Polly's Tango Talk

Life Cycle In A Song/La Mariposa

One of the most amazing yet under-appreciated aspects of Argentine Tango is its music. It often takes years before enthusiasts really listen to and hear the complexities in melody, harmony, rhythm, and orchestrations. Even lesser known and appreciated are the lyrics of tango music, but that’s another topic, another day.
La Mariposa, “The Butterfly” is one of my all-time favorite tangos, probably in the top five. The first few times I heard it, I had no clue as to the meaning of the title or any familiarity with the group playing, Color Tango. I learned later that Color Tango is  THE premier contemporary orchestra and specializes in playing in the style of one of tango’s most famous and popular orchestras, Osvaldo Pugliese. Pugliese’s music is among the most exciting to listen to and challenging to dance to because it often has no discernible or steady beat, frequently changes mood and/or tempo, and each song is played as if it were telling a story. La Mariposa is a perfect example. Pugliese was popular in the 50’s and Color Tango is contemporary. I prefer Color Tango’s version while others prefer Pugliese’s. (Pooh-lee-ay-see.) Accent on “ay.”
As we know from grade school biology, the life cycle of a butterfly begins with the egg. A baby caterpillar emerges and spends its entire cycle eating, eating, eating and molting as it outgrows layer after layer of skin. When it’s time, it attaches itself to the underside of a twig or branch and becomes a chrysalis wherein the magical major metamorphosis occurs.  A heartbeat develops, organs and wings evolve, and when everything is ready, a lovely, graceful, delicate butterfly emerges, spreads its wings, launches into flight, soars, and then lands on its first flower. The link below  shows this entire life cycle in about four minutes.
Life Cycle of the Butterfly
La Mariposa by Color Tango
You can hear each of the four cycles as Color Tango recreates them through its superb orchestration and exquisite arrangement with bandoneon solos that bring emotions right to the surface and over the top. (Maybe that’s just me.) The original version as played by early orchestras had no change of rhythm or mood, and was played at a fairly upbeat tempo. Completely unrelated to anything resembling the life cycle of a butterfly.
This song grabs me by my emotions every time and I can’t talk about it in class to students without choking up. The music is stunningly beautiful and it’s like listening to life in a song. Oh, wait…that’s what it is.
Many dancers enjoy this piece, both for performing and for interpreting on the social dance floor, without having really listened to it and without realizing the significance of its arrangement. They miss so much. I hope that from here forward you will hear its message.

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