This is an attempt at a novel music writing. It is fictional music writing, that explains Tango music but also music composition, through a short adventure that He and She, of any race, as characters who could easily be interchanged, have. It is a story inspired by Denis Diderot’s philosophical dialogue Le Neveu de Rameau, but adapted to American culture and its love for adventure narratives, this one being a somewhat philosophical one.
A beige taxi cab comes to a full stop.
She and he walk out after paying the driver. They pass through impressive black gates. She asks him, her guide for the day, He, where they are. “We are at La Recoleta Cemetery”, He answers back.
He stops them both at a tomb.
“General Bartolome Mitre,” He begins, “lived at a time of the courtly manners and of the contra dance,” as he stops at a first grave. It was also a time of venerating classical Roman and Athenian culture in the Americas. Mitre was a President of Argentina and his family was Greek. Mitre led an infamous revolt, the revolt of Buenos Aires, before being the President and symbol of Argentinian national unity. Mitre was also a poet.”
He stops them both at a second grave. “Norah Borges is the sister of the great Jorge Luis Borges. Norah was an excellent painter. Norah is not as well-known as her brother, but was a very talented woman.”
She arrived in Buenos Aires without much trouble. She had spent two hours packing his bags before the flight with a specific purpose in mind: to experience tango in Buenos Aires.
Why is She so in love with tango? She first fell in love with the music during a Latin dance class. More than salsa, samba, rumba, or even merengue, tango spoke most to her senses most. At first it was about dancing to the music to her and nothing more.
Then came burning copies of the albums that were played in class. The copies came to litter her car seat. She began to be able to sing along to Tango songs like “Desde el alma.”
Alma, si tanto te han herido
¿Por qué te niegas al olvido?
¿Por qué prefieres
llorar lo que has perdido
buscar lo que has querido
llamar lo que murió?
Vives inútilmente triste
y sé que nunca mereciste
pagar con penas
la culpa de ser buena,
tan buena como fuiste, por amor.
The song “Amarra” became a personal favorite and a song that she often hummed to himself.
Aquellos besos que perdí
Al presentir que no me amaba,
Fueron tormenta de dolor
¡Llena de horror!
Hoy no soy nada.
Yo sólo sé que pené
Que caí y que rodé
Al abismo del fracaso…
Yo sólo sé que tu adiós
Es la burla del dolor
¡Me acompaña paso a paso!
Ahora que sé que no vendrás
Vago sin fin por la Recova…
Busco valor… para partir…
Y así olvidando mi obsesión
¡Lejos de ti… poder morir!
After some time, she began to translate the lyrics and not simply sing along to them. She’s come to the conclusion that much of tango is about nostalgia.
A writer, a music critic, She’s even tried writing his own tango “My Corazon,” which She’s never set to music.
Memorias de lluvia
Memorias de cinema
Memorias de escuela
Memorias de un apartamento de rosa
Memorias de flores
De Chicas y de chicos
Calentar my corazon
She and He are now at the grave of Victoria Ocampo, the founder of a great magazine, Sur.
“Her sister Silvana, though,” He says, “is perhaps the greatest poet I have ever read in my entire life.”
“As an Argentine, what I embrace is a love of nostalgia that is marked by the city’s past, a grand past” He continues. “As you know from your love of tango, tango songs are songs of nostalgia and there’s no better place to visit Argentina’s past than in this cemetery.”
“There are of course great Argentines who have no graves,” He includes.
He is a friend of a friend of She, a woman who lives and works in Buenos Aires. When asked by his friend to please take her around to sites that have to do with tango, He decided to show curious tourist She that tango is quite simply an expression of being in love with the better days of the city that one lives. He’s asked himself questions about Tango also, and from them He’s come with a theory about tango. Standing within the massive grid that is Buenos Aires city, He’s wanted to feel what the Plaza de Mayo and the statue of Eva Peron have to do with Tango. Everything, He’s told himself.
“One more stop before we get dinner.”
The two get into his car until they reach another cemetery. She asks her guide where they are. He tells her that it’s a surprise.
They walk until they find themselves at a statue in front of a white grave, standing tall with dignity. It’s Carlos Gardel’s grave. She’s amazed.
“We are at the Chacarita Cemetery.”
She smiles because Carlos Gardel was one of the greatest singers of Tango of all time. Gardel was great at dramatizing poetic tango songs with his singing voice and his death in 1935, from an airplane crash, was that of a cultural hero. Her favorite song of Gardel’s is “Caminito.”
Desde que se fue triste vivo yo,
caminito amigo yo también me voy.
Desde que se fue nunca más volvió,
seguiré sus pasos, caminito, adiós.
The two have left the cemetery are now sitting at restaurant. He tells her that tango happened amidst war, amidst joy, and amidst disease, to the sound of pasta boiling in working class homes and rotten fish being eaten by poor children, but also amidst capitalism and had no choice but to be commercialized. That’s the beauty of it, according to him: that it was pursuit amidst hardship.
She loosens up.
“Tango is thus the pursuit of what?”
“Tango is the pursuit of tango!”
“Tango,” he continues, “is the pursuit of grandeur, urban life as it was in the grand past.”
“Esta Nena Linda, a great children’s song, is purity.”
He sings the song:
“Esta niña linda
que nació de día
quiere que la lleven
a ver a su tía.
Esta niña linda
que nació de noche
quiere que la lleven
a pasear en coche.
Campanita de oro,
torre de marfil,
cántenle a mi niña
que se va a dormir.”
He laughs. “Like ourselves in Buenos Aires, you are looking for a perfect, grand, past in lango. I, like yourself, love my past, enough to bring you along to a cemetery. Most of the lyrics in tango songs are nostalgic and perhaps that is why you feel a nostalgia for the perfect tango. The graves that we visited today are that of men and women who fought to worked to make Buenos Aires great, one way or another. It is the work of all them, together, that creates the sort of world that one can sing about in a tango, in my opinion.”
She laughs in agreement.
He’s pretty correct she feels. Tango can only be great when grandeur is being sung. For example, a great tango about being at a restaurant comes from a great chef, a great restaurant owner, a great waiter serving them with food and alcohol, etc.
“I’ve written us a tango, about today’ She tells him.
“You’ve written a tango about today! Let me hear it!!”
“It’s called ‘él y ella’.”
“I say we call it ‘ella y él’,” He immediately answers.
“It’s the same to me!”
She begins to sing.
Esto no es ficcion ..
Esta es la verdad
Que canto para usted ..
El y ella
Ella y el
Han pasado el dia
Caminar por la ciudad
En busca de historia
O, en busca de historias de gloria
O, en busca de un sentimiento del tango
O, en busca de un sentimiento del tango!
En busca del tango!
He laughs, at the song’s humor. He begins to sing along at ‘en busca del tango!’