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Nuevo Tango
ASTOR PIAZZOLLA
Astor Piazzolla "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.

Pugliese "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.

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Footnotes: 

Nadia Boulanger



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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
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