Tuesday 21 June 2016

Beautiful art on a big decision

Matthew has made a brilliant little piece of art; the way the Remain campaign should have been done.

If you are on a mobile you will have to "request desktop site" (it's always there somewhere) - it's because of the music, which is hilarious.

Saturday 4 June 2016

Music of the Mundial Final

This post studies the music used in the final of the Mundial de Tango in the years 2012-2015. I have no information about how or why the music is chosen, or whether any guidelines exist for the person or committee choosing the music. In this post I simply observe what they actually chose.


I compiled this data by watching the videos in this playlist. They are kindly provided by Aires de Milonga, a website I recommend; they provide these videos for nothing, but they offer additional services to those who subscribe a very small annual sum via Paypal.

Each final consists of approximately forty couples, and is divided into four Rondas. For each ronda, three tracks are played. Only tangos are used; no milonga or vals.

Over the four years, this gives a total of 3 x 4 x 4 = 48 tracks, but there are actually 49, because in the first ronda of 2013 something happens off-camera during track 3 that bumps the floor and disturbs the competitors' concentration. A fourth track is played, in the same style.

To begin with, I noted the orchestra, singer, and title of each track.  I then searched for the tracks on tango.info and on YouTube until I was reasonably satisfied that I had identified them correctly.

The full data set can be downloaded here: if you notice an error, please describe it in the comments. The tracks are announced at about the 3-minute mark of each ronda, immediately after the couples do their preliminary walk around the floor so the judges can see their numbers.


Style rotation

I perceived the tracks for each ronda as covering a predominantly dramatic style, a predominantly rhythmic style, and an in-between, lyrical, or other style, in no particular order. I have added these wholly subjective categorisations in the full data set. You will probably disagree with at least some of them, perhaps many. The word "Lyrical" is fairly meaningless and just refers to the in-between or mixed or melody-led style of track that isn't either of the others; often it is the track that would allow competitors to show off the technical achievement of a slow, smooth, graceful walk. I may update my classifications to make them a bit more meaningful and regular.

The use of these three broad styles in each ronda makes sense on the basis that each couple gets the chance to show off a broad range of technical and musical powers. Each ronda in each final obviously needs to be stylistically similar to the other two. I note, though, that 40 couples seems a lot for a 'final'; the naive observer might have expected to see, say, only ten different couples, and see them dance for a little longer or to a wider range of music.


The orchestras used looked like this.

Orchestras of recordings used in the final of the Mundial de Tango, 2012-2015

It seems notable to me that there is absolutely no Biagi, and absolutely no Canaro.

Given the volume and excellence of their output, if they were going to be used at all, you'd think they'd be in there somewhere, over the four years. If you were practicing for the final, and you didn't have this data, you might spend time with those guys; but it seems you'd be wrong.

It can imagine a pretty good argument for not using any Biagi. There's no reasonable substitute, so if you used, say, one of the great Biagi instrumentals in one ronda, it might seem very unfair not to use another in each of the four Rondas. Everybody needs a roughly equal chance to either shine or make fools of themselves; and that would make Biagi too prominent and would mean you had to sacrifice something else. I hypothesise that if there were a vals competition, there'd be plenty of Biagi in there.

There is already a widely-held belief that Argentinians consider Canaro a bit 'common'. Nothing in this data really supports or dispels such an idea; but they don't use any in the final. Nor do they use any of the orchestras that come to mind as stylistically similar to Canaro's most currently-popular output; Lomuto, OTV, Carabelli, Típica Porteña, etc. So it does support the idea that this style of music is not considered appropriate for competition. And again, if there were a milonga competition, we'd see Canaro.

Years of Recording

This is what the years of recording look like.

Year of recordings used in the final of the Mundial de Tango, 2012-2015
It's notable that there's a long tail to the right, stretching all the way to 1959, but nothing at all on the left earlier than 1934.

Decade of recordings used in the final of the Mundial de Tango, 2012-2015
It's no suprise that most of it is from the 40s. But the notable thing for me is that more than a fifth of the recordings are after 1949; they slightly outnumber the ones from the 30s.


If you were doing well in the Mundial and you were practicing for the final, it would make a lot of sense to spend about a fifth of your time on each of D'Arienzo, Di Sarli, Pugliese, and Troilo, and the other fifth on exploring how what you have learned applies to whatever else you like among tracks that can be used as stylistic subsitutes for those four; provided that it is not Biagi, not Canaro, and not anything recorded before 1934.

You would also think about three (or more - this is very subjective) broad classifications of style, and you would focus on forming a range of improvisational habits that worked well for each style, regardless of the orchestra.

If you dance socially in Europe, it might also make sense to spend some extra time improving your dance to the 50's output. There's some support in this data for the widespread idea that the Argentinians think the Golden Age of tango music began and ended five to ten years later than the Europeans think it did. You may be less familiar with the nearly 30% of these tracks that were recorded after 1945, and you will probably have no chance to show what you can do with anything before 1935, so that experience is somewhat wasted. Being able to hit 80% of Biagi's off-beats will also be 100% useless, while being able to dance to 50's tangos generally without getting the giggles could be something you need.

Further research, or exercises for the interested reader

Yesterday I attended the first round of the related competition organised in London (there were 14 couples, one from the UK). You might be wondering if the pattern I've seen here was followed, or if it is followed in your own local competition, or the European competition, or anywhere else. I haven't gone through my notes yet, but the data so far says no. Despite dividing thirteen couples into a rather excessive three rondas, I don't think they followed the rotation of styles, and Pablo played both Canaro and OTV. I probably won't attend rounds 2 or 3, as it costs £25 to get in, and that adds up to a bit much, but if you feel like having something to focus on while you're there, go ahead and collect the data. It would be good to note the couple numbers in each round, too, along with your personal top six, and the results.

My guess is that no guidelines are published anywhere about the music, so the practice in local competitions is probably completely unrelated to what's done in the final. I have not tried to collect data for the semi-finals, either, and there's no reason to assume it's the same.

An interesting exercise for the reader - or for further research - would be to consider what three tracks you would use if you wanted, by observation, to identify the best dancers - by your own definition - in a room.

[Edit: I think the announcement at yesterday's competition was that there were 13 couples, but my notes show 14 different numbers; so I've changed it to 14. I could be wrong].