D’Arienzo – Speed Demon?

Following on from the 2 July edition discussing Juan D’Arienzo’s reinvention of himself in 1935, the statement that he speeded up the music has been challenged. The point made is that, with the switch away from 4/4 to 4/8, D’Arienzo’s new sound was based around 8 shorter notes rather than 4 moderate notes, and that these shorter notes would give an impression of being faster – just because there are more of them in a given time.

It’s a good point, and so it was back to the music for an answer. The 14 recordings D’Arienzo made in 1935 (played on 9 July 2017) formed a sample, and were matched to recordings from other orquestas from 1935 or earlier. Sets matched these criteria for 7 of D’Arienzo’s recordings, including two matches for 2 of D’Arienzo’s recordings (Re Fa Si and Nueve De Julio), and the percentage differences in speed for the pairs of recordings are summarised in the table.

2017-08-15 - D'Arienzo - Speed Demon

The results show that the differences between D’Arienzo and his contemporaries on the same pieces of music sampled vary between 2.8% and 36.5%—and in every case D’Arienzo is the faster of the two. Some other points emerge:

  • The comparison track played on the 2 July edition of Tango Capital was Canaro’s 1935 recording of Hotel Victoria; D’Arienzo’s version was definitely more lively, yet the difference in speed is only 3.4%. Clearly a small difference in speed is both detectable and effective.
  • Predictably, the 2 valses are most speeded up—by 21.1% and 36.5%–thus restoring them to something closer to the speed of the Viennese waltz that had had a strong grip on popular dancing for decades—the popularity that D’Arienzo was trying to emulate. But the tangos are also speeded up, substantially in some cases.
  • There do not appear to be patterns based around particular orquestas. Thus, for example, whilst D’Arienzo increased the speed over two of the Canaro recordings by a substantial amount, he only increased the speed over the third Canaro recording by 3.4%, the second lowest in the set.
  • There is no chronological pattern; the differences do not vary in parallel with the age of the comparison recording:

There are some caveats on this analysis…the matching was not exhaustive (only around 3,500 recordings checked), D’Arienzo’s music in subsequent years may have varied in speed from the 1935 recordings, only a small number of contemporaries were identified from the many that were recording at the time…nonetheless the results do suggest that D’Arienzo really did speed up the music a little, and in so doing he gained an edge in excitement over his contemporaries.

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