Tango music originated at the beginning of the 19th century in Argentina. Buenos Aires (the capital) was little more than a village at the furthest corner of the Spanish Empire. The British went over and built a huge railway across Argentina. This opened up the deserted country into one of great potential in exporting agriculture and minerals. The only thing missing now were workers, so the government shipped in European men. Buenos Aires became full of male workers but there were few woman around to start creating families. One of the only ways for a man to get close to a woman was to dance. The tango was born in courtyards of the men’s housing.
The music and dance became a common language that united people from many different cultures. It was here that the different music and dance styles brought by immigrants from different countries, and by the people already in Argentina, blended together, and what emerged slowly became Tango.
Listening 1- El Tango de RoxanneIntroduction to Tango
Which instrument plays the introduction?
What instruments do you hear?
How many beats in the bar?
Does the tempo stay the same?
What do you hear in the bass line?
What instrument plays the bass line?
Listening 4 - Yoyoverde
Listening 3 – Cell block Tango
Describe the rhythm in the opening section.
What role do the voices have?
What language is the voice in?
Is the bass line repetitive?
For a time the Tangowas discouraged by theArgentine governmentbecause it was associatedwith crime, poverty andprostitution and thereforegave a poor image ofArgentinean culture. Nowit is a national obsessionin Argentina, with streetperformers dancing andsinging the Tango, andspecial theatres whereTango shows take placedaily.
The dance features quickjerky movements inresponse to the fastmoving notes of thedance. The two dancers are usually very close with a very seriousexpression. Eye contact with dance partner is important in the Tango.
Watch the tango scene from the film Moulin Rouge. (Disc 2, more, dance, tango!)
Notice How the dancers move in time to the music and their short/sharp movements.
Flute – woodwind instrument that plays the melodies
A free reed instrument particularly popular in Argentina. The Bandoneón is played by holding the instrument between both hands and either pushing in or pulling out the instrument while simultaneously pressing one or more buttons with the fingers.
There are many different types of guitar, used both for chords and also for melodies and solo
Violin – the highest of the string instruments
There are 2 common rhythms used in Tango music. Try clapping the 2 rhythms below. These can be used when composing your Tango pieces.
Tango’s are usually in a minor key to reflect the seriousness of the dance and use 4 main chords (I, IV, V & VI)
Try playing the 4 chords below and get to know the sound of them. Remember to look at the different clefs (bass and treble) and the different letter names.
In pairs try playing this simple 8 bar chord sequence using only 2 chords.
Once you have done this try this 8 bar chord sequence that uses 4 different chords.
Now you have learnt the chord sequence you need to make it sound more like a Tango. To do this we are going to change the bass line and make it more exciting using the rhythms we learnt previously.
The chord stays the same while the bass line becomes more complicated
Try and work out what the bass line would be for the other chords you have learnt.
Now try playing the whole chord sequence with the new bass line. One person can play the chord and the other the bass line. (Remember the G#) If you look at the bass line the rhythm in every bar is the same. Only the notes change, this is called an ostinato.
Tango melodies have chromatic notes. Chromatic notes are a semitone apart. (Next door notes on the piano usually moving from black to white keys).
If your melody goes from A to E you can add chromatic notes to join them, similar to adding passing notes in theme and variation.
A G# A B C C# D Eb E
Now you can play the bass and chords your tango needs a melody. This would usually be played on a violin or flute. You can play yours on the piano or keyboard.Writing your melody…
Using the knowledge you have from writing your melody for theme and variation write one note for each bar to create a simple melody.
Now you have your simple melody line you can begin to add your chromatic notes to make it sound more like a tango. It is now up to you to write your composition. Use the worksheets provide to help you. To get a high level in your assessment you should try and include the following:
Chromatic notes in your melody
Structure: your piece should have at least 8 bar sections A and then B (Binary form)
Ostinato in the bass line.