Enrique Fernandez, Liner Notes from Piazzolla's Zero Hour

Often reprinted and quoted, so forgive the lack of originality in this post. Before I ever danced tango, I listened to this. It was Piazzolla that started my high-heeled journey. So every once in awhile I put the music on again, and re-read these liner notes.

Strip to your underwear if you're not in black tie. Get obscene if you want, but never casual. You feel an urge? Touch its pain, wrap yourself around it. Don't put on airs. What you seem must be what you are, and what you are is a mess, honey, but that's okay, as long as you wear it inside. Look sharp! Don't slouch. See anyone slouching here? Stay poised, taut, on guard. Listen to your nerves. It's zero hour. Anxiety encroaches, wave after wave, with every squeeze of the bandoneon. Already twisted by the contraposto of uprightness and savagery, this new tango turns the screw even tighter with its jazz dissonances and truncated phrasings. No relief. No quarter. At zero hour only passion can save you. Time is flowing backward and forward into the vortex. From the rooms come a warm air and a choked melody of syncopated gasps. Something throbs. A vein under your skin. It's inside you now, this bordello virus, this pleasure that tastes so much of anger and grief. When you find pools of pure, sweet light, bathe in their waters, balm for your lacerations. For the whiplash scars the bandoneon is leaving on your soul. If this were the old milonga of the slums, or those popular songs about painted faces and purloined love, you could let distance sketch a smile on your lips. Cheap irony. You won't get away that easy. This music is for you. It always had you in mind, your habits, your twitches, the tiny blood vessels bursting inside you when you hide what you feel. So walk in the parlor, bring your friend or come alone. Come hear the master as he unravels the wind inside the box, as he presses the growling tiger that threatens to embrace him and shapes the beast into a purring kitten. And tiger again. And kitten. It's all a game. You're going to play it too, you're going to dance with the tiger. Don't worry, your life is in danger. Remember your instructions. Listen up. And suffer, motherfucker, this is the tango.

-- Enrique Fernandez, liner notes to Astor Piazzolla's Tango: Zero Hour


happyseaurchin said...

harsh :)
i guess this accounts for the vibe at certain salons :)
should have this recorded to listen to before i enter :)

Mari said...

Personally, I have only felt that intensity at one milonga and it had more to do with the mix of people than the music played. It wasn't negative - it wasn't even intimidating (but I'm not a leader, and that's the intended audience of that piece) - just very intense. Like any tanda could be the one that changes your life.