Musicality in Tango Dancing – Part Eight

In the previous post on Musicality in Tango, we looked at the mixed rhythmic/lyrical style of Osvaldo Pugliese. In this post we travel a bit further along the time line to look at Astor Piazolla and his music.

If you find early Piazolla from the 1940’s, then his orchestra will mainly be playing music composed by others, so the tunes although arranged by Piazolla, tend to stay faithful to the standard ABABC pattern and is predictable and danceable.

Todo Corazón

Take this example from 1947/48 ‘Todo Corazón’ writen by Julio De Caro, (lyrics by José María Ruffet, but no singer on this instrumental version)

Libertango

Later on as Piazolla starts composing his own music, and Argentina comes under the rule of the military Junta in the 1950’s, by the 1980’s Piazzollas music begins to be less dance music and more concert style. Does this mean it’s not danceable?

Listen to this piece his famous instrumental, ‘Libertango’ first recorded in 1983.

There is drive and urgency in the tune pretty much all the way through, and it does follow a predictable dance pattern. Would you hear it in a traditional milonga? Probably not because this is ‘Nuevo’ tango not ‘Golden Age’. You may hear it at an Alternative/Nuevo milongas, and this tune has definitely been used in many modern tango show dances around the world.

Oblivion

There are other Piazzolla tangos from the 1980’s which do not follow the rhythmic pattern of traditional tangos at all. You would be unlikely to hear ‘Oblivion’, first recorded in 1984, in a traditional milonga. Take a listen now.

It is undoubtedly a hauntingly beautiful piece of music, one of Piazzollas finest works. However, it doesn’t have the rhythm needed to move a mass of dancers around a dance hall. Does that mean it’s not danceable. Well, no, but it probably requires a different approach.

No obvious rhythm does not mean there is not a musical beat. It’s just not emphasised in the music, but the musicians must be counting it in their heads at least.

For me, this tune is telling me to stay on the spot and express the hell out of it. So lots of circular movement, and with a large helping of ‘movement without moving’. For those of us lucky enough to have a partner in the pandemic ‘lock down’ (2020) to dance at home with, this could be an ideal tune to dance to, in a small lounge 🙂

So to finish up, Astor Piazolla undoubtedly kept tango music alive during the 1970’s- 1980’s, but it’s flavour had to change to the concert style and away from traditional dance style. He, and other nuevo musicians that followed him, was reviled by some in the dance community who thought he’d ‘appeased’ the ruling government instead of remaining faithful to traditional tango music. Other people may have thought he was just dealing with reality in order to keep himself and his orchestra in work.

Piazolla is quoted as saying

For me, tango was always for the ear rather than the feet.

so maybe this shift to concert style music was for him simply a natural evolution rather than being politically astute. You can decide…

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Musicality in Tango Dancing – Part Seven

In the previous post on Musicality in Tango, we looked at the rhythmical style of Juan D’Arienzo, and in this post we look at Osvaldo Pugliese. I finished off the previous post with the perhaps slightly unfair comment that Pugliese chucks in odd extra notes.

This is not quite accurate. He was of course a musician, composer, and arranger so his music was deliberate, but there is something about his style which sometimes confuses dancers. His music has both dramatic rhythm and also some lovely lyrical elements too, but the way he arranges some tunes seems to lead to the odd miss-step.

La Yumba – tango

Have a listen to this tune, the famous ‘La Yumba’ written by the man himself in 1946.

For the first 1 min 15 secs we have this driving rhythm which sticks to the first two sections of a standard ABABC pattern, and in each section we have 2 phrases. So far so good with an ‘AB’. Then the tune starts of with what sounds like a repeat of ‘A’ but which turns into an entirely different ‘new’ lyrical section and we don’t get back to section A until a minute later where we get back to a familiar refrain just before the finale.

However, even then, the last phrase is a mix of lyrical and rhythmical. The pattern is therefore more like A, B, A(phrase 1), C, A(phrase 1 ‘ish’). Why is this a problem? Well it isn’t too bad if you are already familiar with ‘La Yumba’, but if you remember what I said about predictability with the typical ABABC pattern, it means that if you never heard the tune before if would be difficult to dance through the whole tune first time out because of the unpredictability Pugliese throws in with the middle lyrical section where the rhythm disappears, reappears then disappears for a while.

Once you know the tune well enough it’s not a problem in the sense that you can chose to dance the rhythmic bits or the lyrical bit when they overlay, and by knowing the tune you can anticipate the ‘rhythm or lyrical’ sections when they do not overlay.

So Pugliese is not throwing odd note in to his tunes but he defiantly breaks the traditional tune pattern which makes it sound odd and ‘dance tricky’ the first time you hear it.

Ilusión Marina – Vals

So what about Vals? Well, Pugliese didn’t write many Vals so he arranged others for his orchestra such as this one, ‘Ilusión Marina’ written by Antonio Sureda in 1947, lyrics by Gerónimo Sureda, and sung by Alberto Morán.

It has the usual Pugliese drama, but it sticks to the traditional pattern for a tango vals. From the dance point of view it’s predictable if a little brisk.

There are one or two quirks if you listen hard, such as the lovely key change at 40 secs in, just before Alberto Morán begins to sing. Whether these were due to Puglieses arrangement or written into the original tune by the composer is unclear. Someone could find the composers music script and let me know?

Un Baile a Beneficio – Milonga

I love this tune. It’s just so jolly! Have a listen to ‘Un Baile a Beneficio’ written by Juan Carlos Caccaviello recorded in 1950, lyrics by José Alfredo Fernández, and sung by Jorge Vidal.

Typical pattern for a milonga tune so again, it’s predictable and danceable, phew! Not much more to say about the tune or structure other than every milonga should play it.

So my conclusion is that if a tune has been written by Osvaldo Pugliese then there may be a few quirks and he doesn’t always stick to the traditional pattern for tango composing, making it a little more tricky to dance to than usual.

For tunes not written by Pugliese but just arranged by him, he doesn’t seem to mess with the composers tune too much so you should be OK.

A final note: In the late 1950’s, early 1960’s, when the military took over the Argentine Government they cracked down on dancing in public. Osvaldo Pugliese bowed to the pressure and began to write and arrange concert tango which is not really written to dance to. He was joined by musicians like Astor Piazolla (the subject of my next post on musicality) in this ‘pivot’ towards concert music, as the tango dance became politicised. Both Pugliese and Piazolla were criticised by the dance community for ‘selling out’, but of course they wanted to continue earning a living so it was entirely understandable.

So in the next post on Musicality I look at both early Piazolla (danceable in the traditional sense) and later Piazolla (still danceable but missing a lot of typical tango cues, especially for beginners).

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Musicality in Tango Dancing – Part Six

In the fifth part of this series I looked at a popular tune ‘Motivo Sentimental’ recorded by the Carlos Di Sarli Orchestra in 1944, and the lyrical style of Di Sarli in his hay day.

As I promised in Part 5 (a long time ago – thanks for the ‘nudge’ to get part 6 written, James 🙂 ), in this part I will look at a couple of tunes by the Juan D’Arienzo’s Orchestra and I will hopefully show you that you need to dance a little differently to the way you might dance to Di Sarli.

If you listen to ‘La Guardia Vieja’ (the Old Guard) style of tango tunes of the late 19th/early 20th Century, typified by orchestras such as Orchestra Tipica Victor, as well as early D’Arienzo, Enrique Rodriguez, and similar style orchestras, they all exhibit a rhythmical approach to their music. It would be difficult to imagine performing sweeping Lapiz, slow Secadas, or Giro movements to these type of tunes. In fact some of these tango movements hadn’t even been developed at that time.

Florida – Tango

Take a listen to this popular D’Arienzo instrumental version of ‘Florida‘ written by Raimundo Petillo. It has a strong beat giving the tune an urgency to ‘get on and walk’. Even when you hear the more lyrical sections indicating a chance for the followers to do something interesting, there is still a strong background beat which leaders often feel compelled to follow.

You have a strong piano sound as the pianist seemed to really plonk down hard on the keys, coupled with the choppy Bandonéon sound, all of which makes you want to walk (march even!). If you ever get chance to see ‘La Juan D’Arienzo Orchestra’ (the longest playing tango orchestra of all time and still touring), take a look at the orchestra make up. That big, strong sound is made up of four Bandonéons, four violins, plus the usual piano and bass. The orchestra has always been like this since the early days, and that is how Juan D’Arienzo got his unique sound. How do they get that strong choppy Bandonéon sound? They bounce the bellows of their instruments on their knees to create a stronger intake of air through the Bandonéon reeds, just at the beat. You have to hear it live to appreciate the power which that technique generates.

You should be able to hear the traditional ABABC pattern in the tune. It’s there and pretty clear, with repeating phrases in each section. Followers just about get something almost lyrical to work with at the end of the B sections and a little bit of a softer tinkly piano phrase in the C section, but otherwise we’re walking with rhythm pretty much the whole time. With D’Arienzo instrumentals you get little respite from this sense of urgency.

So how to dance this type of tune? Well if leaders are going to mostly walk, there is the obvious stepping beat, plus lots of opportunity for contra-beat reboté. Any decorations for followers will have to be swift and they should assume perhaps that their leader is going to walk at any time in the tune, and it is probably safer to limit decorations to foot/heel tapping without crossing the feet. As stated, there are just a couple of phrases at the end of sections B which might give the opportunity for movement on the spot, but they don’t last long.

Now compare that tune to the first part of the 1947 song ‘Lenguas de Fuego‘ with singer Armando Laborde, written by Juan D’Arienzo and Héctor Varela, lyrics by Carlos Waiss.

It starts off in a very ‘un-D’Arienzo’ way (the influence of Héctor Varela’s co-composition perhaps?) and during section A phrase 1 you might be fooled into thinking D’Arienzo had suddenly gone all soft and lyrical – Nope! By the start of section B the D’Arienzo sound makes it’s comeback. However you have a bit more to work with if you’re not too fond of purely rhythmic tunes. You also get chance to dance to Armando Labordes refrain when he starts to sing. That makes this D’Arienzo tune a little less taxing to dance to.

In both cases (and most other recordings) D’Arienzo stays faithful to the typical tango tune patterns and so there are no suprises for the dancers and it’s relatively easy to anticipate the phrase endings and section endings even when you’ve never hear a particular tune before.

On a final note about tangos, D’Arienzo arrangements tend to have very brisk and twiddly Bandonéon phrases stuck in them (especially in the finalé section). How on earth do you dance these? Well, if you are an excellent dancer with ‘fast muscle twitch’, the answer is any way you like. 🙂 For those of us who can’t quite keep up with those eighth/sixteenth notes, my advice is not to try match the rapid melodies. Stick closer to the main stepping beat and contra-beats. I have often seen people try to skip along with fast feet, and although you and your partner may find it fun trying (and often failing mainly due to a poor embrace) to stick to the super fast melody, it don’t look so great as you loose sync and timing. With friends it’s good for a laugh, but otherwise leave it to the show dancers 🙂

Bolada de Aficionado – Milonga

As you would expect given the rhythmical nature of his tangos, D’Arienza has recorded some of the most memorable and popular milonga tunes. A very typical example is the popular 1941 recording of ‘Bolada de Aficionado‘, written by Ángel Villoldo, which is more of a brisk canter than a fast walk.

Again D’Arienzo sticks faithfully to the ABABC pattern and you could use the same rhythmical walking patterns, box steps, change of weight, and reboté as you would with any of his tangos, with a little added traspié. Just need to be a little faster and have more ‘milonguero’ verve maybe… 🙂

Tan sólo tú – Vals

Juan D’Arienzo has a huge back catalogue of recordings over his long career and the vast majority are tango and milonga tunes, but he did record a few vals tunes. Does he stick to his choppy urgent style with a vals? Not really although you can always hear a strong ‘om pa pa’ rhythm supporting the tune. D’Arienzo vals tunes can be interpreted in dance as any other vals. Have a listen to the 1942 version of ‘Tan sólo tú‘ with singer Héctor Mauré, written by Servando Félix Domínguez, lyrics by Héctor Marcó.

Again the typical ABABC pattern is still there, along with the strong underlying beat and the Bandonéon twiddly bits making the tune definitely D’Arienzo. However there is the overlying lyrical feel, along with the singer Héctor Mauré, to base your musicality on as well as the rhythm.

In this part of the series we have introduced the rhythmical tunes of Juan D’Arienzo which need a different approach to dancing than the lyrical Di Sarli we looked at last time.

Next time we’ll examine Osvaldo Pugliese. This is an orchestral arranger and leader who definitely decided to play with the regular tango pattern and go a little ‘off piste’. Some dancers claim that Pugliese is hard to dance to, simply because he throws in extra notes (or misses them out) occasionally. Tricky…

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Musicality in Tango Dancing – Part Five

In the fourth part of this series I looked at a popular tune ‘Mimosa’ recorded by the Francisco Canaro Orchestra in 1929, and proceeded to break down the structure of the tango tune in some detail.

I showed how the structure broke down into musical phrases, sections, and other components, and how these components repeated with variation, and described how a dancer could predict phrases of music and better interpret a tune even if not familiar with the tune.

So for in this and future parts of the Musicality series I will start looking at other Orchestras and their musical differences. I will look at a typical tango tune, and a vals and milonga by the same orchestra (where available – not all orchestras recorded vals and milonga tunes).

So in this Part 5 I am going to look at the ever popular Carlos Di Sarli Orchestra. Carlos Di Sarli’s music is often described as romantic, lyrical, smooth, and so on, but Di Sarli didn’t always sound like this. His early arrangements for quartets, sextets and so on, were far more traditional, compared to his hey day when he had finally found his own style.

However by 1944 when he and his Orchestra recorded the tune I am going to analyse now, he had established the well known Di Sarli style. The tune is ‘Motivo Sentimental‘ written by Emilio Brameri, with the marvellous voice of Alberto Podestá singing the lyrics of Carlos Bahr.

In this post I’m not going to break down the tune using pictorial representations like last time so we can dive straight into the music.

Tango – Motivo Sentimental

Here is the entire tune to listen to first. See if you can pick out the repetition of the different sections and phrases within each section, then I’ll break it down.

The first thing to notice is that this tune has 5 sections of approx 34 seconds each, resulting in an overall tune length of 2:50 minutes. This is very similar timing to Canaros recording of ‘Mimosa’ that we looked at last time, so even though there are 15 years between these two recordings, the same basic tune structure creates the same basic tune timing.

Now what follows are the different sections to listen to.

‘Motivo Sentimental’ Section A

You’ll notice Section A has one phrase repeated twice with a slight variation in the repeat which sounds a little more staccato. Also listen out for the ‘pom pom’ at the end of the section. It is a lot softer and less obvious than in ‘Mimosa’ but it is there. Remember that the ‘pom pom’s signal a dancer that the section has finished and a different melody is about to start.

‘Motivo Sentimental’ Section B

In Section B we have a different phrase repeated with slight variation again. The repeat sounds a little more staccato as did the second phrase of Section A. This time at the end of Section B there is no obvious ‘pom pom’ but there is a little 5 note trill played on the piano that helps to signal the end of the section. At the end of Section B we are just over a minute in and no sign of singer Alberto Podestá yet, so all musicality has had to developed using the tune only so far.

‘Motivo Sentimental’ Section A variation 1

Now Alberto Podestá starts to earn his crust with his fine voice, and Section A is repeated. This time it is the singer who is carrying the melody. The Orchestra is now just accompanying Alberto. So again, although it is the singer carrying the melody, you have already heard the melody before in this tune, so for this 34 sec section, you know what’s coming even if you’d never heard the tune before. Again we have a ‘pom pom’ at the end, but very quiet and gentle.

‘Motivo Sentimental’ Section B variation 1

This is a repeat of Section B but with Alberto Podestá carrying the previous refrain. The second phrase in this section does not sound as staccato as the instrumental version in Section A, but sounds a more regular ‘tic toc’ timing. This maybe simply that the previous sharp attack on the staccato notes would not have complimented the singers voice, because Alberto holds his notes as he sings. Finally there is a 4 note trill on the piano to signify the end of the section.

‘Motivo Sentimental’ Section A variation 2

In the final section, variant 2 of Section A, Alberto stops singing in the first phrase and we go back to a more staccato arrangement. Finally we have a much more obvious ‘pom pom’ at the end of the tune to signify the finish.

Listen again to the full tune with all the sections in the correct order and imagine how you might interpret this tune in your dance expression.

Carlos Di Sarli’s recorded output was mainly tango tunes, but he did record a few Milonga and Vals tunes so we will have a listen to one of each to see if the pattern of sections (ABABA) still holds for tunes with a different tempo.

Vals – Un Momento

Lets listen to the lovely romantic Vals called ‘Un Momento‘ written by Héctor Stamponi and recorded in 1952 with the singer Oscar Serpo. Here’s the whole tune before I break it down.

As you can hear, this is typical romantic Di Sarli at his best, and if you imagine your dance interpretation to this Vals, I doubt if you would use decoration or tango movement which was too staccato. You would want to keep this dance flowing elegantly to the music.

So does the ABABA pattern still hold true for a Vals? Well first thing to note is that this Vals is nearly 2 mins 57 seconds long so only a few seconds longer than the previous Di Sarli recording. So allowing for technical factors such as turntable speed variation etc. this is about the typical length of previous tango tunes we’ve looked at.

Now what follows are the different sections to listen to.

‘Un Momento’ Section A

The first section A contains two phrases which are slightly different. Not much change there. Again no ‘pom poms’ with this Di Sarli Vals to signify the end of the section, but a three note slow trill from high to low. This makes it pretty easy to detect the end of the section.

‘Un Momento’ Section B

Section B is a new melody but the Di Sarli arrangement keeps it flowing nicely from the previous section.

‘Un Momento’ Section A variation 1

In this repeat of section A with variation we have the singer Oscar Serpo taking over the melody and the Orchestra goes into accompaniment mode providing some extra emotion with trills and runs of the open chords they play.

‘Un Momento’ Section B variation 1

In this repeat section B with variation the singer is still carrying the tune and the Orchestras accompaniment goes into some fairly playful ‘punctuation’ elements. A dancer would be able to anticipate how this section is going to sound overall, because the singer Oscar is repeating the refrain from the earlier sections of the tune. However, this is the first time we hear this playful ‘punctuation’ element, so if a dancer hadn’t heard this tune before (or this arrangement) they may not be able to use this element first time out. On next hearing though, it is interesting enough that you would probably recognise the tune early enough to remember the playful elements before they start.

‘Un Momento’ Section A variation 2

In the final section we revert back to a repeat of section A but with a nice mix of the first phrase being instrumental and the second phrase reintroducing the singer Oscar Serpo to finish off the tune. Again we have no ‘pom pom’ to fish off, but we have a lovely change of tempo as the music and the singer’s voice slows down for the last long elongated note. This easily signals the end of the whole tune.

So from that we can say that (at least for these Di Sarli arrangements) this ABABA pattern broadly holds true whether for tango or vals. This is very helpful to the dancer.

Milonga – Zorzal

Finally lets listen to a milonga tune. Di Sarli didn’t seem to record too many milongas and this may have been because he seemed to like the romantic arrangement of tunes. Milongas are happy tunes but don’t lend themselves well to the ‘romantic’ type arrangement. However in 1941 Di Sarli recorded a milonga called ‘Zorzal‘ with the help of singer Roberto Rufino. It was written by Dorita Zárate.

Now we start to hear something a little interesting because the pattern has changed slightly. Before breaking this pattern down, please have a listen to the whole tune

If you listen carefully there seems to be three different basic repeating patterns not just two. The AB sections are there but this time repeated 3 times for the pair of sections in an ABABAB type pattern, but there is also something else in between the AB sections. There is a shorter intro, two interludes and an outro sections which are all basically the same melody, so the composer is playing with the ‘standard’ ABABA format to form something a little more musically complex.

Also those of you already familiar with the milonga style of music and dance will hear that we still have typical Di Sarli lyrical strings and a fairly smooth feel to this milonga tune. This might lend itself to perhaps less of a ‘traspie’ (stumble) interpretation and more of a ‘liso’ (smooth) interpretation.

‘Zorzal’ Intro

This Introductory phrase is just 11 seconds long but it introduces the dancer to the faster milonga rhythm immediately. Milongas tend to be quicker rhythms to dance to and are often a bit shorter duration than a tango tune, so you don’t want to waste the first 15 – 20 seconds trying to work out what the rhythm is! This intro gives you that information pretty much immediately. It is also repeated 3 more times in the tune.

‘Zorzal’ Part A

Then we hear the Part A section with two repeating phrases. Again a slightly faster pace and a shorter overall section, and it’s instrumental.

‘Zorzal’ Part B

With Part B we hear two different phrases just for added interest, and the overall Part B is a different melody to Part A. Still brisk, still instrumental but the first section is classic Di Sarli smooth strings.

‘Zorzal’ Interlude 1

Now the composer inserts an interlude which is basically a repeat of the intro. This acts as an anchor point for the dancer because they’ve heard it once already, plus the two sections immediately after. Now the dancer broadly knows what’s coming next (even with variations) and can better interpret the music.

‘Zorzal’ Part A variation 1

Now we have the voice of Roberto Rufino supplying the melody while the Orchestra plays accompaniment, but it’s basically the same as the previous Part A, so no great surprises here and the dancers should be able to start playing with their interpretaion of the tune.

‘Zorzal’ Part B variation 1

This Part B variation is pretty much the same as the first Part B but again Roberto Rufino carries the melody. Dancers can carry on playing with a now familiar refrain.

‘Zorzal’ Interlude 2

As the second variations come to an end, another anchor point is introduced with another familiar interlude. We’ve already heard it twice, so it tells the dancer that the second AB pair is over and another is about to begin.

‘Zorzal’ Part A variation 2

‘Zorzal’ Part B variation 2

With the final repetitions of Parts A and B, the singer continues singing, but the rhythm and melody stays the same as before. Again, no big surprises for the dancers, because if the composer threw in a dramatic change of pace, section duration, or mood of melody, the milonga is so fast that the dancers wouldn’t be able to cope with big changes quickly enough. The tune enhances the dance, by not ‘getting in the way’.

‘Zorzal’ Outro

The final outro is simply the melody of the intro and interludes repeated for a final time, but with our old friend the ‘pom pom’ stuck on the end to signify the end of the tune. Happy dancers! 🙂

So in this part of the series, we have seen that for some new tunes with a different orchestral arrangement, the ABABA pattern can still be present, but that some composers and arrangers can also play with that basic pattern by inserting interludes, intros and outros. Providing they don’t mess up the dancers rhythm too much and give the dancers chance to ‘learn’ the tune by the end of the first AB pair, then the dancers will remain happy 🙂

In Part 6 I will look at Juan D’Arienzo’s Orchestral arrangements, which are quite a different feel to Di Sarli. We will still be on the look out for the ABABA pattern but may (or may not 🙂 ) come across something different.

By the way: For those of you beginning to think

‘Well of course all these tunes are exhibiting a common pattern, Steve, because you’re selecting the tunes that fit the pattern to prove your point. What about the thousands of other tunes out there?’,

it is true that I am currently illustrating a point, but there are plenty of Argentine Tango tunes, by plenty of different orchestras, out there on music and video websites, so get listening and see if I’m basically right or not 🙂

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Musicality in Tango Dancing – Part Four

Mimosa FlowersIn the third part of this series we looked at the Orchesta Tipica, the instruments and how they express different elements of the music. Now we can look at the structure of a tango tune in more detail.

I will look at one popular tune ‘Mimosa’ recorded by the Francisco Canaro Orchestra in 1929, hence the lovely picture above… but maybe the tune was named after the orange and champagne drink? 🙂 I will show how the structure breaks down into musical phrases, sections, and other components, and how these components often repeat (with variation). This means that even if a dancer is not familiar with a tune, they can predict (guess?) what the music is likely to sound like once they’ve heard the first couple of sections, and so better interpret the second half of a tune with their dancing.

OK so we are going to listen to ‘Mimosa’, and the different sections of that tune, so we can compare the different parts, but first I’d like to show you a pictorial representation of the tune so you can more easily visualise the elements of a tune.Mimosa by Francisco Canaro, showing the different repeating sections to the musicThe first thing to notice is that this tune has 5 sections of approx 34 seconds each, resulting in an overall tune length of 2:50 minutes.

I’ve labelled each section and you’ll notice that there are only really 2 sections of differing melody, A and B, but in the sections labelled A+ and B+ there are some variations. The middle section A+looks different from the other Section A’s but that’s really only because the overall volume of that section is reduced. The waveform shapes are still similar.

The overall melody within two similar sections stays the same, but often different instruments play the melody in different sections. Sometimes (but not in Mimosa) there is a key change when a section is repeated. These variation to make it less boring to listen to.

Here is the entire tune to listen to first. See if you can pick out the repetition.

Now what follows are the different sections to listen to.

‘Mimosa’ Section A

You’ll notice in the diagram, Section A has one phrase repeated. Each phrase also contains a repeated refrain. Also listen out for the ‘pom pom’ at the end of the section. It tells a dancer that the section has finished and a different melody is about to start.

‘Mimosa’ Section B

In Section B we have two different phrases with each phrase containing a different repeated refrain and the whole Section B being a different melody to Section A. Also we have the ‘pom pom’ at the end of the section.

‘Mimosa’ Section A variation 1

In Section A var 1, it sounds like you have a new melody (the guitar) and this is true, but if you listen to the background the guitar is over-layed onto the melody from Section A, so you still have that ‘anchor’ to something you’ve already heard. Again we have the ‘pom pom’ at the end.

‘Mimosa’ Section B variation 1

In Section B variant 1 the ‘Phrase 1’ of the variation has the Bandoneon playing a slightly different refrain from the original Section B, but ‘Phrase 2’ is pretty much identical as played in the first Section B. Again we have the ‘pom pom’ at the end.

‘Mimosa’ Section A variation 2

In the final section variant 2 of Section A, we now have a new melody played by violins, but again listening to the background, the refrain is Section A again. Finally we have a more dramatic ‘pom pom’ at the end of the tune.

Listen again to the full tune with all the sections in the correct order and imagine how you might interpret this tune in your dance expression.

Is this the standard for writing tango tunes?

If you’ve ever wondered why so many tango tunes seem to be between 2:30 to 3:00 minutes long, the reason is that composers would create a walking beat of approximately 64 per minute (or 32 bars of music per min in 4/4 time). This would be 2 of the sections shown.

If a composer sticks to the ‘5 section’ tango format then the length of a tango will be about 2:30 min. This would be 80 bars of music and a total of 320 music beats.

For a fast tango at a tempo of 160 musical beats per minute, the 80 bars of music are finished in 2 mins. For a slow tango at a tempo of 110 musical beats per minute the 80 bars of music lasts 2:54 mins. It’s basically just maths 🙂

So, it look like we have a standard tango tune format?

Well yes and no. Many composers and orchestra arrangers did indeed stick to the ‘5 section’ tango format over many years, but we are discussing music, an art form, so there are other variations to this ‘standard’. Indeed Francisco Canaro later in his career introduced the prelude, interlude, and longer endings into his music. However hidden inside all the ‘extras’ you will find enough repetition of sections and phrases to make it easier for you to interpret tunes for your dancing.

In the next section of this series I will begin to examine different popular orchestras so we can understand that different tunes perhaps need different dance interpretation.

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