Tango Argentino > Live music - not tango

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by oldtangoguy, May 17, 2017.

  1. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    Question for the open-minded.

    My wife and I love dancing to live music - golden age tango preferred, but those bands/orquestas are hard to come by, so we dance to blues, jazz, indie rock, reggie, grateful dead covers, you name it (NOT 2-steppin' country music however!). Our dance is totally improvised, in part because we may not know the music, and generally don't know the band. Everything we do is "tango", commonly seen in the world of "Alt-tango" and "Nuevo-tango".

    However, we have not even once seen others out dancing as we do, not even those who claim to prefer alt-tango. Is this true everywhere? Or is there some community in which the (alt) tango dancers hit the bars and dance halls?
  2. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    In Hamburg/Germany it started around 2005 that people that used to dance the way you do were freezed out from the normal milongas. Since then the community is splitted, with the alternative dancers beeing the smaller crowd. Giving birth to a new profession: the traditional tango djay. The alternative dancers keep dancing tango also to non-tango music (ambient and jazzy tunes, balkan, neotango). In Berlin there is still a big alternative scene, also in many french, spanish and italian towns I´ve been to. I find the ideological schism to be deeper in Germany than in other european countries.
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  3. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Makes sense. Golden Age ended before 1955, the bands and musicians of this time must not be playing live any more.

    As for places where alternative music is dominant, yes we have some in my neck of the woods. But not many. The music can be Murray Head's "say it ain't so joe", any of Virgin Suicides OST, Angie by the Stones, etc. And the DJ makes it very clear in his ads that he will play alternative music. And he plays alternative songs, not Electro ones. And, finally, it's not a full-alternative milonga. At best (or at worst, depending on your PoV) he will play 50% alternative, the rest is usual tangos.
  4. oldtangoguy

    oldtangoguy Active Member

    One clarification - although there is a bit of an alt scene where we live, we don't attend "Alternative milongas" with DJed music, much of which I don't like. I regularly DJ a traditional milonga, strongly prefer traditional music, and if I'm going to dance to recorded music, please let it be golden age.

    The question was less about alternative djed music and more about peoples willingness to go out and dance to live music. Also, I'm not necessarily advocating "nuevo tango moves". One can, and we often do, dance close embrace ("milonguero style", sort of) to the live music, depending on the feel of the music.
    opendoor likes this.
  5. TomTango

    TomTango Active Member

    There's a group from my community who goes out and "tango bombs" live music venues (blues, rock, swing, whatever) after our practicas. It's not really my thing, but they seem to have a blast doing it.
  6. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    So why do you make a difference between djayed and live music? Music will go straight to the legs or it will not. When passing a street musician with his accordion I will grab my woman and do some sort of improvized dancing. But of course I would try to match the style as far as I can (folklore, or swing, or carribbean, or what else).
    By the way I like Dominic's "mil-ipso" improvisation in Time Square…​

  7. Reuven Thetanguero

    Reuven Thetanguero Active Member

    From my experience the distinction between live and recorded music lies in the fact that while recorded music has an even and predictable beat, live music depends and the musician and that moment and usually it's either too slow, too fast or it alternates in between the two.
    I find that in a Milonga it's easier to dance to a recorded music.
    jantango and opendoor like this.
  8. Oliver

    Oliver Member

    That's interesting. My experience is the opposite. The energy of live tango music, with good musicians connecting well and leading each other, creates a more palpable force than recordings for me. I tend to have much better dances to live music.
    itwillhappen and oldtangoguy like this.
  9. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    And mine is the opposite of yours.
    Last Sunday we had an orchestra of two musicians. Band and unplugged guitar. So much for the energy. And even the sound volume. The worst I've been supposed to dance on in terms of live music was an outdoor milonga with an orchestra of one musician, playing the guitar (unplugged too) and singing. Well I suppose he was singing, the lips were moving. Difficult to say though in such a large place and full of passers-by
  10. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    Hmmm, what's an analogy that will work with this crowd? Ah, here it is: Live music is the close embrace version of music. Recorded music is the open embrace version.

    I'm firmly in the "Live music is better" camp:
    • It is often a more special event that has had more effort put into it.
    • It is fun to watch the musicians. It is fun to be surprised and say "Oh, that's how they do it," or "They are getting all that music out of only 2 instruments!"
    • When my DW and I dance to live music (and are often the first to start dancing), we often get thanked by the band in front of the whole crowd. BTW we always thank the band afterwards.
    • One night we had a speed contest with the band -- they kept playing fast and faster, and we kept dancing faster and faster. DW had to go to every other beat. I wasn't sure I would make it, but managed to keep the pace the whole song. It was great fun.
    • The band will speed up or slow down to suit the dancers. If a song is not as popular, they'll cut it short. If the floor is really going, they'll play the song longer.
    • I'm gong to get all touchy-feely on y'all here: There is a different feeling to live music. I'm amazed how I can walk into a club and always know instantly if the music is live or not. Recorded music is missing something.
    Onto the OP's original post: We have, but rarely, seen Tangueros dancing Tango to Rock or Blues. Something fun is having had any dancing lessons puts you at the 90th+ percentile.
    raindance likes this.
  11. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, you're biased here. But no problem, I am too. :)

    Let's say I do the cooking. Lots of time to buy everything, lots of care to check the book before and after doing anything. Eventually nobody can chew the cake, it goes to the garbage bin.

    A sampler and an electronic keyboard with lots of pre-recorded patterns? Yes the combo might generate a lot of volume. But you might not consider that as live music.

    My partner knows that when I don't like the music I will invite followers whom I don't like either, and she directly goes to other leaders until the live band makes a pause.

    Not everybody has been a hamster running its wheel in a previous life. Also, tango is not sirtaki.

    What to say, I have ears too, yes the spatial perception is different.
  12. jantango

    jantango Active Member

    Two musicians is a duo, not an orchestra. One musician is a soloist. Playing tango on the guitar and singing is equal to dancing to Carlos Gardel -- it's never done.

    It's nice to hear live music, but it's expensive. It's rare even in Buenos Aires milongas, except for a special occasion. Dancers who know the golden age recordings, know what's coming in the music and improvise. That's not the case with a tango orchestra performing live, even if they use transcribed arrangements directly from recordings of the great orchestra. The argument is why pay for a musical group to play the most popular tangos in the style of the golden orchestras when you can put on a CD of the original recordings from the 1940s and not have to charge the dancers for the additional expense?

    There were hundreds of tango orchestras during the Golden Age in Buenos Aires playing at clubs all over the city. The crowds went to hear the orchestras with their star singers. But the serious dancers went to the the city center confiterias where recordings in tandas were preferred. Orchestras didn't play for hours, only a half hour set, alternating with a jazz group. Milongueros went to dance to all the best orchestras for hours in the confiterias along Corrientes.

    We needn't long for the good old days of live orchestras for tango dancing. We have the recordings of Troilo, Di Sarli, D'Arienzo, Tanturi, Biaggi, etc. that will be played as long as milongas exist.
    ArbeeNYC likes this.
  13. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Still have Cacho Dante's words in my ears: only milongueros went to the confiterias, but us serious dancers danced to live orchestras (especially Pugliese was his favorite). And Osvaldo Cartery admitted that he preferred the jazz and latin sets over tango, especially bolero had been his favorite for dancing close together.
    I can understand that you try to stick to a dying tradition, jantango. But the traditions and customs you found in BsAs already were an artificial construction.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2017
    itwillhappen likes this.
  14. Tango Distance

    Tango Distance Active Member

    I am surprised to see this many that prefer music exactly as they have heard it before. Tango as movement is not supposed to have patterns -- but I guess this doesn't extend to the music, where predictability (due to knowing the music and repeatedly playing the same rendition) is valued?

    FWIW I do find it easier to dance to music I know, be it Tango or Rock or Blues, but it is also a fun challenge to not know a song, but try to pick up how the 2nd half will go, or try to do better with the 2nd and 3rd songs of a Tanda.

    Now, onto comments on Newbie's comments:

    Preference is always "correct." How do you prove someone wrong that prefers blue dyed hair over green dyed hair? This is a great case where we can both be right.

    Don't worry, Newbie, nobody is accusing you of being a good cook.

    Even though I have done and seen hundreds of hours of Tango, I am still impressed by a good demonstration or even a local couple that is doing well. Likewise, though I have heard thousands of hours of music, I am still impressed by what some people can do with a single acoustic guitar. It is doubly impressive to me, in that being live means there are no 2nd tries -- I am amazed how a good musician can get it right the first try. I'm triply impressed in that I'm happy if I can get 10 notes in a row correct when I play music!

    Poor Newbie, compounded misery! I'm sure some of these followers say things like "Live music is the best!" They probably like close embrace, too! And now, thanks to my post, you'll associate live music with close embrace! Oh the humanity!

    There just happens to be a YouTube documenting my past life (no dance content):

    Well, it was being danced to Rock and Roll music... Sometimes it is fun to go fast, and sometimes fun to go slow!

    ... and better, not that I'm biased.

    BTW I just met a lady that looked familiar. We were trying to figure out the connection when she said she was a singer in a band, and then I remembered exactly. After a couple of minutes of conversation, she said, "Oh yeah, you were that couple that was dancing to my music! You don't know how much I appreciated that!"
  15. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    If I'm at a dance party with a tanguera, then I'll dance some kind of "limited milonga style" in close embrace.
    The feedback from unacquainted ladies observing that is quite good. :)

    And in general I'm quite bad in memorizing music and not willing to work hard on this.
    So for me is it not significantly easier to dance to recorded than to live music.
    By that I get - relatively - better if the crowd has to dance to live or rare sounds.
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2017
  16. itwillhappen

    itwillhappen Active Member

    I think it's not so much about improvising the steps but the timing. With unknown music one will do some (more) "mistakes" in that area and it maybe not so comfortable.

    Like Melina Sedo has written hin her Blog:
    Tango Distance likes this.
  17. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I think most people want to dance to music they like, (and have familiarity with).

    For me, if I really like the band, then I like live music. If the band is mediocre, I'd much rather have recorded music. Of course if the DJ sucks, the preference can change again.

    When I was in BsAs a few months back, a lot of the late milongas would have a band that would play for maybe 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. It was great to start with a DJ, hear a band for a while, then go back to the DJ. I especially liked that the bands where more or less playing in the golden age style, rather than fusing in other genres into their tango.

    For me, it depends on my approach to the tanda, whether a "challenge" is helpful, or a negative. For example, if I'm looking mostly for the connection in a tanda, having a "challenge" is not what I'm looking for.
  18. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    It's not improvization if you know the music beforehand. And for a follower, if I may hijack the thread, I'd say it's not following when you know the leader.
  19. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    This is an interesting thought. How are you defining improvisation?

    One could have certain rhythms that they might like to use with a song (basically, when to step), but what step to use (I think), would have to be improvised at a milonga, when there are other couples all around, that bring floorcraft into play. I know I don't do the same thing to my favorite songs (that I know really well). To me, that makes it improvised, but others may have different ideas on what makes a dance improvised.
  20. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I think there are two different definitions of knowing/predictability/improvisation going on at the same time, and that muddles the discussion, and i think the relation between vocabulary and musicality is quite interesting.

    On the one hand there is rote learning, where we know a specific piece of music, or a specific pattern, or a specific leaders habits by heart, and on the other hand is the understanding of vocabulary/geometry/tango music/leading that is about the gestalt, independent of a specific instance.
    In vocabulary we in general talk about patterns as examples that we can use to understand the general form, and once we have a deep understanding of the general form we can improvise and create an infinite number of patterns spontaneously in the moment.

    I would argue that for musicality it should be same - knowing a tango by heart is not the same as having a understanding for the underlying structure that makes a tango, because knowing the structure allows us to play with our own, and the followers, expectations of what is going to happen next (and i would also argue that what makes a good tango is the orchestra playing with the dancers expectations of what is coming next).

    Lets pick an easy example: the end of a song. One of the basic rules of a danceable tango is that the orchestra warns us when the song is about to end. There are quite a few pieces where they mess with us - either by continuing for a bit after having telegraphed an ending, or by cutting the ending short by one beat. In both cases if we just know the song by heart we are missing out on the fun.

    So my basic view is that i want to have an understanding of the structure of the music, so i can have shared musicality with my follower, but i don't actually like knowing a song by heart, because then if i am not careful my dancing becomes somewhat abstract, and if my follower can't understand how i relate to the music they can't be in the music themselves. A lot of non-tangos (either live or recorded) don't give me a usable framework for this shared musicality. A lot of non-tangos that is written for dancers/has enough structure, like for example the balkan waltzes that used to be popular, work very well. I prefer those to tangos that are not written/performed with dancers in mind.
    Tango Distance likes this.

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