Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Townsend: Four Pieces, No. 3, Xitango

This is the third of my Four Pieces for Violin and Guitar and the last to be written. Claudia, my violinist, kept pestering me to play some Astor Piazzolla with her but I didn't have any music handy so I just wrote this. It's not quite a tango, but it is tangoish, tangoesque.

Claudia even had to invent a new percussion effect on the violin. I open with a kind of golpe where you slap the strings against the frets, an effect used in Latin American music. Later on, when the violin layers the same passage over the guitar, I wrote that it should be col legno or with the wood of the bow, a common effect, but in this case without pitch. That didn't really work so Claudia just started doing the same thing that I was: slapping the strings against the fingerboard. It is not quite as effective as the violin doesn't have frets to hit against, but it does match with the guitar better.


UPDATE: I forgot to say where the title comes from. Living in Mexico one often runs into words from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. In fact, we even have a few of them in English: tomato, chocolate and coyote are all words from Nahuatl. So when I was writing the tango, I thought I would create a new word for the title. The Nahuatl prefix "xi-" (pronounced "she") creates a command or imperative form of the verb. So, "Xitango" is saying "dance tango!" It is also a trilingual pun: "she tangos".