading up to the Octeto's public debut.
"We went to Osvaldo Pugliese with our material.
We sat him down and played a set of songs for half an hour and we asked him if he thought they were tangos or not.
Everyone anxiously awaited his diagnosis.
When Pugliese said that yes, it was tango every one got so excited. We were all so happy."
Given his reputation as a feisty, individualist it is surprising to know that Piazzolla would have gone to such measures to gain approval for his own experiments in the tango. But it is understandable, given how revolutionary the Octeto was. Improvisation, jazz-harmonies, electric guitars were not part of the tango prior to the Octeto.
The ensuing criticism was so fierce it bordered on the violent. Members of the Octeto were threatened with physical harm. Even fathers and sons stopped speaking to one other.
The Octeto had etched a sharp line between the old guard and the Vanguard. No one had dared take such liberties with the tango before Piazzolla and the Octeto.
But it is his work with the 'New Tango Quintet' that will be best remembered.
- Nadia Juliette Boulanger: Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979), was a French teacher, composer, and conductor, who influenced a generation of composers. Born in Paris, she studied under the French composer Gabriel Fauré. In 1918 she stopped composing, after the death of her sister Lili, who was also a gifted composer. Boulanger taught privately and at the Paris Conservatoire (1909-24 and after 1946), at the École Normale de Musique, Paris (1920-39), and at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau (beginning in 1921; director, 1949). During World War II she taught at various U.S. colleges. Her students include the American composers Marc Blitzstein, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, David Diamond, Roy Harris, Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Virgil Thomson.
- Bandoneón: The bandoneón is a relative of the accordeon, and was originally invented as an inexpensive substitute for church organs. From there it went astray to the seedy side of life, to night-clubs, and the kilombos, the whorehouses . This German-made squeezebox instrument above all others, gives the distinctive sonority of the great tango bands its marvellous edge. The bandoneón is a formidably difficult instrument to play, so much so that many of the early 'stars' of tango music were bandoneonists.
- Osvaldo Pugliese,
one of the finest pianists in tango, was another member of the post-golden age vanguard . He remained one of the major influences in tango right up to his death in 1995. His band was like a finishing school for some of the most accomplished tango musicians of the late twentieth century. Among them Anibal Troilo and Astor Piazzolla
|SONG WRITERS P.2 | SONG WRITERS P.3|
|DANCE LESSON P.1 | DANCE LESSON P.2 | DANCE LESSON P.3|
|NUEVO TANGO P.1 | NUEVO TANGO P.2 | NUEVO TANGO P.3 | NUEVO TANGO P.4|
|'This Is The Tango' RESOURCES PAGE | PAGE TOP|