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If you can afford about two hours to listen and enjoy, I would love to share Tamandua – A Brazilian Opera. Just sit and skip through the pdf scores to the 18 sections that have been performed. It should be fun. Try to get a sense of the characters – you might want to check the scene by scene pages, with photos and explanations.
Some personal Old favorites (on impulse):
A Prelude to Tamanduá
Micha Haran on Cello
Xheni Roji on Piano
Joao MacDowell on percussion
I enjoy the harmonic language in this piece. Instead of writing a grand overture (as requested) for Tamanduá – A Brazilian Opera – I opted for a mysterious and intimate prelude. I took advantage that the lights have just turned off in the theater, people are expecting something to happen, they may be adjusting to their sits. There are plenty of grand moments later in the opera.
Micha performs an early version of it. I love the amount of space that he creates.
Dançando e tropeçando.
A short piece for violin and viola duet.
Download Pdf: Dançando e Tropeçando
This is the first part of a 3 movement suite. The title could be roughly translated as “Dancing and Stumbling”. I wanted to create a piece with exiting rhythms and limited thematic material, that could be used to create tensions in polymodality while preserving a strong sense of limited macroharmony and easily perceivable tonal center.
In each section different modes are used in parallel, with more or less notes in common. The limited number of voices creates a certain freedom of interpretation. I purposely avoided very extreme modal contrasts, my aim was to create a texture that sounds somehow familiar, yet interesting.
I experimented with parallel modes that would share the grounding tones, while passing notes could vary in amounts of dissimilarities and dissonance. Thus the tonic and the fifth of each mode split among the 2 players usually remains stable while all other notes may present different degrees of tension. That sense of ground permits a clear independence of the voices, even when both are playing in isorhythm.
Preference was given to modes that are somehow less common in Western music, such as Phrygian, Phrygian-major, Lydian-minor, Lydian-b9, Phrygian-Lydian (1, b2, b3, #4, 5, 6, 7). Each voice aims to pull in different directions, sometimes complementing, sometimes stretching the distance between parts, but finally meeting in a common ground. The rhythms are derived from a Brazilian folk dance called afoxé.
Download pdf: Packing Escher for Cello
- Jeremy Lamb on cello,
- Uka Gameiro on percussion
- João MacDowell on guitar
This is an arbitrary rhythm created on the prime number 13. The challenge in performing it with this trio was to make it sound like a groove from the back lands of Brazil.
I originally wrote this as the theme for Carol, the American journalist in Tamandua. I was searching for odd time signatures, I figured that if I went up the list of prime numbers I would find subdivisions of the bar that would evoke an atmosphere of mechanical or mystical connotations. Bulgarian music uses this time signature in some popular songs – at the time I was not yet aware of that. It was a mental construct that tried to build some familiarity, through repetition and distributed accents. The 13 could be a 4/4, with a missing leg on the third beat and 2 missing legs on the 4th. Or a fast bar of four followed by a bar of five.
It makes me think of walking on the Moebius strip, always going back to the one, but as if for a moment a step is not there. As in the eternally flowing water of the fountain at Belvedere. One aspect that I only noticed once the theme was on paper, is that there is some sort of inverted hemiola: || 4, 4 , 3 , 2 || becomes: || 3, 3, 2, 3, 2|| (at the end of the main phrase, though I couldn’t resist exploring that feel again, at some other moments.)
for bassoon solo.
Featuring Daniel Smith on bassoon.
Download PDF: Choro n1 para fagote solo
The space provided by the solo texture creates some ambivalence. Much may be inferred by the listener, even some mental accompaniment, and that could vary, depending on all sorts of personal preferences.
Here are some selected arias from Tamanduá, the opera:
Tá Vendo Demais – I’ve Seen Too Much
Julia – Mezzo Soprano: Abby Powell
There’s something to be said for the simple sum of a good melody and a singer who knows how to deliver it. In this scene Julia is jealous of Carol and she sees how events will unfold.
A Tempestade – The Tempest
Aruanan – Baritone: Jeremy Brouner.
Here I placed the quasi recitatif in the middle of the aria. When Aruanan senses his death and trusts his destiny to the hands of his protecting Orishas. Then he becomes one with the storm, a physical realization of the spiritual world.
This performance uses the chamber arrangement, for piano, cello and 3 percussionists. It was part of an opera workshop at Montclair State University, directed by Prof. Jeffrey Gall. All the musicians are students, they did a great job at learning much music in a short time and in a language that is not yet part of the operatic repertoire.
Ela Deseja Possuir as Nuvens do Céu.
She Wishes for the Clouds in the Sky
This aria portrays a sad moment in the story, so it starts slowly, and it builds with the entrance of the female chorus at 4:20.
Julia – Mezzo Soprano: Kimberly Prins Moeller
This is one of the last scenes of the opera. In this aria Julia grieves over the death of her lover and father of her daughter, Aruanan. Then the laundry women come to comfort her. I am concerned with the consequences of violence and death. In this aria we look at the feelings of those who stay, the despair of and the realization that life will go on.
The texture changes as the other women come into the scene, if there is anguish in the first half, in the second half there is some hope and resignation. It becomes more consonant and cyclic, as they comment on the repetitive tasks of everyday life and of the need to overcome times of ruins.
Um Mumurio – Rumours
At 2:00min there’s and interesting instrumental version of the harmonic cycle, at 2:47min the full theme comes back, in English, full harmony displayed.
Aruanan – Baritone: Alex Houser
Aruanan senses that Carol has had sex with his best friend Pedro, he is full of doubt, suspicion and confusion.
I find this aria interesting due to the long arc of the melody and the harmony. I also like the material that surrounds the main theme: in the beginning I use bits of dialog between instruments to portray the people gossiping about Carol, then at the end there’s her difficult climb up the stairs to his room and the instrumental representation of her knocking at his door. The door opens slowly with a glissando. We don’t see their conversation after that, but we may assume that it doesn’t go very well.
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