Archive for the ‘Rio’ Category
As if lit from within… This is a beautiful day, full of sunshine, but it is the last day for me to get my music ready for my session with Marcilio, so it is spent mostly indoors. I write an entire new piece today– incredible! It’s as if I have finally absorbed enough Rio to get back in the groove I have been blindly banging about trying to find. When I do stumble outdoors to get some dinner there is the most amazing golden evening in play. I am taking pictures every few steps and, more surprising, every Brazilian I pass is taking cellphone pictures too– it’s that gorgeous. As I walk I am thinking of home, or rather the “home” of 2-30 years past. The day before Thanksgiving my whole family would have gathered at my parents’ house, and everyone would be talking at once, discussing whether or not we had enough pies, mushrooms for the gravy, oh yes, and something for breakfast. The “cousins” would be making place-tags for all the attendees. Usually it was the girl cousins. The job was delegated the boys a couple of times, but their efforts didn’t pass muster so the girls took it back. There would always be a theme and lots of construction paper and glue was involved. I usually had brought some nouveau beaujolais– since that temporal wine “arrivee”s at the end of November, and we would all gather for supper, so glad to be together for another year. I remember my dad’s last Thanksgiving, poignant as he was not well, but full of joy. I missed the “last” Thanksgiving at home base last year, as I was moving to my new house that weekend. And this year there is no center that pulls us in, so the family is celebrating in PA, NY, NH, CA, FL, France, and Rio. Sigh… but there is no moving back to times that will be no more. Returning to my Rio “home” on this Thanksgiving-eve I snap a shot of my Rio “muse,” made entirely of recycled bottle caps and purchased at Sao Salvador last Sunday. We two have a late night getting ready for a very non-traditional Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Another rainy day. But I am up early and have wrapped up the harmony for Chuva before lunch, to my great joy. And I am feeling better. But the afternoon slides slowly downhill as I just can’t make any progress on my 3rd piece, and a hoped-for event crashes and burns short of fruition. I try to be philosophical, but disappointment is a hard thing to side-step. So I am feeling a bit like this flower to the right, drenched though hanging on. I weigh the pros and cons of going to the Tuesday night roda– music vs health– and decide that staying engaged with music is my best course of action, though it means lugging my amp along with my instrument. It’s nice to see everyone, to play with Luiz, but once again the “kitchen” is incomplete, the rhythm is off, and the noise level is magnifying all the not-quite-better parts of me. Vallee– end of table– does show up, late, but by then the noise makes it impossible for us to play Evocacao– the duet we so enjoy. A la. A fellow American who is at the bar to listen obligingly takes a picture of us all, and I leave early with a headache and a ringing in my ears. Back home I fix myself a bowl of instant chicken noodle soup, take Emergen-C, and plot my course of action for the next few days. I am trying to look at the bright side, though life is throwing complications in my path.
I am not better, but neither am I worse. I work away at music at my desk all day, only venturing out in the evening to buy some food, as I am out of nearly everything. For must of the day I am frittering away on the 2nd tune of my 3– working name Chuva (rain)– guess why? I keep adding notes, changing chords, always unsatisfied. But I know there is a good tune in here somewhere! The music from yesterday is resonating in my head, and I try to find a way to get the beauty of a Guinga song into this piece. A fast choro can be witty, fun, flirtatious, but a slow one– as this is– has to have a moment of unexpected beauty that breaks the flow– an odd change of key signature, a particular phrase or rhythm– to keep it from becoming predictably, boringly lyrical. Finally, when I’m about to give up. I find the one for this tune. So I copy the whole thing into a new score, in case I’m wrong and the current version is the right one, rip out most of the notes and come up with a new spare take that feels right. We’ll see tomorrow. Miriam cooks me dinner, bless her heart, and we talk and laugh as we end this particular day.
The Sao Salvador roda is super today. Only 3 soloists, Luiz and I kill “Gostozinho,” this time with a great backing pandeiro, and the rain holds off. Oh, yes– another grey day. The pint-sized cavaquinho player pictured to the right was sitting behind me to my right, intently focused on everything, and the percussion section was behind me to my left. I play straight through for 2 1/2 hours and then pack up to go, pausing to get a couple of handmade toys from the craft stands. But on the way home I suddenly get dizzy and sweaty and have a hard time not staggering as I walk. I keep a tight grip on myself and march stiffly to the metro, bus, and up the hill. I am starving, but exhausted and drenched in sweat, so I fall into bed with a package of crackers, turning the fan on high. In an hour I am freezing and huddle under the blankets wondering what the heck is going on. An insect bite? A sudden flu? I keep an eye on the clock as only being unable to get up will keep me from the Guinga concert. And in 3+ hours I head out. Guinga is playing with Francis Hime, both songwriters, Guinga playing guitar and Francis, piano. They have just released a CD together (the 2nd song on the link, Signorina, was written for Guinga’s young daughter). I spend most of the event sitting with my eyes closed, letting the music keep me focused and following the flow of the melodies, writing them into my subconscious. It’s an easy taxi ride home and I fall to sleep hoping the morning will bring a reprieve.
I head over to Choro School in the morning with a to-do list. Buy the the play-along CDs by Mauricio, fix a date to work on harmony for my still-incomplete choro with Marcilio, find a possibly useful book in the store, say hi to my old teachers, and have a nice chat with PedroA, who wants to see my hybrid choro and possibly arrange one for his Orquestra de Cordas Dedilhadas da UniRio (link to them playing a Nazareth tune). Sweet! Catch a few tunes from this student roda on my way out and then head home to work for a few hours before this afternoon’s party-roda in Sta Teresa hosted by the pandeiro player from the Forte roda. I meet Romulo and Cecilia and we drive over together, she looking gorgeously 7-months pregnant. The party started at 2:00, we arrive at 4:00 and the music begins around 5:00. Our “kitchen” is lacking guitars, so the calls go out and soon Henry Lentino arrives– the bandolimist from “Tira Poeira,” a novo choro group. He’s here to play guitar for his friend’s party, but I hear the sad news that his bandolim was recently stolen from him as he walked in a local square with a guitarist friend. Will I let him play mine for awhile? Of course. We have a fun time and make music of various sorts, leaving around 8:00 when the heavy samba drums arrive for the continuing jam. I took some photos of the players today, but simply like this badly out-of-focus one, for its watercolor effect.
Another small thing to like about Rio– the 2 flavors of yogurt available in the local Itambe brand are honey and carrot-orange-honey. Get with the program Dannon! I work in the morning, feeling a bit trapped in my search for a way forward with the 3 compositions I have in various stages of completion. In the afternoon I take the bus to Jardim Botanico to buy a ticket for the Guinga concert Sunday night– and a good thing too as it’s nearly sold out. Then, as the 80% chance-of-rain seems to be holding off, I take a walk in the gardens under blank white skies. There is always something to see here whatever the weather, including a crowd of turtles sunning themselves on a dock. But I am once again reminded that winter is a better season for flowers in Rio than spring or early summer. The orchid house is closed for some reason, but the bromeliad house is full of delights, and it is lovely to stroll off of city streets for a change amid towering stands of bamboo, and lush greenery. The rain catches me heading for the exit and I catch a bus for home. I am trying to soak Brazilian-ness into every pore, to reacclimate myself to my beloved city, hoping the muse will deign to visit, but there is no rushing music writing this time. I do keep at it in a kindof 1-step-forward and 1-step-back way, and I’m trying not to be frustrated. A week-end of music awaits for inspiration, I am merely halfway through my 2nd week, blahblahblah. But there is always the worry that the last choro written was it. Back home I email friends, make plans, and try to keep discouragement at bay.
I’ve been here 10 days now, and have 20 more ahead. Already my mind is filling up with good ideas, overdue ideas, ideas that have been taking their time getting out of my non-verbal pre-waking thoughts and into words, ideas now approaching the point of contemplating actuation. The past year has been a time of transition for me and many of those I love. Most of these dislocations have been hard, though there have been moments of joy. There is always joy somewhere, although we may lose sight of it through our tears. I now find myself back in Rio, after so long, and moving back into the creative space that I treasure. But it was harder this time to wrench myself out of the place I belong, even to get here, and it feels so hard to stay. In my real world things aren’t always easy, but my journey is lighted by friends, family, my home, and now a new love. Here I’m on my own, with these demanding ideas. It’s daunting to set out to create, to evade the feelings of ineptitude, inevitable as they are, and simply forge ahead. But for those of us who enter the world with a longing to express something that captures the unseen essence of all we feel, it’s a journey we are impelled to undertake regardless of the outcome. So I write, here in my temporary room, inspired by the beauty, the music, the Brazilian-ness that surrounds me, even as I miss the space I will soon return to. It’s a devil of a bargain. But walking, deep in thought, surrounded by this quandary, I suddenly look up and laugh to see Saxafonista Santa. Only here! And I am here, with some ideas to dance with. So get over yourself already, girl, and get on with it.
Today is another holiday. I should have realized it as I walked down the hill to my bus stop and saw the local beach crowded on a Wednesday. But it just didn’t register until I got to Ipanema and all the shuttered shops presented themselves, rendering the main purpose of my trip to be in vain. Ah, well. I get a good meal at a favorite cafe and head home to work more on my music. Pictured to the left is “happy hour” Rio-style. It involves buying quarts of beer in cooler sleeves at a bar, and then crossing the street to hang out on the wall by the water with friends, drinking, talking. But having no friends handy, I continue my walk up the hill, and decide this will be the night to cook up a batch of beans from scratch. I have been hankering for Rio black beans and rice, and they are such a staple that there are no dehydrated or canned shortcuts. So I quick-soak and cook up a big potful over the course of 3 hours while I write music and chat on Skype. Here’s my work station with my little keyboard, computer with the Finale program open to write music, and my wondrous view of the bay. Pretty cool– eh?
A shot of Pao do Acucar from Praia Vermelha. Today the things that need doing assert themselves in line in front of Brasil, and interruptions abound. So I write my article for Mandolin Magazine, arrange a piece of 18th-century music to go with it and send it off, only slightly late for the deadline. I have promised Miriam that I would take pictures of her and her granddaughter having a normal day together, as she’s feeling the photo album is filling up with special events and not the regular rhythm of their life. This is fun as A. has started to get over her stranger-shyness and is calling me Maria and peeking in my room when she walks by. Here they are in M’s rooftop bower– just off her 4th-floor living room. To her right is the compost, behind is the shady sitting area, to her far left is the door to her bedroom. Yes, the rural outdoors one floor above where I am staying. And if she looks up she can see out over Urca and Guanabara Bay. (Here’s a link to a shot of the Bay from the opposite side to orient you– you can see my little village of Urca nestled under Pao do Acucar on the far side of the bay, and Flamengo in the foreground.) Luiz emails me in the afternoon that the roda has had to change bars and will now be over in Humaita, near Romulo’s place. So I adjust my travel plans and take the bus, finding the bar without difficulty. Things go badly at the start– I forgot my adapter for the plug for my amp and the bar’s doesn’t fit, my batteries are dead, but I borrow some. My new pre-amp can’t seem to get me a good sound over the noise of traffic and drinkers, but gradually I get it adjusted and the magic of the music begins to happen. Anna-Lucia arrives mid-set, and the pandeiro player, who didn’t get the email for the last-minute location change gets there very late. But we play and the old familiar tunes that I miss with a physical longing when I’m away from here take shape. Ana-flute and I are the only soloists so there’s lots of opportunities to play. The bar patrons are appreciative, and one of the waitresses hangs out gazing longingly at my bandolim as she has just fallen in love with its sound. Afterwards I sit and talk with the other musicians for a bit and then 3 of us bundle into a taxi together and they drop me in Urca. A lovely night of music.