Music Tango
by
Omar García Brunelli
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0315

Introduction

Tango emerged in the late nineteenth century as a univocal fusion of music, poetry, and dance that still endures as a complex cultural system. Its origins are traced to the River Plate area that comprises Buenos Aires and Montevideo, respectively the capitals of Argentina and Uruguay. Buenos Aires, however, has been the hotbed of activities from tango’s beginnings to the present. Definitive theories of its origins, or agreement on some aspects of its history, however, remain speculative. The role that African descendants might have played in shaping this form of expressive culture, the presence or lack thereof of an Andalusian tango in its ancestry, and the demimonde of brothels fueling its conception are still the subject of heated controversy. Initially, tango was a style of dancing habaneras, tangos, or polkas with a straight arm and provocative figures; toward 1900, the dance called tango became associated exclusively with the musical genre of the same name, which by then had developed as an independent entity. The entire evolution of the dance hinged on that music. The lyrics were initially picaresque and betrayed the strong influence of Spanish poetry, but by the early 1900s the immigrant population had attached a particular melodramatic tinge to tango lyrics that was to remain a fixture of its style for decades in the future. Within the trilogy of music, poetry, and dance, music stands as the inalienable core of this univocal expression, but research on the texts and the dance as independent manifestations also has been pursued. During its long history, from the late-nineteenth and well into the twenty-first century, tango’s music has undergone substantive changes, clearly in response to local socioeconomic and cultural conditions. The musical anatomy of tango has not yet been fully studied, but significant advances have been made toward mastering the task. As instrumental music, tango displayed a vast range of possibilities, from its early small ensembles of self-taught musicians to the development of its own original and complex language, set to contrast with European norms at the beginning of the 1920s. The genre’s historical energy reached its peak in the 1940s, with brilliant innovations altering its parameters. Tango vocalists were turned into celebrities from the 1920s to the 1950s, and, more than a half century later, tango singing has retained its luster. The vanguard of the 1960s provided an additional creative impulse that is still lingering, mixed with more traditional trends. As dance, the protagonism of tango dominated the 1940s and 1950s, to wane and almost fall into oblivion in the 1960s and 1970s. However, tango dancing resurged locally and internationally in the 1980s, mostly through new choreographies that shared a cultural space with resilient traditions from the past. In Buenos Aires, there is an intense though reduced space for the practice of the revered tango. The appropriation of tango abroad has taken on a variety of shapes. Most importantly, these practices are strongly interconnected, converting tango into a cult-like passion for its performers and devoted followers. This article has been translated into English by Malena Kuss.

General Overviews

Four entries in reference works offer a general introduction that takes into account the breadth and complexity of the genre. These are Béhague 1998; Béhague 2001; Kohan, et al. 2002; and García Brunelli 2014. Franco-Lao 1975, Plisson 2001, and Norese 2001 are influential introductions to the genre published in Europe. Iconic as well as indispensable are the substantive overviews written by Horacio Ferrer (b. 1933–d. 2014), the Uruguayan-Argentinian poet and tango lyricist who collaborated with Piazzolla on some of his most famous hits. Ferrer 1960 weaves a concentrated synthesis of tango’s stylistic evolution up to the date of publication; and Ferrer 1980, the definitive Libro del tango, stands as a classic source for the accuracy of the historical data, the broad-ranging coverage of leading figures, and the array of insightful aesthetic characterizations of styles and practitioners.

  • Béhague, Gerard. “Tango.” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Vol. 9. 2d rev. ed., Sachteil. Edited by Ludwig Finscher, 221–227. Kassel: Bärenreiter Verlag, 1998.

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    A general introduction that outlines tango’s stylistic changes throughout its historical development in the twentieth century. The entry includes an exploration of the ethos of machismo embedded in the lyrics and the dance, delves into characteristic features of the musical styles, and describes the main types of instrumental ensembles that define tango’s iconic sound. Online edition published 2016, edited by Laurenz Lütteken and available by subscription.

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  • Béhague, Gerard. “Tango.” In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Vol. 25. 2d ed. Edited by Stanley Sadie, 73–75. London: Macmillan, 2001.

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    An overview of the genre tracing its origins, early development, and proliferation of styles that emerged throughout the twentieth century. Included are brief descriptions of idiomatic musical structures, choreographic features, and a discussion of the lyrical contents’ aesthetic pathos. The entry also provides a rather imprecise account of tango’s historical periodization and discusses the internationalization of the genre. Published online in Oxford Music Online, available by subscription.

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  • Ferrer, Horacio. El tango: Su historia y evolución. Buenos Aires: A. Peña Lillo, 1960.

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    Brief introduction to the origin and development of the genre to 1960 by the Uruguayan-Argentinian poet whose collaboration with Astor Piazzolla brought to life classics such as “Balada para un loco,” “Chiquilín de Bachín,” and the operita María de Buenos Aires (1968). This text discusses continuities and discontinuities in tango’s sequence of stylistic stages, highlighting protagonists and iconic figures throughout its history. It was reprinted by Peña Lillo-Ediciones Continente in 1999.

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  • Ferrer, Horacio. El libro del tango: Arte popular de Buenos Aires. 3 vols. Buenos Aires: Editorial Tersol, 1980.

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    An indispensable source structured as an extensive first volume, “Crónica,” followed by two volumes of biographical entries. The “Crónica,” a chronologically organized history of the genre, assumes a reflective, literary, and often poetic tone. The eight chapters into which the first volume is divided address styles, various types of characters, orchestras, historical stages, and every imaginable aspect of tango’s history. The two tomes that follow amount to a complete and exhaustive biographical dictionary that also includes technical terms.

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  • Franco-Lao, Méri. Tempo di tango: La storia, lo sfondo sociale, i testi, i personaggi, la fortuna e il revival. Milan: Bompiani, 1975.

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    An entertaining historical narrative that verges on critical essay and summons tango’s attributes, its lyrics, the marginality of its origins, its access to the élites, and its widespread reception abroad. Attractive and ingenious, somehow relating Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe to tango characters, it captures the worldviews of practitioners as expressed in a huge corpus of literature. Very influential in Italy, the book has undergone several revisions in 1977, 1986, 1996, and 2004, with titles such as T come tango.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. “Tango.” In The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Vol. 9, Genres: Caribbean and Latin America. Edited by David Horn and John Shepherd, 826–843. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

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    A synthesis of styles and basic periodization of tango that also covers the lyrics and the dance. It includes a brief discographic guide.

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  • Kohan, Pablo, et al. “Tango.” In Diccionario de la música española e hispanoamericana. Vol. 10. Edited by Emilio Casares Rodicio, with Victoria Eli Rodríguez and Benjamín Yépez Chamorro, 142–154. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 2002.

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    This substantive collection of essays covers the problematics of tango as a semantic field in the context of urban popular music, its history in Argentina, and its international reception, highlighting the protagonism of composers and performers. It includes separate entries on composers and orchestra leaders, excluding those who were active only in performance. Therefore, the coverage in this fundamental work is less comprehensive than in Ferrer 1980, which takes into account the significance of performers.

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  • Norese, Marta Rosalía. Contextualización y análisis del tango: Sus orígenes hasta la aparición de la vanguardia. Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2001.

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    As introductory source it is extensive, but a detailed index enables the reader to search for topics of specific interest. It delves into tango’s origins and the sociocultural and economic factors that made possible a particular intersection of generic characteristics. It also describes the musical tributaries that contributed to shaping tango’s early style and the ecology that sustained its development. The analyses of musical features, however, remains superficial. It covers tango only until the decade of the 1950s.

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  • Plisson, Michel. Tango: Du noir au blanc. Paris: Cité de la musique, 2001.

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    A history of the genre from its origins to circa 2000, with an accompanying CD. It covers all the predictable topics relative to the genre’s history, such as the expressive range of the music, the strong identity of the urban culture it signifies, the seductive choreography of the dance, the role that immigration played in coalescing essential elements of its style, the bandoneón as its signature sound, and the broad range of practitioners it interpellates. Copublished with Actes Sud, 2001.

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Comprehensive Histories

Although the lack of consensus on critical issues has hindered the possibility of producing definitive histories of tango, whether general or partial, several texts have attempted a comprehensive coverage of the genre. There is a wealth of period histories and some limited attempts at general historiography. However flawed but indispensable, the first published history of tango was Bates and Bates 1936. Sierra 1966 is an invaluable source that deals with the various types of instrumental groups. Matamoro 1971 provides a brief survey of the genre, and Gobello 1999 compiles a series of chronologically organized reflections. Azzi 1991 offers a wealth of interviews that qualify it as primary source material. Salas 2004, a widely disseminated source, is a historical monograph, and different style periods are summarized in García Brunelli 2010. Pampín and Martini Real 1976–2011 gathers a sizable collection of essays in a series of twenty-one volumes, many of them on different phases of tango’s history. Moreover, a historical perspective on the proliferation of diasporas is discussed in Pelinski 2009. García Brunelli 2010 is as relevant to tango’s history as it is to discographies (See Discography section below).

  • Azzi, María Susana. Antropología del tango: Los protagonistas. Buenos Aires: Ediciones de Olavarría, 1991.

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    An anthropological approach to tango as cultural behavior through an inquiry into the lives of practitioners. Essentially an ethnography centered on the figure of the tanguero as social agency for whom the world of tango plays a symbolic role that shapes his lifestyle. The study includes invaluable interviews with dancers and musicians who discuss the dance, bandoneón, lyrics, compositions, and tangueros of Buenos Aires.

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  • Bates, Héctor, and Luis Jorge Bates. La historia del tango: Sus autores, Primer tomo. Buenos Aires: Talleres Gráficos de la Compañía General Fabril Financiera, 1936.

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    This work stands as the first self-professed history of tango. The most frequently cited sources in this text are Vicente Rossi’s ubiquitous Cosas de negros and journalistic observations collected by the authors themselves. It includes numerous interviews with prominent tango musicians. The information, however, is not always reliable, but often biased or based on inaccurate premises. This text was reprinted in the city of San Juan in 2007.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. Discografía básica del tango 1905–2010: Su historia a través de las grabaciones. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2010.

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    Concise discography introduced by a synthesis of tango’s history preceding an alphabetical list of iconic artists. Under each name, it lists the recordings made by each, with their respective labels and dates, indicating whether the original recordings are the only ones available or if they have been reissued. It includes a CD with twenty-one iconic examples of styles, ranging from Arturo De Bassi’s “Incendio” recorded in 1910, to Pedro Maffia’s and Horacio Staffolani’s “Taconeando,” recorded by Astor Piazzolla in 1956.

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  • Gobello, José. Breve historia crítica del tango. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1999.

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    A cherished collection of thematic vignettes that covers the totality of tango’s history, broached from the perspective of a keen observer who offers his interpretations and opinions.

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  • Matamoro, Blas. Historia del tango. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1971.

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    A compelling though brief history of the genre as viewed circa 1971, the date of publication, which assesses stylistic parameters just as tango was to confront major compositional changes. In general, the author’s interpretations and reflections are both challenging and provocative.

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  • Pampín, Manuel, and Juan Carlos Martini Real, eds. La historia del tango. 21 vols. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1976–2011.

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    A collection of twenty-one volumes amounting to 4,363 pages of articles basically covering the music, lyrics, and performers in the history of tango. It emphasizes biographical research and includes studies focused on some aspect of tango’s history, with scanty references to the music itself. Although uneven, this collection has become one of the most frequently cited references due to the magnitude of its coverage.

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  • Pelinski, Ramón. “Tango nómade: Una metáfora de la globalización.” In Escritos sobre tango: En el Río de la Plata y en la diáspora. Edited by Teresita Lencina, Omar García Brunelli, and Ricardo Salton, 65–146. Buenos Aires: Centro Feca Ediciones/Foro y Estudios Culturales Argentinos, 2009.

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    A historical approach to the diasporas of tango and their relation to the genre’s history, up to the time of publication. It probes tango’s capacity of interpellate the human condition, such as controlled eroticism, emotivity, physical imbrication, and nostalgia, as the transnational circulation throughout the world subjects tango to cultural translations in each of its various stages.

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  • Salas, Horacio. El tango. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 2004.

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    Organized in chronological order, this historical narrative consists of forty brief chapters on a diversity of topics relevant to tango’s history, namely the dance, social types, musical styles, cantores and cancionistas, lyricists, and orchestras, written from a critical perspective. Translated into seven languages, it profits from a repertoire of vivid vignettes from the inexhaustible well of tango anecdotes. It also relates the different stages in tango’s evolution to sociopolitical conditions in Argentina. It includes an extensive bibliography of 180 entries.

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  • Sierra, Luis Adolfo. Historia de la orquesta típica: Evolución instrumental del tango. Buenos Aires: A. Peña Lillo, 1966.

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    A historical survey of the continuities and changes in styles of interpretation and orchestration, focused on the types of instrumental ensembles, of which the most important is the orquesta típica. Two subsequent editions were published by Arturo Peña Lillo in 1976 and Ediciones Corregidor in 1997.

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Period Histories

As complements to comprehensive histories of tango, many studies concentrate on aspects of specific stages or period histories. Among these stages, the so-called Guardia Vieja, or initial period (1880–1920), is charged with mythical symbolism and therefore carries a great deal of cultural density. The Guardia Nueva (1920–1935) and The Golden Age, or Época de Oro, 1935–1955, although they mark tango’s most prolific stages, have not yet attracted the number of studies commensurate with their significance, concentrating instead on artists and their biographies rather than general overviews. Nuevo Tango, 1955–, perhaps because of its chronological proximity to the present and easier access to sources and protagonists, is among the topics that have attracted most of the musicological attention.

The Guardia Vieja, 1880–1920

The earliest studies of tango are attributed to the prominent ethnographer Carlos Vega (b. 1898–d. 1966) whose fieldwork and writings have dominated ethnomusicological research in Argentina since his earliest publications in 1926 and 1931. Within the context of his prolific output, Vega 2007 represents the posthumous publication of a 1966 manuscript centered on tango’s origins, an issue also revisited in Kohan 2015, which discusses the purported influence of tango andaluz among tributaries of tango as a cultural product of the River Plate area. Rossi 1958, first published in 1926, stands as a classic text on the neglected presence of African descendants in the River Plate area and their contribution to expressive culture. Chicote and García 2008 offers analyses of the oldest extant ethnographic recordings. From the viewpoint of a rigorous musicological study, Novati, et al. 1980 documents the emergence of tango from perspectives that include the incidence of African descendants on its origins, a neglected aspect on tango’s history in writings of the period, which is redressed in García Brunelli 2017. Binda and Lamas 1998 contribute an extensive study of documentary sources on tango’s earliest stylistic phase, while Assunção 1984 provides stimulating reflections on origins and the so-called Guardia Vieja. Tango’s life in the urban demimonde of brothels feeds the narrative in Tallon 1959. Chindemi and Vila 2018 traces a broad soundscape of popular music genres in the early twentieth century, with tango as one more style among others interacting with traditional creole repertoires.

  • Assunção, Fernando. El tango y sus circunstancias. Buenos Aires: Editorial El Ateneo, 1984.

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    An erudite and interpretive inquiry into the sociocultural effervescence that enabled tango to surge as an expression of port culture in the cities of Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Rosario between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It focuses on the events that conditioned the shaping and later standardization of tango in what Assunção calls the most spectacularly creative juncture in the history of urban popular culture in the River Plate area.

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  • Binda, Enrique, and Hugo Lamas. El tango en la sociedad porteña 1880–1920. Buenos Aires: Héctor Lorenzo Lucci Ediciones, 1998.

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    Binda and Lamas researched police and municipal archives, obtaining a wealth of information on popular practices associated with tango and its environment. The text includes a transcription of primary sources, their archival locations, and a personal interpretation of their significance. It adds invaluable information on the earliest steps in the discography of tango. The authors also comment on Bates and Bates 1936 (cited under Comprehensive Histories), especially the belief that tango’s origins are to be traced exclusively to brothels.

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  • Chicote, Gloria, and Miguel García. Voces de tinta: Estudio preliminar y antología comentada de folklore argentino (1905) de Robert Lehmann-Nitsche. La Plata, Argentina: Edulp Editorial de la Universidad de La Plata, 2008.

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    Annotated edition of part of an unpublished manuscript by the German anthropologist Robert Lehmann-Nitsche (b. 1872–d. 1938), which includes recordings of tangos he collected and were performed by amateur musicians. A basic source taking into account that the ethnography dates from 1905. The edition includes a CD.

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  • Chindemi, Julia, and Pablo Vila. “Another Look at the History of the Tango: The Intimate Connection of Rural and Urban Music in Argentina at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century.” In Sound, Image, and National Imaginary in the Construction of Latin/o American Identities. Edited by Héctor Fernández L’Hoeste and Pablo Vila, 39–90. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.

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    Until the mid-1930s, tango was not significantly differentiated from folk music genres. From reconstructing the repertoires of trendsetting vocalists of the period, such as Carlos Gardel, Rosita Quiroga, Agustín Magaldi, and Ignacio Corsini, the authors suggest a fluid coexistence of popular music genres, among which tango was known mostly as canción criolla. This challenges the traditional paradigm that places tango’s early history squarely in the domain of urban popular music, from its marginal origins to urban tango between 1910 and 1930.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. “Bases para una aproximación razonable a la cuestión del componente afro del tango.” Revista Argentina de Musicología 18 (2017): 91–124.

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    The presence of African elements in tango’s origin is an issue that remains under discussion, due to a lack of extant sources to prove or disprove the hypothesis. This article frames the different positions taken by scholars on the controversy, within a context of ideas that propose an approach to the terms of the debate.

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  • Kohan, Pablo. “Carlos Vega y los orígenes del tango.” In Estudios sobre la obra de Carlos Vega. Edited by Enrique Cámara de Landa, 285–299. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2015.

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    An inquiry into the assumptions on tango’s origins by the preeminent Argentinian scholar Carlos Vega (b. 1898–d. 1966). Of particular interest is the discussion of Vega’s position supporting the existence of a tango andaluz as one of the preexisting tributaries that converged on the gestation of tango.

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  • Novati, Jorge, with Néstor R. Ceñal, Inés Cuello, and Irma Ruiz. Antología del tango rioplatense. Vol. 1 (Desde sus comienzos hasta 1920). Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” 1980.

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    Foundational study by pioneers of tango research and a model for popular music studies. The chapter on origins and the earliest stage of tango is basic for an understanding of the elements that shaped its style. Essays on origins, structure, choreography, and appendices on authors and performers, instrumental ensembles, tango sites, and publishers of tango music. With three LPs, reissued in 2018 with two CDs containing forty-eight recordings of the period covered. See Goyena, et al. 2014 (cited under The Guardia Nueva, 1920–1935) for Vol. 2.

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  • Rossi, Vicente. Cosas de negros. Buenos Aires: Hachette, 1958.

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    First published in 1926, this classic of tango’s history is viewed as the oldest source centered on some aspects of the genre’s origins. As Cosas de negros: Los orígenes del tango y otros aportes al folklore rioplatense; Rectificaciones históricas, it chronicles activities of African descendants in the River Plate area that comprises Argentina and Uruguay, such as candombe, and discusses tango and milonga. Somewhat compromised by the author’s antiquarian spirit, this invaluable source preserves transcriptions of very old testimonies.

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  • Tallon, José Sebastián. El tango en su etapa de música prohibida. Buenos Aires: Instituto Amigos del Libro Argentino, 1959.

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    A chronicle of tango’s prostibulary existence in the early twentieth century told in the style of an investigative report. It portrays the underground network feeding the tango craze, which, while conflicting with observed social norms, was at once captivating all social circles.

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  • Vega, Carlos. Estudios sobre los orígenes del tango argentino. Buenos Aires: Editorial de la Universidad Católica Argentina, 2007.

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    An extant manuscript by Carlos Vega that dates from 1966, the year of his death, coordinated and annotated by Coriún Aharonián. An appendix includes other writings by Vega, such as “Mesomúsica: Un ensayo sobre la música de todos,” “Antecedentes y contornos de Gardel,” and “La coreografía del tango argentino.”

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The Guardia Nueva, 1920–1935

This was the most prolific stage in the compositional and recording history of tango. Two styles branched out that contrasted with the already existing type, which held its pride of place as the traditional style. Spearheading the new styles were Julio De Caro (b. 1899–d. 1980) and Osvaldo Fresedo (b. 1897–d. 1984). These two aesthetic paths would drive the future evolution of tango up to the twenty-first century. On the one hand, Fresedo crafted a sumptuous sound, which, amalgamating instrumental groups instead of intensifying timbric contrasts, created a fluid and stable rhythm for the dancers. De Caro, on the other hand, favored rougher edges by tapping into the instruments’ acoustical contradictions, with a provocative phrasing in the solo violin and bandoneones. De Caro’s style is studied in García Brunelli 2013, and Sierra 1985a provides an account of all the musicians who operated under its influence. Fresedo is analyzed in Sierra 1985b. Goyena, et al. 2014 is a compilation of short articles summarizing issues of style in the contexts of composition, lyrics, renditions, and iconic cantores and cancionistas, with a selective list of recordings. Matallana 2008 addresses the cultural industry surrounding tango and its social role, and Matallana 2016 expands on tango abroad, as it conquers Europe and North America.

  • García Brunelli, Omar. “Análisis del estilo tanguístico de Julio De Caro y su proyección en el género.” In Músicas populares. Vol. 2, Aproximaciones teóricas, metodológicas y analíticas en la musicología argentina. Edited by Héctor Rubio and Federico Sammartino, 85–104. Córdoba, Argentina: Buena Vista Editores, 2013.

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    Brief survey of the main characteristics of Julio De Caro’s influential style, as compared with alternative trends developed by his contemporaries. De Caro was a violinist and the leader of one of the most famous ensembles of his time.

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  • Goyena, Héctor, with Jorge B. Rivera, Pablo Kohan, Omar García Brunelli, Ricardo Salton, and Eduardo Romano. Antología del tango rioplatense. Vol. 2, 1920–1935: Selección sonora. Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” Secretaría de Cultura, Presidencia de la Nación, 2014.

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    The long-awaited second volume of Antología del tango rioplatense, whose first volume was published in 1980 with three LPs. The compilation of seventy-nine iconic recordings from the 1920–1935 Guardia Nueva period, with 1935 marking the death of Gardel, is accompanied by a substantive monograph with contributions by experts on the music, lyrics, performance styles, and vocalists of the time.

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  • Matallana, Andrea. Qué saben los pitucos: La experiencia del tango entre 1910 y 1940. Buenos Aires: Prometeo Editorial, 2008.

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    An inquiry into tango’s omnipresence in the social life of the nation and the cultural industry it generated, always in concert with parallel developments in Europe and the United States. Particularly revealing is a statistical appendix focused on the manufacturing and commercialization of phonographs, gramophones, and recordings.

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  • Matallana, Andrea. El tango entre dos Américas: Representaciones en Estados Unidos durante las primeras décadas del siglo XX. Buenos Aires: Editorial Eudeba, 2016.

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    The author explores tango’s social standing in Europe, the United States, and Buenos Aires at the beginning of the twentieth century. It also covers aspects of the commodification of tango’s cultural industry and assesses the impact of Carlos Gardel’s sudden death throughout the world.

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  • Sierra, Luis Adolfo. “La escuela decareana.” In La historia del tango. Vol. 7. Edited by Manuel Pampín and Juan Carlos Martini Real, 1009–1190. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1985a.

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    The author concentrates on the principal figures associated with the school of Julio De Caro, which retained its grip on compositional and performative stylistic markers up to the twenty-first century.

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  • Sierra, Luis Adolfo. “Osvaldo Fresedo.” In La historia del tango. Vol. 5. Edited by Manuel Pampín and Juan Carlos Martini Real, 775–816. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1985b.

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    An analysis of compositions and performances by Osvaldo Fresedo, who represents the aesthetic counterpart to the style of Julio De Caro during the so-called Guardia Nueva (1920–1935). Fresedo was a perfectionist who incorporated harp, percussion, and vibraphone to craft novel sonorities and tended to emulate timbric clarity in his orchestra. He also stood out for his subtle and virtuosic use of dynamic transitions that could almost outline structural functions in sudden changes from forte to piano.

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The Golden Age, or Época de Oro, 1935–1955

Although tango’s canon was forged during the so-called Época de Oro, scholars have yet to produce in-depth studies of this period of fruition in tango’s history. In their stead, its historicity can be reconstructed from rather complete accounts of the careers of prominent musicians who, with their compositions and recordings, fed the majestic presence of tango during its Golden Age. López, et al. 1980; Sierra, et al. 1979; Sierra, et al. 1980; and Cohen and Vicente 2021 account for the most famous figures, such as Aníbal Troilo (b. 1914–d. 1975) and Osvaldo Pugliese (b. 1905–d. 1995), while Dos Santos 1978 concentrates on cancionistas, or female vocalists. Martin 2014 explores stylistic trends in instrumental tango during the so-called Golden Age. The end of this period is marked by Piazzolla’s iconoclastic posture in the world of tango and his avant-garde stance, a transition studied in García Brunelli 2010.

  • Cohen, Javier, and Fernando Vicente. Siempre estoy llegando: El legado de Aníbal Troilo. Buenos Aires: Libros del Zorzal, 2021.

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    An exceptional analytical study of the work of Aníbal Troilo (b. 1914–d. 1975), a central figure in tango’s history as virtuoso of the bandoneón, composer, and orchestra leader. Cohen and Vicente based their research on Troilo’s own archive of scores and on commercial recordings of his orquesta típica. The authors propose a periodization into four stylistic stages and include a wealth of testimonies and relevant interviews.

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  • Dos Santos, Estela. “Los años cuarenta: Las cantantes.” In La historia del tango. Vol. 13. Edited by Manuel Pampín and Juan Carlos Martini Real, 2225–2447. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1978.

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    The author has specialized in the study of cancionistas, or female tango singers. In this chapter, she focuses on noted women vocalists from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, highlighting the careers of Rosita Quiroga, Azucena Maizani, Libertad Lamarque, Mercedes Simone, and Ada Falcón in particular. She also discusses the impact of radio and cinema on their careers and their tours throughout the Americas. Brief references are made to later cancionistas active in the 1960s and 1970s.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. “La irrupción del Octeto Buenos Aires de Astor Piazzolla en la historia del tango y su recepción social en el marco del cambio de la estructura de poder en Argentina en 1955.” Revista Argentina de Musicología 11 (2010): 117–148.

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    This article traces the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Octeto and reviews its repertoire, paying particular attention to the impact that Piazzolla’s new tango represented for social spaces of that time. Within tango’s history, the creation of Piazzolla’s Octeto also marks the point of inflection between the tango of the mid-1950s and the new tango that Piazzolla starts to develop from this point onward.

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  • López, Héctor, et al. “Aníbal Troilo.” In La historia del tango. Vol. 16. Edited by Manuel Pampín and Juan Carlos Martini Real, 2869–3101. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1980.

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    Pampín and Martini Real dedicate an entire volume to the paradigmatic Aníbal Troilo in their 21-volume classic history of tango published between 1976 and 2011. In addition to López’s biography, poets and intellectuals from the world of tango contribute nine chapters on the legendary Troilo, a bandoneonist, composer, and orchestra leader comparable to Gardel in the genre’s history. His orchestra, repertoire, and compositions represent tango at its most prestigious in terms of danceability, music, lyrics, and vocal or instrumental renditions.

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  • Martin, Paloma. “El tango instrumental rioplatense: Aproximaciones a un análisis musical comparativo de los estilos renovadores en la llamada ‘época de oro’.” In El tango ayer y hoy. Edited by Coriún Aharonián, 87–140. Montevideo, Uruguay: Centro Nacional de Documentación Musical “Lauro Ayestarán,” Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, 2014.

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    A comparative analysis of the styles of Aníbal Troilo, Osvaldo Pugliese, Horacio Salgán (b. 1916–d. 2016), and Astor Piazzolla (b. 1921–d. 1992) during the so-called Época de Oro (1935–1955).

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  • Sierra, Luis Adolfo, et al. “Osvaldo Pugliese.” In La historia del tango. Vol. 14. Edited by Manuel Pampín and Juan Carlos Martini Real, 2457–2620. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1979.

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    Pugliese is viewed as the most significant heir to Julio De Caro’s style during tango’s Golden Age. As composer, pianist, and orchestra leader with a characteristic style that has retained its significance, he introduced innovations that had a lasting impact on approaches to composition. Volume 14, dedicated to Pugliese, includes a substantive contribution by Adolfo Sierra on Pugliese’s style and chapters on specific tangos, as well as a detailed study of vocalists who performed with his orchestra by Roberto Casinelli.

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  • Sierra, Luis Adolfo, et al. “Di Sarli-Vardaro-Goñi-Gobbi.” In La historia del tango. Vol. 15. Edited by Manuel Pampín and Juan Carlos Martini Real, 2625–2855. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1980.

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    A volume dedicated to four salient personalities of the 1940s: Carlos di Sarli (b. 1903–d. 1960), Elvino Vardaro (b. 1905– d. 1971), Orlando Goñi (b. 1914– d. 1945), and Alfredo Gobbi (b. 1912– d. 1965). Di Sarli’s pianism contributed some of the most interesting variants to the style, which was admired as one of the most danceable. Vardaro was an accomplished and influential violinist who eventually joined Piazzolla’s quintet. Goñi, a great pianist, contributed to developing Troilo’s style, and Gobbi’s orchestra was highly valued by musicians.

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Nuevo Tango, 1955–

The period between 1955 and the early twenty-first century has attracted the attention of a considerable number of scholars, perhaps due to the immediacy that permits combining ethnology with the experience of actual performances. This stage in tango’s history, however, already spans several decades, lending a measure of perspective to previous observations. Many scholars and students of tango have presented their work at congresses whose proceedings usually turn into a wealth of publications. Noteworthy among these proceedings are Liska 2012, Venegas and Liska 2016, and Lencina 2018. Buch 2014 offers a stimulating discussion of electronic tango, one of the subgenres of recent vintage. Luker 2014 ventures into tango as it moves beyond the boundaries of its generic identity, displacing it beyond the semantic field of popular music while also destabilizing the sources of governmental support as the most modern innovations fall outside the scope of cultural patrimony preservation. Luker 2016 and Cecconi 2017 are among the most comprehensive surveys of present-day tango as a transformative phenomenon. Bolasell 2011 surveys tango between 1990 and 2010, highlighting its most prominent contemporary practitioners.

  • Bolasell, Michel. La revolución del tango. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 2011.

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    Spanish edition of Dernier tango à Buenos Aires, published by Éditions Les Presses littéraires in Saint-Estève in 2010. An exploration of tango between 1990 and 2010 that focuses on the trends and styles advanced and promoted by prominent performers, ensembles, lyricists, dancers, and sites. It includes a considerable number of valuable interviews.

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  • Buch, Esteban. “Gotan Project’s Tango Project: Contemporary Tango and the Cultural Politics of Música Popular.” In Tango Lessons: Movement, Sound, Image, and Text in Contemporary Practice. Edited by Marilyn G. Miller, 220–242. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822377238-009Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the controversial case of electronic tango, as created by the successful Gotan Project, a Paris-based group established in 1999 and integrated by three Argentinian musicians: Eduardo Makaroff, Philippe Cohen Solal, and Christoph H. Müller. The 2004 film Shall We Dance?, featuring Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere, uses the song “Santa María” from the album La Revancha del Tango issued by the Gotan Project.

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  • Cecconi, Sofía. “La crisis de 2001 y el tango juvenil: De la protesta política y social a las formas alternativas de organización y expresión.” Estudios Sociológicos 35.103 (2017): 151–177.

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    Describes tango’s renewal in Buenos Aires during the 1990s and the youth who protested the 2001 economic crisis that ensued from the sociopolitical and economic conditions of the previous decade. Cecconi’s doctoral dissertation on the same subject, “El tango y las nuevas generaciones en la Argentina de la poscrisis: Entre la resistencia, el rescate y la ruptura,” granted by the Universidad de Buenos Aires, was completed in 2014.

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  • Lencina, Teresita, ed. Escritos sobre tango. Volumen 3: Tango en tiempo presente. Buenos Aires: Centro Feca ediciones, 2018.

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    The themes explored in this collection include the influence of rock on contemporary lyrics, the resurgence of danced tango by Hernán Morel and María Julia Carozzi, a contribution by Blas Matamoro on diasporic tango in Europe, and a roundtable discussion confronting journalists with practicing tango musicians.

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  • Liska, Mercedes, ed. Tango, Ventanas del presente: Miradas sobre las experiencias musicales contemporáneas. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del CCC/Centro Cultural de la Cooperación “Floreal Gorini,” 2012.

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    A collection of studies of important ensembles, such as the Orquesta Típica Fernández Fierro; the noted ensemble known as 34 Puñaladas (1998–2019), which was integrated by a new generation of musicians from the so-called Guardia Joven or Nuevo Tango; new tango vocalists; the problems involved in building new bandoneones; tango’s new lyrics; and the variety of initiatives shaped as cooperatives that maintain and support new orquestas típicas. The publication includes one CD with a selection of recordings.

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  • Luker, Morgan James. “Contemporary Tango and the Cultural Politics of Música Popular.” In Tango Lessons: Movement, Sound, Image, and Text in Contemporary Practice. Edited by Marilyn G. Miller, 198–219. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822377238-008Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An inquiry into tango after Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis, approached from a perspective of tango’s loss of its previous identity as a cultural practice that people express and articulate as a lived political and social category. Assuming this loss of generic identity, Luker applies analytical and ethnographic methods to explore ways in which the group Astillero, directed by Julián Peralta, represents an attempt to recover tango’s popular character, capable of assuming new social significance while retaining its aesthetic appeal.

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  • Luker, Morgan James. The Tango Machine: Musical Culture in the Age of Expediency. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226385686.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Ethnomusicologist Morgan James Luker examines the new frameworks that shaped tango’s renewal and how it has been used as a cultural and economic resource after Argentina’s devastating economic crisis of 2001. He also explores how cultural politics have affected the conceptualization of the genre and its performance practice. Based on his 2009 PhD dissertation at Columbia University, “The Tango Machine: Musical Practice and Cultural Policy in Post-Crisis Buenos Aires.”

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  • Venegas, Soledad, and Mercedes Liska, eds. Ventanas del presente II: De la gesta a la historia musical reciente. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Desde la Gente, 2016.

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    A sequence to Liska 2012 that includes essays on the exploration of new sonorities in tango, the influence of other genres, the controversial authenticity of electronic tango, women bandoneonists, and other topics related to contemporary issues associated with the genre.

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Journals

Some journals include testimonies of great value, as in Buenos Aires tango, brought out by Daniel Cárdenas between 1970 and 1972; or represent compilations of considerable magnitude, as in the cases of Tangueando which Horacio Ferrer spearheaded from 1954 until 1960, Los Grandes del Tango which Néstor Sábato guided between 1990 and 1992, Buenos Aires tango y lo demás which Natalio Etchegaray directed from 1973 until 2007, and Tanguedia which Ramiro Carámbula led from 2003 until 2017. Some recent initiatives, such as Tinta roja: Revista de tango, directed by Ricardo Steiner between 2011 and 2012, have lacked continuity, but Tango Reporter, under the leadership of Carlos Groppa from 1996 to 2019, represents a journalistic effort which, published in Spanish in the United States, was sustained for over two decades.

  • Buenos Aires tango. 1970–1972.

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    A total of ten issues were published. This publication includes contributions to tango’s history, announcements of current events, and interviews with noted figures. It also reproduced articles on tango by popular writers previously published elsewhere. Edited by Daniel Cárdenas; published in Buenos Aires by Ediciones 2 x 4.

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  • Buenos Aires tango y lo demás. 1973–2007.

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    The continuation of Buenos Aires tango. It follows the same editorial guidelines and published fifty-five issues. It includes interviews of significance, commentaries on artistic activity, notes on recordings, and some thematic essays, such as reflections on lyrics and the piano in tango. There are also interesting contributions on the present and future of the genre. Edited by Natalio Pedro Etchegaray; published in Buenos Aires by Ediciones 2 x 4.

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  • Los Grandes del Tango. 1990–1992.

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    A total of eighty-six issues were published. Each issue is dedicated to a tango artist, sometimes two, ranging from orchestra leaders to vocalists, poets, and musicians. They include a wealth of graphics, one biography, and one discography. It is very useful as a complementary tool for the study of individual figures. Edited by Néstor Sábato; published in Buenos Aires by Editorial Tango.

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  • Tango Reporter. 1996–2019.

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    A magazine published in Spanish in Los Angeles and edited by Carlos G. Groppa, who started it as an Internet site in 1996 and reverted to printed format shortly thereafter. The last issue is dated November–December 2019. A reliable source of journalistic reporting, it published interviews, essays, biographies, tango lyrics, and international news on the genre.

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  • Tangueando. 1954– c. 1960.

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    El Club de la Guardia Nueva (1954–1974), a center that stimulated artistic activity and promoted studies of tango, published Tangueando, a journal of which thirty numbers were issued. In addition, the Club published a series of seven cuadernos and eight apuntes or notes on tango covering history, instruments, lunfardo, performers, and discographies authored by a roster of distinguished chroniclers and experts. Reedited in Boris Puga, El Club de la Guardia Nueva (Montevideo: Ediciones Tanguedia, 2010). Edited by Horacio Ferrer; published in Montevideo by El Club de la Guardia Nueva.

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  • Tanguedia. 2003–2017.

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    Tanguedia, a magazine named after one of Piazzolla’s compositions and edited by Ramiro Carámbula, emerged as an extension of the Centro de Estudios “Astor Piazzolla” in Uruguay. Numbers 1 through 13 were published between 2003 and 2007. In a changed format, numbers 14 through 85 appeared until April of 2017. Nearly every issue includes information on Piazzolla and tango in general, such as history, styles, and musicians. Published in Montevideo by Centro de Estudios “Astor Piazzolla” de Uruguay.

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  • Tinta roja: Revista de tango. 2011–2012.

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    With only five published issues, this polished publication was addressed to tango specialists and aficionados. It included interviews, essays on the genre’s history, and reviews of concerts, books, and recordings. Edited by Ricardo Steiner; published in Buenos Aires by Contemporánea Grupo Editor.

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Biographies

This is a favorite genre of experts who have saturated the field with important biographical studies, enhanced by memoirs of central figures and topical biographies, which, for instance, have focused on the lives of bandoneonists and Jewish tango musicians. However marginal, these accounts provide invaluable information on tango and its contexts at various stages in its history.

Autobiographies

Noteworthy among these self-portraits are Canaro 1957 and De Caro 1964, given the significance and length of the respective careers of these two individuals. Violinist, orchestra leader, and composer, Julio De Caro (b. 1899–d. 1980) was a central figure in the dynamics of renewal that animated tango from the 1920s on. Beyond these sources, many others provide invaluable information on the writer’s environment. Of particular interest are Marambio Catán 1973, Rivero 1982, and Lamarque 1986. Libertad Lamarque (b. 1908–d. 2000) was a celebrated cancionista who marked tango’s history with her presence; and, as witness to the Guardia Nueva, Catán’s memoirs shed light on many aspects of this revolutionary period in the evolution of the genre.

  • Canaro, Francisco. Mis bodas de oro con el tango y mis memorias: 1906–1956. Buenos Aires: CESA, 1957.

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    The career of Francisco Canaro (b. 1888–d. 1964), nicknamed “Pirincho,” starts during the Guardia Vieja and lasts until the late 1950s. A representative of the traditional style of performance, Canaro retained his relevance as a driving force as orchestra leader, composer, violinist, and principal figure in radio broadcasting, as well as composer of popular musical comedies or revues. His discography of almost 4,000 recordings is the most extensive in the genre’s history. This autobiography was reprinted by Ediciones Corregidor in 1999.

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  • De Caro, Julio. El tango en mis recuerdos: Su evolución en la historia. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Centurión, 1964.

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    De Caro’s autobiography offers invaluable information on his career and his inimitable and influential style that dominated the period. Before establishing his own orchestra, De Caro played with tango legends such as Eduardo Arolas (b. 1892–d. 1924), known as “el Tigre del bandoneón.” His memoirs, shaped as a chronological chronicle, follow his career from 1919 until 1953 and include European tours and the organization of a symphony orchestra that performed tangos and played on the radio in 1932.

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  • Lamarque, Libertad. Autobiografía. Buenos Aires: Javier Vergara Editor, 1986.

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    Lamarque started her career in Buenos Aires in the 1920s but settled in Mexico in 1947, after a disagreement with Eva Duarte, who already was associated with Juan Domingo Perón, which made it impossible for Lamarque to continue her career in Argentina in an episode that has added a fictional touch to her story. A successful film actor, she also made numerous recordings. Her association with tango lends particular interest to her memoirs, which include a filmography and discography.

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  • Marambio Catán, Carlos. El tango que yo viví: 60 años de tango. Buenos Aires: Editorial Freeland, 1973.

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    Very informative memoirs of a vocalist with a distinguished career from about 1910 onward.

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  • Rivero, Edmundo. Una luz de almacén (El lunfardo y yo). Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1982.

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    Recollections by one of tango’s top performers, who was active between 1940 and approximately 1980. Edmundo Rivero (b. 1911–d. 1986) was not only an iconic figure whose renditions left an indelible mark on tango’s style, but also a devoted scholar of lunfardo, the slang of porteños, or dwellers of Buenos Aires.

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Individual Biographies

Although uneven, with some being more comprehensive than others, biographies are invaluable tools to access ways in which tango unfolded from the perspective of some of the artistic careers of its protagonists. A selected list includes Ford 1971, Silva 1978, Collier 1986, Pujol 1996, Azzi and Collier 2000, Barsky and Barsky 2004, Romano 2006, Del Priore 2008, Montenegro 2011, and Rivadeneira 2014. Los Grandes del Tango, a periodical edited by Néstor Sábato between 1990 and 1992 (cited under Journals), amassed a trove of eighty-six biographies.

  • Azzi, María Susana, and Simon Collier. Le Grand Tango: The Life and Music of Astor Piazzolla. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    The most exhaustive biography of Astor Piazzolla (b. 1921–d. 1992), a central figure between 1960 and 1990 who dominated the transformation of tango into what Carlos Kuri has called “la música límite,” or trans-genred tango. This text was translated into Spanish (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 2002), and, after Simon Collier’s death in 2003, published in an expanded Spanish edition under Azzi’s name only (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 2018).

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  • Barsky, Julián, and Osvaldo Barsky. Gardel: La biografía. Buenos Aires: Editorial Taurus, 2004.

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    The most comprehensive biography of the legendary Carlos Gardel (b. 1890–d. 1935), tango’s preeminent singer and a pivotal figure in the genre’s history. The text includes a filmography and discography.

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  • Collier, Simon. The Life, Music, and Times of Carlos Gardel. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986.

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    A substantial biography by Simon Collier (b. 1938–d. 2003), a Cambridge-educated British scholar who specialized in Latin American Studies and covered Chile for Leslie Bethell’s The Cambridge History of Latin America. He also co-authored, with María Susana Azzi, a classic biography of Piazzolla. The Spanish translation of Gardel’s biography, titled Carlos Gardel: Su vida, su música, su época, was published in Buenos Aires by Editorial Sudamericana in 1988.

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  • Del Priore, Oscar. Osvaldo Pugliese: Una vida en el tango. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 2008.

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    Osvaldo Pugliese stands as one of tango’s towering personalities. Pianist, orchestra leader, and composer, he was active between the 1920s and 1980s. He left an extensive and invaluable discographic legacy. This biography includes a discography, the detailed membership in his orchestras, and a list of his compositions.

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  • Ford, Aníbal. Homero Manzi. Buenos Aires: Centro Editor de América Latina, 1971.

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    Homero Manzi (b. 1907–d. 1951) was one of the great poets of tango. His lyrics are among the most popular and quoted, among them “Malena” (1941) and “Barrio de tango” (1942).

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  • Montenegro, Néstor. Mariano Mores: Uno de los grandes intérpretes de nuestra música ciudadana. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 2011.

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    A great composer and pianist, Marianito Mores (b. 1918–d. 2016) was the driving force behind an ensemble of intense and lasting activity abroad. His career overseas had considerable influence on the internationalization of tango.

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  • Pujol, Sergio. Discépolo: Una biografía argentina. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1996.

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    The most complete biography of Enrique Santos Discépolo (b. 1901–d. 1951), one of the pillars of tango. Beyond his achievements as author and composer, he was a well-known public figure and an accomplished film actor.

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  • Rivadeneira, Tito. Ángel Villoldo: En el inicio del tango y de los varietés. Buenos Aires: Editorial Dunken, 2014.

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    A close reading of Ángel Villoldo (b. 1861–d. 1919), a liminal figure who stands as one of the main composers from the earliest years of tango.

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  • Romano, Néstor. Se dice de mí: La vida de Tita Merello. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2006.

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    Tita Merello (b. 1904–d. 2002) was highly esteemed as a film actor and also displayed her charismatic personality as a cancionista, always associated with tango. Her interesting career spans from the 1920s to the 1970s.

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  • Silva, Federico. Informe sobre Troilo. Buenos Aires: Editorial Plus Ultra, 1978.

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    A concise report on the life and work of Aníbal Troilo (b. 1914–d. 1975), the revered composer, bandoneonist, and leader of one of the paradigmatic orquestas típicas in the history of tango. It includes a discography.

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Collective Biographies

Reference works are essential to plow through the world of tango. Ferrer 1980 stands as the most complete biographical dictionary of tango practitioners. The far less ambitious Barcia 1976 fulfills a similar function.

  • Barcia, José. Tango, tangueros y tangocosas. Buenos Aires, Editorial Plus Ultra, 1976.

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    A collection of fifty-nine idiosyncratic vignettes on characters and themes from the world of tango, which captures a wealth of biographical information and comments on style and aesthetic values.

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  • Ferrer, Horacio. El libro del tango: Arte popular de Buenos Aires. 3 vols. Buenos Aires: Editorial Tersol, 1980.

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    After an extensive first volume, “Crónica,” Volumes 2 and 3 make up a definitive biographical dictionary that also includes technical terms. Noteworthy for the rigorously researched personal information and for the aesthetic acumen displayed in contextualizing the main protagonists in the genre’s history, these reference volumes cover the main protagonists, the historical roles they played, and their overall significance from a critical perspective. The figures covered include composers, ensemble leaders, performers, and lyricists, called letristas.

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Topical Biographies

Aspects of tango are explored in these texts through biographies of its protagonists. Gutiérrez Miglio 1992–1999 addresses cantores and cancionistas (male and female vocalists); Zucchi 1998–2002 devotes four volumes to bandoneonists; Nudler 1998 covers Jewish musicians and pivotal figures; and Del Greco 1990 documents all the authors of pieces in Gardel’s iconic repertoire.

  • Del Greco, Orlando. Carlos Gardel y los autores de sus canciones. Buenos Aires: Akian Gráfica Editora, 1990.

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    Not all the authors of tangos and other styles in Gardel’s repertoire were well known. This text rescues invaluable information about the obscure composers and lyricists who wrote classics for the superstar.

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  • Gutiérrez Miglio, Roberto. El tango y sus intérpretes: Vida y discografía de los cantores y cancionistas del tango. 4 vols. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1992–1999.

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    This text covers male and female vocalists, many of whom had not been previously documented. The four volumes in this edition include biographies of fifty performers, but the author wrote profiles of 169 vocalists. Those excluded from the Corregidor edition were distributed by the author as looseleaf monographs and remain unpublished.

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  • Nudler, Julio. Tango judío: Del ghetto a la milonga. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1998.

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    An inquiry into tango and its relation to Jewish themes and musicians. Nudler includes biographies of practitioners, agents, promoters, actors, and other individuals who figured prominently in the world of tango.

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  • Zucchi, Oscar. El tango, el bandoneón y sus intérpretes. 4 vols. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1998–2008.

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    An indispensable source that covers all generations of bandoneonists, beginning with those who were active in the early 1900s up to the date of publication. In the four volumes already published, Zucchi includes biographical information, lists of compositions and recordings, and, in some cases, interviews with the musicians.

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Tango Abroad

In Tango nomade: Études sur le tango transculturel, published by Triptyque in 1995, the Argentinian musicologist, composer, pianist, and tango scholar Ramón Pelinski (1932–2015) coined the term “nomadic tango.” The text was initially commissioned by Malena Kuss for a volume in the series called Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Encyclopedic History under her editorship, of which two volumes were published in 2004 and 2007. In the still unpublished English version of this essay, Pelinski defines the concept of nomadic tango as “the tango deterritorialized toward cities around the world. It may have arrived as a visitor, or immigrant, even as an exile, and then it never left. Created in the diaspora, nomadic tango encounters other musical cultures wherein it tends to become reterritorialized. By its very nature, nomadic tango is intercultural: in its transit to set roots elsewhere, it also selects stylistic elements and innovation strategies through contact with those musical cultures within which it reterritorializes, mirroring itself on them. It can also bring about change in the host music culture and come to symbolize its process of sociocultural transformation. In any case, the result is a crossbreed, a hybrid musical expression. Nomadic tango transforms ‘tango culture’ into ‘tango transculture.’” Nomadic Tango was initially published in French (Pelinski 1995a), and subsequently in Spanish (Pelinski 1995b); these were followed by Pelinski 2000a—a collaborative collection of essays on reterritorialized tango—and Pelinski 2000b. Weaving a critical inquiry into tango as exotic commodity in the 20th-century capitalist world, Savigliano 1995 proposes that capitalist expansion ran parallel to the production and commodification of passion in the market for exoticism engendered in territories deemed peripheral by the Euro- and US-centric world. Norese 2001 traces tango’s presence in Spain, while Garramuño 2007 analyzes the roles of tango and samba in constructing images of their respective nations after these genres became successful abroad. Cámara de Landa 1999 and Cámara de Landa 2015 explore tango in Italy, and Matamoro 2018 offers a retrospective view of tango in Europe.

  • Cámara de Landa, Enrique. Passione Argentina: Tangos italianos de los años ’30. Rome: Discoteca di Stato—Universidad de Valladolid, 1999.

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    Booklet accompanying two CDs with thirty-six Italian tangos from the 1930s, with an extensive inquiry into how tango arrived in Italy (1913) and thrived there during the 1920s, mostly due to Rodolfo Valentino’s success and to the Italians identification with the musical characteristics of the local production during the 1930s. It argues that the reterritorialization of tango as integral to Italian culture was driven in part by how deeply the lyrics engaged with contemporary social issues. The bibliography includes sixty entries.

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  • Cámara de Landa, Enrique. “Italian Tango, from Exoticism to Cultural Heritage.” In Italian Migration and Urban Music Culture in South America. Populäre Kultur und Musik 7. Edited by Nils Grosch and Rolf Kailuweit, 57–72. Münster, Germany: Waxmann Verlag, 2015.

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    An inquiry into the possible origins of the Italians’ fascination with tango by the prolific Argentinian ethnomusicologist Enrique Cámara de Landa. The study explores the evolution of tango’s reception in Italy over time and the reasons why Italians adopted it as social practice.

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  • Garramuño, Florencia. Modernidades primitivas: Tango, samba y nación. Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2007.

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    Garramuño probes the roles that Argentinian tango and Brazilian samba played in the process of constructing images of nation after these genres had successfully migrated abroad, and to Europe in particular.

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  • Matamoro, Blas. “Apuntes sobre el tango en Europa.” In Escritos sobre tango. Vol. 3, Tango en tiempo presente. Edited by Teresita Lencina, 211–223. Buenos Aires: Centro Feca, 2018.

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    A wide-ranging study of tango’s presence in Europe from the perspective of listening to a long list of European recordings that span from 1924 to the time of publication in 2018.

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  • Norese, Marta Rosalía. Contextualización y análisis del tango: Sus orígenes hasta la aparición de la vanguardia. Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 2001.

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    In addition to the success of tango in Europe, after taking Paris by storm, a sizable migration of Spaniards to Argentina, half of whom returned to Spain, established a path for the diffusion of tango in Spain between the late nineteenth and early twenty centuries. Norese finds traces of its presence in publications of “Argentinian tangos” in Spain as early as 1909, either composed by Argentinians and arranged by Spaniards, or written by Spanish composers.

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  • Pelinski, Ramón. “Introduction.” In Tango nomade: Études sur le tango transculturel. Translated into French by Pierre Monette. Edited by Ramón Pelinski, 17–23. Montréal: Triptyque, 1995a.

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    A masterful and poetic essay on tango, whose origins are portrayed as a confluence of European immigrants, freed people of African descent, semi-nomadic gauchos, and sedentary criollos, which also calls attention to tango’s first reterritorialization “sur le goût français” after World War I. The essays in this collection follow the journey of tango in France, Italy, Catalonia, Spain, Japan, the United States, Québec, and Finland.

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  • Pelinski, Ramón. “Tango nomade.” In Tango nomade: Études sur le tango transculturel. Translated into French by Pierre Monette. Edited by Ramón Pelinski, 24–70. Montréal: Triptyque, 1995b.

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    “Having gone through the experience of being deterritorialized, nomadic tango reclaims its ethnic roots and transfers its system of references into a pluralistic cultural setting, resignifying its origin through the Other. At once self-referential and self-alterant, nomadic tango stretches the possibilities of the tango porteño, invites its participation in an intercultural dialogue, minimizes its difference, and nomadizes its center.” This extraordinary collection includes contributions by Horacio Ferrer, Pierre Monette, Pablo Vila, Jean Richepin, and Enrique Cámara de Landa, among others.

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  • Pelinski, Ramón. “El tango nómade.” In El tango nómade: Ensayos sobre la diáspora del tango. Edited by Ramón Pelinski, 27–70. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 2000a.

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    A revised and expanded translation of the 1995 French edition of Tango nomade. In addition to the contributions published in the 1995 French edition, the Spanish version of this text adds articles by Xavier Febrés and Patricia Gabancho on Barcelona, Horacio Rébora on Granada, and Pirjo Kukkonen on tango in Finland. As in the French edition, it includes a comprehensive bibliography and discography of the genre.

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  • Pelinski, Ramón. “Diásporas del tango rioplatense” and “El tango nómade.” In Invitación a la etnomusicología: Quince fragmentos y un tango. By Ramón Pelinski, 176–238. Madrid: Ediciones Akal, 2000b.

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    In this collection of seminal essays by Pelinski, which includes several ethnomusicological studies, he addresses tango’s reterritorializations in the early twentieth century, during the interregnum between the two world wars, and in the context of globalization. The traditional tango porteño is the culturally grounded territorialized tango; nomadic tango, when deterritorialized in several cities throughout the world, enters into contact with other musical cultures, on which it tends to become territorialized.

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  • Savigliano, Marta Elena. Tango and the Political Economy of Passion. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995.

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    This provocative text combines memories, perspectives on genre, and political criticism. It follows tango’s entry into the market for exoticism from the early twentieth century and through its sojourns in Paris, London, and Tokyo, with emphasis on the dance. A broad-ranging study, it represents an inquiry into tango as dance and its reception, adaptation, and commodification from Marxist and feminist perspectives, relating this expressive form to issues of sexuality, gender, race, class, and national identity.

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Tango and Social, Cultural, and Political History

The essay has been one of the favored literary genres summoned to shape reflections on tango. Among the first essays was Scalabrini Ortiz 1931. The genre’s self-awareness and a looming sense of loss of the tradition when confronted with the political crisis of 1930, which combined economic repercussions of the Great Depression with the first military coup that displaced a democratically elected government as a remedy to quell social dissent, prompted the writing of the first histories of tango, such as Bates and Bates 1936 (cited under Comprehensive Histories). The turbulent 1960s, which also framed social change, again saw a proliferation of essays on tango that renewed questions on origins, metaphysics, its future, and its social significance. Noteworthy among these essays are Carella 1956, Sábato 1963, and Borges 2016. Carella includes a delicious autoethnography on the genesis of the book itself that assesses, from an unexpected perspective, tango’s influence on Argentina’s culture; Sábato, one of Argentina’s most prominent literary figures, in his introduction, reflects on the condition of tango, exploring its hybridity, the sexuality it exudes, the malaise it expresses, the bandoneón that carries its sound, and the metaphysics it unravels; and Borges frequently invoked his particular vision of tango in his imaginary landscapes. Varela 2005 addresses the switch from the brothel to the moralism of tango’s Guardia Vieja, and Matamoro 1969 and Varela 2016 associate the history of the genre with Argentina’s political history. The masculinity constructed through tango is explored in Archetti 2003, and Törnqvist 2015 concentrates on social changes engendered by tourism’s exploitation of an objectified tango in Buenos Aires. The cult of melodrama in popular culture, as expressed through cinema, radio, and music, and its impact on deepening social class divisions is examined in Karush 2012.

  • Archetti, Eduardo P. Masculinidades: Fútbol, tango y polo en la Argentina. Buenos Aires: Editorial Antropofagia, 2003.

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    Eduardo P. Archetti (b. 1943–d. 2005), one of Argentina’s most original social scientists, studies masculinities in soccer, tango, and polo in an attempt to probe national identity. From an ethnographic perspective, he approaches tango basically through its lyrics and contributes reflections that are relevant to the cultural meaning the genre carries for Argentinians.

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  • Borges, Jorge Luis. El tango: Cuatro conferencias. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 2016.

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    The transcription of four lectures presented in Buenos Aires in 1966 that provide a glimpse into Borges’s reflections on tango, the genre that captivated him throughout his life and about which he wrote aplenty. Among the most mesmerizing moments are characterizations of primeval tango as shameless, joyful, and worthy of the pleasure of knife fights between cuchilleros, in counterposition to the later tango of Gardel, whose moaning about the wretched male abandoned by a woman was an image Borges deplored. Audio version available on YouTube.

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  • Carella, Tulio. El tango: Mito y esencia. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Doble Press, 1956.

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    Tulio Carella (b. 1912–d. 1979), a prominent Argentinian playwright and author of the classic Don Basilio malcasado (1940), delves into tango’s name, its origins, the influence of immigration, the social types associated with the genre’s history, the links between tango’s lyrics and lunfardo, as well as the themes they embrace, and tango’s presence in the theater. Particularly acute are his observations on the dance and the polemics surrounding its provocative character. The book was reissued by CEAL in 1966.

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  • Karush, Mathew B. Culture of Class: Radio and Cinema in the Making of a Divided Argentina, 1920–1946. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822395331Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A study of the cultural industry between 1920 and 1946, the year Juan Domingo Perón assumed the presidency of Argentina, and its incidence on the origins of Peronism. It focuses on the ways in which tango, as a cultural object, inserted itself into this process. The author hypothesizes that narratives popularized through radio, cinema, and music bred a cult of the melodramatic in popular culture that fostered class divisions. The Spanish edition was published in Buenos Aires in 2013.

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  • Matamoro, Blas. La ciudad del tango. Buenos Aires: Galerna Libros, 1969.

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    This volume stands as the first systematic effort to relate tango’s transformations to the sociopolitical conditions in Argentina. It includes interesting insights into the music, which, although not informed by musicological research, stimulate discoveries and reflections of significance.

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  • Sábato, Ernesto. Tango: Discusión y clave. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1963.

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    Ernesto Sábato (b. 1911–d. 2011), through tango’s pivotal junctures, discusses origins, the dance, the literary import of lyrics, and the sound of the bandoneón at the core of its identity, all of which he relates to massive immigration. He also gathers a long list of Argentinian intellectuals who contribute musings on tango’s meanings, classifying them into themes that underscore the allure of compadritos and milonguitas, their music, the dancing, and the mythified Carlos Gardel.

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  • Scalabrini Ortiz, Raúl. El hombre que está solo y espera. Buenos Aires: Editorial Gleizer, 1931.

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    In this classic essay, the author reflects on the figure of the Buenos Aires-born porteño, describing habits and proclivities. Although written in a subjective and arbitrary philosophical vein, this text draws penetrating portraits of urban characters, inserting them insightfully into the omnipresent urban sound of tango, whose words, corporeality, and music are empirical embodiments of “the metaphysics of the porteño’s spirit.”

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  • Törnqvist, Maria. Tourism and the Globalization of Emotions: The Intimate Economy of Tango. London: Routledge, 2015.

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    An ethnographic approach to the phenomenon of dancers traveling to Buenos Aires as the Mecca of tango in relation to the tourist industry that markets packaged classes, guides, tango merchandise, and even offers dance partners. As it explores the symbolic structure of the tango scene in Buenos Aires, it delves into the interaction between the emotional import of the dance and the industry thereof, feeding from a discourse that exploits the concept of authenticity and implications of romance and sexuality.

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  • Varela, Gustavo. Mal de tango: Historia y genealogía moral de la música ciudadana. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Paidós, 2005.

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    An inquiry into tango’s transformation from a music interpellating sexuality in the brothel’s hubbub into an embodiment of moral values antithetical to those linked to its origins. This is followed by a history of tango’s music based on the lives of some composers, the tropes of some lyrics, and the lives of its poets.

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  • Varela, Gustavo. Tango y política: Sexo, moral burguesa y revolución en Argentina. Buenos Aires: Editorial Ariel, 2016.

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    An overview of the genre’s history in three stages: prostibulary tango, tango-canción, and vanguard tango, as observed from other categorical trinities: sexuality, morality, and revolution; brothel, school, and laboratory; and dance, word, and music. Varela links tango’s origins to the beginning of Argentina’s modern state in 1880, the emergence of tango-canción to the populace’s ascent to political activism in 1916, and reflections on Piazzolla’s vanguard to the fall of Peronism in 1955.

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Tango and Literature: References to Tango in Fiction and Essays

Within the vast canvas of Argentina’s literary history tango has surfaced as theme or reference in countless fictions. It also has served as the object of essays and critical studies. De Lara and Roncetti de Panti 1968 compiles references to tango in the broad-ranging corpus of literature by Argentinian writers; the authors delve into the music—instruments, musicians, orchestras, and melodic and rhythmic aspects—dance, lyrics, and performers, always in the spirit of retrieving the insights of the writers invoked. Rössner 2000 gathers academic approaches to the relation between tango and literature.

  • De Lara, Tomás, and Inés Leonilda Roncetti de Panti. El tema del tango en la literatura argentina. 2d ed., rev. and exp. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Culturales Argentinas, 1968.

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    In the first section (pp. 1–256), the authors, having selected a list of texts by distinguished River Plate literary figures, extract conceptual quotations from which they reconstruct a history of tango that takes the shape of a rich quilt of reflections on the genre and its protagonists. In the second section (pp. 257–534), they navigate the breadth and depth of the previously selected literary production to retrieve references to tango in those specific works of fiction and essays.

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  • Rössner, Michael, ed. “¡Bailá! ¡Vení! ¡Volá!” El fenómeno tanguero y la literatura: Actas del coloquio de Berlín, 13–15 de febrero de 1997. Frankfurt: Vervuert Verlagsgesellschaft, 2000.

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    Proceedings from a colloquium on tango and literature that took place in Berlin in 1997. The topics broached included tango and the dramatic arts, tango lyrics, tango as material for Latin American fiction and literature in general, and new stylistic trends. The conference included contributions by noted tango experts, such as Blas Matamoro, Noemí Ulla, Dieter Reichardt, and Eduardo Romano.

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Tango Lyrics as Literature

After proliferating for more than one hundred years, tango lyrics have defined a literary genre unto themselves, claiming their rightful place in the domains of poetry and literature while conditioning a symbiotic relationship of reciprocity with the musical discourse. In addition to studies dedicated to the lyrics themselves, it is interesting to follow the journeys of the letristas, or tango poets, and, above all, the relation between tango and literature. It is also essential to consider the performative perspective or unmistakeable style of delivery that has set the vocalisms of tangos cantados apart from other styles of poetic renditions.

Research on Tango Lyrics

In the world of tango, it is said that there are some 30,000 tangos in existence, and perhaps many more. Among them, many are tangos cantados. There were and still are writers who specialize in composing tango lyrics. However, and in spite of the fact that a literary tradition has been built around this type of creative expression, scholars did not turn their attention to tango lyrics until the early 1960s. The first significant studies were Vilariño 1965 and Ulla 1967. More recent research worthy of note includes Campra 1996 and Romano 2007. Among the most penetrating studies of the genre by distinguished scholars is Schvartzman 2014. The lyrics of a repertoire excluded from the canon is studied in Horvath 2006. Conde 2014 gathers contributions to a congress dedicated to tango lyrics, and Linardi 2012 explores characteristics of contemporary texts.

  • Campra, Rosalba. Como con bronca y junando: La retórica del tango. Buenos Aires: Edicial S.A., 1996.

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    A concise and effective analysis of how tango lyrics work, depending on the type of discursive modality employed. Campra also delves into how lyrics relate to poetry and to the most frequently recurring themes.

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  • Conde, Oscar, ed. Las poéticas del tango-canción: Rupturas y continuidades. Buenos Aires: Ediciones de la Universidad Nacional de Lanús—Editorial Biblos, 2014.

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    As proceedings of a colloquium organized in 2012 by the Universidad Nacional de Lanús, the contributions to this volume cover a broad range of issues stemming from tango scholarship. The earliest texts, the prostibulary discourse, immigration, canonic themes, some prominent letristas, and the lyrics for 21st-century tangos are some of the topics explored in this vast-reaching publication.

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  • Horvath, Ricardo. Esos malditos tangos. Buenos Aires: Editorial Biblos, 2006.

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    From the perspective of sociology, Horvath analyzes the semantic domain of lyrics in tangos that remained on the periphery of the genre’s canon, and probes the rhyzomatic intersections with its sociopolitical context.

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  • Linardi, Sebastián. “Dónde estará mi arrabal: Un recorrido por las letras del nuevo tango en Buenos Aires.” In Tango: Ventanas del presente. Edited by Mercedes Liska, 103–118. Buenos Aires: Centro Cultural de la Cooperación, 2012.

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    An inquisitive search for links between tango lyrics from the 1990s and thereafter, as compared with the literary corpus of predecessors in the 1920s, 1940s, and 1960s.

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  • Romano, Eduardo. Las letras del tango: Antología cronológica 1900–1980. Rosario, Argentina: Editorial Fundación Ross, 2007.

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    After an introductory essay, the poet and professor of literature Eduardo Romano (b. 1938), who for years taught the Seminar on Mass Culture at the University of Buenos Aires and has researched processes of transformation in popular culture in Argentina and its interactions with criollo traditions, contributes a substantive annotated anthology of tango lyrics covering the 1900–1980 period.

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  • Schvartzman, Julio. “El tango en el tango.” In Las poéticas del tango-canción: Rupturas y continuidades. Edited by Oscar Conde, 163–182. Buenos Aires: Ediciones de la Universidad Nacional de Lanús/UNLA—Editorial Biblos, 2014.

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    An inquiry into what is called tango’s rhapsodic behavior, when the compositions incorporate allusions or references to extrinsic materials into the musical discourse. Schvarzman illustrates such incursions into the semantic fabric of allusions with a selection of recorded performances of classic tangos.

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  • Ulla, Noemí. Tango, rebelión y nostalgia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Jorge Álvarez, 1967.

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    The author surveys the thematic range of tango lyrics and the production of some of the legendary poets, such as Homero Manzi (b. 1907–d. 1951) and Enrique Santos Discépolo (b. 1901–d. 1951). The text also includes a dozen interviews with musicians, vocalists, and composers that carry great significance given the period in which they were conducted.

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  • Vilariño, Idea. Las letras de tango: La forma, temas y motivos. Buenos Aires: Editorial Schapire, 1965.

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    A classic treatise on the history, themes, and power of tango lyrics that explores the central issue of text-music relationships.

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Research on the Letristas

There is a wealth of information on writers of tango lyrics, called letristas. Many are covered in Pampín and Martini Real 1976–2011 (cited under Comprehensive Histories), and all of them are covered in Ferrer 1980 (cited under General Overviews). There are also books on some of the most important letristas, such as Galasso 1973 on Enrique Santos Discépolo, Kaller 2016 on José González Castillo, and Gobello and Bossio 1979, which covers a considerable number of them.

  • Galasso, Norberto. Discépolo y su época. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Ayacucho, 1973.

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    Biiographical essay on Enrique Santos Discépolo and his close ties to the arts of tango, cinema, and theater. The writing of his lyrics is analyzed in the context of his life and the times when they were written, tracing the creative phases that ranged from portraying the harsh realities of the crisis of 1930 to expressing devastating intimisms on insurmountable loves and metaphysical anguish. Galasso does not consider the music of Discépolo’s tangos, which he composed simultaneously with the lyrics.

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  • Gobello, José, and Jorge A. Bossio. Tangos, letras y letristas. Buenos Aires: Editorial Plus Ultra, 1979.

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    A collection of lyrics chosen on the basis of tango’s emotional range rather than poetic style, whose selection is devoid of aesthetic prejudice. The authors gather the contributions of forty-five letristas, from whom they transcribe one to five tangos. In a brief preface, they introduce each letrista with a short biography and a concise description of their creations in aesthetic terms, adding some information of interest about the chosen tangos.

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  • Kaller, Gustavo. Un árbol en llamas: Biografía de José González Castillo. Rosario, Argentina: Universidad Nacional de Rosario/UNR, 2016.

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    A distinguished dramatist, theater director, scriptwriter, and important author of tango lyrics, José González Castillo (b. 1885–d. 1937) was associated with some of the best performers and noted figures in tango’s history, such as Carlos Gardel.

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Vocal Delivery of Tango

Tango lyrics might stand on their own literary merit or fail to do so. In either case, tango lyrics are not brought into existence until they are delivered. Similarly, the symbiosis of music and words, itself an ambiguous mechanism that resists explanation, might be achieved in performance, but that is not always the case. Schvartzman 2015 represents an attempt to unravel the characteristics of this symbiotic relationship. Case studies focused on one vocalist, such as Alposta 1985 and Biggio 2009, can contribute insights on the issue as a whole. Gobello 1976 concentrates on a group of tangos and studies their sociopolitical context, while Pelinski 2000 delivers a revealing analysis of “Sur,” a paradigmatic piece, and Rivero 1985 delves into the timbric specificity of tango voices. Peláez 2015 analyzes three renditions of the same tango, “Naranjo en flor,” by three different cantores.

  • Alposta, Luis. Todo Rivero. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1985.

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    An account of the professional career of Edmundo Rivero (b. 1911–d. 1986), one of the most important vocalists in the history of tango. The book includes a discography.

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  • Biggio, Luis. Julio Sosa: Toda la verdad. Buenos Aires: Editorial Dunken, 2009.

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    The singer Julio Sosa (b. 1926–d. 1964) became extremely popular between the late 1950s and early 1960s. From his sheer success, it could have been inferred that his popularity was signaling some reawakening of traditional tango. Retrospectively, however, the late 1950s and early 1960s marked the beginning of traditional tango’s transformative decline. This biography provides a wealth of information on Sosa’s professional career.

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  • Gobello, José. Conversando tangos. Buenos Aires: A. Peña Lillo Editor, 1976.

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    Gobello studies a repertoire of nearly fifty sung and instrumental tangos written within the span of approximately a half century. Analyzing both the music and lyrics, he displays his vast knowledge of the genre’s history and its protagonists by providing penetrating aesthetic remarks, descriptions of the circumstances surrounding their creation, reflections on their renditions, and assessments of their eventual reception. The result is an immersion into these individual creations, from which it is possible to extrapolate intriguing conclusions.

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  • Peláez, Gisela. “‘Naranjo en flor’: Métrica y fraseo en el tango cantado.” Zama, Revista del Instituto de Literatura Hispanoamericana 7.7 (2015): 171–176.

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    An analysis of the refrain of the tango “Naranjo en flor” to compare the phrasing in the renditions of three vocalists: Jorge Linares, Floreal Ruiz, and Roberto Goyeneche, centering on how the vocal levels interact with the orchestral accompaniment. The listener expects coincidence between musical and prosodic accents, but the vocalists slow down or anticipate the delivery, shaping a spontaneous and unique or inimitable interpretation, which is a highly valued characteristic of well-performed tango.

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  • Pelinski, Ramón. “Decir el tango.” In Invitación a la etnomusicología: Quince fragmentos y un tango. By Ramón Pelinski, 26–42. Madrid: Ediciones Akal, 2000.

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    “Decir el tango” could be translated as “Speaking the tango,” but the meaning is broader: it involves how to express the symbolic intention of a tango in a culturally informed way. This chapter offers a structural analysis of “Sur,” a classic tango. As expected from this polymath, he contributes penetrating remarks on issues concerning the delivery and interpretation of tango cantado.

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  • Rivero, Edmundo. Las voces, Gardel y el canto. Buenos Aires: Etlagráfica S.A., Editora Técnica Latinoamericana, 1985.

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    The great vocalist Edmundo Rivero (b. 1911–d. 1986) analyzes the vocal types of cantores, and in particular the interpretative resources of Carlos Gardel.

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  • Schvartzman, Julio, ed. “Dossier Tango: Interpretación, autoría y escucha.” Zama, Revista del Instituto de Literatura Hispanoamericana 7 (2015): 147–200.

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    Schvartzman’s introduction (pp. 147–148) prefaces a group of studies that analyze phrasing in vocal deliveries of tangos. In particular, it addresses the phrasing in the tango “Naranjo in flor” and the performance of “Caferata” by Carlos Gardel.

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The Music

The structure of tango, as a univocal expression whose components are indivisible, rests on the parameters that shape its music. In turn, the principles of the musical discourse define the character of the lyrics and the dance. There is Musicological Research centering on how the metrical-rhythmic and melodic components interact in the shaping of formal patterns, and also a plethora of Analyses of Specific Compositions, which, as they reveal particular characteristics, they also elucidate generic properties. Tangos cultos, or art-music tangos, are those compositions that, one way or another, allude to the semantic field of urban popular tango (see Art-Music Tangos/Tangos cultos). Finally, and within the genre’s semantic field, Analyses of Styles explores differences among the various aesthetic paths that tango has followed throughout its rich history.

Musicological Research

One of the earliest scholarly approaches to tango’s music is Novati, et al. 1980, a foundational collection of studies that explores formal structures and style in the early history of tango and served as a model for musicological research on urban popular music. The chapter on origins is basic for an understanding of the elements that shaped the style. García Brunelli 2008 stands as a classic collection of analytical studies of Astor Piazzolla’s music, Kohan 2010 offers structural analyses of tangos from the Guardia Nueva period, Marsili 2012 elaborates on the instrumental language of tango, Krapovickas 2012 contributes an organological study of the bandoneón, Martínez and Rodríguez 2013 applies novel approaches to structural analysis, and Varassi Pega 2014 explores compositional strategies. Performative issues stemming from styles of melodic construction are examined in García Brunelli 2015.

  • García Brunelli, Omar. “La cuestión del fraseo en el tango.” Zama, Revista del Instituto de Literatura Hispanoamericana 7.7 (2015): 161–170.

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    An inquiry into how phrasing functions in the performative construction of tango’s melodies, as a fundamental feature of the genre’s musical structure.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar, ed. Estudios sobre la obra de Astor Piazzolla. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2008.

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    A significant contribution to Piazzolla research, originally spearheaded by Allan W. Atlas, who organized a symposium on Piazzolla’s music at The Graduate Center, CUNY, on 10 March 2000. Contributors included Allan W. Atlas, Ramón Pelinski, Malena Kuss, Ulrich Krämer, Martín Kutnowski, David B. Cannata, and Carlos Kuri. Several papers were edited by Omar Corrado for the Revista del Instituto Superior de Música, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, No. 9 (2002). With additions, they form the core of García Brunelli’s 2008 book.

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  • Kohan, Pablo. Estudios sobre los estilos compositivos del tango (1920–1935). Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2010.

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    Following in the methodological footsteps of Novati 1980, which adheres to principles of structural analysis in the 1980 Antología del tango rioplatense, Kohan proposes a classification of compositional styles for tango’s second stylistic phase (1920–1935), and, contributing an unprecedented number of analyses of tangos from the so-called Guardia Nueva repertoire, illustrates his examples with links to recordings on the Internet.

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  • Krapovickas, Mercedes. “Organografía del bandoneón y prácticas musicales: Lógica dispositiva de los teclados del bandoneón rheinische Tonlage 38/33 y la escritura ideográfica.” Latin American Music Review 33.2 (2012): 157–185.

    DOI: 10.7560/LAMR33201Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    An inquiry into the disposition of the bandoneón’s buttonboard to explain the logic of its apparently aleatory organization. It also discusses teaching practices in the late nineteenth century, when the instrument was first adopted by musicians in the River Plate area. One of the main organological references for Krapovickas’s study is Maria Dunkel’s Akkordeon, Bandonion, Concertina im Kontext der Harmonikainstrumente: Texte zur Geschichte und Gegenwart des Akkordeons, Vol. 6 (Bochum: Augemus, 1999).

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  • Marsili, Andrea. “Potentialité de mutation du tango rioplatense: Bornes du tango porteño et reseaux d’interconnexion avec le tango nómade.” PhD diss., Université Paris-Sorbonne [IV], 2012.

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    Published as Le Langage musical et instrumental du tango rioplatense: Codes et conventionnalismes in 2015 by Editorial Abrazos in Stuttgart, and as Los códigos del tango in 2015 by Editorial Abrazos in Unquillo, Province of Córdoba, Argentina, this penetrating musicological study explores tango’s compositional codes and elaborates on their potential for transformation. After surveying general characteristics of the genre, it focuses on Piazzolla’s music, which Marsili regards as the paradigm of nomadic tango.

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  • Martínez, Alejandro, and Edgardo Rodríguez. “Contribuciones al análisis formal del tango.” In Enfoques interdisciplinarios sobre músicas populares en Latinoamérica: Retrospectivas, perspectivas, críticas y propuestas. Edited by Herom Vargas, et al., 710–729. Montevideo, Uruguay: International Association for the Study of Popular Music-América Latina/IASPM-AL/CIAMEN—Universidad de la República, 2013.

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    The authors propose an application of concepts from Schoenberg’s Formenlehre to a formal analysis of tango. In the United States, the music theorist William Caplin later expanded on this approach.

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  • Novati, Jorge, with Néstor R. Ceñal, Inés Cuello, and Irma Ruiz. Antología del tango rioplatense. Vol. 1 (Desde sus comienzos hasta 1920). Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” 1980.

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    A pioneering study whose completion in 1975 served as a model for applications of musicological research to popular music repertoires, which, at the time, were not deemed worthy of academic attention. It addresses origins, structure, choreography, interpretation, and appendices on authors and performers, instrumental ensembles, tango sites, and publishers of tango music. This extraordinary edition, which includes three LPs, was reissued in 2018 with two CDs containing forty-eight commercial recordings of the period covered. See Goyena, et al. 2014 (cited under Guardia Nueva, 1920–1935) for Vol. 2.

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  • Novati, Jorge, and Inés Cuello. “Aspectos histórico-musicales: Primeras noticias y documentos” and “El tango como especie constituida.” In Antología del tango rioplatense, Vol. 1 (Desde sus comienzos hasta 1920). Edited by Jorge Novati, 1–43. Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” 1980.

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    A display of historiographical virtuosity to subtend the ambiguity surrounding central issues in the history of tango with a wealth of data collected from primary sources. The issues include the genre’s debated origins, intersection of tributaries, terminology, demographic components, the shaping of rhythmic and melodic patterns, and the early dissemination and reception of the fully formed early genre.

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  • Ruiz, Irma, and Néstor R. Ceñal. “Aspectos musicológicos: La estructura del tango.” In Antología del tango rioplatense, Vol. 1 (Desde sus comienzos hasta 1920). Edited by Jorge Novati, 51–86. Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” 1980.

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    This essay is the analytical centerpiece of this landmark publication. The authors studied 900 scores from the period until 1920 and concluded that the characteristics of the motif that starts each section is, in general, the factor that determines and generates the composition’s type of structure. From their broad-ranging analytical research of a thematic detail, they isolated a property intrinsic to the genre as a whole. They illustrate motivic structures with forty-nine examples from the so-called Guardia Vieja.

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  • Varassi Pega, Barbara. “Creating and Re-creating Tango: Artistic Processes in Music by Pugliese, Salgán, Piazzolla, and Beytelmann.” PhD diss., Leiden University, 2014.

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    An analysis of selected works by Osvaldo Pugliese, Horacio Salgán, Astor Piazzolla, and the celebrated Argentinian composer and pianist Gustavo Beytelmann (b. 1945). Inferring compositional and stylistic issues from this analyzed repertoire, Varassi Pega extrapolates characteristics applicable to the genre as a whole. As The Art of Tango, this dissertation was published in 2021 by Routledge in London.

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Analyses of Specific Compositions

Musicological research on tango rarely concentrates on individual pieces of the repertoire. Some, however, surface in Marsili 2012 and Varassi Pega 2014 (cited under Musicological Research). Kuss 2008 and Illari 2008 are significant analytical contributions to the study of Piazzolla’s individual works. Written in 1957, two years after Piazzolla’s short period of training with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, Tres minutos con la realidad stands as a cornerstone in the early phase of New Tango and relies on the octatonic pitch organization with modal interaction that characterizes Stravinsky’s neoclassical language from circa 1920 to circa 1951. María de Buenos Aires (1968), a chamber operita in two parts and sixteen numbers (originally eighteen) on a text by Piazzolla’s poet, Horacio Ferrer, was premiered at the Sala Planeta in Buenos Aires on 8 May 1968 with the legendary Amelita Baltar in the title role. In a penetrating inquiry into the ambiguities of tango, Illari evokes this intersection of history and urban myth through the city’s voice: its birth, life, first death, and resurrection in the composer’s New Tango. The atemporality of the allegory, however, subverts transparent readings. For Illari, the masculine artist (the Duende, a poet), an outsider, captures novelty and uses it to inseminate a feminine urban space; together, they engender a New Tango, a different Buenos Aires, a city renewed by the modernization of its music. Tango is polysemic and rhyzomatic. It signifies a city called Santa María de los Buenos Aires. As the spirit of the city and its underground, tango’s ambiguity suffuses the symbolic text of Horacio Ferrer. In this bardic analysis of symbiotic text-music relationships and thematic interpenetrations among the sixteen (or eighteen) numbers, Illari unveils the complex level of constructivism subtending María de Buenos Aires, which also surfaces in other works by Piazzolla.

  • Illari, Bernardo. “María de Buenos Aires: El tango del eterno retorno.” In Estudios sobre la obra de Astor Piazzolla. Edited by Omar García Brunelli, 157–197. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2008.

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    As the spirit of the city and its underground, tango’s ambiguity suffuses the symbolic text of Horacio Ferrer. Illari delves into these ambiguities: the tension between its static palindromic architecture and the teleological drive of the narrative, the subversion of transparent meaning in the web of thematic transformations, the characterization of the past as arsenal of traditional references (habanera, vals), the atemporality of the protagonists, and the overlapping allegories that add to the opacity of musico-dramaturgical relationships.

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  • Kuss, Malena. “La poética referencial de Astor Piazzolla.” In Estudios sobre la obra de Astor Piazzolla. Edited by Omar García Brunelli, 57–76. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2008.

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    An analysis of the dialectical interplay between the octatonic pitch organization of rhythmic sections in Piazzolla’s characteristic 3 + 3 + 2 pulse, and a functionally tonal section that summons motivic gestures from the tradition of tango. Kuss also explores the striking affinity between compositional procedures in Tres minutos (1957) and Ginastera’s first movement of his Sonata para piano (1952). Beyond Ginastera’s possible influence on Piazzolla’s compositional choices, the systemic congruence between the two works interpellates radically different narrative plots.

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Art-Music Tangos/Tangos cultos

This section lists studies of works that incorporate tango as compositional material. The label tangos cultos was coined by Esteban Buch and refers to música culta, the counterpart in Spanish for la musique savante in French, to which a sector of society assigns the highest aesthetic value. Buch 2012 is an imaginative collection of contributions by distinguished authors that include the music critic Federico Monjeau (b. 1957–d. 2021). García Brunelli 2011 studies the tangos by the influential Argentinian composer and conductor Juan José Castro (b. 1895–d. 1968). Corrado 2014 stands as a fundamental inquiry into the role that tango played within the modernizing forces embodied in the Grupo Renovación, which, active between 1929 and 1944, appropriated features of neoclassical aesthetics rampant in Europe while reconfiguring the local compositional space dominated by nationalists who privileged the legacy of rural folk music and coexisting with the earliest attempts at twelve-tone composition by Juan Carlos Paz (b. 1897–d. 1972).

  • Buch, Esteban, ed. Tangos cultos: Kagel, J.J. Castro, Mastropiero y otros cruces musicales. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2012.

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    Framed by essays by Esteban Buch, whose introduction muses about tangos by the likes of Stravinsky, Satie, Juan José Castro, Alberto Ginastera, Gustavo Beytelmann, and other composers, the chapters navigate through whimsical themes, like imaginary dialogues among Satie, Cage, and the Línea Adicional group, or Kagel’s remark that “Tango is the most valuable erudite music.” The compilation also includes analyses of tangos composed by Alberto Ginastera, Juan José Castro, Francisco Kröpfl, and Pablo Ortiz.

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  • Corrado, Omar. “Tango y modernidad en el Grupo Renovación (Argentina).” In El tango ayer y hoy. Edited by Coriún Aharonián, 203–222. Montevideo, Uruguay: Centro Nacional de Documentación Musical “Lauro Ayestarán,” 2014.

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    Tango figures prominently in the works of composers from the Grupo Renovación (1929–1944), a banner of modernism in 1930s and 1940s Buenos Aires. In this penetrating study, the prominent Argentinian musicologist Omar Corrado analyzes the compositional strategies through which composers such as Juan José Castro, José María Castro, Luis Gianneo, and Juan Carlos Paz, among others, integrated tango in the registry of the national and thereby elevated it to conditions of equality in relation to rampant rural folk music.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. “El tango en la obra de Juan José Castro.” Revista del Instituto de Investigación Musicológica “Carlos Vega” 25.25 (2011): 82–113.

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    One of Argentina’s most distinguished composers, the conductor Juan José Castro turned to the symbolic and material presence of tango in a number of works, including an opera, a piano suite, and some orchestral pieces. Manifesting this presence not only through musical materials but also through performative gestures transferred from the popular domain to academic practices, he incorporated tango at structural levels in neoclassical compositions that eluded any explicit references to the genre.

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Analyses of Styles

Tango can be performed in different ways, such as accentuating the rhythm that drives the dance, underscoring contrasts between instrumental groups, or weaving contrapuntal textures to lend depth to the musical discourse. There are three principal styles: De Caro’s, Fresedo’s, and the traditional style, with a plethora of sub-styles. Osvaldo Fresedo highlighted the melody with clarity and preferred an orchestral sound with an abundance of strings. De Caro blurred the melody with instrumental effects and an accented rubato, choosing a sonority in which bandoneones predominated. Sierra 1966 and Link and Wendland 2016 address all the instrumental styles. Within partial approaches to styles, Martin 2014 focuses on the Golden Age (1935–1955); García Brunelli 2013 analyzes the style of De Caro; and García Brunelli 2022 covers in depth the style of Piazzolla, which, recovering the canonic tradition of De Caro and Troilo, renews it with added elements that conform the Nuevo Tango. Burec 2015 explores the evolution of performative styles in tangos for guitar.

  • Burec, Lorena. Estilos guitarrísticos del tango en el Río de La Plata: Un siglo de historia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Autores de Argentina, 2015.

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    A comprehensive inquiry into the styles and performative resources of tango guitarists between the early 1900s and 1983. It surveys duos, trios, and guitar ensembles, analyzing each case through recorded examples. Animated by a broad-ranging vision, this text also covers a considerable majority of guitarists who specialized in tango.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. “Análisis del estilo tanguístico de Julio De Caro y su proyección en el género.” In Músicas populares: Aproximaciones teóricas, metodológicas y analíticas en la musicología argentina. Vol. 2. Edited by Federico Sammartino and Héctor Rubio, 85–110. Córdoba, Argentina: Editorial Buena, 2013.

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    A study of arrangements by Julio De Caro for his group that focuses on the particular kind of phrasing he uses, which corresponds to performance practices that characterized the progressive school of the 1920s. From the perspective of a traditionalist framework of performative resources, this analysis compares different versions of the same pieces.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. La música de Astor Piazzolla. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2022.

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    An integral study of Piazzolla’s compositional production, displayed through two complementary paths: a diachronic analysis of the constitution, development, and consolidation of his language, its stable features and transformations; and a systematic path centered on recurrent traits and the idiolects subtending changes that defined and consolidated Piazzolla’s powerful and unmistakable compositional style. It problematizes categories such as innovation, vanguard, intertextuality, and performativity for a formidable portrait of a synthesis occasionally viewed as conflictive among genres, traditions, functionality, and reception dynamics.

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  • Link, Kacey, and Kristin Wendland. Tracing Tangueros: Argentine Tango Instrumental Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199348220.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    After contextualizing tango as a multidimensional art form, the authors focus on the music of instrumental tangos in Argentina. They analyze stylistic characteristics and trace the historical path of instrumental tango, including arrangement techniques and approaches to performance. Kacey and Wendland also cover case studies that include eight well-known orchestras.

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  • Martin, Paloma. “El tango instrumental rioplatense: Aproximaciones a un análisis musical comparativo de los estilos renovadores en la llamada ‘época de oro.’” In El tango ayer y hoy. Edited by Coriún Aharonián, 87–140. Montevideo, Uruguay: Centro Nacional de Documentación Musical “Lauro Ayestarán,” 2014.

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    After contextualizing the “Época de Oro” within the history of tango, Martin focuses on elements of style characteristic of the period to focus on a comparison of four legendary figures: Aníbal Troilo (b. 1914–d. 1975), Osvaldo Pugliese (b. 1905– d. 1995), Horacio Salgán (b. 1916– d. 2016), and Astor Piazzolla (b. 1921– d. 1992), taking into account their agency as composers, performers, and arrangers.

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  • Sierra, Luis Adolfo. Historia de la orquesta típica: Evolución instrumental del tango. Buenos Aires: Peña Lillo, 1966.

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    A historical survey of the continuities and changes in styles of interpretation and orchestration, focused on the types of instrumental ensembles, among which the most important is the orquesta típica. Two subsequent editions were published by Peña Lillo in 1976 and Ediciones Corregidor in 1997.

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The Dance

Perhaps tango’s most seductive component is the dance. Its complexity, beauty, and sensuality have attracted enthusiasts around the world. The technique is described in Vega 1956, Cuello 1980, and Dinzel 1999. The passion it evokes outside of the River Plate area is summoned in Thompson 2005, whose chapters traverse through tango in films, lyrics, milonga as genre, styles of dancing, the music, and the dance. In Buenos Aires, fundamentally, but also in other Argentinian cities, the dancing of tango generates microenvironments of specialists and aficionados, an aspect of its social dimension broached in Rosboch 2006, Carozzi 2011, and Carozzi 2015. New forms of the dance and its sexuality are studied in Cecconi 2009 and Merritt 2014.

  • Carozzi, María Julia. Aquí se baila el tango: Una etnografía de las milongas porteñas. Buenos Aires: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2015.

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    From an ethnography of a tango class and the milongas or sites where tangos are danced in central Buenos Aires, this study focuses on figures, different dancing styles, the change in paradigms with the advent of new dancers, and the inherent tension with traditional tango styles. Carozzi also contrasts a local practice defended as authentic vis-à-vis the behaviors in locales for export.

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  • Carozzi, María Julia, ed. Las palabras y los pasos: Etnografías de la danza en la ciudad. Buenos Aires: Editorial Gorla, 2011.

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    From an anthropological perspective, the contributions gathered in this volume range from reflecting on tango as practiced in electronic dance halls, analyzing styles of dancing in the so-called salons, and teaching the dance.

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  • Cecconi, Sofía. “Tango queer: Territorio y performance de una apropiación divergente.” Trans, Revista Transcultural de Música 13 (2009).

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    The tango queer is a new modality of tango danced in Buenos Aires. The LGBTQ community is adapting and transforming the genre in an effort to claim a space in its domain. This text proposes an inquiry into the phenomenon for the purpose of unraveling the webs of meanings articulating the process that lends significance to the behavior of participants.

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  • Cuello, Inés. “Aspectos musicológicos: La coreografía del tango.” In Antología del tango rioplatense, Vol. 1 (Desde sus comienzos hasta 1920). Edited by Jorge Novati, 89–103. Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” 1980.

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    This study traces the history of tango as dance until 1920, offering a choreographic map that utilizes Laban notation.

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  • Dinzel, Rodolfo. El tango, una danza: Esa ansiosa búsqueda de la libertad. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1999.

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    Rodolfo Dinzel, with his wife Gloria, became one of the most famous couples performing with the iconic Tango Argentino show of Claudio Segovia and Héctor Orezzoli at the Hollywood Theater in 1985–1986. In this monograph, Dinzel discusses technical issues and the dynamics of the dance’s bodily language as an experienced performer and teacher. With Gloria Dinzel as co-author, the text was published in English in 2000 by Editorial Abrazos in Stuttgart, Germany, and Unquillo, Argentina.

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  • Merritt, Carolyn. “‘Manejame como un auto’: Drive Me Like a Car, or What’s So New about Tango Nuevo?” In Tango Lessons: Movement, Sound, Image, and Text in Contemporary Practice. Edited by Marilyn Miller, 164–197. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822377238-007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The possibility of exchanging male and female roles when dancing tango, which traditionally were very strictly maintained, was introduced in recent years. In traditional tango, the male assumes a position of leadership and the female follows his lead. This study explores the tension generated by changes in gender roles, as in new styles of dancing the woman assumes a more active role. This tension, however, affects the practice of the dance.

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  • Rosboch, María Eugenia. La rebelión de los abrazos: Tango, milonga y danza: Imaginarios del tango en sus espacios de producción simbólica, la milonga y el espectáculo. La Plata, Argentina: Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 2006.

    DOI: 10.35537/10915/72162Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study approaches the dance as cultural behavior through the sites where it was practiced, called milongas, tracing its historical evolution and the different locations that attracted dancers, while analyzing it as a performative act. Viewed from the perspective of anthropology, the practice of the dance serves as a point of departure for understanding tango as a sociocultural phenomenon.

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  • Thompson, Robert Farris. Tango: The Art History of Love. New York: Pantheon Books, 2005.

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    An impassioned essay by Yale art historian Robert Farris Thompson. Essentially an interpretation by a scholar with deep knowledge of African expressive culture who has devoted his life to studying the Afro-Atlantic world, this distinguished specialist in African art, seduced by tango, adduces African and Afro-Argentinian influence on the emergence, development, and consolidation of the genre. Although an African component in tango’s origins cannot be denied, experts disagree on the degree to which such influence is manifested or endures.

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  • Vega, Carlos. “La coreografía del tango.” In El origen de las danzas folklóricas. By Carlos Vega, 193–204. Buenos Aires: Ricordi Americana, 1956.

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    In his iconic treatise on dances, the revered Argentinian musicologist Carlos Vega already underscores the importance and originality of tango’s choreography.

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Performance Practice and Pedagogy

How to play, sing, or dance tango remained in the domain of oral popular wisdom until the 1980s. The musicians would study privately or learn their instruments at academic institutions and later move on to the spaces of tango. The training of arrangers and composers generally took place through the experience of performing and rarely through formal studies. The decline in the practice and consumption of traditional tango that started in the 1960s interrupted the natural and spontaneous transmission of this knowledge, and when the genre resurged in the 1980s, it became necessary to harness it for transmission in conservatories or specialized institutions, such as the Escuela de Música Popular de Avellaneda. Progressively, manuals were produced for instrument players, as in Wolff 2018, Henríquez 2018, Varchausky 2018, Fain 2010, and Possetti 2014. The same applied for the training of arrangers, as in Peralta 2008, Salgán 2001, and Gallo 2021. Transcriptions for solo piano, such as those published in Torres 2019 and Jurado and Enríquez 2017, rescue renditions by great musicians and make the transmission and recreation of these performances possible.

  • Fain, Paulina. The Flute in Tango: Fundamental Method for Playing Tango Music. Munich: Ricordi, 2010.

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    Not a common instrument in traditional tango, the flute used to be an indispensable sound in early ensembles, only to disappear altogether and then reappear in contemporary tango. This text explains how to adapt flute playing to the exigencies of tango practices.

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  • Gallo, Ramiro. Arreglos de tango. Buenos Aires: Tango Sin Fin, 2021.

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    The website of the Tango Sin Fin association offers several publications like Ramiro Gallo’s Arreglos de tango, aimed at formalizing and identifying performative issues related to tango. This particular publication is a step-by-step description of the process of composing an arrangement. Also included are exercises and examples of each of the technical steps outlined.

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  • Henríquez, Sebastián. The Guitar in Tango: Fundamental Method for Playing Tango Music. Buenos Aires: Tango Sin Fin, 2018.

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    In general terms, the guitar is an instrument whose incorporation into the organological arsenal of tango has been taught and learned under informal conditions. Its inclusion in orquestas típicas came late and its systematization as an indispensable instrument in the sonic world of tango is credited to Astor Piazzolla. This manual provides the traditional tools and necessary technical instruction to perform modern tango.

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  • Jurado, Martín, and Adrián Enríquez. Los pianistas del tango: Selección de transcripciones para piano solo. Vol. 1. Buenos Aires: Melos Ediciones Musicales, 2017.

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    In this case, the authors rescue interpretations from different historical periods and performance styles by transcribing recordings by some of the most famous tango pianists. The transcribed recordings span from 1911 to 1995 and include performers of the stature of Roberto Firpo, Enrique Delfino, Osmar Maderna, and Mariano “Marianito” Mores. The exhaustive details provided in the transcriptions enable scholars to research them and encourage recreations in performance.

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  • Peralta, Julián. La orquesta típica: Mecánica y aplicación de los fundamentos técnicos del tango. Buenos Aires: Self-published, 2008.

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    Peralta, a teacher at the Escuela de Música Popular de Avellaneda and leader of his own tango groups, explains how an orquesta típica functions and provides technical tools for the composition of arrangements.

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  • Possetti, Hernán. The Piano in Tango: Fundamental Method for Playing Tango Music. Buenos Aires: Fondo Nacional de las Artes, 2014.

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    The history of the genre has been enriched by the contributions of great innovators who went on to incorporate features of their individual styles into tango’s instrumental practices. Present-day pianists must be familiar with this wealth of interpretive resources in order to shape informed performances. Toward that end, this manual systematizes that knowledge.

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  • Salgán, Horacio. Curso de tango. Buenos Aires: Self-published, 2001.

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    The famous leader, composer, and arranger Horacio Salgán (b. 1916–d. 2016) elaborates on the principles of his own style and provides information and guidelines for the composition and arrangements of tangos, illustrating his treatise with examples of his own harvest.

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  • Torres, Leda. Carlos García: Tangos en piano. Vol. 1. Buenos Aires: Mil Campanas, 2019.

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    Leda Torres, a young pianist, transcribes the piano solos recorded by Carlos García, a very original performer. By recovering these interpretations through transcription, the author expands the possibilities of transmitting them through teaching and performance.

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  • Varchausky, Ignacio. The Bass in Tango: Fundamental Method for Playing Tango Music. Buenos Aires: Tango Sin Fin, 2018.

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    The string bass can be used in the manner expected of its functional role in a classical orchestra, or, in addition, provide a number of special effects inherent to the performance of tango, which lend the genre its unmistakable character. This volume teaches the resources of the string bass for renditions of both traditional and modern tango.

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  • Wolff, Eva. The Bandoneon in Tango: Fundamental Method for Playing Tango Music. Buenos Aires: Tango Sin Fin, 2018.

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    A brief guide with basic instructions on how to play the instrument, but, rather than a manual, it is a treatise on how to play tango on the bandoneón, following the genre’s performative codes, with specific instructions, examples, and exercises.

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Selected Audio Recordings

García Brunelli 2010 (cited under Discography) documents the configuration of the recording industry that has preserved the legacy of tango, addressing availability and reissues. A reconstruction of this panorama reveals a very complex process. This heading singles out some of the most significant collections and labels. There are two fundamental anthologies that include a selection of classic recordings for the study of tango, namely Novati, et al. 1980 and Goyena, et al. 2014; and one compilation of recordings from the Guardia Vieja period, Binda and García Brunelli 2011. Two Japanese collectionists have published complete lists of recordings on CD arranged in chronological order, as, for instance, in Caminito (1992) and Carlos Di Sarli (1992–2003). Reissues of complete recordings by the principal artists have proven to be of uneven quality; by way of illustration, a few are mentioned. The main labels have issued some complete discographies organized chronologically, such as Troilo 1997–2000 and Pugliese 1994. Piazzolla 2005 gathers all the recordings of the bandoneonist issued between 1960 and 1982 by RCA Victor and Columbia Records. The Euro Records label published chronologically arranged compilations, such as Pontier 2006.

  • Binda, Enrique, and Omar García Brunelli. Tangos en versión original. Buenos Aires: Centro Feca, 2011.

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    A selection of recordings dated between 1905 and 1920 that represent the broad range of variants in performative styles typical of the Guardia Vieja period. Special attention is paid to the techniques used to reissue recordings in order to obtain the highest quality of sound without resorting to filters that distort the phonogram and correcting the rotations per minute in the reproduction to approximate, as much as possible, the tempo in the original recording.

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  • Carlos Di Sarli y su orquesta. Carlos Di Sarli. Vols. 1–20. CD. Tokyo: Club Tango Argentino (CTA)—Akihito Baba, 1992–2003.

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    Complete reissue of Di Sarli’s recordings for the RCA Victor label ranging from 1939 to 1948 and arranged in chronological order. As in all the Akihito Baba editions, the 78-rpm discs are reissued without being modified by filters. This label has published numerous complete discographies that follow the same procedures. These recordings are fundamental for the study of tango.

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  • Goyena, Héctor, with Jorge B. Rivera, Pablo Kohan, Omar García Brunelli, Ricardo Salton, and Eduardo Romano. Antología del tango rioplatense Vol. II 1920–1935: Selección sonora. Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” Secretaría de Cultura, Presidencia de la Nación, 2014.

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    The second volume of Antología del tango rioplatense, whose first volume was published in 1980 with three LPs. This compilation of seventy-nine iconic recordings from the 1920–1935 Guardia Nueva period, with 1935 marking the death of Gardel, is accompanied by a substantive 48-page monograph with contributions by experts on the music, lyrics, performance styles, and vocalists of the period covered.

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  • Novati, Jorge, with Néstor R. Ceñal, Inés Cuello, and Irma Ruiz. Antología del tango rioplatense Vol. 1 (Desde sus comienzos hasta 1920). Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” 1980.

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    A historiographical landmark that includes chapters on origins, structure, and choreography, with appendices on composers and performers, instrumental ensembles, tango sites, and publishers of tango music. This classic edition, which includes three LPs with forty-eight representative recordings from the 1907 to 1920 period, was reissued in 2018 on two CDs. See Goyena, et al. 2014 (cited under The Guardia Nueva, 1920–1935 and under Selected Audio Recordings) for Vol. 2.

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  • Orquesta típica Francisco Canaro. Caminito. CD 1167. Tokyo: Asociación de la Música Porteña AMP—Yoshihiro Oiwa, 1992.

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    This title is only one example of the 211 CDs issued by this label, on the basis of Yoshihiro Oiwa’s personal collection. The takes, from the original 78-rpm discs, were not modified by filters.

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  • Piazzolla, Astor. Astor Piazzolla: Edición crítica. CD. Buenos Aires: Sony & BMG Music Entertainment, 2005.

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    The LPs that Piazzolla recorded for the RCA Victor label between 1960 and 1982, and for Columbia between 1962 and 1971, reissued on thirteen CDs, with the same original covers and titles. As a bonus, these reissues include tracks with tango themes that originally had been issued on 45-rpm singles with two or four themes.

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  • Pontier, Armando. Armando Pontier. Vols. 1–3. CD. Buenos Aires: Euro Records-Archivo Columbia, 2006.

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    Complete recordings of Armando Pontier for the Columbia label registered between 1957 and 1962. The Euro Records label produces a considerable amount of chronologically arranged reissues of excellent sound quality.

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  • Pugliese, Osvaldo. Osvaldo Pugliese y su Orquesta Típica: Antología. 6 vols. CD. Buenos Aires: Polygram, 1994.

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    Chronologically arranged reissue of the recordings made by Pugliese for the Philips label between 1961 and 1970.

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  • Troilo, Aníbal. Aníbal Troilo: Obra completa en RCA. Vols. 1–16. CD. Buenos Aires: BMG Argentina, 1997–2000.

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    Complete recordings of Aníbal Troilo’s orchestra for the RCA label, dating from 1941 to 1971. Issued in chronological order.

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Discography

Discographies are not only essential but irreplaceable tools for the study of popular music. In the domain of tango, Lefcovich 1987 and Gutiérrez Miglio 1992–1999 stand as systematic discographies. In addition, there are countless compilations attached to publications on specific topics as well as appended to biographies and autobiographies, as in the case of Lamarque 1986, or in texts dedicated to individual figures, as in Saito 2008 and Del Priore 2009. The Internet offers a wealth of resources. Lanner 2010, for instance, is a trustworthy source that provides access to a lengthy discography of Francisco Canaro (b. 1888–d. 1964). García Brunelli 2010 is a systematic and comprehensive overview of recorded tango; it includes a CD that gathers twenty-one recordings representing the tone and style of different stages in tango’s history from the perspective of recordings from the beginning of the twentieth century until the early years of the vanguard with Piazzolla in 1956. An issue of concern discussed in Binda and García Brunelli 2014–2015 is the speed or rotations per minute at which early recordings were reissued.

  • Binda, Enrique, and Omar García Brunelli. “El problema de la velocidad de los discos de 78 rpm: Su incidencia en la historia estética del tango.” Revista Argentina de Musicología 15.16 (2014–2015): 45–54.

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    Electricity and microphones were not used until 1926 and the revolutions per minute at which discs would turn were not standardized. That is why a 78-rpm disc produced until the late 1920s can reproduce sound that is seriously distorted by comparison with the originally recorded sound. The article addresses this issue and proposes some solutions.

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  • Del Priore, Oscar. “Aportes para una discografía de Leopoldo Federico.” In Leopoldo Federico: El inefable bandoneón del tango. Edited by Jorge Dimov and Esther Echenbaum Jonisz, 225–245. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2009.

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    A discography of Leopoldo Federico (b. 1927–d. 2014), bandoneonist, composer, arranger, and one of the most active orchestra leaders in the 1960s and thereafter.

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  • García Brunelli, Omar. Discografía básica del tango 1905–2010: Su historia a través de las grabaciones. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2010.

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    A bibliographic tour-de-force, it details the number of recordings made by the main tango artists, documenting whether each recording has been reissued and noting whether there is a discography dedicated to that particular artist. See also García Brunelli 2010 (cited under Comprehensive Histories).

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  • Gutiérrez Miglio, Roberto. El tango y sus intérpretes: Vida y discografía de los cantores y cancionistas del tango. 4 vols. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1992–1999.

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    This project aims at preserving the recorded legacy of male and female tango vocalists, or cantores and cancionistas. It includes celebrated ones and also less known protagonists, who, in many cases, would have eluded other authors. This edition in four volumes with bibliographic and discographic information covers only fifty vocalists, but the work completed by Gutiérrez Miglio comprises a total of 169 artists. Entries that have been completed but remain unpublished are distributed informally in looseleaf format by the author.

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  • Lanner, Christoph. “Discography of Francisco Canaro.” Vienna: Christoph Lanner, 2010.

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    A model discography of Francisco Canaro, the most recorded artist in history, whose phonographic legacy reached 3,800. This free site includes technical data and additional remarks, such as errors detected in other publications and relevant information on the phonograms. The quality of the information is remarkably accurate.

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  • Lefcovich, S. Nicolás. Estudio de la discografía de Julio De Caro. Buenos Aires: Self-published, 1987.

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    This source, dedicated to the iconic Julio De Caro, is an example of systematic discography. Lefcovich has published thirty-seven studies, namely discographies of towering figures such as Carlos Gardel, Carlos Di Sarli, Osvaldo Pugliese, and Juan D’Arienzo. All the discographies include a chronological list of recordings, with complete bibliographic information, such as title, composer, performer, label, disc number, and matrix number and date. The publications also might include additional lists, generally organized alphabetically by title, composers, themes, and other criteria.

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  • Saito, Mitsumasa. “Discografía completa de Astor Piazzolla.” In Estudios sobre la obra de Astor Piazzolla. Edited by Omar García Brunelli, 265–300. Buenos Aires: Gourmet Musical Ediciones, 2008.

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    The most complete and accurate discography of Astor Piazzolla. It was originally published in Japanese as Astor Piazzolla, el luchador del tango by Seido-sha in Tokyo in 1998.

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Tango in Film

In Argentina, filmmakers have frequently summoned the presence of tango. Themes from its sonic arsenal were commonplace in silent films, and the first film with sound, in which many tango stars participated, was titled ¡Tango! (1933). An account of this relationship, approached from various perspectives in a collection of brief articles, can be found in Maranghello and Insaurralde 2006. Couselo 1977 also explores the role of tango in moving pictures. The films of Carlos Gardel (b. 1890–d. 1935), which deserve separate attention, are analyzed in Goyena 2020. Moreover, tango in films produced around the world is treated in Ochoa 2003. Films reflecting the impact of a new wave of tango’s popularity in the twenty-first century are explored in Rosenberg 2014.

  • Couselo, José Miguel. “El tango en el cine.” In La historia del tango. Vol. 8. Edited by Manuel Pampín and Juan Carlos Martini Real, 1291–1332. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 1977.

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    A chronological account of films that incorporated tangos. Couselo discusses how the themes are approached, the technical issues involved in sound recording during the early years, the casts in Gardel films, and casting in films whose themes are associated with tango.

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  • Goyena, Héctor. “Carlos Gardel, astro cinematográfico.” In El mundo del tango: Ocho estudios sobre Carlos Gardel. Edited by Omar García Brunelli, 77–96. Buenos Aires: Instituto Nacional de Musicología “Carlos Vega,” 2020.

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    A comprehensive study of all the films of Carlos Gardel. It centers on the scoring in particular, which, during Gardel’s last years, were tangos composed by the singer himself.

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  • Maranghello, César, and Andrés Insaurralde, eds. Cine en 2 x 4. Buenos Aires: Museo del Cine “Pablo C. Ducrós Hicken,” 2006.

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    In this collection of forty-three short essays, authors explore a variety of aspects and time periods associated with the presence of tango in the work of Argentinian filmmakers.

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  • Ochoa, Pedro. Tango y cine mundial. Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Jilguero, 2003.

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    A survey of films that include tangos from all over the world, beginning with the tangomania of the early twentieth century until the beginning of the 2000s. It lists hundreds of films.

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  • Rosenberg, Fernando. “The Return of the Tango in Documentary Film.” In Tango Lessons: Movement, Sound, Image, and Text in Contemporary Practice. Edited by Marilyn G. Miller, 140–163. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.

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    This text analyzes films on tango, including fictions and documentaries, which are related to the resurgence of the genre and were made after the 2001 economic crisis in Argentina. Essays include reflections on films such as Bar, “El Chino” (Daniel Barak, 2003), El tango de mi vida (Hernán Belón, 2007), Yo no sé qué me han hecho tus ojos (Sergio Wolf and Lorena Muñoz, 2003), and Si sos brujo (Caroline Neal, 2008), among others.

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Tango in the Theater

Two studies, Goyena 2005 and Goyena 2014, explore the presence of tango in the theater. According to Goyena 2014, two modalities of tango surfaced in popular types of dramatic representations from the 1890s to the late 1920s in Buenos Aires: the legacy of the Spanish one-act plays with music known generically as género chico, which, comprising sainetes, sainetes líricos, revues, vaudeville, comedias, and zarzuelas, was creolized by incorporating the language and situations of suburban characters, including tango and milonga. Justicia criolla (1897), a zarzuela by the Spanish-born Antonio Reynoso (1869–1912) is one of the earliest plays that incorporate elements associated with tango. The second modality is the theater with cabaret, or plays in which one scene would reenact a cabaret with dancing and tango. The 1918 sainete Los dientes del perro, which included the iconic “Mi noche triste,” symbiotically associated with Gardel, was one of the earliest such plays performed in the city. Tangos for the cabaret scenes resembled the type composed for mass culture consumption.

  • Goyena, Héctor Luis. “Del cuplé al tango: El compositor José Padilla en la escena dramática de Buenos Aires.” Revista del Instituto de Investigación Musicológica “Carlos Vega” 19 (2005): 31–49.

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    A study of the use of tango and milonga in music for the popular theater, such as the sainetes líricos and revues composed in Buenos Aires by José Padilla in the early 1900s. Various types of popular plays drew from characters and situations from the suburban underworld of tangos and milongas that thrived in marginal neighborhoods or arrabal, communal dwellings or conventillos, and cabarets.

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  • Goyena, Héctor. “El tango en la escena dramática de Buenos Aires en las primeras décadas del siglo XX: Continuidades y rupturas.” In El tango ayer y hoy. Edited by Coriún Aharonián, 43–76. Montevideo, Uruguay: Centro Nacional de Documentación Musical “Lauro Ayestarán,” Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, 2014.

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    Prefaced by a historical reconstruction of the two modalities of tango that surfaced in popular plays such as the zarzuela Justicia criolla (1897) and the performance of one of the earliest plays with cabaret, the sainete Los dientes del perro (1918), Goyena proposes that the thirteen musical comedies produced by Francisco Canaro between 1932 and 1957, including Buenos Aires de ayer y de hoy (1943), constitute a synthesis of both historical modalities.

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Tango as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

In 2009, Tango was incorporated into the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The declaration of this status implies financial support for the promotion and preservation of the tradition. In Argentina, one of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to studying and preserving the nation’s cultural patrimony is Centro Feca—Foro y Estudios Culturales Argentinos—which, after organizing four international congresses, published three collections of proceedings: Lencina, et al. 2009; Lencina 2011; and Lencina 2018. Lacarrrieu and Maronese 2013 compiles an inventory of dancing halls, called milongas, and Lacarrieu and Ramos 2013 gathers the proceedings of a workshop on tango and tourism.

  • Lacarrrieu, Mónica, and Leticia Maronese. Inventario de seis milongas de Buenos Aires: Experiencia piloto de participación comunitaria. Buenos Aires: UNESCO, 2013.

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    A study of six dancing halls in Buenos Aires, called milongas, which are sites designated for the preservation of the tradition of tango dancing. Both the study and the upkeep of the sites are sponsored by the support UNESCO provides to sustain a living patrimony.

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  • Lacarrieu, Mónica, and Carmen María Ramos. Documento final del workshop “Patrimonio cultural inmaterial, identidad y turismo: El tango como expresión rioplatense”. Buenos Aires: Ministerio de Cultura, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires/CABA, 2013.

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    A workshop that addressed strategies to synchronize tango as intangible cultural patrimony with sustainable tourism. Declaring tango a viable cultural product, the conclusions propose implementation of initiatives and activities to attract tourism that rely on community participation and involvement.

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  • Lencina, Teresita, ed. Escritos sobre tango 2: Cultura Rioplatense, Patrimonio de la Humanidad. Buenos Aires: Centro Feca ediciones, 2011.

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    Proceedings from the third Congreso Internacional de Tango. The congress focused on tango as foundational in constructing the territorial identity of the River Plate region, the incorporation of tango on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity, the educational institutions that teach popular music and train tango performers and composers, and the future of tango in journalistic criticism.

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  • Lencina, Teresita, ed. Escritos sobre tango. Vol. 3, Tango en tiempo presente. Buenos Aires: Centro Feca ediciones, 2018.

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    Proceedings of the fourth Congreso Internacional de Tango, organized by the Centro Foro y Estudios Culturales Argentinos for the purpose of debating issues related to tango as Intangible Heritage. This collection of studies on genre, lyrics, dance, and pedagogy also includes interviews with contemporary performers.

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  • Lencina, Teresita, Omar García Brunelli, and Ricardo Salton, eds. Escritos sobre tango: En el Río de la Plata y en la diáspora. Buenos Aires: Centro Feca Ediciones, 2009.

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    Proceedings from the first congress organized by the Centro Foro y Estudios Culturales Argentinos. The event gathered historians, musicologists, and literary critics who converged to discuss tango’s history and its role in shaping Argentina’s culture, the literature it spawned, and its reception abroad.

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