Friday, September 26, 2014
Musicality Praxis: Building a tanda
In this post, I am going to suggest a way of musicality praxis that will grow and grow the way that suits you. I am convinced that trying to be more musical always starts at the heart and grows naturally into your feet. No matter what your role is, if you are musical you will help your partner feel it too. Men have an important role, but it is not just their job. Women often complain that many men do not hear the beat; yet, I sense that many women are making it even harder by listening too much my body language. I cannot know, but I think all this delay is causing a vicious circle because they are part of this problem of lagging behind the beat. The man who is musical must begin his momentum ahead of the beat so that she lands on the beat. How is this possible? By letting the music lead.
Today, I am suggesting a simple praxis of building a tanda by starting with the precision of the "compás" -- the pulse of the music.
Tanda's first song: You are the bass player. No one seems to even notice the bassist in the audience, but the orchestra members appreciate a good bassist. For a music sculptor (dancer) this is usually a great tango walk. You are getting used to each other by starting out by paying attention to the "pulse" of the orchestra. You not only know the beat, but are the beat. You honor the music when your sense of rhythm becomes the very foundation of what the other instruments will do to express musicality.
Tanda's second song: Now pay attention a lot to the piano and the bassist together. The pianist is playing the only official percussion instrument in a typical tango orchestra. Pay attention to the pianist's sense of both rhythm and melodic and lyrical freedom. Biagi and DiSarli are going to make this easier to understand. The pianist in Troilo's orchestra is an absolute wizard. Make sure that pauses with the phrases are honored. I suggest in the last post that one try listening and conducting. It is easier to conduct the pauses than to dance them, but that is your job now.
Tanda's third song: You are still cognizant and emotionally connected to the rhythm section (bass and piano) but now add a definite change with the vocalist or any melodic line. Most vocal lines are not on the first beat of a phrase. The first of the melodic line comes slightly before the begin of in a "pick-up" note or notes. Great vocal and melody lines also start slightly after the begin. Wait for the first vocalization to go by and then try "scat singing" (like the wordless improvisational jazz singers) along with the voice--as if copying the vocalist's sense of phrasing but with far fewer notes. This prepares you for the fourth song.
The Tanda's fourth song: Now you and your partner are really settled in with each other. You both can now "conduct" the orchestra; that is, you chose pieces from the orchestra. Do the violins sweep or are they pizzicato? Did you silently chuckle at the lead violinist's chicharra? Are you reacting to the bandonión as one or many together sweat through the varicion, showing their incredible talent? Did you catch any of the syncopations around the driving bandión march-like section, the marcado? Syncopations in tango are built around the African heritage of tango. They are limited; so learning a few will help you see how the pop up all the time. Did you at least honor mentally the nice sweep of the harp in Frecedo's Buscandote, or the one note vibraphonist's solo to announce the vocalist?
Eventually, the 2nd through 4th song will be the same, being the bass and rhythm section is nearly always a good place to start. Some very musical women, come from a tanda with a "leader" who was focused on steps, and you will have to reassure her that the music is the true leader. Start with finding the pulse again. Ladies, your partner just may have been used as the pole, and the tanguera danced around him with glee. The first song will reassure him that you are not using him or pressing him to perform.
Dancing musically is often doing less for a larger effect. I think it will especially help someone to put steps in the background and the emotion of the music in the foreground.
Photo Credit: http://tangoroute.com/