Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What’s the story within tango? - instrumental and vocal parts - phrasing in Tango

When you first come to Tango class - you might be surprised. You came to learn all this sexy moves - no? You want to impress your partner? - What ‘no’? Admit it!
Almost everybody does!!!! You imagine all this feelings - like when you first fall in love - enchant you, put a magic spell on you and…. lights, cameras, we are dancing…..

Instead - you discover quite a few things about… yourself.
About your partner too - but usually what you are discovering about yourself is much more surprising.

First you discover that you have no control over your own body. You know you want to go straight forward, but your legs have quite different ideas what ‘straight forward’ means. You know you want to embrace the person in front of you and… just dance… Instead, all of the sudden it seems like they don’t have 2 feet, but at least 5, and one of them is ALWAYS on your way, or worse - UNDER your foot. Yyyyyeeeah, wasn’t that supposed to be romantic dance? You love high heels, instead your teacher tells you to take them off and… you are secretly grateful, because walking backwards in 5” High Heel Stiletto Shoes maybe was not such a great idea after all. You get angry!!!!!! Wait - this is MY body and it will do what I WANT!
That’s right.
I totally believe you eventually will make IT do what YOU want, but first you need to regroup and regain your powers. Over! It!

Meanwhile lets focus on one other sense you poses: hearing the music.
When we first hear Tango music we hear wall of sound, like hearing a foreign language, white noise, everything in one piece. We don’t know what instruments are there, which ones create foreground, which are in the background, which ones talk to each other, or on top of each other and when. The more we listen to it we are able to hear more an more.

What we learn first is to hear the strong beat. With time we should be able to distinguish rhythm from melody, then hear layers within and small little details.

First - lets hear the phrasing. Phrases are like closed sentences when we talk. The voices rises up and then falls down at the end. There are questions. And answers. There are exclamations! There are sentences you shout fast and angrily. And words that you want to stretch forever, make them last forever. There are questions without answers. And little arguments. And… even changes of subject. Or - little musical bridges that bring you back to what you were talking about, out of that little digression.

Most classically each phrase would have 8 beats - that’s the assumption. However - it’s not uncommon to hear  the phrase that is 6 or 4 beats long. Don’t worry if you hear that. It's GREAT if you can hear it - you will see that you will get those ‘missing’ beats back at some later point. The amount of energy in the world is always same - nothing is ever lost. If you loose something but it was meant to be yours -  you will get it back sooner or later.

In a most ideal situation four phrases (four ‘eights’) make a section - like a paragraph or strophe in poem or song. There are always 3 sections: A, B and C. There is always a repetition of section A. So if you listen to the Tango piece - section A will be repeated two or three times.

To make it simple:
Part 1: A B
We have INTRODUCTION part - that part most often is instrumental only and has no singer. (There are always exceptions - listen for them!)

Section A: You hear first time instrumental section A introducing characters and melody.
Section B: You hear instrumental section B - with change of feel or tone.

Part 2: A’ C
Section A’: If there is a singer - here is when we hear him. Repeating section A in his own voice, re-telling it in his own manner as a variation of the first A section. If it’s still just the orchestra - it will almost never repeat A exactly as A. Maybe the melody in A’ will be staccato, with a counter melody in legato.

Section C: different from A or B and often with a resolution step…

Part 3: Variation
Section A’’: The Variation with rapid rhythms still using a motif from section A. Might be just instruments, might be just singer, or both.

Now - not to fall into some rigidity here. The musical progression COULD BE as we just said:  AB A'C A". I said COULD… Could gives as this opening, the freedom, the choice….
So - listen - you could also find: AB BA' CA", or AB CA' A" ...   There is no set form.

As social dancers we don't necessarily think about this progression of phrases too much, because we are improvising, we do not know in the section A what we are going to do in the section C. But - if we are able to hear them and interpret them, make them visible through our dancing or… simply make our partner feel, hear what we feel and hear… 

If you are leader - you will leave your partner speechless as she will think you are a magician able to see the future, able to see how the story end. If you are follower - your leader will think that through some secret powers you are able to read his mind, see his thought, even before he sees them. Anyway - those are just words trying to name something un-expressible. But if you feel it (or felt it already) - definitely email me. I want to know all about it. Or - post a comment - so we all can learn.