Samstag, 20. April 2024

Gardel in New York - Chapter 3: A tip from Castellanos


Chapter 3: A tip from Castellano
by Terig Tucci with annotations by Camilo Gatica and José Manuel Araque

The next day we met at the hotel in order to exchange impressions about the previous night's program.

We listened repeatedly to the program, recorded on a reference disc by the radio station, and we began to find some faults that needed to be corrected; and many slips that we could amend for the benefit of the program. The more we wanted to remedy, the more flaws seemed to emerge, until we all became nervous and irritable. Fortunately, someone suggested that we go to lunch, and without thinking twice, we left in a caravan to our favorite oasis, the Santa Lucia restaurant.

After ingesting a quota of solids and liquids and back at the hotel, equanimity returned, and we began to examine our problems more objectively... We understood then that they were not insoluble as they had seemed to us before our expedition to the Santa Lucia. Now, it was a frank meeting of comradeship, we were sharing praise and censure, without rancor that would cloud the cordiality of the participants, but with the eagerness for improvement that leads to that longed-for perfection.

Perfection! In pursuit of this chimera goes the wanderer, the cultivator of the arts, towards an inaccessible goal; eternally discontented, divinely discontented, rummaging in the most hidden corners of his being and of the world around him, to unravel truths and beauties that remain inviolate in the mystery of life.

We agree on the selection of the pieces that would constitute our second program. We say goodbye. Alberto Castellano accompanies me to the subway station. And as we walk, he tells me:

-Carlos was very well impressed by your work. I would like, however, if I may, to give you some warnings for your own good. As you know, I have known Gardel for many years, and on countless occasions we have collaborated in radio programs and recordings. In Gardel's opinion, the best accompaniment for his singing is guitars. His harmonic preferences -as you may have noticed- are the meager major chords that his guitarists call first, second and third. Corresponding to the tonic, dominant and subdominant chords, respectively.

Within this meager limitation of sound resources are Gardel's harmonic needs. He is not accustomed to the orchestra, particularly to the use made of it in the United States; and much less, to certain harmonic subtleties that he does not feel. Modern harmony is proscribed for him. French impressionism, that fugitive pictorial art that folded itself to music and widened its radius of action towards stellar regions, does not exist for Gardel. His is, instead, the romanticism of the 19th century. Melody reigns supreme and any harmonic procedure that could alter this axiom, encounters the most complete and immediate hostility of the artist.

Frankly -Castellano confesses to me- I would never have believed that Gardel would have accepted the instrumental treatment you wrote for the song "Cobardía".

In honor to the truth I must say here that when we were rehearsing the song in the studio, I could observe Gardel's harsh gesture of surprise, and that it was due to Castellano's intervention, who had found the orchestration interesting, that Gardel tolerated it; later, when he understood it better, he accepted it completely.

I thanked Castellano for his good advice. I said goodbye to him.

Even though I was positively convinced that Castellano was my best apologist, while I was descending the stairs of the subway, a terrible discouragement took hold of me, maybe premonitory of future difficulties.