The Tango MachineMusical Culture in the Age of Expediency

The Tango MachineMusical Culture in the Age of Expediency

Morgan James Luker

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226385402

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book examines the new and different ways contemporary tango music has been drawn upon and used as a resource for cultural, social, and economic development in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In doing so, it addresses broader concerns with how the value and meaning of musical culture has been profoundly reframed in the age of expediency—where music and the arts are called upon and often compelled to address social, political and economic problems that were previously located outside the cultural domain. Long hailed as Argentina’s so-called national genre of popular music and dance, tango has not been musically or socially popular in Argentina since the late 1950s. Nevertheless, tango continues to have salience as a potent symbol of Argentine culture within the national imaginary and global representations. It is precisely this dual trend of detachment and connection that has made tango an exceptionally productive resource for bolstering so many different types of projects in contemporary Buenos Aires. This book examines how these projects have reshaped the field of cultural production regarding tango in Buenos Aires, turning previous ambivalences if not outright antagonisms between cultural producers, private enterprise, the state, and so-called third sector or civil society organizations into synergistic opportunities for development of all sorts. While these newly configured relationships are usually not the straightforward win-win that many advocates claim, they certainly confound conventional notions of left/right politics—cultural and otherwise—and in that sense present a serious challenge to the critical scholarship of music.