Now playing…

2010 August 3
by Simba

Most djs follow a reasonably predictable scheme when they play, grouping the music in tandas of the same orchestra and from the same period. Also some variation of a repeating pattern is common when it comes to the sequence of the tandas.

However, new dancers often don’t know this (doesn’t anyone teach about how a milonga works?), and they don’t know the music. And as the incentives to learn it all alone are not as they were in the old days in Buenos Aires, many djs provide an extra service to their community in displaying what they are playing. Or it could be a device to get to work in peace and not have too many questions. Personally I enjoy having people come over and chat about the music.

Ms. Hedgehog’s recently posted about a nice book used for displaying the orchestra currently playing and/or the nature of the upcoming tanda (pitured above, photo from tangotandas.com. If you like the book idea, this could be a good place to start, as making one that looks as good yourself will take some time and effort.

The problem with this approach, as seen from the dj, is that it adds one more task that could distract from the primary activity, which is selecting the best music for dancing. Also, being a geek,  I prefer automation where possible, and it is not quite robust with exceptions to the general rules, playing other genres occasionally, maybe, mixing tandas etc.

I have previously used a screensaver showing orchestra, singer, title and genre for the previous, current and next track, making the information available to interested parties if I were away from the computer, and it would be easy to project the same information or add an extra monitor (However I never wanted to shell out the extra cash  let along add another piece of heavy equipment to bring, being mostly a volunteer.) If I ever set it up again, I will detail the setup in a separate post. In short I had foobar2000 write a text file with the relevant information, and samurize pick it up and display it as a screensaver.

On the tangodj mailing list a nice LED display was discussed as an elegant solution, which I would prefer to projection, but it is sort of expensive, and I don’t get that many questions, so for me it is overkill, and it probably requires a little work/programming to get it working with my current setup.

Using a separate monitor, I think using a web server would be an easy solution, and that opens up other possibilities as well, now that smart phones are finally taking off, lots of people have small computers in their pocket or purse, and could easily check a web page displaying what is currently playing and other relevant information. last.fm is a very simple solution, but it doesn’t display what is coming next. Web page, twitter or whatever, as long as you get the address distributed to the people around, you are basically there. You could print the url or qr on the ticket or the menu or something.  The obvious downside is if everybody ends up sitting with their nose in their phone all night.

Of course, a real milonguero already knows what’s playing…

8 Responses leave one →
  1. 2010 August 3

    I’m not good enough to call myself a DJ yet, but do provide music for our practica a lot, and – since we dance somewhere where there’s no opportunity to bring big, cool equipment – just wrote a Bowtie theme with the name and composer of currently playing, the type of dance and a pretty picture of our club logo. It runs fullscreen on my laptop when I’m not messing with iTunes, and people seem to appreciate it. This does assume you’re just hitting play and leaving it… but our practica is pretty simple like that.

  2. 2010 August 3

    Like in some milongas in Buenos Aires, DJ announces the next tanda. Easiest solution!

  3. 2010 August 4

    @Jessica: That sounds nice, sort of like my screensaver thingie, I guess.

    @TP: Yes that is another way. I have great memories of Felix Picherno announcing over the speaker something along the lines of (only in Spanish) “..and now the great violins of Juan D’arrrrienzo’s orchestra!” It can get a little annoying though, especially if you were to announce each and every song, so I personally prefer the less intrusive text solution.

  4. 2010 August 4

    @TP “Like in some milongas in Buenos Aires, DJ announces the next tanda. Easiest solution!” – except that it requires everyone to stop their conversations, it requires the DJ to remember to do this, it requires everyone to hear well, it requires the DJ to speak clearly, and it requires the people to be there at that point (not, for example, taking a break outside or going to the toilet). It’s a very manual system.

    A projection is there permanently, it’s a single and obvious point of information, and it simply requires the ability to read, at any point during the tanda.

  5. 2010 September 13
    kay permalink

    My favourite milonga DJ started working with cards displaying the orchestra a few years ago. He switched to the screensaver solution using a beamer later.
    Now everybody can see which orchestra is playing, who is the singer and even when the recording took place. It’s nice and comparatively unobtrusive.

    Sometimes during cortinas they even give you a preview for the next tanda, so that you can prepare for the next dance with your favourite partner for that kind of music.

    I also like DJs announcing, but I think it can get too much if each and every tanda is announced.

    Adding more information to the music definitely enriches the milonga experience. I am often shocked at how many dancers who are active for years are not able to dinstinguish between the different orchestras and styles!

    So I think that every DJ worth his or her title should care about sharing this valuable information and take the dancer’s awareness for the music they’re dancing to to a higher level.

  6. 2010 September 14

    Thanks kay, I agree that the main motivation for this is educating the dancers and improving their awareness of the variety of music.

  7. 2011 July 5
    Vla permalink

    With the help of component you are taken out full information and song in foobar2000?

  8. 2011 July 9

    @ Vla: I used a component where I could write a text file with a text string based on a formatting string which meant I could have full information. It was a while ago on a since reformatted computer, don’t remember which component, sorry.

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