Carlos Di Sarli’s Bahia Blanca

General Remarks

Carlos Di Sarli recorded Bahia Blanca in 1957. Di Sarli was born in Bahia Blanca, a city located in the south-west of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1903.

The character of Bahia Blanca is one of restraint, sadness or melancholy. The is two s, A and  B. Both are 16 s long with two 8 bar s or, four 4 bar phrases. Each of these has a 2 bar Question and a 2 bar Answer. Very symmetrical. The is 4/8, meaning each bar has 4 s and the beat is an eighth note. The tempo is andante, about 100 beats per minute. The key is f sharp minor; minor keys being “sad” keys. The form as Di Sarli performs it is A-B-A-B-A.

In subsequent posts I will discuss the music, its phrases , the Questions and Answers, the melodies, rhythms,  when the music is or and the instrumentation – how Di Sarli uses the bandoneons and strings for contrast. I haven’t linked the sheet music to the audio yet (Update: Done, here), but the music is here and can be printed out to follow along with the recording:

      Bahia Blanca, Carlos Di Sarli



How the music is organized, structured; the number of sections and the way they  are constructed, the number of bars and phrases in each, and the order they are performed. more...

Composers/arrangers make a very conscious decision regarding form. The order sections are heard greatly effects our sensations and responses as listeners and dancers.

Sections are the top level element of music's form. They are the the large building blocks of tango music, typically lasting around thirty seconds or so. Each section is a unique segment of music, having a distinct musical character.

Tango music has two, occasionally three, primary sections, which we may label  “A”, “B”, “C”. Sometimes there is an "Introduction", "Bridge", a short section between two larger ones, or "Coda", a short concluding section.

Usually each section will be played consecutively in order (A then B then C), followed by various other orderings. Typically in tango songs each section is played instrumentally then each is sung, then section A is played instrumentally: A-B-A (vocal)-B (vocal)-A. But there are many exceptions and other possibilities.

Phrases exist within a section.

A bar or measure is a small segment of music containing all the number of beats as specified by the time signature.

A short section of music with a clear start and end quality, with a consistent or complementary musical character. Generally, the character is different from what comes after or precedes it, anywhere from subtly to very obvious. more...

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.

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).

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.

Music that is smooth and connected, with a flowing character, often with a broad sweeping melody and gentle accompaniment.

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3 Responses to Carlos Di Sarli’s Bahia Blanca

  1. Sera Hirasuna says:

    Thank you! I just started Argentine Tango, and I love love love this song! Do you know anything about the story of the song? What is it saying about the area?

    • tangomonkey says:

      Di Sarli was born in Bahia Blanca, a city in southern Argentina. He left in his early teens to play music in various traveling ensembles, eventually settling in Buenos Aries. I’ve always thought the melancholy and longing I feel in this music, so vivid and beautifully played, is Di Sarlis’s yearning for the days of his youth. I have absolutely no evidence for this – just my personal thoughts and feelings in reaction to the music as if engulfs my senses.

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