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Tracing Tangueros: Alumna Co-Authors First English Study on Argentine Tango Music

During her first trip to Argentina over the holidays in 2000, Kristin Wendland (MM Composition, 1982) began exploring the complex relationship between dance and music in the Argentine tango.

The interest she developed in the subject during that brief trip blossomed into what can surely be called expertise. Wendland and her co-author, Kacey Link, just completed the first English-language foundational study on the tango, called Tracing Tangueros: Argentine Tango Instrumental Music.

Argentine Tango Ensemble Concert at Schwartz Center. Photo provided by Kristin Wendland.

Argentine Tango Ensemble Concert at Schwartz Center. Photo provided by Kristin Wendland.

After that initial trip to Argentina, Wendland began her research alone and later returned to Buenos Aires for seven months in 2005 as a Fulbright Scholar.

“In that time, I absorbed many elements of Argentine culture, especially the music, through attending countless concerts and getting to know tango musicians,” Wendland said.

Those tango musicians are the tangueros mentioned in the title. Anyone with an expertise in tango, especially a tango musician or dancer, is a tanguero, or aficionado. After essentially becoming a tanguero herself, Wendland shared her knowledge in an article published in the College Music Symposium in 2007 titled “The Allure of Tango: Grafting Traditional Performance Practice and Style onto Art-Tangos.

That same year, Wendland was invited to direct the College Music Society’s Tango Institute, where she met Kacey Link. They began to work together at the conference and eventually developed their ideas on tango into a book proposal. It took more than four years for that proposal to materialize into Tracing Tangueros, which was published by Oxford University Press in March.

Wendland has balanced the role of researcher and author while teaching as a senior lecturer at Emory University in Atlanta, where she coaches the Emory Tango Ensemble and teaches courses in Argentine tango, among other subjects.

Tracing Tangueros not only covers how to perform and interpret tangos authentically but also the genre’s historical development and guidelines to composing or arranging tangos. The book is supplemented by an extensive companion website, which includes musical recordings and videos that demonstrate tango performance practices. It is being sold in hardcover and ebook editions through the Oxford University Press.

“Kacey and I saw a need to write this book, since many musicians outside of Argentina are interested in playing tango music but really don’t know how to interpret it stylistically,” Wendland said.

“We hope it will give practicing musicians and scholars a solid stylistic basis to study, play, arrange and compose the music, while giving a more general reader an understanding of its history. We also hope it will lay the groundwork for future tango studies.”

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Story by CCM graduate student Alexandra Doyle

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