Brazil Journal Week 23, November 18, 2012
During this week time has seemed to stop. The musical took way more time than I could have possibly imagined. The sound check on Monday lasted over 5 hours and really seemed to accomplish nothing. The rehearsal at 9am on Tuesday was not a rehearsal at all. We arrived the huge theatre at 8:50am and no one else showed up until around ten. All the kids got there in buses, and upon arrival, they started rehearsing there dance routines without music. So, I missed my trumpet lesson and two other rehearsals for absolutely no reason. The pit didn’t play a single note until well after lunch. Most of the time at the theatre was spent waiting for things to happen. The show itself was really dirty for the first performance, but on Wednesday it was much better. I was there on Tuesday for over 13 hours. Musicals can be like this, especially when the cast is all kids, but you have to put up with it in order to get paid.
Wednesday after the show I felt an incredible release of pressure. The show was over, I was too tired to even describe, and school was basically over for a while. When I got back to my house everyone was gone except Shane; who was to leave the next morning. Thursday I had a restraunt gig at lunch, and my normal Thursday night gig. Friday was the first day of my real vacation. I woke up to a house that was entirely empty. I had a relaxing breakfast by myself, practiced, worked out, went to the grocery store, and watched videos on YouTube.
As I took the bus to town to get groceries I saw a city relaxed by the holiday. The university was as empty as the bus, and every other minute the sun would hide behind a cloud. Barão Geraldo was lined with people picking up food from shops, and old men sitting in-front of restraunts enjoying the weather and beer. I was able to splurge and buy a pizza pastel before going to the grocery store to buy bread, coffee, and ramen.
The weather has stayed incredible as I have done nothing except practice, paint, and jog for the last couple of days. I have been running through my jury music everyday, and working on some transcriptions. I am able to practice in the long main room of the house, which has a high arched ceiling that provides great acoustics. For my jury I am playing a 5 movement piece for trumpet and piano, J.B. Arban’s Variations on a theme from Norma, and a short unaccompanied Brazilian trumpet fanfare.
As I have listened to the news this week I have grown increasingly worried and saddened by state of the world. I personally believe the last thing we need is more war. Right now the United States is in the longest war in our history as Isreal is firing into Gaza, and visa versa, and the world is on the fringe of another full fledged war. Now; I am not an expert on American foreign policy, but I have noticed that the United States is in some way involved in every skirmish in the world; and if things get worse there, they will get worse in the United States. Not to mention my personal problem with war, and the fact that right now there are families in the world just like mine that aren’t worrying about where to live; they are worried about how to live. Whenever there is war, there is someone making a buck. There are children being used in war in Sudan, but for some reason there is no talk about sending help there. I think it is because there are no goods that can be used to further the wealth of the people in charge. But, that is simply my opinion that I have formulated after watching the world talk about change for years while the proverbial beaker of water is being heated. I’m sure there is a quote somewhere out there that is similar, but as I was listening to the state of the world this week I thought to myself; “the only war worth fighting is the nonviolent war on war itself.”
Brazil Journal Week 22, November 12, 2012
So another week has pasted by, and all I’m thinking about right now is making it until Wednesday. Monday I have dress rehearsal for the musical at 2pm, and Tuesday I will have rehearsal at 9am, and I won’t leave the theater until around 9 or 10pm. So unfortunately I will be missing several classes, but all of my professors have said that it will be fine. So Wednesday after the last concert I will be free. The holiday lasts from this Thursday until next Wednesday, and as far as I know I will have the entire house to myself. I am the only person not going to the beach; which is fine with me. I’m going to practice for my jury and jog, and do all the things that I don’t seem to have time to do in the regular week. Furthermore, I have already worked on the house here 16 hours, so if I can get another 16 hours over the break I won’t have to pay a dime for my rent. Then I will be able to save most of the money from the musical, and be able to use it to buy some Christmas presents, and figure out where I am going to live next semester. Since I came to Brazil my roommate had to get someone else to take my share of the rent, so as of right now all of my things are still at that apartment and the new roommate (another one of my friends) is using them. Right now, I am looking on craigslist every once and a while trying to find a nice little place either in Germantown, or near Bardstown.
Brazil Journal Week 21 November 5, 2012
Friday was the “ Feriado de Finados,” which is the celebration of the lives of passed loved ones. I planned on spending my day relaxing and practicing, but instead I found myself in the parking lot in front of an old cemetery. As I walked along the cemetery wall I was hit by the aroma of flowers, cigarettes, and fried meat mixed with the scorching heat. There were people of all ages there carrying flowers. The lot was overflowed with cars, and the wall outside was lined with venders selling flowers, pastels, coconut juice and other items. Once we entered the cemetery there were people everywhere; every bench and path was saturated with people. In the only remaining plot of land without stones there was a band getting ready to play music. Nanci commented with “ a large festa,” in the most sarcastic voice I have ever heard. The heat was ruthless, even though I was looking forward to having temperatures under 90 degrees. I walked through hundreds of tombstones trying to find her parents with her. Finally, I found the matching stones and called her over to me. She gently set down one bouquet of flowers on each side of the twin plots and made the sign of the cross. It seemed like such a melancholy act after, only minutes before, arguing and haggling with the man selling the flowers about their price. Nearly every tombstone had fresh flowers next to it. Some had a plate with the remains of candles. I watched children playing amongst the stones scattered in neat little rows, while their parents cried and lit candles and held hands. I couldn’t help but wonder who everyone was mourning for, and how long their loved one or ones have been gone. Did the young couple with kids lose a child, or was it their parents?
The music that has been in my head this week primarily has been a type of music called Choro, or Chorino. It came about when indigenous people’s music, and the music of Europeans mixed together. The music is typically played by 7 string guitar, bandolim, pandeiro, cavaquinho, and saxophone. The music is often extremely fast, and has very beautiful, sequence type of melodies. It is like someone wrote melodies in the style of Mozart, with a syncopated chord pattern, and a highly active bass part; which is played by the 7 string classical guitar. It often has the same kind of virtuosity I associate with Django Reinhardt. The chords are mainly diatonic, and include a lot of secondary dominants, and diminished chords. The form is typically in three parts, and is often played AABAC. The music is often very animated, and sometimes very sad. The word “choro” literally means “to cry.” I highly recommend this music to anyone reading this. You can easily find recording of some of the following songs on YouTube.
- Ve se Gostas
- Noites Cariocas
- A Natureza
Brazil Journal Week 20, October 29, 2012
This past week I had gigs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, with the first two being the weekly gigs, and the one on Saturday being the highlight of my week. I got the gig through my roommate who goes to school for art. He and some friends had became friendly with a women who owns a decrepant house in the center of Campinas. I was with him when he went to take a look at the house the first time, and it was a shotgun style house, surrounded by very tall (30+ stories) apartment building. After I walked throught the security gate, and went in the front door, I entered a very long living room with debris all over the floor. There was no electricity or water; this large room is where we played on Saturday night, with the long room lined with photography, and other art. The kitchen is huge, and this is where our money came from. We played while people looked at art and listened; and most importantly drank heavily (more money for everyone). While we didn’t make a lot of money it was way more fun to play at a venue where we could actually play out. It was nothing like the relaxed restraunt gig, where we are always getting the less-sound-hand from the owner.
Everyone was very interested in hearing a different type of music from samba. We were asked to play again next weekend, which I am most certainly looking forward to. I have been using just cymbals, snare, and hi-hats for most the gigs because it is impossible to fit any more stuff in Alessandro’s car. When we go to a gig now, we are amazingly able to put the two amps, the upright, sax, drums, and all four people into a car the size of a Honda Fit.
After the show on Saturday night, I decided to go out with some friends. This night turned out to be much longer than I expected. I thought we were going to simply go a bar, but instead we ended up going to someones house maybe 45 minutes from my house. A long story, short, I had to wait for the next bus back to my part of the city, which didn’t leave until 6am! So I ended up hanging out with some great people, and I got to watch the sunrise from the inside of fast moving, stinky, bus.
I went to the first dress rehearsal of the musical on Saturday morning at 8am, and it is a lot more interesting with the actors and singers. I would have to guess that there are around 150 kids in the show, so as you can imagine, the rehearsal was a little bit complicated. The show is made up of a mixture of famous Brazilian pop songs, and songs written by the musical director;who is also the guitar professor at Unicamp. The plot, which is very thin, was written in by him and the director specifically for the school which is putting on the show.
Brazil Journal Week 19, October 22, 2012
The clocks changed here yesterday, as has the climate. It is getting hotter, harder to sleep, and harder to find the tenaciousness to keep my beard. The rain is coming now around every other day. One thing I love is when it rains the exact day you are expected to work outside, and you can get out of having to work just because of the rain. This is what happened on Sunday, and I was able to use my day to practice, and lay in-front of a fan and watch a movie.
The music that might best describe this week is the recording of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers playing “Skylark,” off the album “Caravan.” I would suggest to anyone who reads this, you should go online and pull it up on YouTube right now. This music is too great to be described in words. The music does all the talking. I was listening to the recording with loud speakers learning some things off the recording, and I just had to stop and listen because it is so jaw-droopingly amazing. It’s crazy that Freddie Hubbard was around 20 when this album was made, he truly was a virtuoso.
I write now from Salvador, Bahia. I came here to visit a friend who completed his masters degree at UofL. I’ve been staying at the apartment of his girlfriend’s sons. We went to the historic district today, Pelourinho. I think this is the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited in my life. The architecture is astounding, from the modern buildings to the ones which date to the beginnings of Portuguese conquest of Brasil. The Baianos (people from the state of Bahia) that I’m staying with have been the best of hosts. We have eaten the famed Acarajé, as well as Moqueca, and fresh crab. All delicious. One of my hosts is an architecture student at the Universidade Federal de Salvador and is an excellent and knowledgeable guide. We’ve been to the beach as well and seen the first lighthouse built in the Americas, which is situated at the southernmost point of the city, in between the ocean and the bay on the other side. I received a “Bonfim” bracelet today. One makes three wishes for each knot that ties the ribbon around the wrist. When the ribbon falls naturally, the wishes supposedly have been realized. My friend had tied one around my wrist before he left Louisville, and it remained there for a year and a half, finally falling shortly after I arrived in Campinas. As for the wishes, well…it’s nobody else’s business! Haha. Saw some Capoeira as well in passing, accompanied by music on drums and Berimbau. Pretty cool. The traditional dress of the Baianas (traditional dress of afro-brazilian women in the northeast) has been interesting to see as well.
Giving English classes has been going well in Campinas. I have a new student who’s from Angola. His accent in portuguese is very close to the portuguese accent of Europe, also the manner of speaking and expressions he uses. I’m teaching with a Cambridge book on grammar. I’ve been giving lists of cognates to the students, as realizing cognitive patterns is something which helped my portuguese immensely from when I began learning until now. For example:
The ending -ção in portuguese almost always translates to “-tion” in english. Examples:
celebração = celebration inflação = inflation
observação = observation nação = nation
recuperação = recuperation disposição = disposition
intenção = intention reencarnação = reincarnation
inspiração = inspiration
This is the tip of the iceberg. There are only two words which are exceptions to this rule that I can think of off the top of my head as well as some cases in which the root of the word is entirely different, but 98.9% of the time this rule is functional.
There are many other such endings which have almost-always-consistent equivalent endings. I think teaching these things along with the normal beginning level lessons helps a lot because students gain confidence in how many complicated words they already know how to form in english. In class we go over differences in pronunciation. I’m really enjoying teaching.
Até a próxima!
We just got back from playing the La Plata Jazz Festival in Argentina. It was an awesome experience and a true honor to play with the Brazilian musicians that we played with. We got to explore Buenos Aires a little bit and ate some really amazing Argentinean cuisine too. I must say, it is nice to be back in Brazil speaking Portuguese again. My Portañol only goes so far.
I had begun teaching English in Campinas. There is a high demand and few native speakers so it seemed like a logical thing to do. Today I met with two new students. They study engineering and have to read lots of English, but are not comfortable with the spoken language. As for my Portuguese, I think that I could consider myself fluent and will take the Brazilian national test in April when it is next offered. This test is called CELPE-BRAS. I am reading a lot in Portuguese everyday. Joey and Shane’s landlady has a subscription to the principal newspaper of São Paulo “Folha de São Paulo”, which I read every day to stay informed. I have read Dostoyevsky’s “the Gambler”, Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray”, “Mensagens” by the classic Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa, and “Conversations with the Dalai Lama”, all in Portuguese. I am currently reading a book on health, another Fernando Pessoa book, and a book by Machado de Assis. The Brazilian author Machado de Assis is by far the hardest author I’ve read so far, surprisingly more so than Dostoyevsky.
Since I last wrote, I got to experience some interesting things. I went with Nancy (Joey and Shane’s landlady) to São Paulo one day for her daughters birthday. Her daughter works at one of the big banks on Avenida Paulista. We went out to dinner at one of the fanciest, most expensive restaurants I have ever been to with her daughter’s millionaire boss and botoxed co-worker. The food was absolutely incredible. I felt a little out of place, but I enjoyed myself. I hope I will be able to go back to São Paulo soon. I also went to a party at UNICAMP thrown by the college radio station. There where thousands of people there, I forget the exact estimate. It occurred in the very center of campus. They were selling all kinds of alcohol and food. People were smoking marijuana all over the place. There were rock bands playing all night until 7 AM. It is laughable to imagine this happening at the University of Louisville.
Speaking of the University of Louisville, there are some things that I do miss. The abundance of pianos and the music library at UofL are extremely valuable resources. I can rarely find space to practice at UNICAMP. I am borrowing a keyboard of very poor quality which I can pretty much only transcribe on. There is an acoustic guitar at the house we live, so I have been learning chord progressions, João Gilberto-esque comping patterns, and singing in Portuguese. I miss my jobs in Louisville. I had been playing at Amici Café in Old Louisville every Friday and Saturday for three hours a night for the last year and it was my favorite part of every week. I played solo piano and composed ragtimes to play there as well. It was a pipe dream sustaining myself with just the piano and I look forward to returning to Amici Café. I loved playing solo piano gigs because I never felt limited as far as style is concerned. If I wanted to play Chopin or Debussy, I played Chopin and Debussy. If I wanted to play jazz, I played jazz. If I wanted to play 50′s Rock n’ roll, country, pop, movie themes, video game themes, original pieces…..you get the idea. I have played some pretty suave places here, but none of them have payed the groups. This is one reason I started teaching English for an extra buck (other reasons are I enjoy it, it’s gratifying to see progress in students, and it’s a marketable skill). However, it’s a nice change-up for me to play with groups and interact with great musicians outside of academia here. Maybe I’ll play in more groups when I get back. There are definitely some great musicians in Louisville at the University that I’d like to play jazz with outside of school.
I am enjoying classes at UNICAMP, though they are cancelled with frequency and everyone’s late to them, even professors. It’s funny, because in the United States many times I feel like things are too thoroughly structured, regulated, and processed to the point of being anti-productive and/or detrimental to true education. My favorite class is Portuguese, which is also the most organized class. I am the only “Estadounidense” (Literally something like “United Statesanese”) in the class. Calling myself an “American” clearly isn’t fair as there are people from Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia in the class. Other nationalities present in the class are French, Dutch, and Japanese. We learn a lot from each other. Everyone in the class is more or less fluent.
That’s all that comes to mind for today, until next time!
Christopher Paul Grzech