This is the second in a series of analysis posts on Carlos Di Sarli’s Bahia Blanca. The first looked at the Question and Answer (Q&A) phrasing in the initial 8 Bar Phrase of Section A. In the first part of this post I continue with the second 8 Bar Phrase, taking a look at the Q&A phrasing within those 8 bars. In the second part I write about how the 8 Bar Phrases act as Question and Answer within Section A.
Synchronized Music/Audio & Audio Only
Below is the syncd music/audio then audio only control buttons. Close the “synchonized audio/video window”. Section A is the first 16 bars. To follow the second 8 Bar Phrase click in bar 9 and play until the end of bar 16. To stop playback simply click on any bar. For audio only click the play buttons following the score.
1) Q&A Analysis, The Second 8 Bar Phrase
In this first part of the post I’ll discuss the component 4 Bar Phrases, the third and fourth ones, as individual units with their own Questions an Answers, then how they function as Question and Answer within the second 8 Bar Phrase.
1.1) The Third 4 Bar Phrase
The second 8 Bar Phrase (bars 9-16) begins with the third playing (bar 9-12) of the first 4 Bar Phrase (bars 1-4). This is the last time we hear it. Its Question is essentially identical to the other two, in terms of notes, but there’s a very important difference in and . In the previous 2 Bar Questions (bars 1-2, 5-6) all the instruments, the full ensemble played, giving a rich, lush, somewhat sound. This 2 Bar Question (bars 9-10) is quite different. This time the strings are absent. The sound is more aggressive. We hear the bandoneons playing with heavy accents on s 1 and 3. (The is 4/8, meaning there are 4 beats in each . We can easily hear and dance to Bahia Blanca in “2” not “4”. The accents on “1” & “3” are then “1” & “2”.)
In each of the previous 4 Bar Phrases, the Question is bold and the Answer restrained. This third time is no different. Here they are combined, forming the third 4 Bar Phrase (bars 9-12).
Ex. 7. The third 4 Bar Phrase (bars 9-12)
1.2) The Fourth 4 Bar Phrase
Moving on to the fourth and last 4 Bar Phrase in Section A. This phrase is unique; it does not open with the 2 Bar Question we have heard three times before. Instead there are bandoneons playing continuous 1/16 notes, once again with heavy accents on beats 1 and 3. Much different that the first three times we heard the 2 Bar Question. There is now movement with a forward intent.
During the 2 Bar Answer the forward movement is brought to a halt by a slowing down in the notes and a definitive sense of conclusion, a major cadence and resting point.
1.3) The Third and Fourth 4 Bar Phrases as Question and Answer
Moving up a level in terms of phrasing, the third 4 Bar Phrase is the second 8 Bar Phrase’s Question (Ex. 7, bars 9-12). And the fourth 4 Bar Phrase is its Answer (Ex. 10, bars 13-16).
The Question is more restrained, because of the echo/sigh motif. The Answer advances more dramatically before very definitively resolving the tension.
2) Section A Phrasing, The 8 Bar Phrases as Q&A
The next, second part of the post, describes how the two 8 Bar Phrases act as Question and Answer within Section A.
Thinking about the first 8 Bar Phrase (bars 1-8), my general sense is that it is somewhat lyrical in nature. There is a gentle ebb and flow between the Questions and Answers but no strongly dramatic moments. It is softer, more gentle than what comes next. Right from the start the second 8 Bar Phrase (bars 9-16) has very apparent, distinguishing qualities. It is more aggressive, with bandoneons prominently marking the beat with heavy accents and marcato playing. This change happens immediately, in the 2 Bar Question (bars 9-10). Although the 2 Bar Answer (bars 11-12) calms things down with the echo/sigh motif in the strings, the bandoneons add even more movement and tension in the next 2 Bar Question (bars 13-14). Which is beautifully and completely resolved in the final 2 Bar Answer (bars 15-16).
Compare how the 8 Bar Phrases start.
The beginning of the first 8 Bar Phrase, its Question (bars 1-4). (Also the first 4 Bar Phrase.). The sound is lush and full and mostly lyrical.
Ex. 14. The first 4 Bar Phrase (bars 1-4).
The beginning of the second 8 Bar Phrase, its Question (bars 9-12). (Also the third 4 Bar Phrase.) The sound is sparse and “choppy”, until the echo/sigh motif in the Answer, that is.
Ex. 15. The third 4 Bar Phrase (bars 9-12).
There is a very noticeable Q&A quality between the two 8 Bar Phrases. Part of that has to do with what I just wrote about their different musical characters, but more so because of how they each end. There’s a feeling of unresolved tension as the first 8 Bar Phrase ends (bars 7-8). The underlying harmonies and the way the melody rises at the end sounds to me very much like a question is being asked.
There is complete resolution and conclusion. We have traveled and now arrived.
Now listen to Section A in full, hearing the multiple Q&A levels. There are small arcs, rising and falling in the music within larger ones. To me Bahia Blanca moves in waves; advancing and retreating, moving forward and resting, in several time dimensions. I hope you hear the music differently now, more deeply. Thanks for following along.
Ex. 20. Section A
Orchestration or instrumentation is how the instruments are used; which instruments are playing at any given time and what is their function, such as melodic, accompaniment, creating the pulse, linking phrases (fills).
The way the notes are played and connected to one another: anywhere from gently played to heavily attacked; held for the full duration of the note value or clipped short; smoothly connected to the notes before and after, or continuously separated.
There are many technical terms for these differences, but for tango we mostly need to be aware of two broad kinds of articulation, the extreme ends of the spectrum: a connected legato, which often creates a lyrical quality, and an accented, clipped short marcato. Generally, the strings and singers have a legato articulation, while the bandoneons have a marcato one.
Music that is smooth and connected, with a flowing character, often with a broad sweeping melody and gentle accompaniment.
Marcato is Italian for marked, meaning the notes are to be accented and emphasized. In tango the notes are also played clipped or cut shorter than the note value as written. That is called staccato. The performance style, the articulation, combines marcato and staccato. And that gives the music a crisp and bold character. When I use the term marcato those are the qualities I mean.
Tango uses marcato style playing very often, especially in the accompanying instruments, frequently the bandoneons but others as well.
Beat is the underlying and regularly spaced pulse of the music, measured in beats per minute. There are a fixed number of beats in a bar, indicated by the time signature. Tango (2/4, 4/8, 4/4) has 2 or 4 beats per bar, vals (3/4) has 3 and milonga (2/4) has 2.
(There may be a sense of 4 beats even though the time signature is 2/4. Tango very often subdivides the 2/4 beat, doubling the count from 2 to 4, effectively using a 4/8 time signature. Some tango music is explicitly written in 4/8, most are in 2/4. See Tango Time Signatures and the Beat).
The two numbers, one above the other, written near the beginning of the first staff line (or whenever it changes), specifying the number of beats in a measure and the type of note that gets one beat.
A bar or measure is a small segment of music containing all the number of beats as specified by the time signature.