Thursday, December 14, 2017

A dancer’s brain develops in a unique way :: By Hanna Poikonen :: University of Helsinki

Callie Fink, Artist

Music activates our deeper brain areas, but what happens in a dancer's brain? Movement can trigger a flow state which makes way for an intuitive neural network.

By Hanna Poikonen, Doctoral Candidate, University of Helsinki/Cognitive Brain Research Unit

As technology takes over more areas of our lives, interest in more natural ways of life has also increased massively. One example of this desire to reconnect with nature is the upsurge of yoga and meditation retreats.

Music and dance have been fundamental parts of the human experience for millennia. They have enabled interaction which has given rise to close communities and rich cultures.

Neuroscience has studied music for decades. It has been found to activate the deeper brain areas in a unique way. Deep brain areas are primarily responsible for emotions, memory and social interaction. They evolved in the human brain much earlier than the cognitive functions in the cortex.

Deep brain areas are primarily responsible for emotions, memory and social interaction.

My doctoral dissertation developed methods for understanding the processes that dance generates in the cortex.

I compared the brain functions of professional dancers and musicians to people with no experience of dance or music as they watched recordings of a dance piece. The brain activity of the dancers was different from that of musicians and the control group during sudden changes in the music, long-term listening of music and the audio-visual dance performance.

These results support the earlier findings indicating that the auditory and motor cortex of dancers develops in a unique way. In my study, the dancers’ brains reacted more quickly to changes in the music than those of musicians or members of the control group. The change is apparent in the brain as a reflex, before the dancer is even aware of it at a conscious level.

I also found that dancers displayed stronger synchronisation at the low theta frequency. Theta synchronisation is linked to emotion and memory processes which are central to all interpersonal interaction and self-understanding.

In dance, the basic elements of humanity combine in a natural way.

Touch and cooperation are integral elements of dance – without them, there can be no dance. They are as important to dance as movement and music.

However, the neuroscience of dance is still a young field. Consequently, the brain processes of touch and cooperation have not yet been studied through dance specifically.

We do know that in dance, the basic elements of humanity combine in a natural way. It combines creative act, fine-tuned movement and collaboration, much like playing music. The movement involves the whole body, like in sports. There is touch, like in gentle interaction.

Dancing is also associated with “flow”, a well-researched phenomenon in which the person becomes fully immersed in an activity. Flow experiences have been found to increase the general contentment and productivity of the person as well as the quality of the activity. It reduces the activation of the neural network which is responsible for logical deduction and detailed observation.

This makes room for the creative neural network which also has an important role in generating a relaxed state of mind.

Practicing an instrument requires extreme precision. It has been found to shape motor processes in the brain in many ways. Meanwhile, studies conducted on dancers reveal how their brains have specialised to process dance motion.

Certain areas of dancers’ brains have specialised precisely to observe dance movements. The brain structures of musicians and dancers have also been found to differ from the general population in the areas responsible for processing movement and sound.

Brain synchronisation enables seamless cooperation.

Studies on producing music and movement show how during cooperation, the brains of two people become attuned to the same frequency. This is apparent in how the low-frequency brain waves of the participants become synchronised.

Brain synchronisation enables seamless cooperation, and is necessary for creating both harmonic music and movement. The ability to become attuned to another person’s brain frequency is essential for the function of any empathetic community.

Lately, researchers have gained fantastic results regarding the role of exercise as a mood enhancer. In addition to drug treatment and psychotherapy, exercise is currently even being recommended as a form of treatment for depression. Exercise releases hormones that create a sense of wellbeing, which in turn boosts positive emotional processes in the brain. It also lowers the activation of the amygdala, the brain’s fear and stress centre.

Finding the right dance style can make dancers euphoric, and make them forget the drudgery of official exercise recommendations and step counters.

Dancers who pursue graceful movement must practice being aware of their bodies and (being aware) of wordless communication. These skills are particularly important today, when we spend so much time sitting and in virtual realities. Our way of life has taken us further from our own physical experiences and the understanding of the wordless emotional messages of others.

For example, contact improvisation makes the dancers to listen attentively to the body of their partner. Touch is known to reduce pain, fear and anxiety.

Functional brain imaging has shown that these effects of touch are also apparent in the brain. In one study, a touch from a significant other reduced the intensity of the pain activation in the brain during an electric stimulus when compared with pain experienced alone.

Pain, stress and anxiety often go hand in hand with depression. Dance, music and related expressive forms of therapy could help lessen mental fluctuations even before the onset of full depression. Promising results have been gained from treating depression through music therapy.

Dance therapy can help with many disorders of the mind and body, from anxiety to dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Dance is a highly subjective experience. However, neuroscience can help us understand how people can use dance to feel more connected to each other in our technology-filled world.

Hanna Poikonen
The author is a Master of Science (Technology) and a dancer, and is writing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Helsinki’s Cognitive Brain Research Unit.

From the Researcher’s Pen is a series of articles in which researchers describe their work. This article was produced by Uutistamo in cooperation with the University of Helsinki.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

More on the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument by the Supreme Piece of Shit Donald Trump

Follow the money. Here's a good start to R&D (reading and downloading [into one's brain]) on the subject of "more on the shrinking of bears ears national monument by the supreme piece of shit donald trump"

Scroll down below the video for the links...the WaPo article is obviously Juliet Eilperin

Across the Colorado Plateau, irresponsibly operated uranium mills have devastated landscapes and communities including Moab and Monticello, Utah. The Trust is currently working to prevent another chapter of this toxic legacy from occurring at White Mesa. Located just three miles from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s White Mesa community on Highway 191, between Bluff and Blanding, the White Mesa Uranium Mill processes uranium from mines across the Colorado Plateau as well as radioactive waste imported from toxic sites across North America.

The White Mesa Uranium Mill is the United States' only operating conventional uranium mill, but it's owned and operated by Energy Fuels Inc., a Canadian corporation.

Half Life: America's Last Uranium Mill from Grand Canyon Trust on Vimeo.

Washington Post Article by Juliet Eilperin:

Grand Canyon Trust White Mesa Mill (in Blanding, Utah) Project Page:

Wiki page on Uranium Mining:

Energy Fuels, Inc. 2016 Annual Report SEC Form 10-K:

Energy Fuels, Inc. Website:

Energy Fuels Inc White Mesa Mill Uranium Processing Facility Blanding Utah


Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I don't get luxury brands...I get it, but I don't get it...especially when they throw charitable "work" into their mix of products and spokesmodels and beautiful it people and vapid imagery/illusions/delusions to sell/boost sales/bring attention to a new Dior fragrance...not that charity/philanthropy/giving are a negative, ever...but sometimes it seems a little bit tainted, somehow...I dunno...oblivious narcissistic conspicuous consumerism...pick your brand...

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Le Jardin du Luxembourg

Last year at Thanksgiving, my daughter treated the two of us to a trip to Paris. It was a really nice. Particularly excellent. And very nice to re-live the trip through photos and videos.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bette's Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

-- 2 cups all-purpose flour
-- 2 tablespoons sugar
-- 2 teaspoons baking powder
-- 1 teaspoon baking soda
-- 1/2 teaspoon salt
-- 2 eggs
-- 2 cups buttermilk
-- 1/2 cup milk
-- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
-- Choice of berries, sliced bananas, raisins or chopped toasted nuts (optional)
-- Oil for griddle
INSTRUCTIONS: Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
Lightly beat the eggs with the buttermilk, milk and melted butter.
Just before you are ready to make the pancakes, add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once, stirring just long enough to blend. The batter should be slightly lumpy.
If you want to add fruit or nuts, stir them in now, or you may sprinkle them on the pancakes while they are on the griddle.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or heavy skillet over medium-high heat (375 degrees on an electric griddle).
Pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto the griddle or skillet, spacing the pancakes apart so they do not run together. When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes and the undersides are lightly browned, turn and cook for about 2 minutes longer, until lightly browned on the bottom.
Serve immediately on warmed plates with the topping of your choice. Serves 4 (yields about 24 four-inch pancakes.)
PER SERVING: 445 calories, 15 g protein, 58 g carbohydrate, 17 g fat (9 g saturated), 145 mg cholesterol, 816 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Rilke on marriage

"The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky."

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Friday, August 25, 2017

1 In 10 Bernie Sanders Supporters Ended Up Voting For Trump : NPR

1 In 10 Bernie Sanders Supporters Ended Up Voting For Trump : NPR

Here's How Many Bernie Sanders Supporters Ultimately Voted For Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont inspired millions of loyal supporters, some of whom chose not to support Hillary Clinton in the general election in 2016.

Sandy Huffaker/AP

Fully 12 percent of people who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries voted for President Trump in the general election. That is according to the data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study — a massive election survey of around 50,000 people. (For perspective, a run-of-the-mill survey measuring Trump's job approval right now has a sample of 800 to 1,500.)

Political science professor Brian Schaffner of University of Massachusetts, Amherst tweeted the data on Wednesday.

Schaffner's numbers show that after a bitter Democratic primary, more than 1 in 10 of those who voted in the primaries for the very progressive Sanders ended up voting for the Republican in the general election, rather than for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

What drove those voters to Trump? Schaffner dug into that, as well. What it wasn't was trade, an issue where Sanders was closer to Trump's philosophy than Clinton's. At least, the issue of trade didn't seem to have that much of an impact.

For those suggesting this is about trade, note that opposition to TPP is not dramatically different among defectors. 8/n

— Brian Schaffner (@b_schaffner)

Party seems to have had something to do with it — Sanders-Trump voters were much less likely than Sanders-Clinton or Sanders-third party voters to have been Democrats. Likewise, approval of President Barack Obama appears to be related — Sanders-Trump voters approved of Obama much less than other Sanders primary voters.

It is also the case that the defectors are not fans of Obama, as this chart shows. 7/n

— Brian Schaffner (@b_schaffner)

And then there is race. Nearly half of Sanders-Trump voters disagree with the idea that "white people have advantages."

But there does appear to be a racial component to this, as defectors are much more likely to disagree that whites are advantaged in US 9/n

— Brian Schaffner (@b_schaffner)

This tracks with broader observations about election 2016 — for example, as I wrote last week, in general, the larger a state's general-election Trump vote, the less likely its residents are to perceive a lot of discrimination in the world, according to data from the Public Religion Research Institute. And another postelection study — co-authored by Schaffner — found a "relatively strong indication that racism and sexism were more important in 2016 than they had been in previous elections."

Caveats, caveats, caveats

To answer the question that many Clinton supporters may be asking: By this data, yes — there are enough of those Sanders-Trump voters who could have potentially swung the election toward Clinton and away from Trump.

Specifically, if the Sanders-Trump voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania had voted for Clinton, or even stayed home on Election Day, those states would have swung to Clinton, and she would have won 46 more electoral votes, putting her at 278 — enough to win, in other words.

But then, it's not as simple as that. First off, this counterfactual world in which these voters didn't vote for Trump rests on a few ifs. If the Sanders-Trump voters in these three states had defected and if nothing else had happened to somehow take electoral votes from Clinton elsewhere and if this survey is correct ... then yes, Clinton would have won. (Some would also argue that if Clinton had campaigned more in the so-called "blue wall" states, she also could have picked up more votes.)

A more important caveat, perhaps, is that other statistics suggest that this level of "defection" isn't all that out of the ordinary. Believing that all those Sanders voters somehow should have been expected to not vote for Trump may be to misunderstand how primary voters behave.

For example, Schaffner tells NPR that around 12 percent of Republican primary voters (including 34 percent of Ohio Gov. John Kasich voters and 11 percent of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio voters) ended up voting for Clinton. And according to one 2008 study, around 25 percent of Clinton primary voters in that election ended up voting for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the general. (In addition, the data showed 13 percent of McCain primary voters ended up voting for Obama, and 9 percent of Obama voters ended up voting for McCain — perhaps signaling something that swayed voters between primaries and the general election, or some amount of error in the data, or both.)

All of that said, one other figure that stuck out to Schaffner: Compared with those numbers above, Clinton 2016 voters were remarkably loyal — "I found basically no Clinton primary voters who voted for Trump," he told NPR in an email.

When will it end?

Data like this might seem like yet another step in what will be an endless 2016 election relitigation. And it's true that there is bound to be plenty more in the coming months and years — particularly as Clinton releases her memoir on the campaign next month.

All of the unusual factors in election 2016 — the first female major-party candidate, the first major-party candidate with no military or elected-office experience — combined with the election's surprises — that there were actually a number of Obama voters who went for Trump, that the far-better-funded candidate lost, that the Republicans essentially torched the playbook they wrote after they lost in 2012 — mean that there are plenty of questions to answer in coming years.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

For those seeking more detail on the Paris Climate Accord

Click on the blue Facebook logo in the upper right-hand corner and then go to the comments for more information...

For those seeking more detail on the Paris Accord and climate disruption...

Sources: The data and scenarios are from...

Posted by Alex Tango Fuego on Friday, June 2, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Makin' Moves by Kouhei Nakama

#MondoBizarroCoolAsShit #KouheiNakama #OutOfThisWorldCreative

MAKIN' MOVES from Kouhei Nakama on Vimeo.

CYCLE from Kouhei Nakama on Vimeo.

DIFFUSION from Kouhei Nakama on Vimeo.

Orquesta Típica Misteriosa Buenos Aires / 7 de enero (J.Arias)

As good as it gets...

Nuevo videoclip de 7 de enero, tango de Javier Arias que registramos en nuestro ultimo disco "Tu lado acústico" con la aparición estelar de: Roxana Suarez/Sebastián Achaval, Inés Muzzopappa/Fernando Galera y Rocio Lequio/Bruno Tombari.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

La Cumparsita Redux :: La Ultima Canción :: 100th Anniversary


Note that April 16, 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of the song...

On the subject of why La Cumparsita is played as the last song at milongas:

This from Glen Royce on Facebook:

Alex: Ahhh- I thought the story was more well-known! :) Pugliese was a communist, and one night the police showed up at the milonga where his orquestra was playing, to bring him in, right when they were playing 'La Cumpa' good tanguero friends down here in BA who are in their 70's and 80's say he WAS arrested, and so the milonga was finished- end of the night! (because the orquestra's director had been taken away...!) Anyway, feel free to read and visit the folllowing : ;)

"Once when Pugliese was playing La Cumparsita, the police entered the club he was performing in, and directed everything to stop as he was banned. The club owners said that they could not be interrupted whilst the orchestra was playing and the dancers was tangoing. On stage, Pugliese was told about this - so started playing La Cumparsita over and over again. The audience just kept on dancing! Eventually the police gave up and left. It was, perhaps, a world record in playing La Cumparsita?"

***Again, I have been told Pugliese DID get arrested and the milonga was finished for the night (no more director OR pianit...!) So that was the last song of the night! :)

And this from Luigi Seta - his blog at:

Saturday, April 22, 2017
¿Por qué La Cumparsita es el último tango de la milonga? (Why is La Cumparsita the last tango of the milonga?)
Los milongueros asocian este tango inmortal con Juan D’Arienzo, El Rey del Compás, porque revolucionó todo el mercado con su grabación.

The milongueros associate this immortal tango with Juan D'Arienzo, El Rey del Compás, The King of the Beat, because he revolutionized the whole market with his recording.

Fue además el tema que más veces grabó, hasta en 7 oportunidades. En los años 1928 y 1929, con las voces de Carlos Dante y Raquel Notar, respectivamente, para el sello Electra, propiedad de su tío, Alfredo Améndola. Y luego para el sello Victor en otras cinco placas, en los años 1937, 1943, 1951, 1963 y 1971. La placa de 1951 tenía en la otra faz, la milonga de Pintín Castellanos La Puñalada, que también registró en cuatro ocasiones, y batió records de venta.

It was also the tango that he recorded the most times, up to 7 opportunities. In 1928 and 1929, with the voices of Carlos Dante and Raquel Notar, respectively, for the Electra label, owned by his uncle, Alfredo Améndola. And then for the Victor label on five other records, in 1937, 1943, 1951, 1963 and 1971. The record of 1951 had on the other side, the milonga of Pintín Castellanos La Puñalada, which also recorded four times, to became a sales blockbuster.

La versión de 1951 fue tan famosa, con más de un millón de discos vendidos sólo en Argentina, y más de doscientos mil en Japón, que el público deliraba al escucharla en sus presentaciones en vivo, entonces Juancito decide dejarla siempre para el final de sus shows, como la frutilla del postre.

The 1951 version was so famous, with more than one million albums sold only in Argentina, and more than two hundred thousand in Japan, that the audience raved when listening to it at their live performances, so Juancito decides to leave it always for the end of their Shows, as the icing on the cake.

Y fue así que se impuso como cierre de las milongas a partir de de los años cincuenta en todos los clubes de Buenos Aires. Y quedarse sin bailar este último tango significaba toda una frustración.

And so it was imposed as a closure of the milongas since the fifties in all clubs in Buenos Aires. And then, staying without dancing this last tango meant a whole frustration.

Los muchachos de entonces se reunían para escucharla y también se armaba toda una revolución en las milongas con este tema. Fulvio Salamanca, el pianista de D’Arienzo por 17 años, tuvo especial intervención en los arreglos de esta versión de 1951 y se nota su sabia mano en el resultado final. Una obra maestra y super milonguera.

The guys of the time met to listen to it at home, the streets, everywhere, and then a whole revolution was set up in the milongas with this tango. Fulvio Salamanca, the D'Arienzo pianist for 17 years, had an special intervention in the arrangements of this version of 1951 and it shows his wise hand in the final result. A super milonguera masterpiece.

A continuación La cumparsita por la orquesta de Juan D'Arienzo, en su versión del año 1951, quizás la más famosa de todas.

Next The cumparsita by the orchestra of Juan D'Arienzo, in its version of the year 1951, perhaps the most famous of all.

Presten atención al toque magistral del piano a cargo de Fulvio Salamanca, que le imprimió el clásico compás a la orquesta, una variación moderna y menos eléctrica, que la que le impusiera Rodolfo Biagi.

Pay attention to the masterful touch of the piano by Fulvio Salamanca, who impressed the classic compass to the orchestra, a modern and less electric variation, than that imposed by Rodolfo Biagi.

Escuchen a Enrique Alessio, primer bandoneón, en su famosa variación del segundo coro, magistral, sin palabras.

D'Arienzo, and his line of bandoneons
Junnissi, Lazzari and Alessio

Listen to Enrique Alessio, first bandoneon, in his famous variation of the second choir, masterful, without words.

No dejen de lado la melancolía del final, con el toque impecable del primer violín de la orquesta, Cayetano Puglisi.

Do not leave aside the melancholy of the end, with the impeccable touch of the first violin of the orchestra, Cayetano Puglisi.

Finalmente, la perfecta sincronización instrumental que en corto tiempo le diera a Juan D'Arienzo el acertado calificativo de El Rey del Compás.

Finally, the perfect instrumental synchronization that in a short time gave Juan D'Arienzo the correct qualifier of El Rey del Compás, the King of the Beat.

¡A disfrutar esta joya!
Enjoy this gem!

Here's my prior post:

La Cumparsita


La Cumparsita is the song that is traditionally the last song played at a milonga. It signals to everyone that this is the last song, and that the milonga has concluded. There was a time when I was on a mission to collect as many versions of the song as I could find. At this point, I have forty [40] distinct versions.

It was written by Gerardo Hernán Matos Rodríguez, an amateur pianist and architecture student, in late 1915 or early 1916 by all accounts. He was 17 years old when he wrote it. It's important to note that he was a student in Montevideo - so the song originated in Uruguay.

The song has a very interesting story behind it - with changed lyrics, new music arrangements, ownership and royalties lawsuits (four or five), and plenty of drama over the years. It's often billed as "the most famous tango in the world". Astor Piazzolla called it "the most frighteningly poor thing in this world" in reference to the original score by Matos Rodríguez and its simple melody.

Here are a couple of links to good, in depth treatments of the song and its history:

Keith Elshaw's

Ricardo García Blaya's

Note that both of these sites contain a wealth of information about tango music and all things tango.

Alberto Paz' includes a lyrics translation of the re-written version. Alberto's site is well known for his lyrics translations, and also includes a wealth of information about tango.

This 1930 version, with the original lyrics sung by the opera singer Tito Schipa, is my personal favorite.

Lastly, here's a "mashup" of many versions over 26 years...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger and the U.S. Role in Argentina's Dirty War

Newly-declassified docs show that Jimmy Carter's support for Argentine junta's "counter-terrorism" belies his popular image as a humanitarian. 

Although former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is widely applauded for his human rights agenda in foreign policy, newly-declassified documents related to the U.S. role in Argentina's Dirty War indicates that the Democrat was fully aware of the junta's brutal crackdown on Leftist dissidents but turned a blind eye–even offering fawning praise at times–and qualified the regime's torture and murder as necessary to combat "terrorism."

But then there's this: (Not the Trump part, but the award part...)



WASHINGTON, April 29, 2017—Argentine President Mauricio Macri planned to award President Jimmy Carter the Order of the Liberator General San Martín, the highest distinction Argentina awards a foreign person, during his visit to Washington this week. However, the award ceremony was cancelled after an explicit request by the Trump administration, according to several reports.

Carter was nominated for the award by former Argentine ambassador to the U.S., Martin Lousteau, for Carter's work to strengthen human rights during Argentina's military dictatorship in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The award was announced in the Argentine government's Official Bulletin in March, and it was later decided that President Macri would preside over an award ceremony during his visit to Washington in April.

The award ceremony was abruptly cancelled days before Macri's visit. The official explanation for the cancellation was scheduling problems, but a source in the Argentine government who spoke to CNN Español on the condition of anonymity stated that the ceremony was cancelled at the specific request of the Trump administration for a delay.

The source also told CNN that Macri chose to comply with the request to "avoid conflicts" and to discuss issues that were important to both administrations.

Macri was one of the first world leaders to call Trump to congratulate him on his electoral victory in November 2016. According to Argentine newspaper La Nación, Trump asked Macri to expedite the issuance of permits that were holding up a Trump-branded office building project in Buenos Aires during the call. Both Macri and Trump denied that Trump's building project in Buenos Aires was discussed.

Another source suggests that the Argentine Foreign Ministry asked Macri to present the award to Carter despite Trump's request, especially since it had already been approved and announced in the country's official bulletin.

Carter's efforts to promote or protect human rights  in Argentina appear to be pretty damn weak. Combine this with the fact that the U.S. was giving military aid to the military dictatorship of Argentina up until the very end of the Dirty War would indicate that U.S. policy supported, and was essentially complicit in, the atrocities of Argentina' Dirty War.

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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Menace of Unreality

Starbird is in the field of "crisis informatics," or how information flows after a disaster. She got into it to see how social media might be used for the public good, such as to aid emergency responders.

Instead she's gone down a dark rabbit hole, one that wends through the back warrens of the web and all the way up to the White House.

Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these "strange clusters" of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach.

- Danny Westneat, Seattle Times, Mar 29, 2017

UW professor: The information war is real, and we're losing it


A University of Washington professor started studying social networks to help people respond to disasters. But she got dragged down a rabbit hole of twitter-boosted conspiracy theories, and ended up mapping our political moment.

It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange.

Too strange for a university professor to take seriously.

"There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing," Starbird told me the other day in her office. "It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it."

Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by "crisis actors" for political purposes.

"After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity," Starbird says. "It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it.

"That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it."

Starbird is in the field of "crisis informatics," or how information flows after a disaster. She got into it to see how social media might be used for the public good, such as to aid emergency responders.

Instead she's gone down a dark rabbit hole, one that wends through the back warrens of the web and all the way up to the White House.

Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these "strange clusters" of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach.

It features sites such as, hosted by informal President Donald Trump adviser Alex Jones, which has pushed a range of conspiracies, including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a staged fake.

There are dozens of other conspiracy-propagating websites such as, and Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots. alone is roughly equivalent in visitors and page views to the Chicago Tribune, according to, the web-traffic analysis firm.

"More people are dipping into this stuff than I ever imagined," Starbird says.

Starbird is in the UW's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering — the study of the ways people and technology interact. Her team analyzed 58 million tweets sent after mass shootings during a 10-month period. They searched for terms such as "false flag" and "crisis actor," web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be.

It happens after every mass shooting or attack. If you search for "false flag" and "Westminster," you'll find thousands of results theorizing that last week's attack outside British Parliament was staged (presumably to bring down Brexit, which makes no sense, but making sense is not a prerequisite).

Starbird's insight was to map the digital connections between all this buzzing on Twitter with a conglomeration of websites. Then she analyzed the content of each site to try to answer the question: Just what is this alternative media ecosystem saying?

It isn't a traditional left-right political axis, she found. There are right-wing sites like Danger & Play and left-wing sensationalizers such as The Free Thought Project. Some appear to be just trying to make money, while others are aggressively pushing political agendas.

The true common denominator, she found, is anti-globalism — deep suspicion of free trade, multinational business and global institutions.

"To be antiglobalist often included being anti-mainstream media, anti-immigration, anti-science, anti-U.S. government, and anti-European Union," Starbird says.

So it was like the mind of Stephen Bannon, chief adviser to Trump, spilled across the back channels of the web.

Much of it was strangely pro-Russian, too — perhaps due to Russian twitter bots that bombarded social channels during the presidential campaign (a phenomenon that's now part of the FBI investigation into the election, McClatchy reported last week).

The mainstream press periodically waded into this swamp, but it only backfired. Its occasional fact checks got circulated as further evidence: If the media is trying to debunk it, then the conspiracy must be true.

Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we've built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor.

"Your brain tells you 'Hey, I got this from three different sources,' " she says. "But you don't realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn't know how to vaccinate for it."

Starbird says she's concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward "the menace of unreality — which is that nobody believes anything anymore." Alex Jones, she says, is "a kind of prophet. There really is an information war for your mind. And we're losing it."

I sat dumbfounded for a time as she spooled through tweets in her database: an archive of endless, baseless speculation that nevertheless is evidence of a political revolution. It should be unnecessary to say, but real humans died in these shootings. How disgustingly cruel it is to the survivors to have the stories of those deaths altered and twisted for commercial or ideological ends.

Starbird sighed. "I used to be a techno-utopian. Now I can't believe that I'm sitting here talking to you about all this."

Link to her paper:

Sent from my iPad

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tibetan Mantras for Abigail

RIP Abigail 03/16/2017

My mom's cat Abigail died peacefully in her sleep last night. She was 21, or 19. We're not quite sure.

She was a sweet cat, if strange at times. I was the only human she seemed to care for. These last months she would run over when I came to visit mom, and get in my lap and start purring.

I'll bury her above the creek below our house, and say a few words.

Rest in peace, tiny soul.

Sad, really. They are our children. And the love is real.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Story Behind Orquesta Típica Victor aka OTV

Orquesta Tipica Victor


When the officials of that record company had the idea of putting together an orchestra that would represent the corporation, they turned to a pianist classically trained, who had not yet played tango: Adolfo Carabelli.

This great artist studied with the best teachers of his time and when he was fifteen he was already playing concerts in the theaters of the city of Buenos Aires. When he was very young he went to Bologna, where he stayed until 1914. There he went to school and continued his musical studies. When the war broke up he returned to his country where he put together a small group of classical music: Trío Argentina.

Around that time he became acquainted with the pianist Lipoff, who accompanied the well-known dancer Anna Pavlova, and through him he was introduced to jazz, a genre that was beginning to get a wide acclaim.

His first orchestra was named River Jazz Band, later, when switching to the radio, the group bore his name, and the orchestra achieved an overwhelming success and was requested by all the nightclubs of the period. Eduardo Armani and Antonio Pugliese, among others, passed through its ranks.

He recorded his early records for the Electra label and later he is hired by the Victor company as musical advisor and responsible for the creation of a tango orchestra.

It was a seminal orchestra in tango, that never performed in public, but which left for us, during its long career, the indelible memory of its perfection and quality.

The first setting chosen by Carabelli, and that made its debut recording two tangos on November 9, 1925: “Olvido [b]”, by Ángel D'Agostino, and “Sarandí” by Juan Baüer, was the following: Luis Petrucelli, Nicolás Primiani and Ciriaco Ortiz (bandoneons); Manlio Francia, Agesilao Ferrazzano and Eugenio Romano (violins); Vicente Gorrese (piano) and Humberto Costanzo (double bass).

The composition of the orchestra changed very often, the musicians were continuously replaced, but they all were of an excellent level. So that so that some experts recognize, on certain recordings, the violin of Elvino Vardaro, for example.

Other important names that passed through the ranks of the orchestra were: Federico Scorticati, Carlos Marcucci and Pedro Laurenz (bandoneon players); Orlando Carabelli, brother of the leader, and Nerón Ferrazzano (double bass); Nicolás Di Masi, Antonio Buglione, Eduardo Armani and Eugenio Nobile (violins). Cayetano Puglisi, Alfredo De Franco and Aníbal Troilo were also included in the orchestra on some occasions.

Years later, and due to commercial reasons, the label thought that only one orchestra was not enough. For that reason a number of orchestras began to appear: Orquesta Victor Popular, the Orquesta Típica Los Provincianos led by Ciriaco Ortiz, the Orquesta Radio Victor Argentina led by Mario Maurano, the Orquesta Argentina Victor, the Orquesta Victor Internacional, the Cuarteto Victor lined up by Cayetano Puglisi, Antonio Rossi (violins), Ciriaco Ortiz and Francisco Pracánico (bandoneons) and the excellent Trío Victor, with the violinist Elvino Vardaro and the guitarists Oscar Alemán and Gastón Bueno Lobo.

The already mentioned quality of the musicians made the Orquesta Típica Victor one of the highest musical expressions of its period, and it would remain at the same level until the late thirties. And this is important to highlight, because other important orchestras, such as Julio De Caro, had lost their north.

Unfortunately later, because of a repertory that tried to fit into the commercial needs of the period, the quality of it declined, but neither its sound nor the capability of its members were of a poor level. Its vocalists, likewise, kept on being of a first rate level.

In 1936 the leadership of the orchestra is transferred to the bandoneonist Federico Scorticati, and its early recordings were the tangos “Cansancio” (by Federico Scorticati and Manuel Meaños) and “Amargura” (by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera), sung by Héctor Palacios.

In 1943 the orchestra was led by the pianist Mario Maurano, and recorded the tangos “Nene caprichoso” and “Tranquilo viejo tranquilo” (both by Francisco Canaro and Ivo Pelay), with Ortega Del Cerro on vocals, on September 2.

The last recordings under the name Orquesta Típica Victor were made on May 9, 1944, and they were the waltzes “Uno que ha sido marino” (by Ulloa Díaz) and the popular “Sobre las olas” (by Juventino Rosas), both sung by the Jaime Moreno and Lito Bayardo duo.

According to Nicolás Lefcovich's discography, the recordings were 444, but to this number we would have to add many recordings coupled on discs that on the opposite face had renditions of varied interpreters.

Even though it was an orchestra that mainly played tango, it also recorded other beats, more than forty rancheras and a similar number of waltzes, around fifteen foxtrots and very few milongas. Also polkas, corridos, pasodobles, etc.

As for vocalists, they appeared only three years after its creation, after over a hundred instrumental numbers were recorded. And the first one was a violinist, Antonio Buglione (a total of four recordings), with the tango "Piba", on October 8, 1928.

He was followed by Roberto Díaz (27 recordings), Carlos Lafuente (37, the one who recorded most), Alberto Gómez (25), Ernesto Famá (17), Luis Díaz (14), Teófilo Ibáñez (9), Ortega Del Cerro (7), Juan Carlos Delson (7), Mario Corrales —later Mario Pomar — (6) and Charlo (4).

Through the ranks of the orchestra the following vocalists passed: Alberto Carol, Jaime Moreno, Lito Bayardo, Lita Morales, Eugenio Viñas, Ángel Vargas, José Bohr, Osvaldo Moreno, Vicente Crisera, Dorita Davis, Oscar Ugarte, Fernando Díaz, Héctor Palacios, Mariano Balcarce, El Príncipe Azul, Francisco Fiorentino, Armando Barbé (also with the name Armando Sentous), Samuel Aguayo, Hugo Gutiérrez, Jimmy People, Deo Costa, Alberto Barros, Raúl Lavalle, Augusto "Tito" Vila and Gino Forsini.

When in 1944 the label decided to put an end to its career, tango was so successful that it would not be an exaggeration to say that everyday a new orchestra was put together. Somehow, with the great orchestras of the forties: Troilo, D'Arienzo, Di Sarli, D'Agostino, Tanturi, Fresedo, Laurenz, among others, the need of having one's own orchestra has come to an end.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Pseudo-cabaceos by Daniel Boardman and Michelle McRuiz


Taken and condensed from Daniel Boardman's and Michelle McRuiz' "From Bench Warming To Dancing In Thirty Seconds or Less: How to use cabeceo effectively"

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Thing About the Grammys - There's better music out there in the world - much better

I've never been much of one for awards and awards shows, especially in the skewed and twisted world of the American music industry and film industry. Mainstream I ain't. I'm not going to elaborate on the skewed/twisted part because I'm not in an expounding mood. Let's just suffice it to say that there are literally millions, okay, maybe hundreds of thousands, nah...make that tens of thousands...or at least 10,000 amazing, world class musicians and singers that you will never hear or see. They are out there, practicing their craft in the privacy of their own home, perhaps meeting up with other musicians to rehearse, going out and doing small intimate gigs in various venues. Coffee shops, house concerts, hotel lobby bars, etc. I didn't mention bars/nightclubs because that can be loud/raucous not-so-good stuff, but hey - there are good'uns doing that good work as well - that is your taste.

I'm blessed to live in Austin, Texas, "The Live Music Capital of the World", so I'm exposed to a lot of opportunities to listen/see/hear/experience. We have a fair number of house concerts around Austin, with the most notable by far being the one called Blue Rock. It's out in Wimberley, held at the home of Billy and Dodee Crockett, in their gigantic great room, adjacent to their commercial recording studio. Adjacent meaning in the next room. A house concert is a somewhat casual gathering of folks to listen to a musician or two. Usually traveling/touring troubadours in the singer-songwriter folk/Americana genres. Mostly acoustic, mostly small "walls of sound" - although in the case of Blue Rock and the Cactus Cafe at the University of Texas, there is a great deal of investment in a high-fidelity listening experience. The first time I heard Richard Thompson at the Cactus Cafe (who happens to be my sister-in-law's brother-in-law) - I was dumbfounded as to the extremely high fidelity/sound quality. "Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?" was going through my head. The cover can range from $10 to $30, depending on the artist - and the thing about house concerts is that 100% of the door goes to the artist/s. They also sell CD's and T-shirts and crap during the break and after the show.

The point is to support the artists we love - not by buying a $0.99 song on iTunes - but by truly *supporting them. Show up when they're in your town, buy their CD (preferably from the artist's website, where they get the biggest cut), go to their house get the picture. Also, buy the entire CD if you only want one song - like in the old days.

I've only recently really started listening to the words - like really listening to what they say. I have to thank my singer-songwriter most recent ex for that. I call them "poets who sing".

Here's a favorite of mine Sam Beam/Iron & Wine, with Resurrection Fern:

Live version

Studio version

Sorry for the mish-mash/poorly organized post...maybe I'll come back and clean it up...

Local Austin Musicians/Groups:
Minor Mishap Marching Band (my internist plays clarinet)
Austin Piazzolla Quartet (I heard the founding member moved to east Texas)
Glover Gill & The Tosca String Quartet (yes, we have our very own Tango composer)
Iron & Wine/Sam Beam
Sarah Jarosz
Band of Heathens

House Concerts:
Blue Rock Texas (the Blue Rock website is a great way to discover new artists...they also now offer live streaming of their concerts...)
Uncle Calvin's (in a church in Dallas)
There's one in a church in the Woodlands
Several in Austin proper
Google and ask around - you will find them

"Listening Rooms" is what you are looking for...imagine a concert where everyone is absolutely quiet during the performance - no talking, no getting up and going to the bathroom, etc. - just applause at the end of a are there to listen and let the entire experience wash over you...

Here in Austin it's:
Blue Rock
The Cactus Cafe
The Continental Club Upstairs - The Gallery (downstairs is good too, but noisy bar with dancing)
Strange Brew - Lounge Side

Other Spots (here in Austin):
The Lobby Bar at the Driskill Hotel on 6th
The Townsend on Congress
The Elephant Room (for Jazz)
Antone's on 5th (famous venue - more rock genre)
Carousel Lounge

Cheatham Street (San Marcos)

Best to check out the Austin Chronicle Music Calendar for everything...

Here are my preferred avenues for listening and discovering new music:

Radio station websites (live streaming and other content -KUT, Sun Radio, KEXP are good ones)

YouTube (subscribe to your favorite channels for updates)

Spotify (I prefer over Pandora because I pick what I listen to, subscribe to or follow compilation playlists and then drill down into the various artists, follow your friends - check out the music they are listening to - that's the point)

NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

There is an amazing and plentiful amount of good music out there - a veritable smorgasbord/plethora - oodles gobs superabundance. You just have to be aware, listen, and look for it. I count myself lucky to be "into" music. I listen to it every day. Music completes me.

Good luck and good listening...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Exit 2 Tango - Upcoming Theatrical Performance in Los Angeles

Interesting premise...this short film appears to be promoting an upcoming theatrical performance in Los Angeles...

Published on Jan 27, 2017
A Homeless man from Los Angeles meets Argentine Tango.
Coming soon, the show Exit 2 to Tango, developed by Guillermo De Fazio in 2017, a homeless war veteran living in the streets of Los Angeles,as a last resort, finds hope in his imagination. The union of the homeless character and Argentine Tango is inspired by the nostalgia present in Tango music, and in the city of Los Angeles, where exists the highest population of homeless in the entire United States.

About the Show
According to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty at the Weingart Center, there are currently 44,000 homeless people living in the streets of Los Angeles. Guillermo De Fazio, choreographer, dancer, and writer of Exit 2 to Tango, analyzes and projects this phenomenon through his portrayal of a homeless war veteran, with his mastery of Argentine Tango. With 22 years of Tango performance and travel, Guillermo uses his theatrical tools to expose the melancholy that is dominant in Argentine tango, and in the city of Los Angeles. This theatrical and interactive performance invites the audience to watch, but more importantly experience the nostalgia, irony, comedy, and mixture of emotions that are present in tango, and present in our every day lives here in Los Angeles, California.

Listening to tango dance music - A beginner’s guide - By Michael Lavocah

Michael Lavocah
Adapted by the author from Tango Stories: Musical Secrets, 2nd edition, milonga press, 2014.

Listening to tango dance music - A beginner’s guide

hen listening to tango music for the first time, especially if our main experience of music has been modern pop music, it can be difficult to hear what is going on, and what we hear may well seem like a “wall of sound”. The good news is that listening to music is a faculty that we can develop. Attentive listening immediately changes our experience, making it richer, creating a relationship to the music. If you are a dancer, you dance what you hear, and so what you dance will immediately begin to change as well, without learning any new steps.

1. The four elements

Dance music can be thought of as comprising four elements: beat (compás), rhythm, melody, and lyrics. Lyrics are optional, although there are always feelings. The first step in developing our listening faculty is to learn to listen to these four elements. These form four listening skills, which for the dancer will map to four dancing skills —the skills of dancing to the beat, to the rhythm, to the melody, and to the lyrics—.

Beat and rhythm are not the same. By beat we mean the regular pulse of the music. Beat alone is not music, but it is the foundation of music. We walk on the beats, and so without beat there is no walking dance. Beat is a natural, physical phenomenon, like the beat of your heart, or the cadence of walking, or breathing. Some people think of themselves as having «no sense of rhythm», but the beat is there within us, waiting to be discovered.

Beat and rhythm are connected, and it’s hard to find a tango that is pure beat (i.e. with no rhythmic variation), but there is one: Juan D'Arienzo’s “Nueve de julio” —curiously, and significantly, the breakthrough track for the new D’Arienzo sound— that was created by the arrival of Rodolfo Biagi in 1935.

By rhythm, as distinct from beat, we mean the changing pattern of the beats. A classic example is the opening of “Milongueando en el cuarenta”, recorded by Aníbal Troilo in 1941, with its tumbling syncopation: 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2, 1.

Orquesta Troilo

The melody is what we sing to ourselves, or to others, when we recall a song: the tune. The more romantic orchestras prioritise the melody over the beat and the rhythm. This is something we hear developing in the later recordings of Di Sarli. For an earlier example, we can turn to Lucio Demare’s iconic 1942 recording of “Malena”, his own composition. The melodic line is vigorous and clear, and thus easy to follow.

Finally we have the lyrics – meaning. This element is hidden if we don’t speak Spanish. As an example, let’s take Ada Falcón’s 1940 recording of “Te quiero” (“I love you”) with the orchestra of Francisco Canaro. The opening lines run:

I love you!
As no-one has ever loved you,
and no-one ever will;
I adore you!
As one adores the woman
one has to love…

Hearing these words is sure to change your relationship to the song, and to arouse feelings, perhaps memories, which can then become enfolded into the music and expressed in your dancing.

The tango orchestras mix and prioritise these elements differently and this is one way to feel the orchestras and to distinguish them.

The beat
Beats are not all the same —they have their qualities—, and each orchestra has a different quality to its beat. A first attempt to discern and feel these qualities would be to classify them into polar opposites: hard or soft, strong or weak, sharp and choppy (staccato) or rounded and smooth (legato). D’Arienzo’s beat is staccato, a development that reaches its zenith with Biagi (e.g. the extreme beat of “Racing Club”); whilst Caló’s beat is smooth and soft (“Al compás del corazón (Late un corazón)”). Troilo is more sophisticated, moving between staccato and legato (“Milongueando en el cuarenta”, 1941).

This analysis breaks down when one starts listening to music from before the golden decade. The beats of Roberto Firpo (“La eterna milonga [b]”, 1929) or Juan Maglio (“Sábado ingles”, 1928) are strong, but also soft. In this period, most of the orchestras made a prominent use of the arrastre in their music. Now, what is the arrastre? It is when the beat, instead of being something instantaneous, is made longer, starting quietly and accelerating to a crescendo. In tango, this is described by the sound zhum (written: yum). This effect can be produced on all the instruments within the orchestra. In the bandoneon, it is produced by keying the note before opening the bellows, and then accelerating the opening to a sudden stop: listen for instance to the opening of “Melancólico”. In the strings, the bow is placed on the string before it is moved, and then accelerated. If you are not used to listening for this, it’s easiest to start with the double bass rather than the violins, for instance in the opening of Piazzolla’s “Buenos Aires hora cero”. From the point of view of walking, the most important of the string instruments is the double bass, because it’s the low notes which produce the beats upon which we walk. When going on to listen to the violins, the opening chord of Di Sarli’s “Retirao” provides an exaggerated example.

When the whole orchestra joins in, the effect can be dramatic. My favourite example is a recording by Osvaldo Fresedo’s sextet, “Mamá… cuco” (1927). This reveals another side to Fresedo, full of bite. The arrastre would not be so prominent again until Osvaldo Pugliese incorporated it into what he called la yum-ba: the repeated cell of two strong arrastres (‘yum’) on beats 1 and 3, separated by a less powerful chord on beats 2 and 4 (‘ba’), supported by the double bass powerfully striking the strings with the bow.

The qualities of the beat will affect the quality of the walk. Dancing to different orchestras is not principally about choosing different figures for different kinds of music, although we might: it is about manner. The different qualities of beat inspire different qualities of walking —different ways to place out feet upon the floor—. The arrastre in particular can have a big impact on the way the weight is transferred across the foot.

Rhythm and syncopation
The main rhythmic devices in tango are syncopations —beats falling in unexpected places—.

Let’s start with D’Arienzo. Principally, he uses the syncopa, tango’s classic syncopation – in Western terms, the behind-the-beat syncopation: listen for instance to the first syncopations in “Don Juan (El taita del barrio)” (1936). For a dancer, the staccato acceleration of the syncopa is strongly suggestive of a corte, a cut step. These syncopations often occur in bursts of three —useful information for the dancer—.

Listen closely, and you’ll hear that each syncopation is actually a double syncopation – a behind-the beat syncopation followed by a different one, a before-the-beat syncopation. This is normally much quieter, so we don’t notice it, but when equal prominence is given to both, the result can be disconcerting, as in the opening beats of D’Arienzo’s “Homero” (1937). You can also hear this combination at the opening of all three of Di Sarli’s recordings of “Organito de la tarde”.

Another classic syncopation is the 3-3-2 syncopation (counting 8 beats as 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2). In tango’s golden age, this is found only in the more sophisticated orchestras. Strong examples are Pedro Laurenz’s “Arrabal” (1937) and Troilo’s “Comme il faut” (1938) —both of them electrifying recordings—.

An even more sophisticated and unique example, which we might consider derived from the 3-3-2, is the tumbling syncopation that Troilo employs at the opening of “Milongueando en el cuarenta” (1941). Counting it out, we find that it runs: 3-3-3-3-2-2-1.

The melody
Melody is constructed in phrases, just like human speech. Phrases can be short or long. In the very early days of tango, the days of the 2x4, phrases were always short: think for instance of “El choclo” —but this would soon change—. The example par excellence of the long phrase in tango music occurs in Francisco De Caro’s “Flores negras” (1927), one of the most beautiful melodies ever written in tango. It’s also an excellent example of counterpoint: listen carefully to the opening phrases, and underneath the nasal tones of Julio De Caro’s cornet violin one can hear the second violin playing a completely different tune.

The lyrics
It’s beyond the scope of this essay to talk about lyrics in any depth, but it’s worth noting that in the golden decade, sad lyrics were often given a very bright treatment by the dance orchestras —just think for instance of Troilo’s “Toda mi vida” (1941)—. This creates a bittersweet quality, which is perhaps no accident. If you want to appreciate this, there is no alternative but to learn Spanish.

Mixing the four elements
Generally speaking, dance orchestras lean towards a treatment that favours either the beat and the rhythm (D'Arienzo), or the melody (late Di Sarli). When both aspects are given space, the results are very satisfying: think for instance of Ricardo Tanturi with Enrique Campos, or Ángel D'Agostino with Ángel Vargas.

2. The instruments

Having looked briefly at the way the orchestras treat the elements of beat, rhythm and melody, we can go look at the way they use the instrumental forces at their disposal: the bandoneons, the violins, and the piano. How much prominence is each section given? In the case of the bandoneons and the violins, are individual players given solos? If they are, is there something characteristic about their playing which allows us to enjoy and to identify individual musicians?

The D'Arienzo orchestra always had a terrific bandoneon section, and many pieces culminate in a variación showcasing the ability of the whole group. A classic early example, with very clear phrasing, is the variación in “Paciencia” (1937). Listen closely and you may also hear the delightful changes in rhythm (from 4 beats per note to 3) that D’Arienzo often employs in his variaciones.

The Troilo orchestra has a completely different way of using the bandoneons. Rather than featuring the whole section, Troilo’s solo playing is given space. Troilo was famous for the feeling he put into his playing, and on many occasions he makes music just on a single note: the supreme example is his solo at the end of the milonga “Del tiempo guapo”. His rather more famous solos in “La tablada” (1942) and “La cumparsita” (1944) also use very few notes, but feel more economical and modest, with a subtle, introverted feeling.

Another way of using the bandoneon is shown by fellow bandoneonista Pedro Laurenz. His orchestra makes use of running variations, in which the bandoneon doesn’t pause for breath. The bandoneon is bisonic: each button produces two different notes according to whether the instrument is being opened or closed. It’s easier to play the instrument with power when opening, because, with the help of gravity, the instrument falls open across your knee. For this reason, many players mostly play in the opening direction, and then quickly close the instrument in order to return to that opening direction. Laurenz, on the other hand, just keeps going – listen to any of his orchestra’s recordings from 1940, such as “No me extraña”. This is virtuoso playing, requiring a total technical mastery of the instrument.

There are other bandoneon players whose sound we can identify. Osvaldo Ruggiero, Pugliese’s first bandoneon for 24 years, can be immediately identified by the piercing, sharp sounds he produces, for instance, in the 1944 recording of “Recuerdo” —the facility with which he dashes off the final variación makes it sound quite effortless—. One doesn’t realise how difficult it is until one hears it attempted by any other player.

Another bandoneonista with an individual sound is Minotto Di Cicco, Canaro’s first bandoneon for many years. Minotto was a real student of the instrument, producing chords with a wide spread of notes whilst always maintaining a very clean fingering. A good example of this can be found in “La muchachada del centro” from 1932.

The violins
The violin was a tango instrument from the very beginning, and there are a few orchestras which favoured the violins over the bandoneons. The classic example is the orchestra of Carlos Di Sarli. A useful listening example is the 1940 recording of the instrumental “El Pollo Ricardo”. Given the year of the recording (still in the aftermath of the D'Arienzo explosion) the playing is staccato and up-tempo, but the music is easily identified as Di Sarli from the piano playing. In the first chorus, the bandoneons are used to support the sharp attack in the string sections.

An even sharper attack can be heard from the violin of Raúl Kaplún, who joined Lucio Demare in 1942. This added strength to Demare’s lyrical sound, a combination you can hear from the opening notes of “Sorbos amargos”.

Another orchestra with a muscular violin sound, although with a denser texture, is Tanturi during his years with Campos on vocals. The classic example is “Oigo tu voz”, in which the violin opens the piece.

D'Arienzo’s violin rejects all these possibilities, and returns to the violin obligato of the guardia vieja: not really a melody, but a simple line, played low on the fourth string, which threads its way through the music. You can hear it for instance in the closing passage of his first (1937) recording of “La cumparsita” —or just about anywhere in his music—.

The piano
The use of the piano within the orchestra shows huge variation, perhaps more than with the other instruments. In some sense, it is the axis, the spine of the orchestra. Its role can be restricted to accompaniment, as in Tanturi (e.g. “Pocas palabras”), but the great orchestras did more with it. The piano often appears in the gaps between phrases, where it has different functions. Sometimes, especially in valses, it links the phrases together, e.g. Osmar Maderna’s piano for Miguel Caló in “Bajo un cielo de estrellas”. Sometimes it punctuates the phrases, as with Biagi in D'Arienzo’s orchestra, e.g. “El choclo”. D'Arienzo’s piano is usually heard quite high on the keyboard: the marcato of his bandoneons is so strong that his pianists, unusually, do not need to do much work in the bass notes.

Di Sarli’s piano is also easiest to notice in the spaces between phrases, where he places delicate, bell-like trills, but the real action is going on in his left-hand. A good example is his version of “La cachila”, and not just because it contains a rare piano solo. Di Sarli recorded this twice, in 1941 and 1952. The two versions are quite different in the piano; both are good, but Di Sarli’s growling left-hand is easier to appreciate in the second version.

Finally we come to tango’s most brilliant improvising pianist, Orlando Goñi, a man whose contribution to the Troilo orchestra has not really received the recognition it deserves. Naturally, he shines most in the instrumentals. “C.T.V.” gives you a good idea of what he is capable of: he roams all over the keyboard with great freedom. In the right hand, he can imitate and reflect the phrasing of Troilo, as in the opening notes of “La tablada”; in the left-hand (the bass notes), his legendary marcación bordoneada —striking of a chord as though rolling up through the bass strings of a guitar— provides a fluid and elastic foundation to the rhythmic drive of the orchestra that has never been equalled.

The double bass
The bass notes of the orchestra give the walking impulse, and these come from the left hand of the piano and the double bass, which had to work together in the orchestras: the double bass was usually positioned very close to the piano. Today we mostly listen to tango music on recordings, on which these notes are not as loud as they are in real life. In addition, the sound system in the average milonga does not reproduce these notes very well, so we need to make a special effort to train our ears to listen for them. Most pop music has some kind of bass drive; the tango of the golden age was simply the popular music of its day, albeit some of the most sophisticated pop music the world has ever known.

For the dancer, being aware of both the beat/rhythm and the melody, and being able to separate them in our ear, expands the range of music that we enjoy and gives us freedom. In tango music, the melody is often given a rhythmic treatment. It’s often impossible to separate them entirely, but learning to discriminate between the melody and the rhythm is one of the most important skills of all.

Adapted by the author from Tango Stories: Musical Secrets, 2nd edition, milonga press, 2014.