Sunday, May 6, 2012

The No-Squealing-Feedback Rule at the Milonga

Every Milonga has a "no-feedback rule, right?
As a series of articles, I have addressed the paradoxical phemenon of musicians killing the very music they love.  See the links at the bottom of this post.   This post is really Part Four of Musicians/DJ's driving the dancer away (which I have overstated as "killing tango").  [I have links to related articles at the bottom of this post.]

Part IV
Every milonga needs a "no feedback rule." When amplification goes out of control there is often a squeal that hurts one's ears. That is "feedback." Musicians, ironically, are the worst offenders at milongas, but also DJ's and organizers who want to say something with amplification produce feedback.

From a medical and biological view, loud noises create micro-damage to the ear, which hurts one's ability to enjoy music by damaging the inner ear. Isn't that ironic that musicians, DJ's and organizers who do this to the people whom they serve? Therefore, the "no feedback rule" is good business and ethically a must!  Please view the video clip at the very end of this post about cummulative damaged that is done to the inner ear from torturous feedback at milongas and other events.

I have already made suggestions to musicians about preserving (rather than destroying their music), and the "no feedback rule" is an important element -- only because in nearly every live performance I hear feedback. No matter how big the room, how many technicians are running the system, or how much a system cost, I hear feedback. Sometimes it is deafening.

Last week near Munich, I saw my favorite living tango singer with a new-improved group (Sexteto Milonguero). They had strong violins (for a change) and the bassist slowed down on his slap-base-brown-jug-band style. Was there feedback? A moment or two, but they had remarkably good marks as far as live music goes.  Bravo!

There are some easy rules for no feedback.  (1)  Don't put you hand over the mic.  This causes feedback.  Organizers are the worst at this "shut-up-the-baby technique" on the mic.  Guess what, you have seen this a million times, and covering the "mouth" of the squeeling mic STILL doesn't work!  So stop!  (2) Stay in a place known to have a good sound.  Sure you feel like wandering around, just like on TV, but do us a favor:  Stay "over there."   (3) Amplification speakers must be in front of the microphone; otherwise, feedback will all have us jumping out of our seats (but not with joy).

Regarding the "don't wander around" rule, number 2 above:  In Bavaria, Sexteto Milongero had an obviously unrehearsed moment in which the vocalist decided to go hang out by the violinists at one point, and he sounded like he had jumped into a fish tank. No experimentation!  If a musician, DJ or organizer plans to leave a particular spot, then it must be tested for feedback or weird acoustic changes.

Eliminating feedback is not Rocket Science. There is an easy solution, but DJ's, organizers and especially musicians must understand more than just the music they love. Especially the modern musician must also attain technical knowledge about the amplification they use. The solution is do not use amplification if you haven't learned how to use it! I hate be paternalistic about this, but: "Go to your room, and when you know how to play without ear-torturing feedback you can come out."

Part of the solution is not even knowledge:  Musicians, DJ's and organizers, PLEASE come early (damn it) and set up before people come so you do not torture their ears and ruin the ambiance.

Believe me, this has been a pet peeve of mine since my teen years a percussionist/drummer in many bands. Eventually I ran the PA address system and equalizers, and I brought extra guitar cords with a soldering gun to fix crackling or missing cords after we had driven to a gig fro three hours.  I got tired of musicians who did not protect the dancers from all the harmful and unnecessary sounds that are not music.  I didn't use amplification, but I learned how to control it's bad temper.

If you don't have a "no feedback rule" at your milonga, maybe you should give the link to the musicians, DJ or organizer who needs some guidance.

Please see resources below:

Links to other "musicians/DJs killing tango" articles:
This series had an intro, which started as a letter to the Pan-American Symphony Orchestra (PASO) in Washington D.C. My letter was never answered. I suggested that at least some of their program should allow the common people to dance to their music off to the side because in Latin America, more than in most places, people understand that music that is good drives a person to get up an move. This is part 4, adding a typical problem with musicians, DJ's and her I included organizers -- hurting their customers' ears with feedback. (If you wish you can click on the links to the intro article to the PASO, or part one, part two or three.

Medical Explanation alluded to above:
This audiologist gives an explanation of the medical consequences from electronic feedback.  Notice that it is not only that it can be loud but there is a cumulative effect.  Many of my older musician friends are going the way of Beethoven (whose deafness was from biological not acoustic reasons).