Melodic Rhythm: Contrast in Canaro’s “Quiero verte una vez más”


In Melody: The Shape Canaro’s song “Quiero verte una vez más” was used to examine ways in which the shape melodies take helps create musical character. I’ll now look at the same segment, Section B, and make some observations on its melodic , showing how the lyrics largely determine the melody’s rhythmic patterns.

Here is the section:
Section B

Notice the melody Rondó sings has two distinctly different rhythms and shapes: one with a fast melodic rhythm in a very narrow pitch range; the other with a slower melodic rhythm and more expansive pitch range. These short melodic structures alternate throughout the section and define the character of the music. (All of it, Section A is likewise constructed). And the reason there are two distinct melodic ideas, I think, lies in the lyrics, written by José María Contursi. Section B uses the following text:

Tarde que me invita a conversar Evening that calls me to talk
con los recuerdos… to my memories…
pena de esperarte y de llorar suffering of waiting for you and crying
en este encierro. in this prison.
Tanto en mi amargura te busqué So much in my grief I searched for you
sin encontrarte without finding you.
¿Cuando…cuando, vida? ¡Moriré When… when, life? I shall die
para olvidarte! to forget you!

(Lyrics from totdotango.com and Planet Tango, with translation).

Notice the high number of syllables in the first line and the relative few in the second. This syllabic relationship between pairs of text is used throughout the verse. (And in Section A also).

The first line Rondó sings, “Tarde que me invita a conversar” (“Evening that calls me to talk”), has many syllables which must be set to notes in a short period of time. In general, each line of text is written over 2 bars, and a rough guideline in vocal melodies is one note per syllable. Mario Canaro, the composer, uses a single note in a fast repetitive rhythm, until the last few syllables, when it falls.

The next line, “con los recuerdos” (“to my memories”), has less than half the syllables and since it occupies the same number of beats, approximately, it has fewer and longer lasting notes. This line can be, and is, set by a melody with a more expansive, wider and broader pitch range and slower rhythm.

Canaro continues this declamatory-expansive pairing off throughout the verse, beautifully balancing the text with contrasting yet very complimentary music.

The following table separates each line with the corresponding music into Questions and Answers, which form 4 Bar Phrases. Have a listen and notice how both the melodic shapes and melodic rhythms have a Q&A quality on their own. In combination, the music is stunning.

(The clips may not work on some mobile devices. My apologies – I’m looking for a way to fix this.)

4 Bar Phrases with 2 Bar Q and A
Tarde que me invita a conversar Evening that calls me to talk 1st phrase: Q
con los recuerdos… to my memories… A
pena de esperarte y de llorar suffering of waiting for you and crying 2nd phrase: Q
en este encierro. in this prison. A
Tanto en mi amargura te busqué So much in my grief I searched for you 3rd phrase: Q
sin encontrarte without finding you. A
¿Cuando…cuando, vida? ¡Moriré When… when, life? I shall die 4th phrase: Q
para olvidarte! to forget you! A

Here is the section once again, in full.
Section B

Rhythm is the ordering of sounds and silences on and between a continuous and evenly spaced unit of time, called the beat.

Sounds may or may not have pitch. Many percussion instruments do not have pitch yet function as the rhythm section in most popular forms of music: they create and maintain the beat. (Tango is quite unique in not having a dedicated rhythm section). Musicians call sounds with pitch, notes and silences, rests. A note has both pitch and duration; a rest only duration.

When notes, and possibly rests, of (usually) different duration are combined there is rhythm.

There are usually two layers of rhythm in tango: melodic and accompaniment. More...

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2 Responses to Melodic Rhythm: Contrast in Canaro’s “Quiero verte una vez más”

  1. jantango says:

    Wonderful post. Just a side note — Planet Tango was the work of Alberto Paz who died on February 3.

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