Saturday, 30 April 2011

Carlos Di Sarli Instrumental 1928–1931

A fascinating CD has been released: I've just come across it in Spotify and it seems to have been released just two days ago on April 28. It's fascinating because it's a collection of some of Di Sarli's first recordings from 1928 to 1931 – with a sextet. (Given the date, it's strange that the CD cover photo appears to show Di Sarli in later years.)

I know I'm not the only one to love dancing to Di Sarli, while finding I don't really want to listen to his music while off the dance floor. The emotional grandeur of it can seem excessive when you're not dancing. But the early sextet is a much more spare, more reflective music, reminiscent of early Fresedo. It's mainly orchestral: the sound of the human voice comes as a bit of a surprise in the last track.

I remember Pedro Sanchez being very enthusiastic about a CD he had of Di Sarli, which I understood as being late Di Sarli with a quartet. I've never come across it elsewhere, but it sounded a bit like this sextet. I hope to catch up with Pedro later this year, but if anyone knows what it might be, do let me know. Until then, Carlos Di Sarli Instrumental 1928–1931 (20 Grandes Exitos) in the Tango Collection is going to get a lot of listening to. Hopefully it'll turn up in a milonga soon.

Available if you're within reach of Spotify here. On Amazon it's here.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Alejandro Chaskielberg

Alejandro Chaskielberg was named Sony world photographer, just this evening, April 27. No, me neither. It turns out he's from Buenos Aires, which is neither here nor there, really: what really counts are the extraordinary images he's made. The series that so impressed the jury were of the residents of islands on the Rio Parana, upstream from Buenos Aires, and worlds away, a somewhat familiar landscape very like Tigre. Flash balanced against natural lighting makes strange dream-like landscapes.

I was really struck by the photos of Buenos Aires in the Argentina crisis in 2001, which aren't at all dream-like, but still strange. Look at the image with the water cannon, and see the guy on the left, arms raised as if expostulating with the 'policia'; how can you do this to us? & then look at all the other demonstrators, all in positions of movement, all running in different directions, as if the whole scene had been posed for the camera, which is wrong for reportage but still somehow manages to take you deeper into the strange heart of the scene than the grainy blurred 'real' image you'd expect. & the photo of lightening over the Casa Rosada, artifice and natural forces, and a powerful statement and an astonishing image.

These are all in the Portfolios at

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Some stats

I've been busy with an exhibition, which has sadly deprived me of tango time. But not for much longer!

In the meantime I've been looking at the Tangocommuter stats. Which have been the most-read of 400 posts? Well, nothing I've written! Top of the Tc charts turns out to be... Interview with Melina Sedó: part I with over 1,200 page views. Next, no surprise, are parts II and III, but with considerably fewer views. I was really pleased to find that the most-read post of mine was As good as it gets, the post with the video of that beautiful Cumparsita from Centro Leonesa. Of course it's not my writing that's attracted 217 hits; it's the video of Adela Galeazzi and Santiago Cantenys dancing, but I'm happy to have pointed out a video that so many people enjoyed.

Other than that, Tc gets read mainly in the UK and US, then Germany and then, surprisingly and gratifyingly, it's read quite a bit in Argentina too. But it's the bottom end of the scale that fascinates me: the two visitors from Iran, two from the Palestinian Territory, one visitor from Nepal, and one from Pakistan too. Two Egyptians, two (only two?) from South Africa, one from Morocco. Welcome! I hope you'll be back! Even more, I hope you have, or will be able to get tango where you live!

&, if you're in London, in the unlikely event that you have nothing to do on April 25, or if you're near Bankside, it's our closing party. No tango, but do drop by for a glass or two.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Tango without mirrors

Tango dancers who've learned how to dance in front of mirrors; do you recognise the category? Like, so many of the younger teachers coming out of BsAs these days... Isn't it a kind of self-regarding, almost narcissistic style? We KNOW how good we look! How pretty we are! & if you've ever danced with a partner who is preoccupied with how he/she looks in a mirror, you'll probably know how alone you can feel while dancing with a partner. The mirror encourages the idea of dance as performance to be viewed: are my voleos the right height, do I extend my leg straight in my lapiz? I wonder if giving myself lifetimes of bad luck destroying mirrors in dance studios would result in people dancing better... Of course, mirrors are necessary for dance that's meant to be watched, but aren't they distracting to the tango of the milonga? Shouldn't every moment, even in classes, be in awareness of your partner, the music and the dancers around you?

I'm glad to see 'Chiche' Ruberto turn up in a Practimilonguero interview. He dances after the interview but he's had a knee operation recently. I really like the energy and directness of it. I can be bored with milonga (dare I say it!) but this brings a whole new personality and directness to the dance. He has some great stories, too, a wonderful view of tango in family life in BsAs in the 1940s. There's a handful of his milongas on YouTube; someone who learned by dancing a lot, all his life, by discovering what suited him and his partners, not by watching himself in mirrors!

Here he is again, last year in El Beso. They're really enjoying themselves! A fierce, direct dance. I've not seen younger dancers in this league.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

I remember where I was when I first saw photos of the images in the Chauvet caves... I opened a newspaper, and there was a full colour spread of rhinos, horses, tigers, all jumping off the page. The colour photocopy I made that morning is still on the wall, so of course I've been looking forward to Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams. A Herzog film is always something to look forward to, a Herzog film of the 'Caves Chauvet' even more so, and in 3D too!

& the film didn't disappoint. Not that it showed any images I hadn't seen. It seems that there isn't a huge number of images in the cave and an internet search will reveal them all. It's just the extraordinary quality of them. The way the artist(s) have repeated lines, heads, legs: when I first saw the photos I saw this as something you do when you draw, you repeat a line until you get it right. But in Chauvet it looks much more, as Herzog points out, as if there was an attempt to suggest movement: there's something cinematic about it. (& the experience of going into the cinema is a bit like descending into the cave: dim subterranean passages leading to an underground hall.)

The word 'fresh' was used a lot to describe the images. In fact they've been preserved by a massive landslide that covered the entrance some time in the distant past. They were discovered in 1994, and entrance is severely restricted to preserve the images. But 'fresh' suggests 'freshly made', which is how they look. On-going research projects leave no doubt that the date is around 32,000BC, but the drawing line is so alive, vigorous, spare, assured, they really could have been made yesterday. The drawings of horses and bison suggest Picasso, both in subject and style, as does the strange half-woman, half bull...

When Picasso visited the much more recent Lascaux cave he said 'We have discovered nothing'.

What does all this tell us about ourselves and our past? & I wonder what part the discovery of resemblance, of how a group of marks can resemble appearances, played in the development of human consciousness. & that our aesthetic sense goes back that far...

Not only is the line assured: the placing of the images also is. They aren't in a disorganised jumble. Put it another way: if they were on canvas and a contemporary curator had to hang them in the cave, this is how they would look. This horse on its own in the alcove on the right, and the bison in the centre of the far wall. Then this group of tigers here, and those horses would look good over there... & as an exhibition, you could say it's not over-hung. Another wonderful feature is how the curves of the rock are used to suggest bulk: the way a rocky edge is used as the side of a horse's head and, curiously, how a concave area of rock is used to suggest the convex bulk of a horse's flanks. I suspect the images must have been 'given' to the artist(s) by the rocks, in the way that if you look at stains on the wall you can see faces or landscapes.

& being a Herzog film there's a delight in the events that occur in making the film. There's the 'experimental archaeologist' dressed in period costume, with a flute he made from a bone of a vulture's wing, an exact replica of an excavated one. & when he plays it, it gives a perfect pentatonic scale, which means that he also found it possible to play... The Star Spangled Banner. As for the albino crocodiles living in the effluent of the nearby nuclear power station...

It was the first 3D film I've seen. It works: it was wonderful to see how the paintings fit into the cave, and the space itself, as it's the nearest I'm ever likely to get. But I didn't find it exactly comfortable: I wore the glasses while I was inside the cave, but took them off outside. Herzog says he saw the use of 3D for the Caves Chauvet, but wouldn't have made any of his other films in 3D. (The thought of Klaus Kinski raving, close up and in 3D...)

It's just the beginning: Wim Wender's 3D film on Pina Bausch is due shortly, actually planned as a film to be made with Bausch, who died suddenly a week or so before shooting was due to begin, so it's something of a tribute and memorial to her by her company.