Saturday, November 21, 2015

Music Workshop: The marimba's finest moment in tango

I hope this post will tickle your ears with a new way to listen to a vals* you probably know well.   The marimba makes a tasty cameo appearances in a vals you will surely recognize immediately.

How many times had I danced happily to Ilusión Azul by la Orquesta de Alfredo de Angelis, deaf to the marimba part?  I had always assumed it was the piano!  Some may wonder if instrument recognition is at all important.  It's not if you are going to be intellectual about it. However, if you are recognizing instruments not as a musician but as a dancer, I am certain that it will inspire your dance.  Somatic responses to music change with a better appreciation of music.  Too many musicians or  connoisseur music "listeners" are way too much into their head. But you are a dancer!  How do the instruments change the way you feel the music and then express it in your body?

In an earlier music workshop, I wrote about how the vibraphone, the marimba's younger brother, which is used by Olsvaldo Fresedo's orchestra.   Even though I have spent many hours playing the marimba, vibraphone and xylophone, I only just recently discovered this marimba part as I was listening carefully to find vibraphone passages in tango.  The marimba has warm, resonant rosewood bars--clearly different from the staccato xylophone rosewood or even resonant, metal bars of the vibraphone.

Test your ears.  Do you hear the passages?  (See the answer-guide below.)

Answer guide.  Did I miss any?
  • The intro.
  • The 50-second mark:  A nice marimba trill.
  • Repeat of the intro part at 1:04.

Now that you have your ears fine-tuned.  Listen to yet another vals, Flores del Alma!  Perhaps it wasn't just a cameo appearance? There may be more to discover for the marimba in tango.

Answer guide #2:
Listen for the distinctive marimba trill and the resonant bars.

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*Tango waltz.
Photo credit:  The marimba pictured at the top costs nearly $8000.