This is totally unedited and unstructured… Please excuse the rambling.
A common complaint from opponents of alternative tango is that it lacks emotion. It’s cold, hard, and repetitive. It is performed by a computer rather a community of humans. I use community figuratively. Rather than being a literal community of people, I am referring to the coming together of musicians and dancers in proximate location to all flow together, individualized and chaotic working in unison to the greater goal of creating art. Alternative tango is instead based on a single, non-human, precise and calculating machine.
I have to disagree though that the lack of humans in performance or direct emotion from the music robs dancers of their ability to express the music. Instead, the way I see it, it lets the listener form a personal connection to the song more easily and permanently imprint their own emotion subjectively onto the song for every time they listen to it. Just as a work of art can have an effect outside of the author’s intent, I think alternative tango is strongly encouraging the listener or dancer to find their own meaning to the song.
I wrote all of that in a huge rush, so why don’t I try to reiterate this differently. I believe that a work of art’s impression on a viewer / reader / listener / consumer is far more significant that the original intent of the piece. In essence, what a person takes out of art — their subjective experience with it — is more important than the piece of art itself. I think that as a person experiences that piece of art more and more, the more they take out of it. We form personal connections more strongly with things we’re intimately familiar with than anything else.
Alternative tango can enable the listener, by being more abstracted in emotion, to form an easier sentimental value with the song. It also means that two listeners will likely have a greater difference in the personal value of that song for them than what would be the case for a traditional tango song. El Torito sounds cheery and festive no matter how you listen to it, but Otros Aires Allerdings can have a range of emotional connections with the listener from happy to chaos-inducing to sobering. This makes people’s dance with one another more interesting, since you could potentially have a person dancing joyfully with a person dancing sorrowfully, both to the same song.
This ties into art in general I suppose. It can be paradoxically easier to form an attachment to Jackson Pollock’s art than Vermeer. Vermeer’s art is specific, so it limits the observer more to his intent, whereas the abstraction of Pollock can evoke anything in the observer.
At its core, I think the majority of alternative tango manages to be an abstraction of traditional tango. This is particularly evident in groups like Trio Garufa – turning Reliquias Porteñas from an orchestral performance to a trio performance, or Quintango, which removes the Bandonéon from the music. Even though Otros Aires isn’t lacking in presence or impact, it abstracts traditional songs by blending it with dance sounds and reducing a song to the corest of its identifiers as that song.