Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Visit with Brazilian Composer, Sergio Roberto de Oliveira

Composer Sergio Roberto de Oliveira

On Sunday, May 19, Wilmington ensemble Mélomanie joins Philadelphia jazz duo Minas in a collaborative concert exploring the diverse landscape of Brazilian music, from classical to pop to jazz, with compositions by Orlando Haddad of Minas and Brazilian composer Sergio Roberto de Oliveira, who has traveled from Rio to be here for the performance. Delaware Arts Info visited with Sergio this week to talk about the performance and his works.

You wrote the piece, Incelença de Domingos, in homage to beloved Brazilian popular musician, Dominguinhos. Why did you choose to honor him in this music?
Dominguinhos is revered as one of the great musicians of Brazil.  He hails from the interior of northeast Brazil; he became a very sophisticated musician, yet makes very traditionally simple yet broadly appealing songs. Sadly, he has been in gravely ill for some time.  I think it's important to honor him and his accomplishments; I have such great admiration and respect for him, although I have never met him in person.

My piece is reminiscent of music that is traditionally sung at a viewing or a funeral, asking God to send angels to guide the soul to its proper place, wherever that may be. I intended the piece as a request for God to release Dominguinhos from his pain and guide him on his journey, to be either with the angels or among us again.

Did your writing process for this piece differ because it brings together two very different ensembles? How did you approach writing with that in mind?
Yes, this was a very different process, although I've written arrangements many times for popular music. The writing process for a popular piece is very different from a classical piece.

For this work, I was thinking about how all the musicians could feel comfortable with the material. Artists of different genres often process things in different ways. For example, classically trained musicians can understand the music straight from the text; popular musicians need to feel the music they are playing.

This piece, it's really simply "a song" but with classically written elements. And, each ensemble brought something that the other perhaps could not.

What do you think of the collaboration between Melomanie and Minas? How does each ensemble complement the other?
Some parts of the piece were very natural for Minas, while others were very natural for Mélomanie. It's an ideal blend of Brazilian language and classic contemporary language. Each ensemble brings a musical sensibility to the performance that the other doesn't.

I believe that a good artistic collaboration comes when you have to change the way you view art.

In this concert, Mélomanie will also perform another of your compositions, Angico, which is a very personal piece for you. Tell us about that piece. This is very emotional piece for me. Angico itself is a tree on the property of my family's summer home. This place—a lifelong dream of my mother's—is my personal paradise: where I go to relax, recharge, to create and just enjoy my family. This piece is the story of the tree and house, in four movements; the Angico has a spiritual presence throughout the piece.

The First movement is about the tree itself—the first thing to appear in creation. It's about perfection in nature. The Second movement is about the construction of the house and arrival of the family (more broadly the arrival of man). It is very happy and bright. The Third movement depicts the fight against the removal of the tree in the way of modern needs. We felt there were good spirits around our home that would protect the tree and all of us. The music embodies the spirits that protected the tree. The final movement is a musical party—celebrating the tree, our family and the entire journey.

Another piece on the program is actually a Dominguinhos song, correct?
Yes. This last piece is my arrangement of a song by Dominguinhos called I Just Want a Sweetheart. This is his most well-known piece.  It was written about a person saying how longs for a sweetheart; a feeling that everyone can understand and share.

You'll also be in the studio with Mélomanie to record Angico for their next CD. How do you view the recording process as the composer? Recording is about making your work eternal; it's about having these musicians be my voice and perpetuate my feelings and ideas through the music.

You've written for Mélomanie several times over the years. What draws you to the ensemble?
It's great to write for this caliber of musicians. This idea of 'provocative pairings' I think is brilliant. It's good to think about Bach or Telemann as colleagues, and not just shadows of the past. Bach is the guy, you know, but I like [contemporary composer] Mark Hagerty as well.  Mark and I have worked together on two CDs now.  Mark thinks about music in a way no one else does. And he does so very kindly; he doesn't impose his music on listeners, but rather seduces listeners with the music. I feel we're so similar yet our music is so different.

What's next on your calendar?
In September, I'll launch a CD of my music performed by the Brazilian ensemble GNU. In the same month, I'll attend an Italian festival of jazz and Brazilian music; one concert will specifically feature my music. In November, I'll celebrate the launch of my new festival, Composers of Today, which will feature composers from Rio and all over the world. Mark Hagerty will be one of the guest composers, and this will be the opportunity to unveil our new CD.

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