Tango Argentino > El Choclo: A Musical Analysis

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

  1. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Blair has been both the initiator and main proponent of dancers, at an advanced level, using "rolling count". She agrues that this is also the count the musicians use. &a1&a2 etc rather than 1&2 etc
    This "unequal" splitting of the beat mimics "swing" which NOT an even divsion of the beat. Blair does not dwell on this, although she must be aware of it if she invokes musicians and how they play.
    A strict reading of the sheet music yields a different result than the notation, for example, of "moderate swing". I've got sheet music and over the next year may learn to play some of it. (bwahhh ha ha) I probably can't tell on these examples, which is why I ask.
  2. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    No she's got that wrong. Every bar starts on 1. A musician does not play a bunch of notes then count 1. There will be a 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4 all the time with the beats being subdivided according to how many notes are played during the main beat - even or not, ie syncopation.

    I can't imagine not starting, saying "1" in my head on the first beat, or 2 3 4 on the next ones... (if I am actually counting when playing/dancing).

    I will have to look up "rolling count" to get a better understanding....
  3. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Now, I know paper discusses swing, not habanera, but we have seen the word swing used when discussing milonga/tango, and I was under the impression that the written score was an approximation of what was played. But maybe not in this case.

  4. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    OK. I see what you mean. I played jazz for many years and "swing" is something you hear, something you interpret. The notes are an approximation (if they are used at all). The link talks about the "swing" in a pair of eighth notes, ie one beat. If played straight they never swing. The way I count them (if I were, because I don't need to anymore) is to subdivide the beat in 3, not 4. That is called a triplet. The first and third notes would be played. So, the first note is held longer than a strict eighth would be, and the second note is shorter. Think of fast waltz timing and tap on 1 & 3. That's the effect.

    I included the Louis Armstrong "Kiss of Fire" clip for fun. Armstrong is a master of swing. There is more to it than the triplet feel. Armstrong holds back and speeds up the beat and the melody. All the while the orchestra is steady under him. They do not change the beat. The way he adds emphasis or pulls back the dynamic (volume) level in his vocals and trumpet solo is subtle and adds to the swing feel. None of this would be in the printed music. It is entirely "felt" from spending years listening to others play that way.

    In the clip the drums are playing the eighth's in three not 4 (or 2) - providing the underlying swing feel.

    Am I in the right track?
  5. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Yup. With the addition that, although the rhythm section plays a "steady" rhythm, that rhythm itself "swings". The measurements of drum beats are indicative of that, the drum often being part of the rhythm section. The term "sock rhythm" is used for guitar players, as I understand it, and that term has more than one meaning.

    So, I'm just wondering if the habanera that is noted isn't "swung" rather than straight. I tell you, I've been looking at a bunch of stuff on swing and shuffle. And last month Alex Krebs gave us one pattern of steps to do in milonga. I don;t remember him mentioning habanera, but the fact that it fit perfectly to habanera became obvious to me. Trying to DANCE it, though, was not so easy at first because I couldn't HEAR it in the music he was using. I think I would have gotten it more quickly if he had vocalized "BOOM...BA-BOP-BOP", or "Da, ka ka kan.

    Counting slows and quicks served as an approximation of what Alex had given us: slow, quickquick slow, but if you vocalize as above....
    Don't know if counting "straight time" gets it either.
    Anyhow, gotta go for now.
  6. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    I hope so - this is one of the points that always comes up when i talk with musicians about milonga. They tend to insist that the way dancers use the term "syncopation" it has nothing to do with the way musicians use "syncopation", because the traspie is just a double time. And then i say that the traspie is not a double time, but that its characteristic feature is that it has swing, which (as far as i got from trying to read up on it) is exactly why a musician would call it syncopation. And then we are at a dead end because they don't think that the traspie swings, and i think it has to swing to be a traspie instead of a double.

    (getting off his soapbox :) )
  7. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Yes. I defined in an earlier post (one of the definitions ones) the way a musician does.

    If the music swings I would swing. The two habanera rhythms I've been talking about are crisp and sharp - there is no swing when strictly played. And they are both examples of syncopation, the second more than the first in feeling. I think of a traspie as beat one in Habanera 2 (the first three notes. Two quick steps, a slight pause then another step. It happens in one beat. Or the third step on beat 2. Swing would relax the the steps somewhere, not stepping in strict count. Swing or crisp? - up to the dancer!

    Off to a lesson now...
  8. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    OK, on to Di Sarli’s A Sections; A1 today.


    Di Sarli plays Section A three times, at :00, 1:05, 2:11. The sections are played in this order: A-B-A-C-A. When a section returns between sections of new material in this manner it is called rondo form. It is a form frequently used in music. The return of something familiar – the A Section – then a change to something new, has a comforting quality; a feeling of exploration and returning home.

    Section A1

    Tempo: 62 bpm, much slower than Firpo. Too slow to be called andante, more like larghetto, a “broad” pace. Notice again how tempo changes the character quite dramatically. This is not going to be a fast paced romp. A1 takes 32 seconds, about 30% slower than Firpo.

    Instrumentation and Texture: bandoneons, strings, and piano. The texture is thin at times and thick at others, ie. more instruments play at once.

    Rhythm: Habanera 1 & 2 are not used.

    Dynamics: Some changes in loudness at the start of some Answers.

    Phrasing: Times first: Phrase 1, :00; Phrase 2, :08; Phrase 3, :17; Phrase 4, :24 Villoldo’s melody is not altered in terms of notes.

    Phrase 1, pickup to bars 1-8 :)00): The melody is played by the bandoneon with piano accompaniment. The piano adds some figures between the Q&As, which function to link them, and now and then between the main beats. There are heavy accents on beats one and two in both bandoneon melody and piano accompaniment during the questions (bars 1, 5, less so in 9, 13). The melody is played crisply by the bandoneon. (There are musical terms to describe “crisp”. I have used staccato before; marcato is another, and probably the better of the two. It means “marked”). The feeling of Q&A is very present.

    Phrase 2, pickup to bars 5-8 :08: The Question is played the same as in Phrase 1. But the Answer (pickup to bar 7 - eight) (had to spell it, get a smiley if I is use "8"*!). gets a very different treatment. The melody is played by violins, and in a much more lyrical way. It is not marcato. The answer begins louder than the question ended. The notes are more connected; there is a shape to them. Recall my discussion how the Garden Quartet played the melody, and the slurs over pairs of note in the sheet music. The result is a gentle pulsing sensation every couple notes. Di Sarlis’s violins play that way too. There is a decrescendo to the end of the phrase, bar 8, as the melody descends. Another distinguishing feature is the lack of heavy accents on the beat, contrary to the Question.

    Phrase 3, pickup to bars 9-12 :)13): Very similar to Phrase 2, no real drama or tension in the Answer, bars 11-12. It is calmly played with no change in volume, perhaps a slight decrescendo towards the end.

    Phrase 4, pickup to bars 13-16 :)19): DI Sarli plays this quite calmly. Starting in mezzo forte (a bit quieter than Phrase 3 ended), there is a gradual decrescendo and a more calm feeling right to the end. No drama. It is the most subdued phrase. The cadence is subtly played and we know the section is over, but there is no emphasis to highlight its conclusion.

    This first time through Section A is already more interesting than what we saw in Firpo’s opening statement of the section (to me anyway). Di Sarli adds violins to greatly enhance the answer feeling. The way the melody is played and shaped, and the distinct tone quality difference between bandoneon and violins, changes the character instantly. (In the Answers, Phrase 2 & 3). The music asks a question in marcato (clipped) with accents on beats 1 and 2. It is answered almost lyrically, unaccented. Can’t get much more different than that, with the instruments at his disposal.

    We will see Di Sarli, like Firpo, add layers to make subsequent repeats of Section A more complex.

    That’s it for today.
  9. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Continuing with Di Sarli, Sections A2 and A3

    But first I forgot to mention Di Sarli uses a bass in the string section. It is hard to hear (mainly because of the recording quality) but occasionally you can hear it moving down there playing notes different than those in the pianist’s left hand (the low notes). It has a more mellow, less percussive sound than the piano, but in this recording it is very hard to hear.


    Section A2 (1:05-1:thirty eight)

    Instrumentation and Texture: Same as A1 - bandoneons, strings (violins and bass), and piano. But this time the texture is thicker throughout; all instruments play continuously.

    Rhythm: Habanera 1 and 2 are not used.

    Dynamics: No sudden changes in loudness or softness, individual shaping occurs within the phrases.

    Counterpoint: There is a new, contrasting, melody line, played by the violins, throughout Section A2.

    Phrasing: Times, 1, 1:05; 2, 1:14; 3, 1:23; 4, 1:31.

    Phrases 1 and 2 (pickup to bars 1-4, 1:05; pickup to bars 5-8, 1:14): Villoldo’s melody is played as it was in Section A1, by bandoneons playing marcato. But this time softer, more piano. The extremely big and unexpected change is the new melody. Played by violins, it is lush and lyrical, and slow, ie. there are fewer notes and they are held longer. There is a very obvious Q&A feeling too, even though there are no rests separating them. (There are in the bandoneons, playing Villoldo’s, melody). During the Questions, as the melody slowly rises upwards it crescendos, then during the Answers the melody decrescendos as it falls to end the phrase. The bandoneons are in the background playing piano (soft), still marcato, while the new violin melody is prominently played. I think Di Sarli wants us to hear it deeply and dance to its phrasing, not to the underlying bandoneons. That’s how I feel it.

    The piano plays much the same manner and funtions as in Section A, but like the bandoneons, it is softer, providing support under the violins. And the bass does the same, when we can hear it.

    Phrase 3 (pickup to bars 9-12, 1:23): Phrase 3 is noticeably more intense than the other 2, a nice crescendo in the Question and start of the Answer, then a sight decrescendo as the phrase ends. (Technical Note: Remember, the intensity of Phrase 3 is largely determined by the underlying harmonies. There is a modulation – change of key – to the subdominant, the key built on the fourth note of the scale (g minor, in d minor). The chord which modulates us there is the dominant seventh of g minor (v7 / iv). A dominant seventh chord, which as you might recall, feels unstable; like it needs to go (resolve) somewhere. The Answer begins on this chord and ends on a g minor harmony. Section A is in d minor, so ending the phrase in the sub-dominant, g minor, does not provide as much release. There is some tension, rather than conclusion to the phrase. The melodic shape and dynamics help achieve this feeling also).

    Phrase 4 (bars 13-15, 1:31): Phrase 4 continues to build the intensity. The violin melody rises from a low pitch in bar 13 to a sustained high pitch in bar 15, where it is held for a couple beats to further dramatic effect. It then rapidly decrescendos and stops, at which point there is a subdued cadence (dominant seventh to tonic, V7-i) to end the section.

    Section A3 (2:11)

    Instrumentation and Texture: bandoneons, and piano, bass (no violins). The texture is thick and constant.

    Rhythm: Habanera 1 and 2 are not used.

    Dynamics: forte (loud) throughout, with subtle changes here and there during the phrases.

    Melodic Elaboration: Wow! (Again, see Firpo). Something about this Section A and its melody makes bandoneonists want to go crazy and show off. This playing is even more wild and full of notes than Firpos’s A3. That is the best way I can describe it – full of notes! I don’t know if this melodic elaboration would have been written in the bandoneon’s printed music. I have a feeling it may be an improvised thing, but I really don’t know.

    Underneath, the other bandoneons continue as before, playing the melody in a marcato style. (I believe that’s what they do. The recording quality being what it is, I lose them sometimes, but I think they are still there). The piano once again plays a supporting role, marking the main beats. As does the bass. I don’t hear any violins.

    The Q&A is never felt that strongly because the melodic elaboration just never stops. It is there, but very subtle. However, the end of each phrase, bars 4,8,12, is clearly defined – the bandoneon takes a short rest before taking off again.

    There is a build of intensity throughout Phrases 3 and 4, through to the dramatic cadence and conclusion of the piece.

    So we see once again musicians despise simple repetition. Each playing of Section A has a uniquely distinguishing emotional quality; the character changed from crisp and sharp to lyrical, to wild. Our dancing should reflect that.

    Does Di Sarli live up to his nickname, “El Señor Del Tango”, in this performance? I think so.

    That’s it. D’Arienzo another time.
  10. Shandy

    Shandy Member

    TM - this thread is my reason for logging into the internet at the moment ! Just wanted to let you know that I'm learning so much.

    Thank you
  11. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    +1 :cheers:
  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Answer to an old question

    views are counted whenever someone views any page of a thread. It counts just one per IP address in a 24 hour period
  13. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    I always wondered how that worked.

  14. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Thanks. Thought IP address was in there somehow.

    I misinterpreted this... Thanks to a couple PMs sending me a link to Blair and explaining the &a1 is a pickup to beat one, &a2 is counted between beats 1-2, and so on... That's how I would count it too - subdivide each beat in 3 (triplets). The swing feeling comes from playing on the first and third sub beats...
  15. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    On to D’Arienzo’s A Sections; A1 today.

    D’Arienzo plays Section A three times, at :00, 1:32, 2:05. The sections are played in this order: A-B-C-A-A. It is somewhat unusual for a section to be repeated in succession. We will see how D’Arienzo artfully manages to make them quite different from one another.

    The tempo is 68bpm, faster than Di Sarli (62bpm) and quite a bit slower than Firpo (82 bpm). On a casual listen you might think this is a fast pace. The beat seems to move much quicker than we’ve heard before. That happens for one basic reason. The time signature is 4/8, not 2/4. (I have not seen D’Arienzo’s score or arrangement, I just know it is 4/8 by the way it sounds. Listen to the bass, and often the piano, moving almost continuously in eighth notes – the 4/8 beat).

    Let me explain. The primary difference is now the eighth note gets one beat, and there are four of them per bar. Recall in 2/4 the quarter note is the primary beat and there are two per bar. So, if we are counting in 4/8 there will be four beats, moving twice as fast as the two beats in 2/4. 4/8 can be thought of as subdividing the 2 beats in 2/4 in two – because that is what it is. In real time, as we hear it, each bar still passes by at the same pace. We just hear more notes. (The 68bpm tempo is actually in 2/4; it’s the rate a quarter note beat moves. Printed music sometimes specifies the note getting the beat, quarter note = 68. If I did the analysis in 4/8, the tempo would be eighth note = 136, double).

    The Q&As and 4 bar phrases are still 2 bars and 4 bars respectively. Everything moves at the same pace, whether I call it 2/4 or 4/8. The difference between 2/4 and 4/8 will become more obvious as I get into the section and phrasing. (Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered explaining all this – but many Golden Age tangos were written or re-arranged and played in 4/8, so it doesn’t hurt to know how 4/8 is different than 2/4).

    I will carry on in 2/4 to be consistent with prior discussion.

    Section A1 :)00 - :30)

    Instrumentation and Texture: bandoneons, strings (violins and bass, which can be heard very clearly this time), and piano. The texture is thin at times and thick at others. Sometimes all instruments play together to highlight important parts in the music.

    Melodic Elaboration: None.

    Counter Melody: Throughout Phrases 3 and 4.

    Dynamics: Sudden changes in some Answers, to forte.

    Rhythmic Patterns: Some interesting, highly accented syncopation, based on habanera 2, in Phrase 4.

    Phrase Timing: 1,:00-:08; 2, :08-:14; 3 :15-:21; 4, :22-:30

    Phrase 1, pickup to bars 1-4 :)00-:08 ): The melody is played by the bandoneons with a slight separation between notes. Still marcato but much less that we heard in Firpo and Di Sarli. The piano plays some fast connecting notes during the rests between the Q&A and most noticeably at the end of the phrase. No other instruments are playing then; the contrast in tone quality and texture between bandoneons and piano provides a nice separation and demarcation between Phrase 1 and Phrase 2. The feeling of Q&A is very present. A very noticeable feature is the almost constant playing by the bass. (If you can’t hear it - my notebook’s speakers are lousy! - try wearing ear buds or headphones). It is playing almost continuous eighth notes, marking the beat in 4/8. So is the piano. That is what gives this performance the feeling of speed, and also the reason I believe the arrangement is in 4/8, not 2/4. (The bass, unlike the violins we’ll hear shortly, is plucked by the fingers, not bowed. This is called pizzicato and produces a pulsing quality as the plucked note quickly fades before the next one is played). Phrase 1 is relatively gently played, a light marcato and mezzo-forte (moderately loud).

    Phrase 2, pickup to bars 5-8 :)08-:14): The Question is handled the same way it was in Phrase 1. The Answer is very different. The full orchestra plays at once; a forte (loud) response. Both piano and bass function as in Phrase 1, marking the eighth notes (the beat in 4/8 ). Phrase 2 begins gently and mezzo-forte, as Phrase 1, then suddenly forte in the Answer.

    Phrase 3, pickup to bars 9-12 :)15-:21): Phrase 3 is much different in character and tone quality than the other two Phrases. The melody is played and accompanied by bandoneons, as before. But now there is a counter melody. Played by a solo violin, it generally rises in pitch, changing notes mostly on every beat (thinking in 2/4). It is a nice contrast to the faster moving instruments, playing without any rest and continuing throughout Phrase 4. The full orchestra, once again, plays the Answer. The solo violin continues playing the counter melody. The piano and bass are very subdued in the Question, becoming more prominent in the Answer as they again mark the eighth notes.

    Phrase 4, pickup to bars 13-16 :)22-:30): The solo violin counter melody continues in the same manner throughout Phrase 4. The melody is played by the bandoneons in the same style as the other phrases. The bass plays continuous eighth notes, marking the eighth note beat (4/8 ) all the way through the phrase. Something new and very distinguishing are the heavily accented syncopations, played by bandoneons, piano, and bass. This syncopation happens twice, in bars 14 and 15. The effect is dramatic, because nothing like this has happened so far. It comes as a surprise. There is a very definite concluding cadence (V7-i) played by the bandoneons, piano and bass – no violins. These elements combined produce intensity, a drive forward, and release at the cadence. Phrase 4 is the most intense, with Phrase 3 a close second.

    This first time through Section A is already more complex and richer (more sophisticated?) than Di Sarli, who was more complex than Firpo. We will see D’Arienzo’s subsequent repeats of Section A are very ingenious, with both subtle and obvious changes in mood. D’Arienzo’s handling of Section A overall is brilliant. (Do you get the idea I really like this performance?!)

    I want to describe the syncopations in Phrase 4 in detail. You can skip the rest of this post if you don’t like music theory, but I suggest you give it a read; the habanera rhythms are very, very frequent in tango and milonga music.

    The syncopation is based on habanera 2.
    First, here’s what habanera 1 looks like:


    Habanera 2 is this (there should be a 2/4 time signature here too):


    I’ve looked for sound clips of these rhythms but so far haven’t found any.

    I’ve explained these rhythms before but they are so important in tango and milonga music I’ll do it again. In hab. 1 the syncopation happens on the second note, it occurs off the beat. In hab. 2 the syncopation happens on the second and third notes, which are played off the beat. The first three notes are most important and often only the first two are played in tango and milonga music.

    I’ll ignore the pair of eighth notes on the second beat for now. Hab. 2 is really just a variation of hab. 1. Instead of a longer held note (a dotted eighth) there is a sixteenth note and an eighth note, taking up the same number of sub-beats as the dotted eighth in hab. 1. Here’s why: a dot increases the note value by half. An eighth note gets half a beat in 2/4 and the dot adds another sixteenth. (1/8 + .5 * 1/8 = 1/8 + 1/16 = 3/16). So a dotted eighth will get 3/16 of a beat. The second note in hab. 1 is a sixteenth, making a total of 4/16, or 1 full beat when the two note values are combined. (There are 16 sixteenth notes (16/16) in a bar of 4/4. That is how the fractional values (1/4, 1/8, 1/16…) are determined. So 4 of them (4/16) equals one quarter note, ie, one beat). Hab. 2 has 1/16 + 1/8 + 1/16. Adding these we get 4/16. Again, one full beat. And the last note of the three is a sixteenth (1/16), same with hab. 1.

    I’ve explained how to count the habanera rhythms before:
    Subdivide each beat into 4, in 2/4: Count quickly 1234, 1234 in your head or out loud. Clap or tap on 1__4, 1_3_. That is hab. 1. Hab. 2: Count quickly 1234, 1234. Clap on 1 2_4, 1_3_. Both these rhythms should sound familiar to you; you have heard them in tango and milonga music very often.

    Now back to D’Arienzo. What he does to make the hab. 2 syncopation in Phrase 4 as emphatic as possible is to have the bandoneons and piano accent the second note in hab. 2 and then the second eighth note. Counting 1234, 1234, clap on _2__ , __3_ only. That is all they play, 2 off beats in full chords for maximum effect. Listen to Phrase 4 again :)22). The syncopations jump out loudly and forcefully.

    Done for today.
  16. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Has this one already been posted?

    Orquesta Típica Victor youtube.com/watch?v=oGurZz-eQzQ
  17. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    No. For those following along it would be a good exercise to listen and see what you can identify....
  18. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    A necessary correction to my D’Arienzo post: I said the sections were A-B-C-A-A. That is wrong, very wrong. They are actually A-B-C-B-A. So Section A is played only twice. Don’t know what was going on with my ears when I listened through the whole piece the other day and thought the second B was another A. Picked up the obvious error right away when I listened again today…

    The sections and timings are as follows (really, they are):
    A1 :00; B1 :31; C :1:02; B2 1:33; A2 2:03

    PS. I re-listened to A1 several times and re-read what I wrote about it. Don’t need to change anything there….
  19. Ray Sison

    Ray Sison New Member

    TM, :cheers: All of this is very, very impressive... :notworth:
  20. joegrohens

    joegrohens New Member


    TangoMonkey -

    I am enjoying reading your analyses.

    You said:

    I would agree that the measure has a four "feel" and not a two feel, but I don't see how a person can tell if it is 4/8 rather than 4/4.

    Can you point to something we can hear to recognize that difference?


    Joe Grohens

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