Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tango Music: It grows on you

Tango music should not grow on you ... but it does for most dancers.  Why?  I just recently figured this out.

Imagine that you were just walking along on a vacation in Holland, and you stood there at an outdoor concert and you see this orchestra and hear this music for the first time:



Chances are that you would say, "What in the heck is that? I love it. It's amazing." What you probably would NOT says is "that music might grow on me and I might like it after I understand it better and learn to dance it."  Do me a favor and listen to the last moments of the video again.  Listen for the crowd experiencing what you probably never did:  Absolute awe of a type of music they had never heard before.

Let me introduce to you the same sextet but by themselves.  Had you heard Sexteto Canyengue live or on a good sound system you would have had your socks knocked off.  (Note that the video clip includes different moments of their concert and is not just one song.)


I bought the above live recording while I lived in Germany. I was amazed. I love the musicianship of this orchestra. Go to YouTube directly and you will see that many people do not like it (as of today 13 "likes" and 7 "dislikes.")  Many love the old orchestras, evidently. I do too.  But not all of this recorded music is faithful to what the musicians were playing.  DJs need to be picky about fidelity of the music.  Playing poorly recorded music makes it hard to hear, dance and appreciate. Many DJs never bought a recording of tango in their lives. How do modern musicians make a living if we do not appreciate them with our purchases of new/old music?

In talking with a tanguera about this phenomenon, she pointed out that once you learn a dance that belongs to the music, the dance changes the way you appreciate the music. This is less true for me. I was a musician and was introduced to nearly all music as a listerner/musician. I learned salsa after buying a book on Afro-Cuban bass. I told myself that I had to learn how to dance this music. But she is right -- I learned to play jazz, but after I learned how to dance swing, I became a better jazz musician. Dance does a lot to enhance how we hear music.  I am sure that learning to dance tango has been the most important reason I have learned to love it "through the back door."  Only recently did I realize why tango did not hit me like hearing reggae for the first time, which just floored.  Scratchy records with absolutely no bass for reggae would not have had me amazed or wanting to hear more.

No music slowly has become a strong favorite for me, and I love most everything which is done well from the start.  Only tango has exponentially grown to be now not only a favorite but clearly my favorite music.  As a musician I was almost always the unusual member of the band because I had the widest collection of music -- listening to Mozart, Brahms, Bach, and Miles Davis on the way to a gig in my van with fellow rock band members.  They thought it was weird, but it was my van so they had to listen.  That was music appreciation 101 for a captive audience!  It started to grow on them, especially Bach turned all the way up.

I have heard people say that at first tango sounded old fashioned.  This too is only a perception that starts from scratchy old-sounding recordings, I believe. Young people who listen to a well-mastered tango might think it is something brand new!  I have shared it with young soldiers, and the love it.  My children love tango, but I would never give them some old scratchy classic.   Fidelity is everything in two areas of life:  Music and marriage -- being faithful to the original. That makes playing poor recordings tantamount to adultery, don't you think?   :-)

DJs often have a collection of music that was given to them, and maybe in a MP3 format, taking yet again a level of fidelity from it. Tango played by excellent present day musicians, recorded in a digital studio and played on excellent speakers blow ANYONE away. It is incredible. So the below list of orchestras is great, but do not be shy about finding new recordings and helping present day musicians who are faithful to the old classics.

I am suggesting that we support new recordings of great classics. Also, below as a part of appreciating and understanding the music of tango, I am including a list of some of the best know orchestras. Each has it's own flavor and interpretation. Each should cause the the dancers to alter the way they dance, just as each orchestra might alter the way you feel, make love, sit in your car or whatever while listening to music.

If you heard rock 'n roll for the first time, and thought it was cool, wouldn't you be happy to have someone tell you about a band called Led Zepplin or the Beatles?

Here is a good list of the best known orchestras but don't forget the new recordings of the old stuff and totally new tangos being written!

Angel D’Agostino

Alfredo De Angelis

Juan D’Arienzo

Rodolfo Biagi

Miguel Calo

Francisco Canaro

Julio De Caro

Alberto Castillo

Lucio Demare

Edgardo Donato

Roberto Firpo

Osvaldo Fresedo

Pedro Laurenz

Francisco Lomuto

Orquesta Tipica Victor

Ciriaco Ortiz

Astor Piazzolla

Osvaldo Pugliese

Enrique Rodriguez

Carlos Di Sarli

Ricardo Tanturi

Anibal Troilo

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