Oliver Schroer – Roro
Roro is the 11th track from Oliver Schroer's album Jigzup. Schroer notes in the album’s liner notes that the tune is based on a medieval Portuguese lullaby. This analysis addresses three main topics: after a short outline of the piece’s form, I briefly discuss Roro’s key and instrumentation before taking a slightly longer look at meter and repetition within the tune. I encourage you to listen to the full tune and check out my entire transcription.
Roro features three full repetitions of the main tune, as well as two statements of the A section near the beginning of the track. The two A sections and the main tune are each preceded by short introductions.
|AA||Quasi free time|
|Introduction||In time, 6/8|
|AABB x3||In time|
Here is my transcription of the first main pass through the tune.
I hear the tune in A minor, but two features of the tune’s A section disorient the listener, creating doubt about the piece’s key. To begin, the first note of the melody is not a note of the tonic triad—A, C or E—but rather F, with the first two measures of the tune featuring only half-step motions between the notes F and E. Second, after leaping up to A, suggesting a key of A minor, the tune descends to a C-sharp in its fourth measure, suggesting a key of A major with a flatted sixth (F rather than F-sharp), or perhaps D minor. This C-sharp, however, is followed almost immediately by a C-natural, further destabilizing our sense of mode. It is only in the last several measures of the A section that we hear a passage clearly outlining the key of A minor.
The B section of Roro draws its notes from the A natural minor scale, but a sense of disorientation is created by its constantly-shifting meter, discussed below.
Roro is one of several tracks on Jigzup that feature unconventional instruments - consider the flugeluba played by David Travers Smith on Victory of Love. Beyond that, instruments are often playfully identified, such as the "water schlumpfen" listed among the instruments on The Devil & the Little Faces. The liner notes of Jigzup identify the musicians that contributed to Roro as:
- Oliver Schroer: fiddles, hammered dulcimer, eukalin, glass harmonica
- Pat O’Gorman: fairie music
- Don Ross: guitar
“Eukalin” appears to refer to the ukelin, a bowed zither “meant to be a combination of the violin and the Hawaiian ukelele” which you can watch in action in this video. Schroer’s use of this instrument during the first, slow statement of the tune’s A sections lends the music a slightly eerie quality to my ears. The glass harmonica is an array of wine glasses which sound throughout the track and can be heard clearly at its beginning and end. “Fairie music” appears to refer to the birdsong, whistling and other noises that sound throughout the track.
Meter and Repetition
The A section in 6/8 (two beats per measure, with each beat divided in 3), but it has an uneven number of beats. I hear the first A section breaking down into smaller groupings of 4, 6 and 4 beats. The second in each pair of A sections has an added 6-beat tag.
The B section, as I hear it, mostly alternates between 9/8 and 6/8. The second repetition of the B section is one beat longer than the first.
|A1||14||4 + 6 + 4|
|A2||20||4 + 6 + 4 + 6|
|B1||13||5 + 3 + 5|
|B2||14||5 + 3 + 5 + 1|
It is worth noting the ways the tune’s internal repetitions interact with these shifting beat groupings. The second A section is an exact repetition of the first A section, with the last 6 beats of the initial A section repeated. This passage doesn’t simply repeat the last, 4-beat grouping of the first A section, but rather borrows two beats from the section’s central 6-beat grouping, to combine with the section’s final 4-beat grouping.
Within the B section, there are two internal repetitions, though these repetitions align closely with how I hear the grouping of beats within the section. The first repeated passage, an ascending scale, is repeated after five beats. This 5-beat recurrence influences how I hear the meter and beat-grouping. Finally, there is a repeated descending scale near the end of the B section, which fits within the section’s final 5-beat group.
As usual, there’s much more that could be said about this track. If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Posted: Mar 24, 2021. Last updated: Mar 24, 2021.