Tango Stories: Musical Secrets – A New Tango Book

Michael Lavocah, author of this new tango book and webmaster of www.milonga.co.uk, has a tango music “shopping guide” on his website. His advice is given according to people’s ability and desire as a consumer – “on budget”, “want a little more”, “DJ or collector” and “those who want everything”. Let me also give my reading advice and share what I like about his book in a similar manner.

So, What sort of reader are you?

    I am an absolute beginner in tango music
    Excellent news for you! So far this is the best book to start with in my opinion. It is sort of a “Tango music for dummies” but a lot more interesting and entertaining than that. It is full of funny stories, plus all the things you need to know about the music that you dance on in every milonga. Furthermore, if you’re really interested in some orchestras and would like to buy some music for yourself, the book gives very good advice on what to get – that would help you saving some money from buying bad quality CDs. Too bad when I started tango, this book didn’t exist. T.T
    I know few key orchestra’s name, few of their famous tunes and no more
    Alright. This book can help you consolidate your knowledge and understanding of the few orchestras (probably the big 4) that you already know, i.e. different periods of recording, key persons of the orchestras etc. Then it can also draw your attention, explore your senses towards other golden age orchestras that you might not pay attention to at first. Our musical taste, like good wine, takes time to age and develop the flavour. Certainly this book will be a great companion for your tango music “aging” process. 🙂
    I am a wanna-be DJ or a DJ
    The book will be your handy reference at least for a while, until you become really familiar with everything mentioned in the book. (Trust me, it will take quite some time!) Now you don’t have to use every orchestras mentioned in the book to DJ, but as a “supposed to be” tango music connoisseur these information should be part of your knowledge, your tango music foundation. And one day, when a dancer comes to you asking why you don’t play Roberto Firpo, then at least you know who Firpo is and why you decide not to play his music.

Now, what do I like the most about this book? First, the stories and information are carefully woven together, so that reader can learn about each orchestra without losing the broader view of tango music development. Second, the listening guide and tips make tango music very approachable – you don’t need to be a musician or knowing much music theory to understand tango music. I strongly advice reader takes their time to enjoy the book. Maybe one or two chapter per night? Try to listen every track suggested in the book, or even listen to those tracks mentioned but not suggested. When we dance, we tend to listen to the most obvious things for our ears. But when we quietly sit down and listen to music, we will hear a lot more. Then you will discover that tango music is very rich and beautiful! It is high quality music, just like classical and jazz music.

This book is great, but definitely there is room for improvements. If there is going to be a second edition, then I would like to see…

Photos, please!! Among these great orchestras leaders, musicians and singers, many of them were actually quite handsome. Let us admire their faces! I’m sure that will make better memory. 🙂 Also those few special instruments like musical saw and De Caro’s special “violin”, I think they deserve a photo in the book.

For listening, Spotify is a good idea, unfortunately it doesn’t available in my country. Also I’m kind of old fashion, I prefer CDs, or just simple mp3 direct downloads. Ok, I also understand that there must be a complicated copyright issue. Too bad for us. 🙁 Nowadays youtube is very common, maybe Michael can make the musical sample available on youtube? And also suggests some great youtube videos to watch? Like Pugliese’s speech in Colon, D’Arienzo’s TV performances etc.

And certainly I’m looking forward to more stories from more orchestras: Salgan, Piazzolla (at least his work with Fiorentino is worth mentioning?), Varela, Maderna, Francini-Pontier, Sassone, Gobbi…… there is still lots of stories to tell. 🙂

To get the book, please visit http://www.tangomusicsecrets.co.uk/

Hardcover version is available directly from the author at £15 in UK or £19 for the rest of EU.

Paperback version is available at createspace or amazon.us at US$15.99

Or if you’re in Hong Kong, you can get the hardcover version from me at HKD249.

6 Responses to “Tango Stories: Musical Secrets – A New Tango Book”

  1. Cassiel Says:

    Thank you for this review. I’ve published my opinion here.

  2. Royce Says:

    Here’s another review by Richard Slade – http://www.tangohub.co.uk/2012/09/a-book-of-musical-secrets/

  3. Martin from Bremen, Germany Says:

    Hello Royce,

    I ordered the book and received it gladly after only a few days. What you have observed – the lack of illustrations – could very well be compensated by looking into another book which was published by the “sello” label El Bandoneón in Spain. It is called “El tango – medio siglo en imágenes” and was written and compiled by Roberto Daus, author of many liner notes and historical comments in CD booklets. You find a number of previews on scribd, but this book is full of excellent photographies in b/w showing singers, bandleaders, musicians etc. The text -although in this case meagre – is not only in spanish, the book is a photo album of the great time the tango had in fifty years. The book is out of print but a dealer in Germany still has some copies which he sells at bargain price. I bought a numbers of them which I gave away as presents.

  4. Royce Says:

    Hello Martin,

    Thank you for your comments. Yes, the El Bandoneon image book is an excellent source of tango musician images. I forgot when and where I bought it. Too bad this book is already out of print. 🙁


  5. Chris Says:

    Royce wrote: “these information should be part of your knowledge, your tango music foundation. And one day, when a dancer comes to you asking why you don’t play Roberto Firpo, then at least you know who Firpo is and why you decide not to play his music.

    I hope no would-be DJ thinks he can find the reason to play one kind of music and not another in a book. It comes from the music and the dancers.

  6. Michael Lavocah Says:

    Royce, following similar feedback, I have constructed all the playlists for YouTube as well.
    Because of copyright restrictions, certain videos may not play in particular countries. But – good news! Spotify became available in Hong Kong in (I think) 2013.

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