El Choclo: A Musical Analysis

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?

Nope. You are right. There is no definitive way to hear 4/8 instead of 4/4 or vice versa. And it is entirely possible the key signature is still 2/4 and the beats are subdivided into eighths. I hear “four”, not “two” but I can’t prove one way or the other what the time signature really is.

For us as listeners and dancers - 4/8 or 4/4 or 2/4 with subdivided beats - doesn’t really matter. We’ll hear “four”.

On a practical level, early tangos were written in 2/4. To convert to a four count all that has to be done is simply replace the 2/4 time signature with 4/8 and fill in the extra beats, as D’Arienzo has done (or not, I’m assuming that). Otherwise every note originally written in 2/4 would have to be doubled, ie sixteenths become eights, eighths become quarters, etc. For musicians used to reading 2/4 converting to 4/8 takes very little adjustment. The music looks the same. The very common habanera rhythms and their variants will maintain their look.

As far as I know, newly composed tangos during the 30’s-40’s were written in either 2/4 (Nada Mas, D’Arienzo) or 4/8 (Bahia Blanca, Di Sarli). Pugliese in the 40’s and 50’s used 2/4 (Recuerdo, La Beba) or 4/8 (La Yumba). Even Salgan was wrting in 2/4 (A Fuego Lento) and 4/8 (Don Agustin Bardi) in the 60s. Piazzolla, always having to be different, wrote almost always in 4/4. But I can’t think of any newly composed Golden Age tangos (30’s-40’s) written in 4/4. There may be lots, I’m just not aware of them…haven’t seen their printed music.
 
I have to finish El Choclo before moving onto something else...at least D'Arienzo's last A section. Will post that later today.

Then I'll leave it up to those who have been following along. Either finish the B and C sections or look at another piece.

My vote would be to ask you to continue the in-depth analysis of El Choclo. My list of tango music I would love a shortened version of this analysis grows daily. :rolleyes: Sounds like others are chomping-at-the-bit as well!
 

Gssh

Well-Known Member
Thank you so much for this new installment - your post are making this right now the most interesting forum i am following!

Gssh
 
D'Arienzo's Section A2 today. Then we’re done with El Choclo’s Section A.


Section A2 starts at 2:03.

Instrumentation and Texture: bandoneons, strings, and piano. The texture is never thin and never thick. The full orchestra does not play during the Answers as it did In Section A1

Melodic Elaboration: Bandoneon elaborates the melody in Phrase 3, not as much as Di Sarli, more similar to Firpo.

Counter Melody: A lyrical, flowing, melody played by violins, more than one, in Phrases 1 and 2. In Phrases 3 and 4 another melody is played by solo violin, similar in shape and character to what we heard in Section A, Phrases 3 and 4.

Dynamics: Sudden changes to forte, on accented beats during the Answer in Phrases 3 & 4.

Phrase Timing: 1, 2:03-2:11; 2, 2:11-2:18; 3 2:19-2:26; 4, 2:27-2:35

Phrasing
Phrase 1, pickup to bars 1-4 (2:03-2:11): Bandoneon(s) play the melody, this time much more smoothly, but still with some accents. Violins play a counter melody which flows along lyrically and in-sink with the main melody. It rises and crescendos during the Question and declines and decrescendos during the Answer. The counter melody is lush and lyrical, changing the character very noticeably. The piano is very subdued in terms of dynamics and there are no connecting figures to link the Q&A this time. It plays full chords, and like the bass, marks the 4/8 feel in continuous eighth notes. The character of this phrase is lighter and more lyrical than we are used to.

Phrase 2, pickup to bars 5-8 (2:11-2:18 ): Now the bandoneons play the melody as they have before, with more marcato. The violins continue the counter melody in the same manner as Phrase 1. The distinguishing feature in Phrase 2 is how the Answer is treated. This is no gentle response or answer; it is not subtle, on the contrary it is in your face. Bandoneons and piano play heavy accented chords on every eighth note in bar 7 (every beat in 4/8 ) and beat 1 at the end of Phrase 2, in bar 8. There is a nice crescendo by the violins as the counter melody ascends during the initial beats of the Answer, and a nice decrescendo towards its end. Phrase 2 begins more intensely than Phrase 1 and grows more so right to its end.

Phrase 3, pickup to bars 9-12 (2:19-2:26): Like Firpo and Di Sarli, D’Arienzo concludes with an elaborated melody played by solo bandoneon. It starts with the pickup notes to bar 9, and in almost all of bar 9 only the solo bandoneon and a solo violin are heard. The solo violin plays a slow, mostly rising lyrical melody throughout Phrases 3 and 4, as it did previously in Section A. The piano and bass start marking the eighth notes beginning in bar 10, the piano playing full chords. They do not stop until near the end of the piece, and then only for an eighth note. Phrase 3 continues to increase intensity and build tension.

Phrase 4, pickup to bars 13-16 (2:27-2:35): The elaborated bandoneon melody and solo violin counter subject continue throughout Phrase 4. As mentioned above, the piano and bass play continuous eighth notes. Counting in 4/8, in bar 14 they heavily accent beats 2-3-4, then 1, 3 and 4 in bar 15, and beats 1-2-3 in bar 16. The bandoneons join the piano and bass, accenting the 1-2-3 beats in bar 16 even more. These accented full chords, and especially the very noticeable break on beat 2 in bar 15, serve to end the piece with a dramatic and conclusive finish.


We have seen D’arienzo use rhythm and the beat to great effect. He plays with an almost continuous marking of the eighth note beat (thinking in 4/8 ). When that stops or when the beats are accented, with and without strongly emphasized syncopation, there is a sudden change in character; it becomes subdued or full of vitality. D’Arienzo was called “El Rey del Compass”, rightly so.


That is it for my analysis of Section A. Questions, comments, discussion?
 
I am speechless! Thanks! I will copy and read.

Musically I do not have anything to contribute but I would like to share actually your heritage!
When surfing I ended up to The Library of Congres site and found a dance instruction book from 1914. They are reasoning about 2/4 or 4/4 also!

The instructions book is: The Modern Dances How to Dance Them Caroline Walker

Some dancers do follow the instructions and are dancing el Choclo!
Video exist in YouTube but library version is better

try to find with - ragtime dance: Argentine dance video clip 80
(I still need help with URL)
 
I am speechless! Thanks! I will copy and read.

Musically I do not have anything to contribute but I would like to share actually your heritage!
When surfing I ended up to The Library of Congres site and found a dance instruction book from 1914. They are reasoning about 2/4 or 4/4 also!

The instructions book is: The Modern Dances How to Dance Them Caroline Walker

Some dancers do follow the instructions and are dancing el Choclo!
Video exist in YouTube but library version is better

try to find with - ragtime dance: Argentine dance video clip 80
(I still need help with URL)
You can type spaces into the URL for now. I think putting spaces before and after the "." will work. And don't include "www." Or something like that...
 

bordertangoman

Well-Known Member
Rather than specific tunes, I would be interested in reading an analysis (compare/contrast) of a few different orchestras.
Isnt that what we just got?

I like D'Arienzo's version of La Cumparsita, but not bothered in analysing it.

I would be more curious about Felicia,

or a milonga say Un Baile A Benefico or a comaprison of milong rhythms
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
Such as a preference for one instrument over another (strings over bandoneons), use of rhythm...?
Possibly things that make each orchestra identifiable. One aspect could be the instrumentation of the different orchestras, like the larger string section used by Di Sarli, how Canaro uses horns, etc. Another aspect could be the arrangements of the pieces by the different orchestras (tendencies, etc.). The rhythm tendencies, like you mentioned, along with the mood or emotion that is typical of the various orchestras.
 
Maybe, I don't know. Maybe explain general qualities, overall methods. What are the reasons that one orchestra sounds different from another, i.e. Di'Sarli vs D'Arienzo?

Possibly things that make each orchestra identifiable. One aspect could be the instrumentation of the different orchestras, like the larger string section used by Di Sarli, how Canaro uses horns, etc. Another aspect could be the arrangements of the pieces by the different orchestras (tendencies, etc.). The rhythm tendencies, like you mentioned, along with the mood or emotion that is typical of the various orchestras.
I think most of this is in the analysis now, but I haven't tied it together. I could use some categories (rhythm, instrumentation, tempo...) and summarize the three performances. How and why they are different - what they do that is distinctive. And what is similar. At least in EL Choclo, Section A...
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
I think most of this is in the analysis now, but I haven't tied it together. I could use some categories (rhythm, instrumentation, tempo...) and summarize the three performances. How and why they are different - what they do that is distinctive. And what is similar. At least in EL Choclo, Section A...
I don't think the question had much to do with how they played El Choclo. I think it was more about the tendencies of some of the orchestras. Another way of asking it could be: what is it about say Canaro, or Di Sarli, or Fresedo that make each orchestra sound so different from each other, regardless of the song.

AndaBien, feel free to correct me if I have it wrong.
 

AndaBien

Well-Known Member
... I think it was more about the tendencies of some of the orchestras. Another way of asking it could be: what is it about say Canaro, or Di Sarli, or Fresedo that make each orchestra sound so different from each other, regardless of the song.

AndaBien, feel free to correct me if I have it wrong.
Yes, that's what I'm thinking.
 
Sometime in the next few days I'll give a recap of the analysis of Section A. I want to tie the analysis together - summarize what each orquesta does to make it distinct, and how they are similar.

This is a fundamental reason for analysis: if you can specifically describe how Firpo/Di Sarli/D'Arienzo are different and similar, even in only one section of one tango, you will be able to hear the differences between one orquesta and another, playing any other tango. An analytical listening to just a single section in one tango should help hear characteristics that are "trademarks" of the orquestas.

After I summarize Section A I'll go onto Section B. There have been PMs requesting that...

And I'm working on a web site...TBA

P.S. Was at a milonga last night and the DJ played Di Sarli's El Choclo - I had the best dance of the night...that is why I analyse the music...
 
It would be nice to be able to put this summary in a table format, but this will have to do.

Style
Firpo: Crsip, sharp, marcato
Di Sarli: Smoother, more lyrical
D’Arienzo: Harder rhythmic drive; uses rhythm, patterns, and accents as a feature, a layer

Tempo
Firpo: Fast, 2/4
Di Sarli: Slow, 2/4
D’Arienzo: Moderate, 4/8 (“four feel”)

Texture
Firpo: Generally thin, a sextet
Di Sarli: Thin to full, alternating between them
D’ARienzo: Thin to full; generally thicker, lusher

Instrumentation
Firpo: Melody always played by bandoneon; piano accompanies and has its own melody at times
Di Sarli: Use of solo instruments in melody and counter melodies; strings often very prominent
D’Arienzo: Highly varied use of instruments for contrast and multiple layering of ideas

Melodic Elaboration
Firpo: Yes, last time through the section
Di Sarli: Yes, last time through the section
D’Arienzo: Yes, last time through the section

Rhythm
Firpo: Beat one and two almost always emphasized (every beat in 2/4); often the accompanying instruments play in “four” (subdividing the 2 count); Habanera 2 used to accompany melody
Di Sarli: Accents on beats 1 and 2 in Questions, much less in Answers; bandoneons often play in chords along with the piano, emphasizing the beat
D’Arienzo: Constant driving forward marking of the 4 count; Rhythmic patterns emphasized in chords by bandoneons and piano; accented syncopation in full chords

Phrasing
Firpo: Bandoneon always plays the melody marcato, less distinct Q&A
Di Sarli: Different instruments in the Q&As and different styles; marcato bandoneons in the Q, legato violins in the A.
D’Arienzo: Very layered; melody, counter melody, and handling of rhythm (marking the “four” and patterns) - occurring simultaneously; stops marking the beat at the end of phrases to shape and define them

Counter Melody
Firpo: Piano plays a melody which is similar in character to the main melody – less notes but not slow and lyrical
Di Sarli: Slow, lyrical violin melody prominently played over the bandoneon’s primary melody
D’Arienzo: Sharply contrasted violin melody, slow and lyrical

First some similarities, then general characteristics of each orquesta.

Similarities: each playing of Section A is more layered, more things happening at the same time; melodic elaboration in the last playing of Section A; use of counter melodies.

General Characteristics:
Firpo: fast tempo, in “two”, sometimes with subdivided beats, but 1 and 2 are clearly defined; crisp, marcato playing; character, mood is not so varied.

Di Sarli: slow tempo, in “two”; sometimes marcato, sometimes legato; sharp contrasts in texture, instrumentation and phrasing; beat is not always emphasized, particularly during the lyrical sections.

D’Arienzo: moderate tempo, in “four”; a softer marcato, less pronounced; a continuous hard rhythmic drive; accented rhythmic patterns and syncopation; often stops marking the beat at the end of phrases to clearly define their end; more layers, more is happening simultaneously; more frequent changes of texture , instrumentation and character.

So, is the way these three orquestas play Section A characteristic of their playing in general, their “style”? Not always, not every piece, of course. But in general I think so. At least what I’ve identified here is something to keep in mind as we listen to other pieces played by these three. (There will be more variety when there are singers, especially when the arrangement showcases the singer over the orchestra). We see there is a great deal of information we can gather about each orquesta from an analytical approach – even studying only a single section in single tango.
 

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