The Monster Orchestra

The Monster Orchestra has been an important part of Tango de los Muertos from the very first year of the festival, in 2005. Our goal is simple and ambitious: to create a new Golden Age of tango, where it is common and viable to have really good, live tango music for dancing. To this end, each year of the festival we create an orchestra from a mix of professional and dedicated amateur musicians who rehearse throughout the weekend and then perform a set during the last milonga, for everyone to dance to. The goal is to make live music that matches the general consensus among dancers about what they really want.

Photo by Marty Katz, TdlM 2008

A Bit of Recent History

Much of the inspiration for the Monster Orchestra at Tango de los Muertos belongs to Ben Bogart, who started a monthly Tango Jam in Providence, RI, around the same time as we started planning the first Tango de los Muertos festival in 2005. Once people saw how many musicians were actually interested playing tangos, and how supportive the dancers would be of even modest efforts at creating social-dance friendly music, Tango Jams and Tango Jamquestras (when musicians from the jam perform informally at a milonga) became a more regular thing at festivals and in local milongas. They have since occurred in many cities across North America often led by dancer/musicians such as Ben, Korey Ireland, Homer Ladas, Evan Griffiths, Alex Krebs and Nick Jones.

We are very pleased to bring Korey Ireland back to lead this year's Monster Orchestra, and to have Ben Bogart playing lead bandoneon. You can read about them on the Artists page.

Good, Danceable Music

Photo by Marty Katz, TdlM 2008.

Many of today's tango bands play beautiful music, but not all of it is great for the social setting of a milonga. There's a general consensus among dancers that the best tango DJs primarily play music from the Golden Age of tango and play only a few songs with post-1950's recording dates. They rarely play Osvaldo Pugliese's biggest and most dramatic songs, and music by Astor Piazzolla is almost non-existent at a milonga. Yet many modern tango bands prominently feature music in the style of these two musicians.

Dancers agree that Pugliese and Piazzolla are amazing and awe-inspiring, but are perhaps not the best choice for meeting the musical needs of the majority of dancers. In order for dancers of all abilities to feel successful expressing the music, it first needs to have a steady, reliable beat. Then, on top of the predictable beat, one finds the rhythmic complexity and compelling melody that makes the music interesting for even the most advanced dancers. Golden Age orchestras such as Carlos Di Sarli and Juan D'Arienzo - beloved by dancers - have tremendous variety in their music, but a steady beat continues underneath all the pauses and syncopations. With this music, beginners can follow the beat and advanced dancers can choose which musical line or instrument to express at any given moment.

For Monster Musicians

There will be approximately 10 hours of rehearsal throughout the weekend, with the performance during the Sunday evening milonga. The rehearsal schedule will include sectional and small groups as well as full ensemble rehearsals. (You can see the current schedule on the Schedule page, but note that it is still subject to change, and musicians may not be required at all of those times because of sectional rehearsals.)

The orchestra will play approximately 8 songs. Parts will be distributed to the members ahead of time so that they can prepare. Until then, check out and play tango music as much as possible!

For more information contact Liz Ehrman at <ehrmanliz at hotmail dot com>.

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