Monday, May 27, 2013

Musicality - precise to the millimeter?

A few months before I left for Argentina, I had decided to take my tango musicality training system deeper, and make it more precise.  I created a notation system with templates to help tango dancers who are not musicians analyze tango music. My intention was that having the tools with which to knowledgably analyze the music,  they could then make more informed improvisational choices on the dance floor. 

To do this I had to develop a whole new level of accuracy in my own listening.  I must hear, for example, on which beat of a musical phrase the double bass stops on which beat the violins begin. To carry out this study well enough to teach it, I couldn’t fake or gloss over anything! 

At the beginning of March, when I had completed 4 levels of analysis on 6 tangos, I interrupted my production of tango musicality videos to go to Buenos Aires. 

On my birthday late in April, after a dinner party with good friends, I went to a large, famous Buenos Aires milonga. That night we were lucky to have the fabulous orchestra "Silencio"  for over an hour.  During this "danceable concert", they played no cortinas*, and a Porteño with wonderful musicality kept me dancing the whole time.  During one of the short breaks between tangos, he asked if I were a musician.  I said, "Not at all".  He said in Castellano, "It's very rare. Many women have good feeling for the music. But your interpretation is precise to the millimeter!” 

* Cortinas are short intervals of non-tango music to signal the end of a set, or "tanda".

That felt good.  What it told me was that my recent, extensive and disciplined musical research had infiltrated my dancing!  His comment helped me better understand what some older milongueros had been saying about why they enjoy dancing with me.  And why one friend with whom I danced often in BA said, “I don’t understand why you want to perform.  Your dancing is already full of artistry!”

The expressiveness which comes freely to me while I’m dancing, had been enriched by my having disciplined myself to analyze layers of the music until I understood them well enough to teach them to others. 

I’d love for this to happen for you too
. . . and it will when you dedicate some time to diligently studying various aspects of the music!

So I’d like to start to help you with a simple suggestion, a suggestion for both men and women, to improve your musicality.  Here it is:

Listen carefully to your favorite tangos, looking for places where the rhythm being clearly played actually pauses. The double bass (contrabajo) will usually be playing the rhythm. Tango uses no percussion instruments. 

The other instruments may embellish during a pause, and you can also embellish with your free leg. But you shouldn't be taking steps while the orchestra is pausing. Instead, be still and fill the pause with your presence! Paying careful attention to the pauses will improve your musical "phrasing". And "filling the pause with your presence" will also enhance your connection with your partner!

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