4.6 – resurgences: the Meira school and the greater height
00:00 the poet’s homage to the guitar
00:00 when I started writing I was fascinated by the guitar
01:39 authorial songs that sing the guitar
02:56 partner guitarists
03:50 the Meira school
Your partner Raphael Rabello,
with whom you have a series of songs that were recorded by Amélia Rabello,
was someone important to this main mode to play the guitar in Brazil.
I met Raphael when he was very young, sixteen years old.
Everyone saw him as virtuosi, but I knew that there existed a potential composer.
I used to say:
But why don’t you make music?
You take a song to play and you make two on top of it.
Your counterpoints are extremely beautiful melodies.
“My thing is not to compose,
it’s to play.”
But with time he started listening to me
he started making songs and showing me and thus we made several together.
His sister Amélia Rabello recorded an album entitled ‘All the songs’.
Three of the lyrics are Aldir Blanc’s; the others are mine.
He left us at the moment he was reaching his highest understanding of composition.
Taking over that front
Yeah, he had this incredible gift to compose,
melodies always came up to him,
but unfortunately he left us too early…
And as a guitar-player Raphael has several followers.
He also has the merit to have faced a difficult moment,
the resurgence of the choro language.
It is remarkable how the far too short lifetime and the intense musical activity of Raphael Rabello (1962 – 1995) coincide with the significant revitalization and invigoration of the Choro language. That is a fact proven by comparing the Brazilian music scenario that is shaped in the twenty-first century with what is explained by Paulinho da Viola, in interview recorded on March 6, 1974 for the MPB Especial program – with direction of Fernando Faro – for TV Cultura São Paulo. [i]
PAULINHO DA VIOLA
00:26 the classical formation of choro is virtually disappearing.
Legitimate representative of a lineage of chorões (musician who plays choro), Paulinho da Viola reveals an intrinsic connection between choro and samba. In this interview, he who is considered in the milieu as “Minister of Samba”, takes this position about how he felt the impact and repercussion that bossa nova had in the Brazilian musical scenario.
PAULINHO DA VIOLA
02:16 excessive importance to the harmonic element
In fact, bossa nova’s referential composer Tom Jobim expresses his position on this issue in such a way that – as it is put here – illustrates well the fertile friction that exists between the two sides.
My music is essentially harmonic [i]
The “harmonic essence” of Jobim’s music, forged on the piano and sated with European concert music references, noticeably transforms the harmonic treatment that had been used before bossa nova [i]. Formerly, in a general sense, the treatment was based on sonority of the “regional” and used resources that are characteristic to the traditional samba and choro, such as, the “downgrading” use of the seven-string guitar. The prioritization of harmony as a compositional element, which is evident in Jobim [i], finds its guitar expression in the bossa nova’s main interpreter João Gilberto.
PAULINHO DA VIOLA
03:04 the way how the guitar was played before João Gilberto was also very beautiful
The way how the guitar was played before João Gilberto was also very beautiful.
João is a genius, an excellent musician indeed, but his ways of playing created a “school”,
and after the 1950s, the guitar was not played with downgrading, which I think is very beautiful.
I think that this kind of misconception implies a certain closing.
That’s the only thing that I sort of disagree with bossa nova,
but I think it is cool.
Today, 40 years after the recording of that interview, the frame described above by Paulinho da Viola has inverted. Choro, articulated with samba, is enjoying a period of clear revitalization, being widely played by new generations of musicians in all regions of the country while also making itself present in the rest of the world. And this process is in large part thanks to Raphael Rabello, a name that takes us back to the interview with Paulo César Pinheiro.
Raphael made the seven-string a concert instrument,
because until then it was a studio instrument,
to record samba, choro, and so as accompaniment,
beautifully, inside what is called the school of Dino.
With Raphael it reached “greater heights”
— of concert importance.
He held several concerts all over the world playing the seven-string guitar.
Thus, he gave such value to the instrument that he took it from where it was…
… from that first role…
… to that greater role
of solo, of concert guitar.
Thanks to Raphael.
The comprehension of a “concert guitar” associated with the idea of “greater heights”, which does not fail to reveal some degree of “relegation”, appears even in the listening to Rabello [ou: to this player [ chico, que tal colocar aqui o nome do Rabello? fica mais claro] who is one of the most committed artists to the deep and essentially popular music played in Brazil. This wish that the popular musician has to be present in ambiances traditionally connected with the erudite music both claims for legitimating popular practices – the way they are generally done – , and hints at the artistic interaction that is developed at the threshold of these two spheres. This interaction that “signals the constitutive permeability of the music made in Brazil”, as José Miguel Wisnik puts it:
This crossed movement of encounters between the popular and the erudite signals the constitutive permeability of the music made in Brazil, while it reveals the fact that the no-written tradition can, sometimes, unfold in the fringes of the written tradition, or have the written as an instrument of development. (WISNIK, 2004)
Márcia Taborda, referencing on historian Peter Burke, also stimulates the initiative of studies dedicated to the Brazilian music that, “recognizing the cultural dichotomy”, concentrate on the “interaction” between the cult and popular spheres.
Historian Peter Burke has given a precious contribution to the study of popular culture. Recognizing, on the one hand, the cultural dichotomy, and on the other hand, changes and reciprocity, Burke observes that the scholars’ attention should concentrate on the interaction and not on the division between cultures (…). It is above all enriching because it abolishes the construction of processes of interaction seen by the optics of deformation, distortion, or relegation (or conversely ascension) – concepts that permeate most of the studies dedicated to the Brazilian music. [i] (TABORDA, 2011, p.13, emphasis added).
Following, the small historical cut presented below reveals how the atavistic association of the guitar with the popular music occurred, which resulted in a significant delay until the instrument occupied its due place in the concert ambiance, a history that comes from the very physical development – very recent – of the instrument.
The same way as today we witness the consolidation of the choro “resurgence” in the field of the popular music, the erudite guitar underwent a revitalization process – started by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) [i] and consummated by Andrés Segóvia (1893-1987) – who established parameters for the “modern” era of the guitar. It should be noted that Segóvia appeared as the first non-composer guitar-player in a long lineage of composer-guitarist, who, thus, had an authorial look that stimulated the interest in the musical source present in popular practices that historically provide the concert repertoire through the author’s performance and “filter”. Therefore, Segóvia inaugurates the modern condition of the specialist interpreter-guitarist, going deep in the specific multiple questions of “playing” in such a way that accomplishes unique recognition in the history of the instrument. [i]
In his master degree dissertation, entitled “The resurgence of the guitar in the twentieth century: Miguel Llobet, Emílio Pujol e Andrés Segóvia”, Prof. Dr. Edelton Gloeden presents an interesting episode, in which we can appreciate a significant step given by Segóvia in relation to the performance of his immediate predecessor, Catalan composer-guitarist Miguel Llobet (1878 – 1938). According to Gloeden (1996, p. 80), “Llobet and all the guitarist circle of Barcelona that was mostly followers of Tárrega did not admit the possibility of having a guitar recital in (greater) spaces such as the Palau de la Música Catalana”.
Miguel Llobet explains the reasons for that impossibility:
Concert halls are too large,
and guitar doesn’t have the power to carry sound from the stage to the entire hall.
The audience has to strain itself to hear us, listeners become impatient. [i]
Then too, we don’t have enough works of universal appeal
to satisfy the concert public and reviewers.
Reasons that were retorted by Segovia in the following manner:
It wasn’t easy for me to accept that disparaging appraisal of the guitar’s potential;
but, if anything, those words reinforced my determination to seek the cooperation of serious composers and help enrich the repertoire of our much-neglected beautiful instrument.
Moreover, those words convinced me at last that Spain’s most notable luthiers had to be encouraged to search for means of increasing the volume of the guitar without electrical or artificial devices.[i]
This “greater volume”, decisive for Segóvia’s career, was accomplished by the instrument made by Manuel Ramirez (1869-1920). In 1912, Segóvia “meets the famous maker Manuel Ramirez who, impressed with his talent, gives him one of his best instruments as a gift” (Gloeden, loc. cit.) – a guitar that goes further into the innovations presented by luthier Antonio Torres (1817 – 1892), builder of instruments that “became examples for almost all the guitar builders in the twentieth century”. Dudeque indicates a fundamental point of transformation for the development of the instrument:
The great innovation of those instruments (built by Antonio Torres) is the harmonic soundboard. The use of fan-bracing, a set of wooden struts glued in the interior part of the soundtrack that ensures better distribution of harmonics and a greater sound equilibrium, has become the great innovation in the development of the instrument. (DUDEQUE, 1994, p.78)
The new physical configuration of the instrument potentiated the exceptional technical-mechanical condition of Segóvia, thus, contributing to the success at the concert night at Palau de la Música Catalana, which “augmented even more his prestige” and “made him glimpse new possibilities for his career [i], besides realizing that it was possible to perform in larger spaces”. (GLOEDEN, 1996, p. 90).
The musical project of the Spanish master departed from an adverse conjuncture, which demanded direct acting, inclusively, in the physical development of the instrument. Besides that, the image of the guitar at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century in its deep connection with the “lesser” musical practice of the song and the popular music, distanced it from the concert ambience and the university teaching.
In a short period of time, the picture was reverted and a new era of the concert guitar started from the results accomplished. “Segóvia’s booming success in the period after the war and his countless LPs in the 1950s brought up legions of admirers and aficionados” [i]. Segóvia’s triumph was the resultant of a strategy met with discipline and daily work, ruled by principles listed as follow:
Since my youth, I have dreamed of raising the guitar from the low artistic level in which it was.
In the beginning, my ideas were vague and imprecise, but when I grew older it became my most intense and vehement interest; my decision had become steadier and the intentions gained clarity.
Since then, I have dedicated my life to four essential tasks:
1 To detach the guitar from sloppy popular entertainment.
2 To provide the guitar with a repertoire of quality with works of intrinsic musical value, written by composers [i] used to writing for orchestra, piano, violin, etc.
3 To divulge the beauty of the guitar to the public of select music all over the world.
4 To influence officials at the conservatories, academies, and universities to include the guitar in the curriculum together with the violin, the cello, the piano, etc. [i]
Past a century of the resurgence of the guitar, the transformation in the scenario is clear. The academic ambiance is today an importance way to divulge the concert guitar [i], in which the generations after Segóvia – from that represented by John Williams and Julian Bream – unfold his legacy.
1. Paulinho da Viola in MPB Especial
Cf. Cancioneiro Jobim – vol 5 – p.28, Jobim Music, 2001.
It is worth pointing that a dynamic similar to this process of “distortion” and “relegation” (or conversely rise), so present in the studies that delve into the frontier between the popular music sphere and that of the erudite music, makes itself also present – though in an inverse manner – when the Brazilian intellectuality elects what in their eyes seemed to be “purer” in the black culture: “the anthropologists, who were in large part responsible for the glorification of Yoruba cults to the detriment of Banto cults (…) classified the terreiros of alleged yorubá origin as somehow “purer” than those of banto origin” (…) – those which had absorbed non-yorubá practices were classified as “impure or misrepresentative”. See FRY, Peter – Para Inglês Ver. “Feijoada e Soul Food: 25 anos depois”. In: ESTERCI, N., FRY, P. and GOLDENBERG, M. (orgs.) – Fazendo antropologia no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, DP&A, 2001. Pág. 39.
Considered founder of the “modern school” of the guitar, Francisco Tárrega for being an adept at touching with the finger pulp rather than with the right-hand nails did not perform in larger rooms. He used to welcome people to listen to him playing in the living-room of his own home in Barcelona, a city that polarized the musical scene at the time.
Segóvia performs – also intensely – both as arranger of compositions written for other instruments and as an articulator requesting different authors for under order, unedited guitar pieces. LINK with the second and third categories presented at the end of chapter – 4.2 – the idiom of the guitar – in the statement of Sérgio Assad.
LINK com ideia: “O mundo é tão barulhento que esse baixo potencial sonoro do violão às vezes causa até um desconforto”, apresentada em – 4.3 – a sala, o banheiro e a praça – no depoimento de Marco Pereira.
Quoted by Gloeden, 1996, loc. cit.
“Segovia even performed at places like the Royal Festival Hall in London, which houses 4,000 spectators. (GLOEDEN, 1996, p. 90).
KAIATH, Marcelo. Violão: pequena orquestra ou grande piano – 2009. Avaliable at: http://violao-cancao.com/violao-pequena-orquestra-ou-grande-piano/.
LINK with the third category presented at the end of the chapter – 4.2 – the idiom of the guitar – in the schematization of Sérgio Assad.
12. C. Usillos, Andrés Segovia, Madrid, Direccion General de Bellas Artes s.d., p106 and 108, quoted by Gloeden, E. 1996, p.88 and 89.
LINK with the idea “generally inside the university, teaching is concentrated on the classic guitar” in – 2.2 – in the statement of Marco Pereira.