Artist: The Tango Saloon
Track from the album: Shadows & Fog (Newmarket Music, 2012)
Explain the performers’ use of instrumental timbre and the blend of instrumental lines to create a sense of character in this performance.
Initial Character – reflective with restless undertones.
A reflective character is created through use of stable approach to timbre (tone colour). The woodblock and the acoustic guitar use limited melodic material which has a small range and allows the tone colour to remain the same throughout. The warm, reverberant tone of the acoustic guitar contrasts with the sharp, echoing timbre of the wood blocks. The guitar has a slight bite to the edge of its tone colour achieved through using finger picking and accented vibrato towards the end of longer notes. The relentless nature of the unchanging tone colour in the woodblock belies a sinister underlying character. The warmer tone colours of the guitar blend well with the mellow, reverberating double bass through similar colours and dynamics. This reverberating tone colour is slightly dull due to a lack of any echo. The sound is quickly cut off after each motif, adding to the sinister undercurrent.
The sparkling, resonant, slightly nasal tone of the synthesiser gives a wash of sound and blends with the warm qualities of the guitar and the sharper colours of the wood block. This instrument provides a bridging blend of colours in a spectrum from warm undertones to nasal overtones in the upper notes that unifies the blend of warm (guitar) to sharp (blocks) mix of instruments. The overall blend is fairly unified.
The sinister quality to the sound is enhanced once tight vibrato is used in the synthesiser. This makes the tone colour more biting, as does the use of dissonance in the harmony, and makes it blend less than before.
When the metallophone enters playing unison with the guitar the tone mellows further as this instrument brings out the warmer aspects to the sound. This softens the character a little to appear less sinister.
Character second section – Threatening, aggressive.
The creation of a more relaxed character is appropriate as it makes the sudden change in timbres more obvious through comparison. The distorted, harsh electric guitar had no equal in timbre in the opening section and combined with the booming, ringing toms played at a loud dynamic dominates the metallophone’s constant, relentless theme all but drowning it out. The metallophone’s metallic, clear tone colour continues unwavering but the addition of harsher tone colours that dominate the blend and contrast greatly changes the character to more threatening and aggressive. To create greater contrast to the blend, ringing, clear bells are added to the mix. The synthesiser loses its nasal quality and has a much more mellow, reverberant sound.
A return to the initial theme and combination of instruments is as sudden as the previous change. The tone colours are unchanged, though having been interrupted by such a contrasting section both in timbre and character, the sinister undertones are intensified.