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How to Listen to a Tango Arrangement
By Ignacio Varchausky

(Workshop for the general public.  Duration 1:45)

In the very beginning, the musical language of tango was developed by intuitive musicians without any kind of academic training. Those pioneers composed their works and elaborated the works of others from a place rich in ideas and originality, but with extremely basic and rudimentary technical knowledge of music. In those groups at the beginning of the 20th century, each musician participated without grand preparation and without contemplating much how his performance impacted the rest of the group.

With the growing interest in the genre—we are now talking about the end of the 1910s and beginning of the ‘20s—a new wave of musicians with formal musical training were drawn to tango and and created a new formal model within which to develop their musical creativity:  the arrangement.  From this moment on, tango groups--at least those interested in the exploration which leads to musical evolution —would play arrangements of the music which proposed exactly what to play, note by note, instrument by instrument.  In this way, little by little, the tango became a complex and elaborate music, based on the development of the musical language within an architectural model taken from classical music.  And all this happened in the hands of the arrangers, those true architects of sound capable of creating—from their own compositions or those of others—new sounds and rhythmic ideas using the simple point of a pencil.

This lecture’s principal aim is to define and describe the fundamental elements of the musical arrangements that construct a style:  What are they?  How do we listen identify them?  How many things are happening at once? How can we understand so much complexity?

It’s not easy to listen to music when the arrangements and orchestration propose various levels of information simultaneously.   For this reason, we will deconstruct various famous arrangements of important orchestras and do a detailed analysis in order to fine-tune our listening.

Our goal is that, in a little under two hours, we can explore the basic concepts and specific information which will bring participants closer to the music and help them hear, understand, and enjoy the art of tango with greater profundity.

Ignacio Varchausky, musician and artistic producer

Themes of the class

  • The tango as dance music.  Its instruments.  Its rhythms.
  • The four fundamental elements of music.  How to recognize them.
  • The arrangements.  How to listen to the layered musical information.
  • Deconstruction of arrangements. How to recognize each instrument.

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