Listening to Brazilian Classic

 Listening to Brazilian Classic

One of the joys of
Rio is the fact that so much culture is available
for free. One example is the series of concerts at UniRio University.
The Brazilian press, however, has neglected classical music for
some time now, a situation perhaps due to the worsening state of
musical instruction in the schools, something typical of the US as well.

by: Tom
Moore

Vânia
Dantas Leite

Brazzil
Picture

By now the richness of popular music in Brazil and in Rio de Janeiro is well
known, but the classical music of Brazil is much less well-known in Brazil
and outside.

Brazil can boast an excellent
information source in the area—VivaMúsica!, which produces a yearbook
collecting all sorts of information about performers, presenters, schools,
as well as hosting a website which posts a national concert calendar, so that
one can see at a glance for any given day what is going on.

The Brazilian press, however,
has neglected classical music for some time now, a situation perhaps due to
the worsening state of musical instruction in the schools, something typical
of the US as well.

Thus for example, the
omnibus review of the Bienal, the pre-eminent festival of contemporary music
in Brazil, which I wrote for Brazilmax.com, seems to have been the only review
for the composers who contributed to this survey of what is newest and best
in new music here—there was nothing in any of the Brazilian papers.

One of the joys of Rio
is the fact that so much culture is available for free (or if not free, very
inexpensive). One example is the series of concerts at the Escola Villa-Lobos
of the Center for Letters and Arts at UniRio University.

UniRio is located on Avenida
Pasteur, the road that takes the tourist down to the basestation for the aerial
cars that go to the top of Sugar Loaf, and it backs on to the sheer cliffs
which divide Urca from Leme—often one can see rock climbers going up
these on a fine day.

UniRio awards the only
doctorate in music in Rio, and has an excellent program in composition, with
composers including Ricardo Tacuchian, David Korenchendler, Antonio Guerreiro,
and Vania Dantas Leite. 2004 marks the sixth set of new music concerts at
UniRio. On May 21, I heard the fifth in the series, which presented electro-acoustic
and multimedia works.

Filtering Poems

First up was a work-in-progress,
if I was not mistaken, by Daniel Puig, which presented selections from Inconfidências,
settings of texts from the Romanceiro da Inconfidência by Cecília
Meireles. The composer processed, in real time (the audience had a great view
of the large Mac screen where he was doing the processing) his reading of
the poems, transformed, time-delayed, filtered.

Second was The Infinite
Stair, by Alexandre Fenerich, a work which incorporated some sampled sounds
from the traditional orchestra (the composer says that the work is in memory
of Bartok and Mahler, but this listener could not identify his sources by
ear), but these moments were minor in comparison to the large sweep of the
work.

No limbo da Polimúsica
by Luiz Eduardo Castelões added a visual aspect as well, with the transformation
of the images on screen (almost all drawn from nature, with tropical greenery)
reflecting the mixing and mutation of the musical resources, which, in contrast
to the work by Fenerich, clearly had their origins in various genres of Brazilian
popular music.

João Mendes’s Topologica
dos ruídos (Topology of Noises) was perhaps more traditional in
the field of electro-acoustic music in eschewing "musical" sounds
in favor of more purely "noisy" noises for its subject material.

The evening concluded
with a masterful and witty work by Vânia Dantas Leite, OBRA. OBRA
"documents the restoration of an eighteenth century house in Rio
Comprido", and the work (the punning title points to both a musical work
, or an opus, as we usually say in English, and the construction work, obra
being used for both in Portuguese, with the latter being more common) combines
a video of the restoration work (images of hammering, sawing, drilling, welding,
pouring cement) with a musical transformation of the sounds of the tools,
so that the listener hears a recognizably transformed hammer, saw, drill sound
at the same time as the image appears on screen). Very nicely done.

It is a pity that the
audience was small, despite the fact that the program appeared in the concert
listings in O Globo, the website at VivaMusica!, and probably elsewhere,
and the fact that the concert was free. Such interesting work deserves wider
audiences, here in Rio and elsewhere.


Tom Moore has been fascinated by the language and culture of Brazil since
1994. He translates from Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and German,
and is also active as a musician. Comments welcome at
querflote@hotmail.com.

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