Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


Musicology (Music)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Deborah Schwartz-Kates

Second Committee Member

Melissa de Graaf

Third Committee Member

Paul Wilson


Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) captivated Argentine and international audiences with his innovative works in a nuevo tango style and his bandoneón performances. Piazzolla?s success culminated during the 1980s with his second Quinteto, which performed remarkable concerts in venues such as the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and the Central Park Bandshell in New York, in addition to the performances at the Montreal and Montreux Jazz Festivals. His music also grew popular with a plethora of internationally acclaimed classical and jazz artists as well as with Argentine musicians themselves. However, Piazzolla?s music poses a challenge today, because nuevo tango represents a synthesis of the composer?s musical and cultural backgrounds, conjoining the tango legacy of Buenos Aires, the jazz idioms that he absorbed in New York, and the international traditions of classical music. Many musicians, specifically those from the United States, perform and study nuevo tango without having sufficient prerequisite knowledge of these practices, causing the genre to lose its cultural substance. By considering the fusion of tango, jazz, and classical genres and incorporating a cross-cultural analysis, this thesis aims to illuminate the basis of Piazzolla?s performance practices. It seeks to identify the yeites (tango instrumental techniques) that define nuevo tango and to suggest ways that the modern performer can incorporate these stylistic features to produce culturally informed interpretations of Piazzolla?s works. This study focuses on the practices of Piazzolla?s second Quinteto, at the pinnacle of his career, and emphasizes a gestural analysis of the yeites to produce a well-grounded concept of nuevo tango sound. This study concludes that, even though Piazzolla?s compositions represented a fusion of genres, the performance practices (and specifically the gestures) of the second Quinteto are primarily associated with the tango traditions of previous eras. Such gestures embody Piazzolla?s music and thus allow contemporary performers to recreate the evocative and persuasive characteristics of nuevo tango practices today.


World Music; Music Fusion; Latin American Music; Popular Music; Twentieth Century Music; Culturally-informed Performance; Bandoneon; Music; Argentine Music; Gesture; Nuevo Tango; Tango; Performance Practice; Astor Piazzolla; Piazzolla