I am going to provide a musical analysis of El Choclo, composed by Ángel Villoldo in 1903. I’ll first define some musical terms then break the piece down from a big picture overview to smaller and smaller bits. The piano reduction is available here http://www.todotango.com/english/las_obras/partitura.aspx?id=24 . The visual quality is not great. I used Photoshop to sharpen it up a bit. The music can be saved to a file by right clicking and choosing “Save image as...” (In Chrome, other browsers will have some other menu option). There are two pages, so right click near the top of the score and save, then right click near the bottom and save again. (The reason I called the music a “piano reduction” and not a score is because that’s what it is. A score has all the instrumental (and vocal) parts aligned horizontally by measure. The version we will look at has been “reduced” to two lines and is intended to be played on a piano) I suggest even those who cannot read music download and print the sheet music. I’ll be going through it bar by bar and talk about the time signature, the primary beat and how it is subdivided, the form, phrasing, rhythms, maybe keys and harmonies. There will be definition of terms and you'll be able to pick up some important stuff about how music is printed and what all those weird markings mean. (The recording at todotango.com is by Canaro with Tita Merello singing. I won’t be discussing any of the vocal recordings. I don’t care to dance to most music with singers (the proper definition of “song”, by the way. If there is no singing it is not a song). I find the arrangements have been altered to showcase the singer. It certainly has been in this case. There are many exceptions of course, but I’d rather dance to instrumental music written and performed for dancers.) Our version is as Villoldo wrote it – so I assume. I can’t be sure. There are some lyrics but no vocal part. I don’t know if Villoldo wrote one or somebody else did later. At any rate, it isn’t included in the music we have. Every “orchestra” does something unique with the music, so what we are working with is close enough. (I put orchestra in quotes because a (modern classical) orchestra has strings (violins, violas, cellos, bass), several different wind, brass, and percussion instruments. Tango ensembles do not. I refer to them as group, band, ensemble, trio, sextet…) Some terminology first - can’t escape it, we need to have a common, well defined language for discussion. I ask anyone who knows of a good source for music definitions and rudiments (basic theory) to post some links for us. No doubt there are good definitions in Wikipedia. Off the top of my head and kept short and simple (mostly): Beat: the underlying pulse of the music. See Measure and Time Signature. Measure (or bar): small sections which contain all the number of beats as specified by the time signature. Marked with a vertical line across the two pairs of five horizontal lines (called staff lines or staves). A bar in our piano reduction is both pairs of staves. (The top one is called the treble clef, played with the pianist’s right hand, and the bottom one is called the bass clef, played with the left hand). Time Signature: The two numbers, one above the other, written near the beginning of the first line (or whenever it changes). It is not a fraction but is usually typed as one. Time signature tells the number of beats in a measure and the type of note that gets one beat. 2/4 tells us there will be two beats per measure and the quarter note gets one beat. 4/4, four beats and the quarter note gets one beat. 6/8, six beats and the eighth note gets one beat. (Look up what whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes look like on Wikipedia. And if you are in the UK look up quavers, semiquavers…but I won’t be using those terms) Structure (or “form”): how the piece is structured (duh). The way the major sections are organized and the order they are performed. Unique sections are labeled “A”, “B”, “C”, Introduction, Coda (a concluding section). Phrase: difficult to describe simply, but for our purpose think of them as a short section of music with a clear start and end quality. Phrases usually happen over a specific number of bars, usually 4, and can have two smaller sections of 2 bars each. There is usually a call and response or question and answer quality to them. Time Value: what portion of the beat a note gets. We know in 2/4 there will be two beats and the quarter note’s time value is one beat. There is one 1/4 note in one beat, two 1/8 notes in one beat, four 1/16 notes in one beat. They can be written as fractions: ¼, 1/8, 1/16, because that’s what they are, in terms of a 4/4 time signature, which is the most common one. Still with me? Think of it this way. In 4/4 there are 4 ¼ notes per bar, eight 1/8 notes, sixteen 1/16 notes. A “whole note” will always get the full number of beats defined by the time signature. In 2/4 it will get two beats, in 4/4 four, etc. And there can be dots added to increase the basic time value of the notes by 1.5 times the undotted value. A dotted 1/8 note will get 1/8 + 1/16 = 3/16. Keep that in mind, tango uses the dotted 1/8 (which has a time value of three 1/16 notes) followed by a 1/16 note rhythm very frequently. It is part of one of the two habanera rhythms we’ll see in El Choclo. Rhythmic Pattern: a succession of notes usually played in a mix of time values (but necessarily a mix). If you are going to follow along with the score (and you should even if you don’t read music) I suggest you write the bar number in the left margins beside each pair of staves. In the print out there are 4 bars in the first line (Consider the two groups of five lines as one line), so put “5” in the left margin of the second line, “9” on the third line and so on. If I say to look at bar 15 it will easy to do so if the bar numbers are marked in. Glad that’s out of the way. Now on to El Choclo...tomorrow. Going to a practica soon.