Monday, January 5, 2009

Deep Tango Thoughts :: The Golden Age

On the subject of the Golden Age of Tango, and Golden Age tango music, and why it sounds so wonderful, and why no one today seems to be able to reproduce that sound...

Below is post I just made to a tango discussion group...recapping several prior posts by other members...and summing up with my own concept of "The Fifth Element" of tango...

As a side note, when I first started a blog, it was titled "Tango Quinta Essencia" or something like that. My intent at the time was to singlemindedly explore that elusive, mysterious aspect of tango. That quintessential element that makes it such an incredible experience. Not an incredible experience for everyone, but to the lucky and enlightened few. But I broadened the scope - and came up with "on life, tango and the universe..."

Here's the post...

To Pat's question about crucial elements that may be required to achieve the character and quality of Golden Age tango sound...recapping prior posts to help gel my own understanding...note that I am not a musician, nor have any special technical knowledge...I just know what sounds good, what moves me, and what doesn't sound good...

Critical Elements :: Interesting points made by posters [paraphrasing]

1] Zeitgeist - World/Social Context :: The time period during which the music was played...[Ron] 'Inflected' by world events and social mores of the time ... this cannot be reproduced...ever...

2] Space/Suspense :: Golden Age orchestras/musicians deliberately or unconsciously allowed for space, suspense, suspension, openness in the arrangements...versus modern orchestras/musicians (in general) not recognizing this, and hurrying the music, just as many/most dancers hurry their dance... [Tom]

3] Orchestra Dynamics :: The smaller size of orchestras today versus in the Golden Age, the larger size of orchestras and the increased number of violins and bandoneons provided a richness and depth to the sound...[Christopher, Myk] Inexperienced musicians without sufficient practice time and not enough emphasis on ensemble playing...[Christopher]

4] Subconscious Awareness :: The fact that the human mind 'knows' that this is no longer the Golden Age, and may impact how we 'hear' Golden Age vs. Modern Age tango... [Bruno] Were the listeners of the Golden Age as moved by the music then, as we are today? Who knows?

5] The Fifth Element :: Whether you ascribe to Ilene's 'magic' quality, an intangible that simply cannot be reproduced, or believe that there may be some other quintessential element, possibly metaphysical energy, which takes this 'magic' quality, and pulls in the Zeitgeist of that time. Add to the mix the emotional energy of the composers, orchestra leaders, and individual musicians - more musicians, more energy. Finally, top it off with the emotional energy of the dancers and listeners they were composing and playing for at that time. Let's just call it 'energy'. This had to be a profound influence, in my view.

I doubt that the sound and emotion of that music, from that time, can ever be reproduced. More importantly, why? Why even attempt to reproduce it? Not that Pat suggested this in the originating post, but there does seem to be a gentle undercurrent of a desire to somehow reproduce the sound. It's interesting to discuss and ponder, which I'm sure we all have, and will continue to do.

My feeling is to leave it alone. I'm not saying not to discuss or ponder it, but to let the music be what it is. Let the musicians of today create their own music - free in their own creative juices. They say "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", but I think in this case, it is not. There is something very beautiful about spontaneous, unhindered, free flowing creativity. Let ColorTango be, and sound like, ColorTango. Let the others be and sound like themselves. When a painter today is commissioned for a work, hopefully the patron doesn't say "make it look like a Matisse..." - the patron wants the artist to create a uniquely individual, one-of-a-kind, work of art.

One of my favorite tango quotes is by Jorge Luis Borges. He said "The tango can be debated...but it still encloses, as does all which is truthful, a secret."

Let's keep that magic, that energy, that secret...let's keep it secret...

Or, you may ascribe to the philosophy that tango is "just a dance..."

2 comments:

Limerick Tango said...

Another thing looked over is the workmanlike attitude of the musicians. Think of the jobbing musicians of Tin Pan alley. Musicianship has not always been equated to artistry.

koolricky said...

The golden age was born out of a period when things were not flowing. There was "too much water in the damn", and it was the music of De Caro and the rhythm of Biagi when he payed at D'Arienzo that showed to all these new musicians a way and all the water surged in one way. Soon, the members of those early orchestras made their own orchestras influencing other orchestras... From De Caro' band there were many that made their own bands such as Laurenz, Maffia and even Pugliese and from D'Arienzo you got the more rhythmic school such as Biagi. Of course there were other influencial artists that also influenced quite a lot of the golden age tango such as Troilo or Canaro but I think that the conditions were there for a golden age surge.
These days there is another revolution, neotango. Golden age tango was such an alien concept at the time as neotango is now. I think that the average quality of neotango is far lower than that of golden age tango but maybe in the next few years we'll see the fruits of the initial seed laid down by the likes of Carlos Liebedinsky and Gotan Project...