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Guitarist - Composer - Arranger

Osvaldo Fresedo's Fascinating Rhythm

Magic moments... Tango recordings and compositions are full of ‘magic moments.’ Original, inspired, or captivating; humorous, moving, or unforgettable. You don’t have to be a trained musician to enjoy them, and this blog breaks them down.

Osvaldo Fresedo Orchestra - ‘La puñalada’ (Pintín Castellanos, Celedonio Flores)

In the 1920’s tango was starting to undergo a series of innovations, becoming more lyrical, more sophisticated, with more romantic tendencies. Orchestra leaders and composers were starting to lift tango out of the more rigid tendencies of rhythm and melody and explore new, interesting sounds. Osvaldo Fresedo was one of the first innovators.

Among other things, Fresedo experimented by adding unusual instruments like harp, drum set and vibraphone to his tango orchestra. In today’s recording (made years later) you can hear a drum set tastefully filling out the milonga rhythm.

First, take a listen to Osvaldo Fresedo’s 1951 recording of the milonga ‘La puñalada’

The recording, and the song itself, are playful, whimsical, and exciting.

The Magic Moment

The milonga La puñalada has three sections: A, B, and C. The first two sections appear multiple times but the C section only appears once, from 1:02 to 1:29, and our magic moment is going to appear in this section. Listen starting at 1:02 to get ready. First we hear what sounds like the presentation for a circus act: the orchestra plays in stops and starts, and the drum set provides punctuation in between on the hi-hat cymbals. All of this is leading up to to 1:19, where the magic begins.

From 1:19 to 1:27 the orchestra seems to burst out of the recording…suddenly we are experiencing pure joy, laughing at the best joke in the world…and even those of us that don’t dance are moving some body part or other. What is going on? The orchestra is down below, providing a rhythmic foundation that is, well, fun. And the piano is sitting way on top of what feels like a mountain, and slowly cascading down, like some kind of joyous rain made up of piano keys or little bells. Just when you think it’s done, it comes back for another round, bumping and laughing down the mountain. (Ok, I changed metaphors, but you get the picture).

What makes the orchestra’s foundation so peppy and hard to resist? In layman’s terms, there’s a little game of catch going on. If you keep the beat by counting to four along with the orchestra, and then put the word ‘and’ between every number (1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and) you’ll see what I mean. In a game of catch, the numbers represent one player and the ‘ands’ represent the other. After a while you may find yourself saying just the ‘ands’ which get increasingly louder and more emphatic. For technical reasons this makes the beat feel less stable, more fun, and more likely to make you move.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in 8 seconds! Spend some time with this magic moment, and when you go back and listen to the whole track, you’ll have a new appreciation for Osvaldo Fresedo and his orchestra.!

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