Tuesday, March 01, 2016

An "Irregular" tango

In my recent articles about a video of Alicia Pons and Luis Rojas‘ performance at Salon Canning, I had withheld the name of the tango and the orchestra. (You can easily find them on the Youtube page). I’d promised you another post about the music.

I had never heard this interesting tango, Y Todavía Te Quiero” (“And I still love you”), written by Luciano Leocata. It was recorded in 1956, a year after the coup in Argentina that ousted President Perón and pushed tango underground.  

Nor did I know of Domingo Federico, whose orchestra recorded it, with Armando Moreno singing.  Federico, I discovered, was the composer of both “Al Compas del Corazon” and “Yo Soy el Tango”, tangos made famous by Miguel Calo’s orchestra. Federico played in Calo’s orchestra.  Story here.

Y Todavía te Quiero” has an unusual structure, compared to most of the tangos of the Golden Age (1935 to 1952/55), especially those of the first decade.  It falls into the category of tangos I call “Irregular”.

Note:  I am not a musician - just a dancer.  My systems of musical analysis help non-musician dancers dissect and understand almost any tango. Some musicians might disagree with my methods. But they work for tango dancers!

What’s the difference between “Regular” and “Irregular” tangos (my terminology)?  

The tangos of the first half of the Golden Age, and many thereafter, are made of 20 rhythmic phrases of 8 counts.

Each phrase consists of 8 downbeats (strong beats) and 8 upbeats (weak beats), as in “1-and, 2-and, 3-and" . . . through "8-and”.  That's the basic structure, or skeleton. 
The musician playing rhythm, usually the bassist, chooses which of those beats he wants to play.

One can hear, by changes in musical theme, that the phrases tend to fall into five groups of four 8-count phrases.  (There are some exceptions, like Troilo’s “Toda mi Vida”, with six groups of four phrases.)  

So, using 
one of my tools, my "quick-and-dirty" stick-chart analysis, in which a "stick" represents a phrase of 8 counts, almost every Regular tango looks like this: 

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Try listening to one of your favorite tangos from before 1945, following this stick chart.  
Or draw your own. (Hint: Avoid early Pugliese, who started recording around 1943.)  

If it doesn’t fit this stick chart-model, you’ve probably chosen a tango that’s not Regular.

Y Todavía te Quiero” does not fit the Regular pattern.

Listen to this recording on Youtube, and try drawing your own stick-chart on a piece of paper. Then check it against mine, below.

Try doing it now.  I'll wait.  :)

If you did this exercise, you probably found it much harder than the first one, for Regular tangos.

Here's my stick chart analysis of "Y Todavia te Quiero".  The double dots after the sticks represent two extra full counts ("full count" means downbeat plus upbeat).  Sticks with no dots are just 8 full counts.

| (8-count intro)
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I've never yet seen another tango that looks like this one. Most of the phrases have 10 full counts!  I'm showing 10 counts like this:  |:  (8 plus 2).

There's sort of a repeating pattern in the tango:
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Many Irregular tangos have easily identifiable, repeating patterns. But in this one, each repeat varies slightly from the others. I find it particularly unusual!

If you're just getting started learning to understand tango music structure, I suggest you just stay with Regular tangos for a while.  You've heard hundreds of them in milongas, and they're easy to dance to.  It can be exciting to discover how much so many tangos have in common, and now you have a tool to discover whether or not you want to work with a particular piece of music.  If you discover from starting a stick-chart that a tango is complicated, you can save it for another time.

Did you find this lesson helpful?  Were you able to follow my stick chart analysis for Regular tangos, and for this specific Irregular tango?  (For the latter, it usually takes some extra time. So don't get discouraged if you didn't easily get it yet.)  Let us know in the comments section below!

To get more practice with “Regular” and “Irregular” Tangos, and learn in depth about my “7 Building Blocks of Tango Musicality”, CLICK HERE.

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