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Why are Golden Era recordings preferred to live tango music by tango aficionados?

posted Dec 8, 2014, 1:53 PM by Sophia de Lautour   [ updated Dec 8, 2014, 1:57 PM ]
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Felix at work
source: Flikr

Why do tango recordings from the Golden Era still continue to be preferred over live tango music by hard-core tango aficionados? 

This is not a statement against the existence of live tango music which certainly has it's place in the world of tango. Live music is certainly pivotal for attracting new people into tango, and adding some spice and variety to our tango experiences. There is no doubt about that.

But the reality is that it is possible to have a milonga, tango festival / marathon with no live music (many social tango events don't have live music) - but you could not omit from these events recordings from the Golden Era.

The answer to the continuing preference for recordings over live music is explained here by Felix Picherna in the following excerpt from an interview and essay by Alberto Paz and Valorie Hart. 

Although it was published in 1997 (and I am not sure if Felix is still DJ'ing at Club Sunderland) what he has to say still holds sway today...

“I’ve heard veteran dancers say, let’s take an orchestra, D’Agostino with Vargas for example, that everybody likes. Perhaps the rhythm was not very danceable but it fulfilled the desires of the dancers. If D’Agostino and Vargas were alive today in 1997. If they had the same musicians, the same instruments, they couldn’t record Tres esquinas the way they did it 50 years ago. Because there is something missing, I’m not sure if foreigners can understand this. The tramway no longer runs, the Lugones street where Sunderland is located at, was a dirt road in those days, the musicians had things with which to get motivated.

What motivates them today? A car racing at 200 km/h? It’s good that all that existed. It was quite an era. It’s like Beethoven’s Fifth, it happened once and forever. What happened in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s with the tango, was a once in a lifetime happening, and it will never happen again.

We are lucky because everything got recorded and today we can enjoy it all. The 1941 Troilo orchestra for example. The Americans have not been able to recreate an orchestra like Benny Goodman’s. There has been only one Louis Armstrong. Where did they get their motivation from? That is my humble opinion.“

Felix Picherna (Tango DJ)