Tango Argentino > El Choclo: A Musical Analysis

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

  1. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    A question. If I post some comments about what makes various orquetas different, what their style is, is how I wrote in the above quote OK? Are the terms and descriptions helpful or not? If not, what would be better? Thanks.

    (What I wrote about Di Sarli' general characteristics seems to hold true in Bahia Blanca...
    http://www.dance-forums.com/showthread.php?t=38709 )
  2. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

  3. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Dumb, a**, did it again. See the other thread...
  4. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

    how about a comparison of a Ventarron say by Orquesta Tipica Victor and New York Tango jam ( who have 2 versions on the same cd!) and maybe a couple of others.
  5. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

    Ventarron is a great song!!! I like it much more than El Choclo (which bores me). Tonight, I'll have to try to find the versions by the New York Tango Jam.
  6. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Here is one of them:

  7. bordertangoman

    bordertangoman Well-Known Member

  8. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    I dislike leaving things unfinished. So I am going to post some comments and El Choclo's Sections B and C before I look at anything else. Not as detailed as my Section A analysis, but something...

    At the risk of boring dchester. :p
  9. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

  10. tangueras

    tangueras New Member

    Looking forward to this....:wink:
  11. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    Haven't had much spare time the past couple of weeks - will post some observations on Section B later today, or more likely tomorrow.
  12. Shandy

    Shandy Member

    Looking forward to it :)
  13. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    All right, onto Section B

    I’ll begin by first describing what I see in the piano reduction, the closest thing we have to Villoldo’s original intentions. In subsequent posts I’ll look at how Firpo, Di Sarli, and D’Arienzo interpret Section B.

    Section B

    Phrase 1, pickup to bar 17-20. Phrase 2, pick-up to bar 21-24. There are two 4 bar phrases with distinct, rhythms and various Q&A qualities. The initial 8 bars are repeated, making Section B sixteen bars in length. (Notice the two vertically aligned dots at the start of bar 17 and the end of bar 24. They are repeat signs and mean everything between them is to be replayed. There is a first and second ending, indicated by the bracket and the 1 over bar 24, and the bracket and 2 over the next bar, which is also considered bar 24. The obvious meaning is: play the first ending the first time through, the second one the second time through).

    Phrase 1 (pickup to bar 17-20)

    Modulation (key changes) and Harmonies: The harmonies are simple. (They were in Section A too). Perfect cadences occur every two bars. A perfect cadence is V(7) to I; the dominant (very often with the seventh note) resolves to the tonic chord, the chord based on the first note in the scale. There is a bar of V then a bar of I. There is an interesting twist though. There are modulations to close and distant keys. Modulation changes the mood/character/feeling of the music, so I’ll describe it in some detail. Section B is in three different keys. The change from Sections A’s d minor to Section B’s F major is important: it changes the character of the music and helps differentiate Section B from Section A (and from Section C, more another time). Section B begins in F major, the relative major of d minor, the key of Section A. (It is called “relative” because they share the same key signature, a B flat, and are therefore “close”). In Section A the note C (the leading tone, or seventh note in the scale) was sharped, raised a semi-tone. A raised seventh note in a minor scale has a highly distinguishing and defining sound. Although F major is a closely related key, Villoldo begins on the dominant 7th (A7, C-E-G-B flat). Section B begins with C natural being the most important note in the underlying harmony. The character is immediately changed. Remember, dominant 7th (V7) chords feel incomplete and need to resolve. There is tension then release. The musical quality changes from that of Section A, but it is not clearly felt until V7 resolves to F major in bar 20. Section B begins with tension and a distinct change in character – it is “brighter” than Section A - and there is an important rhythmic change.

    Dynamics: According to the sheet music, Section B begins fortissimo, indicated by the ff at the start of bar 17, meaning to play very loud. There are accents, the > sign, over the first note in each bar and the two eighth notes concluding the phrase in bar 20. So, the phrase should be played very loud and every beat one is to be emphasized.

    Phrasing and Rhythm: The primary characteristic of Phrase 1 is the melody played in the habanera 2 rhythm (the most important first three notes of it) followed by four sixteenth notes, for a total of two beats (one bar). The pattern is played in each of the first three bars. It is a distinguishing feature of Phrase 1, and the Question in Phrase 2, and is an obvious rhythmic change from the continuous sixteenth note patterns in Section A’s questions and answers. The feeling and mood has abruptly changed from one of continuous motion (Section A) to one of syncopation. The pattern occurs in every bar except the last one of the phrase, bar 20, where two eighth notes end the phrase. The start of every bar so far has been the syncopated habanera 2 rhythm; the slower, unsyncopated, eighth notes clearly mark the end of the phrase.

    Melodic Shape: The melody begins at the highest pitches of the phrase. Each repeat of the habanera 2 rhythm is lower in pitch, so there is a natural tendency to decrescendo as the phrase progresses, despite the fortissimo indication. (Rising melodies tend to get louder, crescendo; falling ones tend to get softer, decrescendo).

    Phrase 2 (pickup to 21-24)

    Phrasing (Including Rhythm and Melodic Shape): There is a very distinct Q&A in this phrase. The Question, pickup to bar 21-22, uses the habanera 2 pattern exactly as in Phrase 1. The melodic shape is also exactly the same as the first bar in Phrase 1, helping establish a connection between the phrases. The rhythmic pattern is stated once, and then followed by two eighth notes (not exactly, the second one is held longer). The Question clearly indicates its end the same way Phrase 1 did. The Answer, pickup to bar 23-24, is notably different. There are continuous sixteenth notes – no syncopated habanera rhythm – and the melody falls then rises to the highest pitch of the Answer. The end of the Phrase is very distinctly felt.

    Dynamics: Phrase 2 is marked piano, p, a drastic change in volume from the fortissimo of Phrase 2. There is a crescendo from the start of the Answer, pickup to bar 23, all the way through to the end of the phrase, which ends in forte, f, loud. (The crescendo is indicated by the abbreviation, cresc and the elongated < sign).

    Modulation: The Question is in d minor, the Answer in A major. A modulation to d minor, F major’s relative minor key, happens in the pickup to bar 21, start of Phrase 2, and once again we hear the dominant seventh, A7, before resolving to a d minor chord. Another modulation happens in bar 23. This time to A major, with a diminished seventh chord resolving to an A major chord. (Diminished seventh chords function similar to dominant seventh chords and are even more “unstable” in character).

    It is difficult to describe how modulation changes the character of the music. Words cannot really describe the subtle or blatant effects modulations have. Basically, in this case, we move from a more somber feeling in d minor, during the Question, to a brighter, more “alive” feeling in the Answer’s A major; a very effective way to end the phrase. Modulation back to F major happens immediately in the last three sixteenth notes of bar 24, which are pickup notes back to bar 17. A major is a distant key in relation to Phrase 1’s F major. A major has F, C, and G sharps. Those notes are natural in F major, which has B flats. So the pitches are very different, making the modulation from A major to F major “distant”. Modulations to distant keys will be noticed much more and will have a more pronounced change in character and feeling, as is definitely felt in this case.

    Habanera 1 is in the bass line in almost every bar of Section B, as it was in Section A, and Section C too. The Garden Quartet plays it, the others we’ve looked at do not. I have a recoding by Canaro with singer Alberto Arenas and habanera 1 is played fairly often. Although the Album, Candombe, was recorded in the 40s, stylistically this version of El Choclo is pre Golden Age. Habanera 1 is played not as much as in the sheet music but enough to make it an important rhythmic feature. El Choclo is an example of an early tango, written in 1903, using the original habanera rhythm almost constantly, but as we move towards and into the Golden Age (1930s-1940s) it is almost entirely gone. Well, more accurately, replaced by its close relative, habanera 2.

    I intended this to be a less detailed discussion. But the more I see and hear in the music the more detailed I want to get. There is a lot more I could say, but this is enough…

    The Garden Quartet plays Section B as written, but they do not follow the dynamic markings, unfortunately. Overall their playing of Section B is disappointing; it doesn't reflect the dynamics and rhythmic features written into the music. Anyway, here they are...

    Section B is played at :30-:58.

  14. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member

    No matter how many times I read my writing some typos don't get caught. Here are a couple.

    Should be "dominant 7th (C7, C-E-G-B flat)"

    Should be "fortissimo of Phrase 1".
  15. AndaBien

    AndaBien Well-Known Member

    ¡No hay que nada! Your effort is much appreciated.
  16. dancerman

    dancerman Active Member

    I did not know this song was so popular. Nice to find a thread (which I got through a google search, btw), I am doing a showcase to this song from the Broadway musical and just happened upon this thread. The music my instructor chose will be danced in two styles; the start will be in traditional Tango and then we will segue (sic) into Argentine Tango. I haven't dance Argentine in years so I am "very" excited.
  17. Shandy

    Shandy Member


    Duck flying objects coming your way :peace:
  18. tangomonkey

    tangomonkey Active Member


    Dancerman, AT is traditional tango, everything else came later...don't worry, there are no flying objects coming from me. :)
  19. dchester

    dchester Moderator Staff Member

  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Been resisting.........
    "AT" as dance is traditional if your tradition only includes the Golden Age. Or, it "AT" includes ALL styles of "Argentine" tango.
    I MAY agree with dancerman, depending on how he defines his terms.
    This dance goes back to the 1860s and has been through many phases. So, when does your tradtion come from?

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