The music and lyrics for the vals “Yo no sé qué me han hecho tus ojos” (I don’t know what your eyes have done to me) were written by Francisco Canaro, likely in 1930. I wrote a bit about its origins and a few of the recordings Canaro made, and the sheet music was syncd with his 1931 recording featuring Carlos Gardel, here.
D’Arinezo recorded a marvelously arranged version with singer Osvaldo Ramos in 1965.
The following discussion of form might perhaps be too much information for some. The form is very a-typical and it is worth understanding it, because form is a primary factor in how the music effects us. Read it, or skip it – I won’t mind. Either way, all the sections and primary phrases are marked on the score, and it is worth following the cursor and listening to how the music changes at these points. Even if you do not read music.
D’Arienzo’s has three distinct s, A and B, with an 8 connecting them. Section A is 32 bars long and Section B is 35. Both sections may be split in two: into an A1 (16 bars) and A2 (16 bars); and B1 (16 bars) and B2 (19 bars). The reasons are as follow. A1 and A2 share the same initial 8 bar phrase. The second 8 bar phrase in A2 is different than the second 8 bar phrase in A1. Similarly, B1 and B2 share a common initial 8 bar phrase. B2 then has an extended 11 bar phrase which is quite different from the second (8 bar) phrase in B1. So it is appropriate to recognize both the similarity, by maintaining the letter, and the difference, by changing the number. The second phrases in both A2 and B2 are different melodically and harmonically than they are in A1 and B1 and D’Arienzo’s arrangement makes the “1”s and “2”s stand out much more distinctly than did Canaro’s.
The ordering of the sections is quite sophisticated. Whereas Canaro simply repeats the order, A-Bridge-B-A-Bridge-B (or A1-A2-Bridge-B1-B2-A1-A2-Bridge-B1-B2), D’arienzo mixes them up a bit and distinguishes the “1” sections from the “2”s with changes, different accompaniments, and contrasting .
Vocal: A1-A2-A2 (last 8 bar phrase only, with a more dramatic melody which rises and crescendos to a climax)
There are phrases at the 8, 4, and 2 bar levels, functioning most of time in question and answer fashion. The multi-phrased Q&A creates a nice rhythmic and melodic flow, which is easily heard and felt in more than one time frame, as D’Arienzo’s purposely intends.
General Musical Character of the Sections
Section A1 is relatively lyrical and even flowing with a very slow . A2 has a fuller texture and faster harmonic rhythm, adding a bit more drama and more feeling of motion and change.
The Bridge is quite different. The purpose of a bridge is to transition from one section to another, and D’Arienzo does this by making it more rhythmic than what came previously. It prepares us nicely for the highly rhythmic character of the B sections.
Section B1 has a fuller texture, a bigger sound. And there is a very effective rhythmic and melodic interplay every 2 bars between the melody and piano counter melody. B2 adds more layers: a violin counter melody and bandoneons clearly marking beats 2 and 3 in articulation, with the bass playing on beat 1. The last 11 bars are the most syncopated section in the music. There’s a very nicely phrased perfect cadence (V#7 – i) to end the instrumental portion.
My Impression of D’Arienzo’s Performance
D’Arienzo’s interpretation is sophisticated. Marvelously expressive orchestration, great counter melodies running in the background, effective use of dynamics. This is no simple “boom-chuck-chuck” vals. The overall character is dramatic and full of energy, especially the Bridge and B sections. The melodic line is elaborately phrased, both during the instrumental and vocal sections, following the contour (the melodic shape) of the melody. And it is more syncopated at times than what is written. D’Arienzo has changed the melodic shape and rhythm in some places, and it’s an improvement over the original.
The accompaniment has beautifully punctuated syncopated rhythmic accents at times, while still marking the “3” count, or primarily beat one. The orchestration is beautiful, changing to alter the character of the phrases and subphrases. And notice the piano. It plays intricate fills between phrases, richly connecting them. In the Bridge, which is much altered from Canaro’s original, the piano has both a rhythmic and melodic function, carrying the melody throughout while marking the beat along with the bass. The piano acts as a countermelody in Section B1, taking the focus while the strings sustain dotted 1/2 note harmonies every couple of bars.
Ramos is strong and aggressive yet has subtle emotional phrasing, using to great effect. The 8th note runs in B1 and B2 are executed perfectly in time, as they should be. Rubato is kept for the more lyrical passages in the melody, again as it should be. Gardel, while highly expressive in his own right, is sloppy in comparison.
After Ramos finishes singing Section B2 the orchestra attacks Section B1. I think “attacks” is the right description: the playing is all out, loud and aggressive, yet simultaneously beautiful. Note D’Arienzo does not return to the A sections after Ramos has finished B2. The complete B section, B1 and B2, is played instrumentally. The A sections are much more lyrical and less rhythmic than the B sections. By repeating the music we just heard sung, now played instrumentally, the character continues in a highly rhythmic, energetic, and dramatic way. The return to quasi-lyricism is delayed until the final vocal A1 and A2. There is an additional and final phrase added here, based on A2. It is very dramatically phrased and the performance ends climatically on a long high note by Ramos held over the orchestra, which beautifully concludes with a rhythmic, harmonically rich and very effective final cadence.
The melodic line and accompaniment is at times much different than the sheet music. That doesn’t bother me. In fact, hearing the differences between D’Arienzo’s playing while following the sheet music makes me appreciate his (or his arranger’s?) brilliance and Ramos’ excellent musicianship. A simple bit of music is transformed into a drama.
D’Arienzo with Osvaldo Ramos, 1965. Sections and primary phrases are marked in red.
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.
In terms of form, a bridge is a short section used to connect two other larger sections. Usually the musical character is different but complementary and may contain elements from the preceding section and/or the next one. It is literally a "bridge" between them.
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).
Dynamics is the volume factor in music. There are two broad categories: a relative volume level which does not change until some marking specifies it does; and a volume that changes gradually or suddenly.
Phrasing is both how the phrase is constructed to accomplish the composer's objectives and how the music is played, that is, interpreted.
Depending on the context, when I write "phrasing" I may be referring to how the music is written in phrases, such as Question and Answer Phrasing, or how the orquesta interprets and shapes the music, or both. more...
Harmonic rhythm is the rate harmonies, or chords, change.
Harmonies may change at a regular pace, for example on the first beat of every bar; that being a slow harmonic rhythm. Or there may be more than one harmony within the bar, a faster harmonic rhythm, or the harmony may last for more than one bar, a very slow harmonic rhythm.
When the harmonic rhythm is slow, changing only on beat one for example, the music feels regular and evenly flowing. When the harmonic rhythm is fast the musical character has more action and movement. Typically during more dramatic moments and at cadences the harmonic rhythm increases.
(The elements of harmony are complex. See Harmony for more detailed explanation with music and audio samples).
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.
Rubato is Italian for stolen or robbed and refers to timing the notes, specifically not hitting the beats in strict time. Rubato is playing around the beat: sometimes coming a little before it, or a bit late, or slightly speeding up or slowing down a few beats. The purpose is to make the music more expressive.
Most often rubato is used in lyrical sections of the melody by the singer, while strict time is maintained by the instrumental, accompaniment, musicians. When done tastefully rubato adds a nice touch. When overdone there is a danger of the melody losing all sense of the beat. Some singers use it more effectively than others.