Keith Elshaw's Tango Blogo Since 1997
POP Goes The Elephant ... In the Room
Q: Version 5 of your restorations came out 5 years ago. Will there be a Version 6?
A: Yes - although I couldn't have told you so back then. Version 5 was a breakthrough that has wondrously enjoyed great acceptance around the world; heard basically nightly in multiple places on every continent excepting Antartica. Which we need to be unheated in any event.
Honestly, I still marvel at how clean and smooth it is because I hear it in such varied dancehalls in my travels. All the songs totally stand out. I get excited feedback from customers. If that wasn't the case, there would have been a V6 a long time ago! To me, if there was to be an update called Version 6, it would have to evidence another step forward from an already pretty nice place you can't find anywhere else.
Actually, it just took time to see what new devices and methods could achieve before I knew definitively. The results got me excited all over again. And then generally, what could be improved?
My mission has always been: how much life can we breathe into the oldest and best tango recordings through careful, detailed restoration using the latest techniques? (Whilst keeping faith with my life-long passion for analog sound). How big and full-range sounding can they be by first making them sound as naturally good as the day they were originally played in the room in the recording studios by those amazing musicians (and thereafter all levelled and smooth when bundled and played in succession)?
In this, I've apparently restored a lot of beautiful recordings to the playlists of today's dj - music never considered for play because of technical quality or because nobody had ever heard of it. Giving prominence today to forgotten heroes gives me my thrills, I have to say (as I yet sincerely bow in reverence to the great gods of tango for what they gave us).
And then again, how could it all be organized in a library absolutely brilliantly for instant play (the DJ's best friend after superiour quality tracks)? My job has been to enhance the dancing experience for anyone anywhere by getting latest optimum versions of the old recordings to dancers, djs and teachers so it can immediately bring the level of everything up.
To present tango tango in all its glory by going back and fixing problems passed down to us through 2+ generations then adapting that enhanced dancing library to our modern world apps.
The acid test of whether I am doing it right comes from how we experience it on the dance floor. When dancing.
I'm doing it all for the embrace; to get everyone lost in it more. That's what opening up the music and making it rich and smooth in transition does. Then the whole room is floating somehow. (This also happens when you sit solitary at home. The music takes over).
I was the first to give it a go to establish a want/need in the community for better sound quality of the dancing hits - and still certainly the only one doing it by hand at the micro level (what gives it its trademark clarity and definition, in my book). And then to organize levels of access: for the casual listener who wants to learn about the music or expand their library; the larger book for the DJ (on 3 levels) and the over-all picture for the collector.
My restoration series has always been at least a quasi-community project in that it is only the support of dancers and music-lovers which has sustained it through these last 14 years. I did it for myself to start with, but wouldn't have gotten so serious (obsessed) about it if folks hadn't jumped in to support. They got much better sounding music - I could keep devoting time to the project. Time is love in what I do. Without it ...
I trust you can intuit what I'm saying: THANK YOU, THANK YOU ALL WHO HAVE HELPED! !
Once more I am surfing waves of inspiration as I listen to the music now revealing new nuances in the original intentions. So I shall be writing here about the things which dazzle me anew. Many such notable things there are, for sure.
The venerable ToTANGO 5 packages will remain available for a short time at a significant discount. As always, a small step-up fee gets an upgrade to the latest package from any former package.
I intuit this news is making a few folks smile like a little devil elephant ready to go!
ToTango Restorations Project delivers high definition Tango for DJ's,
collectors and audiophiles.
New people find Argentine Tango all the time - which of course means that new djs start-up all the time. From reading the discussion groups, you see that the same questions occur to everyone. Some of the same issues I addressed when I started the ToTANGO Restoration Project 11 years ago.
- Why does the speed of recordings vary and which versions are correct?
- How do you eliminate the "silence" at the end of tracks so the flow is better?
- How do you get the levels of all the songs equal?
Ascertaining if a misguided record company worker-bee has altered the speed of recordings from the original can be simply made by checking the pitch (a little more complicated than that because of the tuning of the bandoneon - but you get the idea). If it is sped-up, the pitch is too high for the key. The beautiful dance pocket intended by the orquesta arranger is lost because it is faster to move to. Yuck. I've corrected everything that has been messed with.
On the discussion groups, it is easy to find answers to the second question: program this or that program this or that way to get the desired effect or just get an editor and clip all your files. Simple!
Levelling most people will basically do by reaching over and adjusting the fader on the fly. Or trusting limiters to do the job. (Not a good idea).
I fixed all this years ago so these issues never come up when you are playing music.
My Tango DJ career has really blossomed since I purchased your
collection of restored music! It is a big hit and most people don't
really know why my music sounds so much better than others.
Firstly, I wanted to thank you for the music.
I have been using your selection with great success at a number of Milongas to date...
I have already began to be a sought after DJ in my area... all thanks to your lovely restored music!
I DJ'd on Friday night, a St Valentines Day Milonga complete with mushy love song cortinas. It was a success, however, a couple of danceers had come over and said that I shouldn't play songs with vocals in it. They said that they had come from BA recently, and people sit down and listen to vocals and dance only to only instrumental songs.
I would really like to get you opinion on this...
Again, thanks for the music... I plan to buy the rest of our collection (once I save up the money!)
Any person new to tango is quite likely to much prefer instrumentals to vocals for some time, until they become acclimatized and learn more. So I recommend helping them acclimatize by doing things the right way (via good choices) and pretty much ignoring their stated request. But there are a lot of fabulous instrumentals which work nicely in tandas (D'Arienzo/Biagi, for instance) so make sure you aren't overloaded on continuous vocals. Often one instrumental in a tanda is enough to release some tension for people who haven't "got it" yet. It's good to constantly check to make sure you've haven't gone too long without hot instrumentals.
I'm ordering more music because I've been using what I have from you for years and get nothing but great comments when I dj. I go to B.A. a couple of times every year, so I know that nothing compares to your restorations. Nothing!
I'm working on correcting a couple of my transcriptions of songs and the restorations of yours that I've worked with were much easier to transcribe than the source material I have from CDs. Can I now get this list of songs ...
Astor Piazzolla, Daniel Barenboim, Quincy Jones, Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Egberto Gismonti, Michel Legrand. Scores more.
Yes, because it was in Paris their study time had extra meaning to each of them; but I believe Mme. Boulangerie WAS a part of the soul of the city. Her "arrondissement" in the world: unlocking clear, passionate music expression.
Each of these greats has had a cascading influence. All of them attribute it in large part to her.
"Boulanger was the first woman to conduct many major orchestras in America and Europe, including the BBC Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras. She conducted several world premieres, including works by Copland and Stravinsky."
I hope someone in France has been preparing a beautiful documentary. Surely we all have much we could learn from her.
And now, ladies and gentlemen
... the world has smartshoes which connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth pulling directions from Google maps. Of course.
Perfect for the app-maker dreamer who thinks THIS is the way to teach tango and get rich!
Vivienne Coutant: Afterthoughts On Keith Elshaw's Music Weekend
I'm still basking in the glow of our weekend in Pittsburgh.
Here are some of the things I learned:
The magical atmosphere Keith (consistently) creates on the dance floor is a product of a great many years of thought and varied experience. Like many art forms there are skills involved in his work that can be described in words, practiced, and taught. I'm not sure why this surprised me, but it did.
In my travels, there have been so many pleasant dance evenings that just fell short of the kind of transcendent experience one associates with tango. I have explained this to myself by thinking that not all DJs have Keith's magic touch ... and until Pittsburgh, I really believed that he had some kind of innate and uncanny gift, peculiar to him.
Other people use the great music; they play songs in some kind of rational order keeping tangos together and alternating tandas of vals and milonga in the customary fashion. So why don't I leap out of my seat with my heart singing? Why don't my feet want to move of their own accord? Well, these and other questions Keith addresses so beautifully in his workshops.
On the ToTANGO website, a DJ commented that he gets so much positive feedback from using Keith's restorations that he almost wants to keep their source a secret. This is very high praise in its way. I truly believe that his restorations combined with his knowledge of how they can be used to create tango magic ... well, this combination could transform tango for dancers everywhere.
Keith! Where (and when) is your next workshop?!
"It's All About The Music" Keith's Travelling Weekends Theme
I've been anticipating this time for a few years: a time when learning about the music and improving the quality of milongas music became just-as, or more important than, learning "new steps."
Focusing on the music and social dancing events is a refreshing weekend experience basically unavailable before. No dance classes to distract from the pure highs of the evening milongas. But, interesting stories and education about the great tango recordings in afternoon get-togethers and, socializing as much as possible all weekend.
Knowing more about the music makes everyone a better dancer. Having an outrageously fun dj for the evenings is a new kind of glue for the community. (There is actually quite a bit of layered construction in my teaching/entertaining method and I write about that below).
So it was time to do it for the first time - to test it out for paying customers who don't even know me - and see if people like it or not.
Below are views of what happened when I was invited to fly out and debut my weekend concept in Pittsburgh.
Walt Disney is usually associated with early animated films, but Disney is said to have been inspired by the Argentine filmmaker Quirino Cristiani. An Argentine born in Italy, Cristiani was a young and enthusiastic animator who pioneered the animation technique of cardboard cutouts. Cutout animation is a faster and easier way to create animation by using cutouts of figures rather than individual drawings for each frame.
Collaborating with producer Frederico Valle, the two of them ambitiously took on the task of creating the very first feature-length animated film. Called El Apóstol, the film was a political satire and premiered to rave reviews on November 9, 1917. Just nine years later, all known copies of the first feature-length animated film were destroyed when Vallés film studio burnt to the ground in 1926. However, Cristaini continued to pioneer work in animation. In 1931, he created the very first animated film with sound. Peludópolis was another political satire made with Cristianis' trademark cardboard cutout technique.
Friends of the last remaining giant of the Golden Age are appealing for small donations to help defray his nursing costs. Sometimes now he is lucid, sometimes not.
We hear him so much when we dance, of course, he does remain in our thoughts. No other singer sang with as many great orquestas.
I cherish the video John Lowry made when he presented all my restorations of his recorded work to him at my request (71 songs at the time). He had never heard them sound so rich since the day each was recorded.
In the Cumparsita club that night (he was performing), they played some of my versions. When the Caló "Yo soy el tango" came on, he shed a tear and told everyone, "I was 16 when I recorded that!"
Revering Juan "Pacho" Maglio Eternal Inspiration
As an old sea-dog of a dancer/teacher/dj, I'm constantly on the outlook for folks who haven't yet experienced the swoon Juan Maglio (1880-1934) puts his dancers in.
And like everything else tango, the more you surrender, the more fantastic the trance.
It is a rare night indeed if Keith the dj doesn't play Maglio. He's too beautiful, too important - because there was no one better. As-good-as, depending on one's point of view - but not "better-than." He made so many unbelievably great recordings. In them today, you can still feel the waves of excitement rolling out from his imagination and fingers to all the other musicians and band leaders and then to the dancers.
In my professional life, I've always used this measuring device when considering relative contributions of artists: if you took this individual away from the history of the genre, what would you lose?
There is always your answer. Some artists are just more deserving of reverence than others in the long-run. My own personal list of who I consider to be a god of tango music is just that: a list. There is a top-tier. Where I see Pacho.
In the modern era of tango recordings (roughly 1923 onwards), most roads lead to Pacho in a very real sense. For me, a majestic god on the dias. Loving watching dancers in love with tango almost at his feet.
One imagines him to be the kind of person who would shush, shush any such talk. He was a simple musican who lead a very, very good band, I'm sure he would say. He came from a generation of impossibly gifted musicans and none of them would claim to be #1. There is no such thing, of course.
But perish the thought of ever taking away the music of Juan Maglio. He just made so much possible. And still does.
Regarding My Periodic "Crusades" Within a Crusade
NOT Me in the Picture! (But I do ice-skate)
Does it show an unforgiveable flaw in my character that I go on crusades from time to time?
The onset of one does tend to happen at this time of year. Dead of winter in Canada. Me locking-out the world and the weather and losing myself in tango restoration (where my heart finds it nice and warm).
It's a little mixed-up, looking back, whether my first crusade was about Di Sarli or Biagi or Donato. I was obsessed by them as I started my quest. Indeed - they were my main initial motivation.
In terms of profile, Di Sarli didn't "need" "my help"(!) as much as Eduardo or Rodolfo when I started more than 10 years ago. (In terms of audio quality of Carlos' recordings, I don't expect to ever be done with it to my satisfaction).
The quality of the recordings in tango sucked the big one. The moment I said to myself, "Well - can I do anything about that?" - all my next nights went sleepless.
I tackled Di Sarli and was very upset and discouraged. This was going to take a looong time.
Turning then to Biagi, I was rewarded way beyond expectations. Cleaning it my tedious way of re-drawing the waveforms by hand shocked me to my roots. Drove me crazy. Set me on a crusade to have people REALLY HEAR his music.
Those winter weeks of doing nothing but frying my brain by restoring Biagi's catalogue will always remain with me as seminal moments of my life. Here the possibilities of tango restoration made themselves known to me.
And I got too excited and tried too hard. It was only later when I had more experience and better tools that I could re-do Biagi's catalogue to my satisfaction.
Of course, that's the story of my journey. I had to start back then so I could grow and the technology could grow (did it ever) so my goals could be ever closer.
Then I did Donato. (While still pulling my hair out over Di Sarli).
But I'm not talking about my project here. The topic is my crusades.
The Donato campaign after restoration was simple and immediately gratifying. Make people listen to Ella Es Asi a few times. Success. Then, La Melodia del Corazon; Sinsabor; Con Tus Besos; Papas Calientes; El Lengue and the rest of the great catalogue.
It used to be rare that you would be played Donato in a milonga. Before 2003.
The Biagi crusade was more frustrating.
Donato hadn't been heard - so it was all new and exciting to people. Conversely, everybody had heard Biagi's scratchy, thin records hiding the subtlety and they had decided they didn't like him. They also didn't know that Biagi is the major reason anybody ever heard of D'Arienzo. All difficult to overcome in a hurry. But I would swear that my Biagi campaign had positive results in terms of how much he is played now.
So, what happened to my Di Sarli crusade(s)?
On the face of it, it's pretty challenging to expand people's awareness about one of the most (almost) over-exposed artists.
So I LOVE blowing people's minds with the Di Sarli they never hear; that is WAY under-appreciated.
The unbelievably sublime Pedro Laurenz music was next. I still can't understand why he isn't played more, but as soon as people fall knowlegabely in love with tango tango, they can't live without Laurenz.
Oboy. Let's stop here because we're getting into a list.
I've often wondered if there is anyone on Earth who has listened to the old recordings as much as I have. I was crazy for hearing it all the time BEFORE I started my restoration quest. I wanted to be a tango dancer, so that's why I listened to the music so much for the first 10 years. But my background was as a radio programmer - which meant my way was to have the biggest library and know all the music. Then dig to find more. And more.
I didn't start out thinking there was something I could contribute. If I have, it grew naturally out of just loving the music to death and eventually saying, Well, no one else seems to want to fix the problems, so what can I do about them?
A decade later, having worked and searched and collected and worked and bought continual upgrades of tools and source material and collected more and worked on every song more ... WHEW! I bow even lower in respect and supplication to the great musicians who gave us tango tango.
They unlocked and translated many secrets of Life and the Universe. So it's timeless. It grows more beloved and more profound every day until the Last Day - when it lets you smile as you breathe your last. How it seems to me.
When or if we aren't able to dance anymore, we'll still get the sweet blessings just by listening. And if our hearing leaves us, we'll still have it richly playing in our head. And be dancing in our heart.
My work in particular for the last four years has been to restore the recordings from 1926 onwards. I find the older recordings more compelling. Free, loose and inventive. Sexy. Certainly heavenly.
To quote William Blake: "The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest."
I'm always listening for good music coming out now. But there is no way to improve upon Canaro, Carabelli, Maglio, Aieta, Donato, OTV. Unless you are Biagi or Pugliese or Di Sarli or Laurenz, etc. (not to be construed as meant to be the whole lists).
The Gems just keep-on comin' when you restore the old recordings.
The better your ears (and the quality of your recordings), the more there is to hear.
Looking at Poema Being Danced Neat contast in styles
'Came across this page - which shows a few dances to Canaro's Poema - by different couples.
Aside from the general interest, it ought to be inspiring to lovers of Nuevo who haven't yet found a way to dance social tango in a close way when there are many dancers on the floor. Some lovely dancing by professionals here.
(Disclosure: I didn't know I was being quoted. I saw this page when doing a "Poema" google).
Very Cool Treats Audio tours of interesting things
In simply putting on the music of the restoration collection and letting it run, so many sublime moments fill the air.
We're going to do a few little audio programs flying through some of those moments.
My semi-private classes are about to resume after summer break.
I call them semi-private because I keep the group small - while giving the kind of attention and information one gets in a private class. For a lot less money, of course.
I show how to be and how to move and when (with the music) - as opposed to how to "do things."
I also say, I'm not calling myself a "teacher" and giving you a "class." I think of it as coaching - addressing personal needs. In as close-to a milonga situation as can be, given the purpose. It's more of an indoctrination into the tango world than a standard, "Learn these steps" class.
A new client asked me to put this on my webpage:
"Too many bad teachers out there. Without teaching me or telling me, you
prepared me for the lesson. I learnt it on my own. Which is why you are
the best teacher anyone can have. Except of course you're not a teacher. You
are Tango Tango!"
On Behalf of the Singers Before Gardel, There Was Caruso
Who new to tango hasn't sought ought instrumentals first so they didn't have to listen to the "annoying" singers? Of all the aspects of tango requiring acquired taste, the singers take the most getting used to - to a non-Latin, non older-person ear.
For the first 30 or 40 years of tango, there were no singers. They kind of had to fight their way in. The one who really kicked the door down, of course, was Carlos Gardel. His was tango's biggest "before-and-after" moment.
Conscious / Unconscious Different Approaches to Tango
If you're thinking, your partner has to be thinking, too.
If you're lost in the music, the feelings, the moment, you're partner can be, too.
In such a state, tango takes over.
When you "direct" it yourself, it plays hide-and-seek with you.
It's all tango; but when your brain is "off," the pleasure and satisfaction increases in proportion to your surrender.
This is why my way of teaching is to make the body memory work; to make things as automatic as possible in order that spontaneous expression comes out effortlessly.
I like to show how to hold the body; how it should move with your partner. How it signals to keep everything together. All so that the mind can be sort-of shut-off. Seeking unconscious competence.
The less "thinking" the better.
Tandas - So Cool
As a programmer and as a dancer, the Tanda custom in Argentine Tango seems to me to be such a cool invention.
What are it's origins? Sergio Vandekier explains from Mar Del Plata:
The Destruction of RCA's Masters And now - the Details
When RCA destroyed it's Masters of tango recordings 40 years ago, a major reason for our Restoration Project took place.
Tango Styles and Attitudes
Peter Bengtson's Tango Style table is humourous - and/but full of insight ... a kind of mirror in many respects. Do you see yourself in it?
The Tango Trance
Seek it, and it will elude you;
Talk about it in too much detail
and it will haunt you evily.
Live for it, and you will die many deaths.
Treasure it, but don't hold onto it.
Dance with love and freedom
and it will embrace you.
Be vulnerable, and feel it's power.