Libertango, by Astor Piazzola and how to play it

Libertango is a composition by the tango composer Astor Piazzolla, which was recorded and published in 1974 in Milan, Italy. The title comes from the fusion of the words “Libertad” and “Tango”, to symbolize Piazzolla’s advance from Classic Tango to New Tango (New Tango).

This composition has appeared in over 500 separate releases and I think for good reason. The original release was recorded with Astor Piazzolla (the composer) playing the bandoneon. This is a piece of music that I really like, so I decided to play it on the mandolin.

Note that the mandolin alone is not capable of creating the projected rhythm and intensity from Libertango, so in my performance Libertango can be heard played by a guitar and a mandolin. I decided to play both parts, which was … an adventure, as I had to practice both mandolin and guitar, record them, and then combine them into one piece.

The steps I had to follow for this project were:

  • Meet the score and tablature
  • Learn how to play the Libertango on both the guitar and the mandolin.
  • Use a tablet like the iPad for practice until I was ready to record it.
  • Record each part separately and at the same time make sure that they can be synchronized and that the sound quality is good.
  • Use Garageband to link the two parts (mandolin and guitar) and create lossless (flac, m4a) or lossy (mp3) versions.
  • Rise the performance and launch it to the world!

The whole process took me around 3 weeks and I used a week to find and learn the piece, another week to practice to perfection (almost) and the final third week to record, merge and publish the result. This would not be possible without the technology, that is, software applications such as the iPhone / iPad Guitartab for the tab sheet, Garageband for recording, processing and merging and finally SoundCloud for publishing the performance. If you are interested in hearing my performance, you can find links at the end of this article.

If you want to hear other famous Libertango performances, you should check out the Youtube videos; I recommend you to search for the keyword “libertango” and select the recording with Yo-yo Ma, the famous cellist, and also the very original arrangement for symphony orchestra by the Norwegian composer Sverre Indris Joner, performed by Sverre Indris Joner – piano, Atle Sponberg – violin, Steinar Haugerud – double bass, Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rolf Gupta.

Libertango revolutionized traditional tango in a new style by incorporating elements from jazz and classical music, using extended harmonies and dissonances, as well as counterpoints, and venturing into extended compositional forms. This diversity made it attractive and it remains, after almost 40 years, one of the most popular tangos in history.

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