The Orchestra Matters

Full disclosure: I can't name the orchestra when a tango comes on. I can, however, hear the differences between versions of a song - particularly one that I like a great deal. If I had a better music vocabulary, I think I might have an easier time remembering the names because I could attribute certain characteristics between version and orchestras. As it is, I have my own little internal dialogue that goes something like, "oh this is the version that's slower in the beginning then speeds up." Or, "this is the one that stays slow and melodic, but ends really abruptly."

While I was trying to explain the importance of listening to several versions of songs to get an idea of the range of the music, I thought of an example that seemed to almost make my point for me. So to the tanguero who asked, this is why I think the orchestra is important. . .

Here is Eric Clapton (Cream) song Layla (1983) with Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page:

And, here is Clapton and Mark Knopfler doing the same song but much more slowly - a very different energy and feel to it. To really express the music, you'd have to dance them differently.

They're both great pieces of music but evoke, for me anyway, very different feelings when listening to it.

Now take El Choclo, one of the most recognizable pieces of tango music. First check out todotango's page for the background of the song:

Now, here is Tango el Choclo, Orquesta de Francisco Canaro:

And here is Piazzolla's El Choclo:

And if you're really interested: Nat King Cole's Kiss of Fire for comparison:


Anonymous said...

I have to say that after my years of dancing, I still have trouble with the orchestras and the name of the songs. I listen to Tango music all of the time and have about 4 days worth of traditional music from the original orchestras and later ones. I am starting to get a grip on some of the classics, but my mind can't fully get a grip on it.
However, my body knows the songs. Go figure that one out!

AlexTangoFuego said...

For what it's worth, I have 45 different versions of La Cumparsita, but I only play three or four of them.

With most songs, there are different recordings of the same song by the same orchestra, sometimes with the same, or different singers. Then with pretty much all of the songs, there are different versions of the same song by different orchestras.

That's the tricky part of being a DJ, is listening and sifting through them to determine which is the "best" version - most danceable, most emotional, highest fidelity, best energy, and when to apply that energy.

A tango community can become accustomed/ingrained/brainwashed to certain music/songs, especially if the DJ(s) have a limited music collection. I know that one's music appreciation can be limited or suppressed by this - if a DJ plays a high proportion of songs I would offer as "bad" examples of tango music, then the community at large begins to believe that this is good, or even "the best" tango music to dance to.

Makes me wonder if it could even manifest into the tango being danced. What if an entire (isolated) community was dancing to really bad versions of songs - muddy, with low energy - and placed inappropriately together within tandas, and tandas inappropriately placed next to each other?

I wonder what that hypothetical community's tango might look like. More importantly, I wonder what it might feel like.

Since we all know this, that in tango, "the dance comes from the music..."

Enjoy your Sunday!

(sorry to be so verbose....but you got me to thinkin'...)

Anonymous said...

My musical training has helped me identify the unique styles of each orchestra of the milonga. It has taken years of listening to get to the point of knowing which orchestra is playing. The milongueros have helped me along the way by identifying the tango and singer for me.

There are Argentines who have danced all of their lives in the milongas and still aren't able to recognize the difference between Calo and Troilo. If it's important to you, you will learn to know the music you are dancing.