We have to consider the focus of the following because the influence of Piazzolla begins to be so powerful that all seems to be divided between before and after Piazzolla.Around Octeto Buenos Aires, Piazzolla himself says on the back of one of his albums:
When Piazzolla returns to Argentina (1955) after his studies with Nadia Boulanger, he decides to form the OCTETO BUENOS AIRES. With this group Piazzolla produces innovations that influence forever his attitude as player and composer. A new violent passion to arrange and to compose (in two years he composed and arranged more that 40 works); his decision for producing a rupture with the traditional tango, and the conviction for developing a group of musicians that come up to the same temperature musically and on stage as what he saw in Paris with the Mulligan Octet, which impressed him so much. The Octeto Buenos Aires definitively links him to the instrumental tango but not exclusively. With a formation of two bandoneones, two violins, piano, cello, electrical guitar and bass, this group becomes a proclamation of the rejection to the place of privilege that the singer had, imposed in the tango of the 40’s, and also and expulsion of the dancer (unavoidable protagonist of that tango and personage always present in the actual tango-spectacle). With the Octet, Piazzolla goes deep into chamber music criteria that show the independence of the tango with the pattern of the Orquesta Típica. Furthermore, the electrical guitar incorporates a new timbre not existing in the genre. But, since that time it is decisive in the inexorable fusion between the performance and the composition. The intensity that Piazzolla wants for his performance enters the score and intends to reach a physical palpitation. The bandoneón, his style as a player, his conception of the phrases, the unexpected treatment of the tempo, the visceral explosion that breaks the calm, is more that the excellence of the player: it affects the treatment of the score. Piazzolla considers the Octet is the start of the Contemporaneous Tango. But, the revolution that Piazzolla makes (farther on the influences that produces and a lot of subsequent imitations), is a solitary revolution. The genre can’t absorb it and doesn’t evolve: rather Piazzolla breaks the genre. When it is said a lot of times, that Piazzolla killed the tango, we feel a confuse suspicion but with some truth about it. Since Piazzolla the tango ceased to be a protector and enveloping genre, with precise limits. With Piazzolla the tango becomes 'contaminated' with a lot of influences (the names linked to his esthetics seems to be its symbols: Gary Burton, Rostropovich, Gidon Kremer, Mulligan, Kronos Quarter, and of course all the young musicians of the tango). However, this interrelation of music is not eclectic due to the firmness of the style that Piazzolla gets.
In 1954, while being in Paris, I had the chance to see and listen to many jazz modern groups, among them, the Gerry Mulligan Octet. It was really wonderful to witness the enthusiasm existing among them while they played, that individual joy in the improvisations, the collective pleasure when they played a chord, in sum, something that I had never noticed up to now in tango musicians. As a result of this experience the idea of putting together the Octeto Buenos Aires grew within me. It was necessary to get tango out of that monotony that surrounded it, either harmonically or melodically, rhythmically and aesthetically. It was an irresistible impulse to bestow it with musical hierarchy and provide other ways of showcasing the instrumentalists. In two words, to succeed in making tango something exciting without tiring the player and the listener, and still be tango, and more than ever, music.
There is great confusion on the question of the way of dancing the tango: call it technique, form, or style. The term tango nuevo is used to refer to a style of dancing, which is an error. In reality, tango nuevo is everything that has happened with the tango since the 1980s. It is not a question of a style... The words tango nuevo express what is happening with tango dancing in general; namely that it is evolving. Tango nuevo is not one more style; it is simply that tango dancing is growing, improving, developing, enriching itself, and in that sense we are moving toward a new dimension in tango dancing... There has been much recent discussion, in the community of tango dancers, on the problem of the embrace, dividing the dance into open or closed style, which is also a matter of great confusion. Open embrace or closed embrace, dancing with space or dancing close, these are all outmoded terms. This is an old way of thinking, resulting from the lack of technical knowledge in past eras. This simple and clumsy division between open and closed is often used by those who try to deny the evolution of the dance, to disguise their own lack of knowledge. Today it is perfectly clear that the distances in the dance have a much greater complexity than a simple open or closed... We have learned, and we have developed our knowledge. The result of this is a dance of greater possibilities, and also of a much more artistic quality.
It is a general thought that one of your talents is the capacity to analyze the dance and to dissect it to the smallest (almost molecular) structure. Are you in agreement with this thought from your own students? Is this type of analysis deliberate, when you practice?
Yes, yes... It is a very accurate description of our way to face tango when we dance. It was always that way, we both use this approach, even before we met. When we started dancing together, we realized that we needed a more intellectual or academic scheme for this dance. We had not seen such an approach before ... I think it is not exactly a tendency to structure it. Because if I say that the dance is becoming more structured there could be a thought that we are seeking a standard sequence, and that is not what we are looking to do. We are aiming at understanding the elements that form the dance. We want to understand how the elements coordinate to make it work ... We have developed a didactic method that elaborates and combines the ideas, concepts, and tendencies proposed by the best known Argentine teachers, integrating them with our personal understanding and experience. We believe that the movements, relations, and the body gestures used in the tango nuevo the way we teach it are important for gaining body awareness and, above all, that they can also be applied to the more classical way of dancing the tango. The tango nuevo is not something different from the tango: the basic movements and relationships are the same, but the characteristic elements change. In the nuevo they are more extreme and alternate the close embrace with a form that leaves more freedom of movement, which is often required to interpret the new electronic sounds more effectively. We would like to emphasize that with the same basic movements of the tango nuevo, you can dance any tango.
The subject of 'tango nuevo' is something... it is a name that some people have started to use to identify something that is thought to be a new style. I don’t agree with that concept. I never called what I do ‘tango nuevo’ and do not intend to call it that because I think it is wrong, but I can’t argue or prevent others from calling it by that name. I just have a different opinion. I think what has happened is that tango has evolved and logically there are a number of new aspects that enrich the dance, that were previously not known. There is a more elaborate choreography that makes the dance look a little different, obviously, because of complexity and detailed, broader, dense. This does not mean that there is a nuevo tango; that’s an illusion. I think what it is there is a better tango. Tango has evolved and today we are seeing the results of such evolution. I don’t think it is very wise to try to 'box' every style and put it in separate 'boxes' or categories. I don’t think it happens that way.
Astor Piazzolla (Maria de Buenos Aires by Astorpia Tango Quintet)
Astor Piazzolla (Libertango by Yo-Yo Ma)