Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tango Stories - Mike Lavocah - Vorticists - Pugliese

I'm really enjoying Mike Lavocah's book about tango music. It's full of fascinating detail, but with a concise, conversational writing style, readable and pleasant to be with. The stories about troublemaking singers, disastrous love affairs, submarines, trams, money, and people hiring each other, firing each other, having rows and being  late for work are unpretentiously told and lively. On the book's website he provides playlists for you to listen to on the Spotify ad-supported music player, and he points to them in the text. It's a lot of fun to explore this stuff with him.

The 'spooky' Cruz Diablo - Biagi performing his own composition for solo piano - is amazing, and I would never have heard it but for Mike.

Here's a quote which, although not perhaps as immediately useful as all the specific information about arrangements, musical developments, singers, and other soloists, really delighted me:

Pugliese once said that one of his inspirations was the sound of metalworkers. We can hear them, and also the working man walking the busy city streets ... The Pugliese beat has an unrelenting drive that is reflected in the entire orchestra. It is a veritable musical machine, like an old fashioned car engine in which the pistons are the bandoneóns. Even the violins play with a hard attacking sound, ratcheting up the tension. Just when you can't stand it any more, the music softens and melts, allowing you to draw breath. But this respite is only temporary: very soon, the engine starts up again, the yum-ba marcato driving you on towards the climax.

I don't know why it never crossed my mind to consider Pugliese as a Vorticist artist - but now it has, and I love the idea. (I recommend the videos on that page, but my favourite of their pictures is here). The Vorticists may or may not have been at all important - I just like the concept. The music below is "Negracha", which Mike describes as Pugliese's "manifesto". He quotes the bandoneónist Rodolfo Meredos: "Negracha is more than music, it is music for those to come."

You can get Mike's book from him at £15, or from the usual online sources. I think they still have some copies for sale at Carablanca tango club (ask at the bar if they aren't at the desk). I find it just as hard as Mike does to imagine what it would have been like to dance to this stuff for a whole evening. But there you are.

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