An Experiential Platform for Multimodal Tango Research

I created this website as part of my dissertation as a flexible platform where I can showcase films and photographs about neighborhood tango culture. As my films are still evolving, the versions available here are not all finished. Some are drafts and represent my process of working through my footage and creating sequences that speak to my different research questions. When I set out to film tango culture in Buenos Aires I was guided not by a script but instead by themes. Set in the neighborhood tango music scenes of the city, my goal was to film moments where tango music was used as an expression of: neighborhood life, bar culture, intimacy, participatory musical belonging, urban activism, and locality. These themes informed the things I shot, how I shot them, and why I shot them. They informed the kinds of aesthetics I sought out when filming and editing, and if I succeed, should now act as vehicles through which my audiences can experience tango culture as I have come to know it in these circumstances. 

The films I made are personal and by no means represent tango culture as a whole in the city of Buenos Aires today. They seek to evoke experiences I had and shared with my friends and colleagues in our personal and collective journeys to experience tango as a meaningful part of our everyday lives in this city. My focus on the social aesthetics of neighborhood tango cultures reflects my own personal aesthetic interest in these particular kinds of musical settings. My intense experiences with tango music in neighborhood bar settings were what inspired this research. Over the years I have met many individuals--many Argentine and many not Argentine (like myself)--who have had equally intense and transformative musical experiences in these kinds of settings. These feelings are what I hope to evoke through these films. Embracing a flexible understanding of locality as a feeling more than a something fixed, these films stand as sensory representations of the production of musical intimacy in modern cities--an intimacy capable of crossing national, generational, and cultural boundaries. 

Of course, if you have never been to these tango bars there will be many things that you will not understand about these films and the subtle references they make to local people, places, and relationships. However, I have made them intending them to be accessible on multiple levels. Accessible to my friends and colleagues here in Buenos Aires as a way of remembering and bringing visibility to certain people, places and events that have great meaning to us, and also accessible to those of you whom are less familiar with these contexts, but interested in learning what makes them meaningful places of musical production and experience. 

I invite you to explore the films on this page and the photographs that also show snapshots of neighborhood tango culture highlighting aesthetics very different from those of mainstream tango imagery. Each film has a story which I will briefly explain below the film. In many cases, the events, people, and places will also be discussed further in the written elements of my dissertation. There are some stories better told through writing, and others through films. Mostly, it is my desire that by exploring this website you begin to have a feel for why neighborhood tango scenes are such important sites for local tango production in recent years, how the neighborhood offers such a powerful sensory imaginary for experiencing tango as local culture, and how music, experienced in these settings, becomes a powerful and transformative vehicle for the production of urban belonging in this complex and modern city.