The enemy of the feet

Publish date 27-04-2024

by Mauro Tabasso

There are those who have class and those who unfortunately are destined for substitute work. If I had been a teacher I would certainly have fallen into the second species (indeed I would have been a subspecies). But I don't teach so I can afford to pretend to have class, and to have a crazy personal dresser who, while she cuts my hair, talks to me (hear carefully) about Schopenhauer (get it?). This great German philosopher, in my high school memories, went down in history for his cosmic pessimism.

In more recent times it has certainly inspired Mr. Murphy in enunciating his famous and ineffable laws. However, the Prussian scholar had a very specific idea about music: «Music is not at all like the other arts , the image of ideas, but is instead an image of the will itself... The effect of music is much more powerful and penetrating than that of the other arts, because the former express the shadow, while the latter expresses the essence." In truth his thought was much more complex than that, which seems to contrast with the music itself which I find an emotionally simple language, bearer of supernatural and earthly, eternal and transitory, light and dark, luminous and nocturnal, static and danceable. Like the Tango, which has now become somewhat of a trend and defined by Enrique Santos Discépolo as «A sad thought that is danced». Sad like the lives of certain people, certain areas, certain environments.

Jorge Luis Borges, a great enthusiast of this dance originating from late nineteenth-century Buenos Aires, dedicated a cycle of conferences to it, collected in a volume entitled (with surprising originality) The tango. He tells us how it was born in the same places where American jazz would arise a few years later, that is, gambling dens, brothels, infamous places in the city, where people met to gamble, drink, meet friends. The real attraction of this dance, according to Borges, lies in its transgressive character, «In that feeling of freedom that ignites all types of emotion».

These days marks the anniversary of the birth of Astor Piazzolla, known as El Gato, a great composer who innovated this music so much so that today his name is almost one for us a symbol. «My music is sad because tango is sad. Tango has sad and dramatic roots, sometimes sensual, it preserves a bit of everything... even religious roots. Tango is sad and dramatic but never pessimistic." Starting from these suggestions, El Gato was able to create a unique style, a cocktail of tango, jazz and experimental elements which led to the birth of Nuevo tango, with an unprecedented sound thanks also to the presence , alongside the strings, of instruments such as the Hammond organ, the flute, the marimba, the drums, the percussion, the bass and the electric guitar. One of his most famous songs (written in Milan in 1974) is Libertango, (mix of the words Libertad and Tango), defined by the most orthodox tangueros as unpackable. Piazzola, regardless of the dogmas of traditional tango, defined himself as an enemy of the feet. Perhaps this is why we at the Sound Laboratory like him so much, so much so that we took the liberty (with our Orchestra) of trying our hand at his masterpiece, a piece which (we are certain) would put even Murphy and Schopenhauer.

Mauro Tabasso
NP March 2024

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