Tango Argentino > El Choclo: A Musical Analysis

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by tangomonkey, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Re intro Luis Saltos plays one on his harmonica version of El choclo
    so do Quinteto Angel
  2. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks btm! I will try to get hold of them.
  3. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks to all for the kind words.

    Discussion of Section A is in the works. Will not get much more time today to do more writing. Will post it tomorrow.
  4. Shandy

    Shandy Member

    This is brilliant - As suggested, I've printed out score and definitions. Have your first analysis and recordings of El Choclo - on first reading (OMG) but I knew this wasn't going to be easy and I'm going to stick with it.

    TM, is there any chance you can choose a youtube clip that we can all follow. The one I most recognised was Juan D'Arienzo (instrumental) but there may be better ones for this analysis.
  5. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Does anyone have a version of El Choclo that has the intro that's on the sheet music? I have several different versions of it, and none of them start with an intro like that. Everyone I have, starts with the 3 sixteenth notes in the eighth bar, where it says canto (where the melody starts).

  6. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Intro? What intro? Or are you going to believe your lying eyes?

    Actually, I have two versions that have different intros.
  7. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Time to zoom in a level.

    I’m going to describe what happens in the Intro and Section A.

    Introduction (bars one -eight):
    The intro is a 4 bar phrase, played twice. It is characterized by continuous eighth notes in all parts, except the sixteenth notes in the bass clef of bar 4. They serve to join the first phrase with the second one, which is a simple repetition. The key is b minor. The first harmony (chord) on the first beat is similar to a dominant seventh chord – it is actually a diminished seventh. It functions the same way as a dominant seven, in fact it has even more of a need to resolve somewhere, and that is to the chord based on the first note of the scale – b minor. It is unusual to begin a piece with anything other than the tonic chord, the chord based on the first note of the scale. And very rare for that chord to be a diminished seventh. So, from the start we feel dissonance and the need to move, which builds for the bar, since the diminished seventh chord lasts the entire bar. We get resolution in bar 2 which is entirely built on the tonic chord, b minor. This tension-release happens throughout the introduction, alternating measure by measure. The intro is very much different than the other sections. It is a shame it is not played by the main tango bands.

    Section A (pickup to 9-24):
    Thematically (melodically) section A begins at the end of bar 8 with the three sixteenth notes in the treble clef. Those sixteenth notes are technically called a pickup, because they lead into a new phrase or idea in the music. Notice the two A naturals (the term for a note with no sharp or flat is natural) and the B flat last note. All other As were sharped and the Bs were natural. These three quick notes instantly change the character. And the B flat is emphasized by being repeated on the strong beat of bar 9. Before bar 9 has finished we know we are clearly now in d minor. We have modulated from b minor to d minor. Remember, the key signature changed to one flat at bar 9, a B flat. The entire A section stays in d minor with one slight twist in the harmony in bar 19, which I’ll talk about when we get there.

    Character of the phrases:
    There are four 4 bar phrases, the first three are subdivided musically into two 2 bar sub-phrases. I’ll call the first 2 bars the “question” and the second 2 bars the “answer”. Or think about it as “call” and “response”. The first three phrases have this alternating character. The fourth (last one) does not. More on that later.

    Phrase 1 (pickup to 9-12):
    What makes the first two bars feel like a question? A lot of this is ephemeral – it feels like that because it just does. It has to do with the prominent use of the B flat in the melody, which does not belong in a d minor chord (D-F-A). (There is a ledger line placed above the top line in the treble clef and the note sitting on that line is a b flat). Those B flats played against the bass line’s obvious d minor chord is dissonant; it creates tension. It also has to with the generally rising melody in bars 9-10. And the rest in bar 10, which separates the Q&A melodies, is a real pause in the music.

    What makes the last two bars (10-12) feel like an answer? This is easier to define. First there are no more B flats being played against the d minor chord in the bass clef. There is no dissonance, no tension. The general melodic direction is down, in contrast to the first couple bars, and that truly gives me an answer feeling. Musicians will gradually play louder as the melody rises in pitch, and gradually softer as it descends. All these things combined help achieve the Q&A feeling for me.

    The harmony of phrase 1 is a d minor chord, which is the root or tonic chord in the key of d minor. It is subsequently a very important chord. It only changes at the end of the phrase, on beat one of bar 12.

    Phrase 2 (pickup to 13-16):
    Continuing with the harmonic discussion, the chord in bar 12 has fully become a dominant seventh, A-C#-E-G (chord V7 in d minor) by the time the three 1/16 pickup notes are heard. Recall that dominant seventh chords feel unresolved; there is tension and need of resolution. Phrase 2 is built entirely on V7, until the resolution to the tonic d minor chord on beat one of bar 16. You will notice the tension when listening to the music. Q&A is here too, for the same reasons as Phrase 1. Even more so for the question. Not only do we have the underlying tension created by the dominant seven (V7) chord, those B flats return too. B flat played against the A-C#-E-G of the V7 chord is more dissonant than they were in Phrase 1. The overall mood of Phrase 2 has become darker, more tense and dramatic.

    Phrase 3 (pickup to 17-20):
    Phrase 3 begins exactly as Phrase 1. The question section is identical. The answer is more interesting. The underlying chord is the dominant seventh of the fourth note in the d minor scale. The fourth note is G and the dominant seventh chord of G is D7, D-F#-A-C. This changes the character quite a bit. The melody is partially the same as in Phrase 1’s answer, but there is and F#, and the shape falls then rises. So there is tension in the answer, caused by the underlying harmony and shape of the melodic line. The D7 chord resolves to G minor on beat 1 of bar 19. We still haven’t returned to a d minor chord.

    Phrase 4 (pickup to 21-24):
    This is the only phrase without the Q&A feel. The reason is to make it obvious that we are about to conclude the section. Phrase 4 drives forward. There are no rests in the melody, it is shaped very differently, descending in pitch during the first 2 bars instead of rising. Then it goes sideways until the very definitive cadence at the end of the phrase, which is also the end of Section A. The harmonies change every bar (from IV-I-V7-I).The rate at which harmonies (chords) change is called harmonic rhythm. An increase in harmonic rhythm changes the character and flavor of the music at a faster pace. Bar 22 is based on the tonic chord, bar 23 on the dominant seventh; it is resolved to the tonic chord on the strong first beat of 24. This chord progression is called a perfect cadence. There is no doubt we have come to an important ending point in the music. Our ears confirm it. Notice beat 1 in bar 24. It is only an eighth note in length and then there are rests. This further emphasizes the conclusion and resolution character of the cadence and the end of section A. Phrase 4 has a feeling of continuous motion and drama then instant release at the cadence.

    Use of rhythmic patterns:
    EL Choclo makes ample use of the two habanera based rhythms. I’ll call them habanera 1 and habanera 2. I need to describe habanera 1 now, 2 will come in Section B. Look at the bass line in bar 9. That is habanera 1, all of it. Think of it in time values, not pitches or notes. Habanera 1 is the entire dotted 1/8-1/16-1/8-1/8 combination, taking two beats. The dotted 1/8-1/16 is syncopation; there is an emphasis on the offbeat (the 1/16) leading to beat two. Habanera 1 is in every bar of Section A, except bars 13, 19, 24. By the way, habanera 1 is very often in the bass line of many tangos, and milongas ever more so.

    Each question and answer has exactly the same rhythm, except Phrase 4 which adapts for added tension and drama. A series of eleven 1/16 notes, three 1/16 note triplets (those three notes with a curved line and a 3 over them), then an 1/8 note. This repetitiveness lends cohesion to Section A. Notice Phrase 4 is different in this regard too. The distinguishing 1/16 note triplets happen in two consecutive bars, 22 and 23, instead of every two bars

    Depending on the band playing El Choclo, everything I have described may or may not be present. Each band leader makes changes. Di Sarli is different than D’Arienzo. Listen to as many versions as you can and notice where the differences are. The version on Piazzolla’s ” The History of Tango” 5 CD set comes the closest. But even here the intro is missing. I don’t know who is playing.

    I think we should take all this in, think about it for a while, do some listening, then make comments on how we might dance to El Choclo given all this information. Section A anyway. What might be different, what will remain the same, or does it make no difference at all.

    I am going to take a pause for a while until people start posting their thoughts and opinions. If there is enough interest in this kind of analysis I will gladly continue, otherwise I’ll stop. It has been enjoyable for me so far.
  8. Shandy

    Shandy Member

    Just to re-iterate an earlier post. I'm fascinated by this thread but, as a complete beginner I'm struggling because I can follow your words with the score but I have absolutely no sound going on in my head.

    If I listen to the music, I have absolutely no idea where I am at any time in, for example, the 16 bars of Section A. So at the moment your words and the score are completely divorced from the music I'm listening too.

    My suggestion was a youtube clip - mostly because I'm a visual learner and seeing someone play the notes and watch musicians interact would be really very helpful. Your last analysis could look something like:

    Phrase 1 (pickup to 9-12) (youtube: 00:10 - 00:25)
  9. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    I agree with this. I know the tune well enough ( except the intro and pick up notes) to figurs out where you are in the music; but there could be a cse of using Audacity and dividing the song into intro-A-B-A-C-A
  10. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    If I could find a version (recorded) that has the intro from that sheet music, it would be easy enough to do. However, none of the ones I have, contain that intro.
  11. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    Following music can be tough for beginners. When I was learning to play music, as a child, I remember getting lost frequently and having to ask my stand mate where we were. It happened to all of us. Whoever knew where we were would point to the music.
  12. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Learning to read music is not an easy task, no doubt about it. I understand your situation - just have patience and keep at it. Do you know anyone who reads music?

    I suggest you rely on your ears more than your eyes anyway. I've specified what happens phrase by phrase. You know the bars have two beats and there are 16 of them in Section A.

    When you are listening count the beats as follows:
    1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 5-2, 6-2... until you get to 16,2 - the end of Section A

    There won't be an intro, the music will start with the pickup notes to bar 9 in my analysis. If you miscount just keep going and find the beat again, and count 1-2 1-2. The melody has four notes per beat then a pause. That pattern is always there, until the last phrase. Concentrate on that.

    Once you can count to 16 when listening the next step is to listen for the phrases. When you can pick them out see if you think they match the character I've described.

    I did look for a decent YouTube clip yesterday but did not find anything. Must be something out there - I'll look some more.

    Keep at it. Developing the ability to hear the phrasing and character of the music at any given time is the goal. Reading music is one means to that end, not the only one.
  13. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    Well i quite often dance with the sheet music in my left hand...
  14. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Funny! Maybe I'll start doing that... Then complain loudly when the band does something that's not written on the page.
  15. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I can picture you yelling at the band, "You left out the intro. gosh darnit!, it's right there!!!".

  16. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Who are they by?
  17. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    1. New York Buenos Aires Connection (Pablo Aslan) - "The New Tango"
    2. Astor Piazzolla - "La Historia del Tango, vol. 1"
    3. Sexteto Major - "El Viejo Almacen"
  18. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    at which point one has an excellent cortina..the Bonzo's Intro Outro

  19. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Pablo Aslan is playing at a milonga (about an hour away from me), this Friday night. I might have to go see them.

  20. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Here are some clips. As I said before, every band does something different to distinguish themselves. But the core melody is always there. The A-B-C-A-B-C structure can be modified, but that doesn't matter once you can identify them. And some versions have a violin running under the main melody (buzzing along like a bee), playing long notes - in Section A. And the music is always more complicated than what we've been looking at - more instruments and more fill, ie more notes added as accompaniment to the main melody. Doesn't matter, the phrases are the same.

    Once you really know the version I've been analyzing you'll be ready for whatever gets thrown at you. You will enjoy noticing the differences and appreciate them. In other words, you will have the music so within you, you will dance musically no matter how the particular band is interpreting the music.

    Try this one by a classical string quartet. You can count on classical musicians to be faithful to the composer's intentions. Except even they don't play the intro. I'd really like to know why it isn't played.

    Garden Quartet

    A couple others to listen to:
    Roberto Firpo

    Juan D'Arienzo

    And just for fun, here's a 1950s jazz version by Louis Armstrong, with a gentle swing.

    I will identify the phrases in the Garden Quartet version by minute:second when I get a chance.

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