What Tango Music is Better

Igor Polk, 2003 November 7

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When I was introduced to Salsa I could not understand the music. It was mostly noise to me. But real salsa dancers prefer only and only that music. Why? With time I have found its elaborate rhythm, adornments, melody, and the salsa feel. Shortly, once I started to feel the music, it drives my movements. I can improvise whatever I want, but doing it with the music creates the right thing - anything I do is Salsa. Compressed in music experience of previous generations of dancers is dictating me what to do. The same with Argentine Tango. This music, salsa and classical tango was written for dancers. It was polished during millions of milongas, performances, and private parties. It was developed in symbiosis with the dance. It is complex and danceably perfect. Listen to music, educate yourself with the best pieces, and you will understand the dance. The more you learn the dance, the more to your astonishment you will be able to feel in the music. One can overlap the dance with another musical style to some amusement, but this is artificial. I can and I enjoy dancing tango with jazz and classics and modern and even latin, mostly because of their complex melodic and rhythmic structure, swing, and feel, but after several dances I come back to the real tango and feel myself relaxed at home - music cares about me and my dance.

So what is the real tango music? Music of time when it was danced by everybody: 1900-1952. Again, this was written for dancers. On contrary, Tango Nuevo is based on the music written for listening after 1952. Tango Nuevo as a dance was created during 1970-1990 with the music made for listening. So, Tango Nuevo is trying to squeeze itself into existing music. Music to the best ballets is written after the dance was staged - that is the best way. There are 3 distinct Tango Nuevo-s: Pugliese and Piazzolla-s type, everybody else's, and of some modern musicians. Music of the first is danceable, because P&Ps did made dancing music in the past. No matter what they do dance is in their blood. However, in this listening music they have being relieved of constraints put on by dancers. Second musicians never played for dancers. They did not master the subtle and difficult art of dance music. The third is a new generation, they are on the right path - they make music specifically for Tango Nuevo dancers, but they have very very long way to go. Just because tango is far from being as popular as 50 year ago and does not attract the best musicians. It all leads to the conclusion that old tango music is the best. Is it of good quality? Yes. For example, music of 1940s EMI is of very good quality and slowly but surely older music appears scientifically processed and enhanced. Just listen to those young powerful voices of 30s! Good luck!

A little about singing. There always has been tango music for listening. It is difficult to dance with that music and nobody did. There always was clear distinction. Especially it is felt on examples of singers. In dancing music a singer's voice serves as another musical instrument. The best tango dances were written with this voices, so tango singing is an inseparable part of tango dance music. Usually, a voice is introduced in the music closer to the end. On the contrary, when a singer starts singing from the very beginning, is is a non-dancing piece - voice is a soloist here. The singer was relieved of constrains put on by dancing rules and was able to show herself/himself up. But, again, this music was not for dancing.

Right music for dancing is very very difficult to find. All good dancers of other schools know it. It is special music. There was no other time in history when so much great music was written specifically for dancing like for tango. Canaro alone produced 4000 pieces! Even survived music can cover days of milongas. No need for other weaker music. Please, if you do not know what old better tango music is, make some effort to find out. It is worth it. It is Tango. Do not be discouraged by a lot of poor quality pieces played on some milongas. Believe me, The Music is there!

Dear musicians, please, when you learn tango, take my point to your attention. Learn the basis first - tango 1900-1950. The peak is 30s-40s, but 20s are also very important. Later Piazzolla and later Pugliese which most of you follow did not play real dancable tango. They moved away from it on purpose. Start from where they started, start from the best, and you may be able to overcome them in your new music, and make great pleasure for us - dancers. Thank you!

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My name is Igor Polk. I dance Argentine tango in San Francisco.

Copyright©2003-2006 Igor Polk
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