DMA Thesis

Download my Thesis – here: DMA thesis Tango, from Perception to Creation. A pianist’s quest to capture and embody Tango in performance and composition. by K.C Elton

“Argentinean Tango music is one of the most complex genres in music and dance. The thesis attempts to capture much of the knowledge required to define, compose, and play Argentinean Tango music, which is not included in conventional score sheets. The  thesis also identifies and summarizes characteristic elements in Argentinean Tango music. It is a wonderful resource for newcomers to Tango, both musicians and composers, as well as dancers of Argentinean Tango who like to deepen their understanding of the music.”

– Dr. Klaus Petritsch, science editor/International Argentinean Tango instructor, Brisbane 2017


Tango is an established genre in the international music scene, as exemplified by the compositions of Horacio Salgán, Mariano Mores, Astor Piazzolla and others. However, commercially produced Tango sheet music, with melodies and harmonic changes, does not fully correlate with the music expression one hears performed by musicians – Tangueros from Montevideo and Buenos Aires.

The main problem is that the distinctive music expressions that elicit emotional responses and appear to define the uniqueness of tango, are not notated on the page. This constitutes a learning challenge for the musician who is foreign to the genre and its original context. Therefore, she must attune her perception of what may be missing and implement a more robust notation of those emotion inducing features. This need is justified as the musician is seeking to compose, arrange and perform music utilizing standard music notation.

This thesis presents an attempt to bridge the gap, through performance-centered learning, to reveal Tango’s inherent characteristics. The outcome will give an outsider the opportunity to develop skills in Tango music to achieve a performance style closer to the genre’s authentic musical practice. Therefore, contextual knowledge and mastery of Tango piano vocabulary in an accessible form provides an avenue to play, arrange and compose in a manner that reflects a different approach to understanding pianism in the Argentinean Tango.

Keywords: Argentine Tango, characteristic elements, composition, performance, PhD thesis, study, Tango Argentino