Sunday, 30 January 2011

(New Year's) Resolution

New Year’s resolutions always seem more self-defeating than helpful to me. In a fit of enthusiasm, people make over wild resolutions that inevitably lead them to self-disappointment three weeks later. The first weekend of January, I was amused to see the huge amounts of fruit and vegetables that people were filling their supermarket trolleys with. The number of ‘intelligent’ newspaper sales apparently also go up in January with people promising themselves that they will read more intellectually stimulating material.

In the tango world, the attendance at classes peaks with dancers swearing that they will master their enrosques, perfect their ochos, have elegant posture etc. They promise to finish that book of tango history that they have on the shelf, lovingly polish/clean their tango shoes every week and learn the back catalogue of Rodolfo Biagi from 1938 to 1950.

In an ideal world, I would love to promise to do all of the above (I’d also add not to covet anyone else’s Comme Il Fauts) but I’ve decided to be pragmatic and instead make a realistic if small resolution for February 2011 onwards.

Resolution for 2011: I will no longer listen to tango compilations but instead stick to tango collections/albums by one orchestra at a time.

Someone once told me about a musicality class where the teacher had said that this is the best way of listening to tango and I was reminded of this when I read an article about a new event in London, where you go to a bar and simply listen to a whole album from start to finish. The organisers were explaining that too many people only downloaded their favourites and ignored the less popular songs on an album and they wanted to introduce what they felt should be a complete work (instead of just highlights) to their punters.

It’s quite easy to do the same thing in tango. You love a particular tango and just download it from iTunes. You buy a compilation of the ‘Best 100 Tangos’ and suddenly that is all you listen to. It’s ‘easy’ listening but are you missing out on how the composer developed or evolved their style? By listening to less common tangos by the same composer, hopefully you’ll be able to see the threads and the loops that link all of their work together? You’ll have greater clarity of what makes a D’Arienzo tango so different from a Calo tango. How Triollo broke new ground? And why Piazolla created Tango Nuevo?

Well, that’s my hope anyway! At present I’m listening to Angel D’Agostino and I’m loving it.


  1. I received a double CD album as a gift many years ago of nothing but La Cumparsita over the decades, beginning in 1916. By listening to two hours of the same song in chronological order you can learn so much about the history of tango and the development of different orchestras. For example, there are several cuts by the same orchestras in different time periods. So you can hear how the orchestras evolved their style. Fascinating and educational stuff.

  2. Fantastic post - I'm sharing this one around! I've been doing exactly that - listening to my favorites, and skipping the others.

  3. I've found that listening in tandas works well for me - a whole CD is ideal but can be too much. Obviously this is only practical when using a computer / ipod etc.

  4. "I've found that listening in tandas works well for me - Obviously this is only practical when using a computer / ipod etc."

    Not at all. There are plenty of CDs of tandas. Just about every DJ in BA sells them off his desk.