Thursday 20 December 2012

Insulting a world heritage

For a couple of months now, I am re-importing my Tangos, Milongas and Valses onto my computer. I started DJing in 2004, when internal hard-drives had only little capacity and external drives were huge, heavy and expensive, so I imported the music as mp3 or AAC files. Nowadays a DJ is expected to use a loss-less audio format, so all my files have to be replaced one by one. That‘s quite a feat!

I also use this opportunity to add missing info - e.g. recording dates - and to re-evaluate my entire library as my musical taste has evolved and changed. (Although I have to say: my general musical preferences are pretty much the same as eight years ago. It is not very likely that I rate a Tango with 5 stars now which I have given only 2 stars earlier.)

So I started this process of re-evaluation early this year with my favourites Di Sarli, Biagi, Canaro... Then I moved on to the orchestras that I find ok, although not very exiting: Tanturi, Demare, Calo, Fresedo... But eventually I also got to the ones that I don‘t like so much like Laurenz, D‘Arienzo, Firpo, Troilo and De Angelis. (Notice how smoothly I blend in a sacrilege: There are classic Tango orchestras that I don‘t like!)

Whatever I worked on, I commented on Facebook, describng the precious gems that I discovered but also the boring or sometimes even annoying part when I have to listen to music that I don‘t like for many hours or even days. This can be quite unnerving. So I vent.

This is the moment, when comments or mails start rolling in. Some agree, some are fun or neutral, just stating another opinion on a specific orchestra but others get very personal or even aggressive:
Some „friends“ actually accuse me of insulting a world heritage or their national pride by stating that I don‘t like a specific orchestra, style or song. They remind me of my duty as a  professional DJ to preserve Tango-culture or they just start calling names and declaring that I am surely a crappy DJ who hasn‘t got a clue. How could I? I am a bloody European! Or - if the writer is not argentine - I obviously have not spend enough time in Buenos Aires.

Oh my! 

Can you please get a grip?

Germany is one of the countries with the largest and most important artistic output over the last few centuries. 
I am half German - well basically full German as I grew up here - but if you tell me that Goethe is boring and Novalis kitsch, I will most likely agree. And although I like Heinrich Mann, I can perfectly understand if someone else will not want to read his novels. I prefer Shakespeare to Schiller and Verdi to Wagner. I‘d rather read a novel by Jane Austen than a poem by Novalis. I won‘t even feel insulted when you call Bach a loser even when I perceive him as a pure genius. But I never watched a choreography by Pina Bausch and hate Schlöndorff and Fassbinder! Ah, yes, not to forget: the greatest singer of all times was Pavarotti and not Fritz Wunderlich. Although that one might be a tie.

So, do you get it?

It‘s not about national pride. It‘s not about not acknowledging the importance of an artist for a certain genre. It is about personal taste: People (dancers, DJs, teachers) are allowed to have different personal tastes and to express them.

As a Tango teacher, it is my pleasure and duty to teach musicality and I can proudly say, that very few others focus as much on it as we do. We work on rhythmical variations in Tango, Milonga and Vals, we examine step dynamics, composition, phrases and cadencia, we introduce select orchestras in detail and we present others as examples for different styles of music.... I am sure, we won‘t forget any of the important musicians who have contributed to the development of Tango.

As a DJ, it is my job to keep a Milonga going and not to preserve a world heritage. That‘s what a foundation is for. 
If you‘ve read my posts, you will have noticed that I‘ve got quite strict but simple rules for dj-ing. I will play music of all mayor epochs - from the late 20‘s to the 50‘s. I will interchange rhythmical and lyrical Tandas and add a little drama at some point. I will surely play one or two Tandas of D‘Arienzo at every Milonga, even though I‘m not his biggest fan. If it fits into the flow of the evening, I might even play a Tanda by Troilo and if the level of dancers is good enough I will play Pugliese instead of a dramatic Biagi! Oh yes, and I will play De Angelis once in a while, his Valses actually quite often.

But: I make choices. Certainly as a dancer and teacher, but particularly as a DJ. 

Like any director of a classical orchestra who determines his programme for the season, I will chose the music that speaks to me or that I (!) feel is appropriate and important for a certain group of dancers. In my not so humble opinion, a lot of Tangos are either not danceable unless you‘ve got classical training, they are inappropriate for the social dancefloor or they are just too cold and academic. Some Tangos or even entire orchestras just don‘t speak to the heart. Not to mine anyway! I will start crying when listening to Nada by Di Sarli but stay totally unmoved by Danzarin of Troilo. So sorry!

The logical result for my work: some orchestras, I will use more often than others and a few, I might not even use at all.
I will definitely never play Varela or Racciatti at a Milonga and I have not used Sassone, De Caro or Firpo for years. I just don‘t like these orchestras, no matter how great artists they have been. (I know that some will already cringe because of me mentioning De Caro in this line-up.)
I will also not play late Fresedo, Troilo, D‘Arienzo, De Angelis or Canaro. These guys have recorded danceable and sometimes even nice music until the end of the 40‘s, but forget about their 50‘s! This is when Tango as a dance was on the decline and the remaining orchestras tried to stay in the game by adapting to a more commercial hollywoodesk style or by evolving into orchestras who played for a concert audience only. Very few orchestras - like Biagi or Di Sarli - managed to keep some integrity AND play danceable music in these difficult years. 
So far, no one EVER came to me after a Milonga and asked, why I did not play this or that particular orchestra. My choice usually guarantees, that needs are fulfilled and people leave the Milonga happy and tired because they have danced all evening. 

So I will keep on doing my job and saying my opinion. If you feel insulted by me having one, that‘s your problem.

Get over it!


Unknown said...

Well Melina, well done for "coming out". I suppose it's the presence of Troilo on your "don't like much" list that will raise the most eyebrows. Sure, De Caro, sure, De Angelis.... but Troilo? You must like Fiorentino's voice! Or the pianist. On Pa' Que Seguir for example, the last word is given to the voice and it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Keep blogging!

Melina Sedo said...

Hi John!

Sure, there are some nice Tangos by Troilo, although I prefer Alberto Marino to Fiorentino. ;-)

But IN GENERAL Troilos Tangos just don't touch my heart. So sorry...


Dirk Steinkamp said...

Hey Melina, nothing against having preferences!

But ... if I'd simply use the "doesn't touch my heart"-aspect to sort out things immedeatly and forever, it might be that I'm missing a chance here.

I would in fact have missed all traditional tango music if I would have applied this rule to myself. In the beginning I only liked "nuevo" and couldn't relate in any way to the traditional music.

This has changed to the opposite over the years -- but I also know exposing myself in more detail to some music deepens my emotional experience.

Just last week I was dancing with a friend of mine and when a tanda of (your not so favorite) D'Arienzo came she exclaimed: "Oh, I love this music!" -- And I was quite aware that the tanda consisted of some songs we worked on in a musicality seminar with Joaquín Amenábar which we both attended some years ago ... (she couldn't remember with her mind, but obviously with her brain)

Having said that there are surely tangos that might stick in the "2-star-rating" forever, but anyhow I like to give them a new chance from time to time. They surely haven't changed (except from mp3 to flac ;-)...) but I might have ...

Not sure if I should actually post this as I'm sure you've listened to more music more carefully than I did, but hey ... it's just a comment ;-) ...

Melina Sedo said...

DEar Dirk,

thanks for your comment.

But please have a look at the beginning of my post: I describe my CURRENT occupation of re-listening to all my Tango music. During this procedure (as well as during my musical work as a DJ and teacher) I constantly put into question my preferences and choices. I do not just rate a Tango with two stars and it gets stuck there forever without getting a new change.

So: taste changes.

There are Tangos that I used to love and find boring nowadays. There are Tangos that I re-discovered, because i had forgotten about them. There is music that touches my heart today and scared me years ago.
But: there is music (Tangos, whole orchestras...) that have remained somewhat of a constant in my life. I either love them or I don't.

I have always and will forever love Di Sarli. And I never liked Laurenz, no matter how often and carefully I listen to his Tangos! Sometimes a deepening of understanding might also confirm dislikes. ;-)

So sorry! ;-)

Siobhan said...

Well put Melina. This needs to be said. It's OK to have an informed opinion. And of course informed opinion can change with time. Taste is something which is developed AND which is subjective and personal. I'm really happy if a DJ has a strong, informed opinion and style. Otherwise things would just get boring, right?