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Entry Three – A day by Isaac Poole – 15 de Novembro de 2013

December 2, 2013

Entry Three 

Although this trip has had many strange and noteworthy events, most of our time here is taken up mainly by living. And living can be a full-time endeavor. Even our days that don’t have classes can still be packed with practicing whatever our professors want us to play for the next week, which on a good day it’s Choro and on a bad day it’s the harmonic minor scale in thirds, or cleaning or cooking or using the internet or walking to whatever place we need to be.  I have not watched any sort of screen-based entertainment (no movies, TV) since I left or done anything to waste time and I still feel behind on what I should be doing.

A day might go like this; I wake up first, at 8 or 7:30 if I’m not sleeping well, and immediately make coffee. I have learned, probably way after I should have, the best way to handle the whole hand-washing-your-clothes thing is to take 15 minutes right when you get up to do one small load each day. So I do this, while listening to some music, as the water for coffee is heating up. Then I work on technique. Then continue to work on technique. If I can’t play the guitar like a beast when I get back I am going to be very mad. Eventually, Ben wakes up and makes more coffee and I have another mug as well. I drink this while I practice more then realize I have to go soon and I haven’t taken a shower.

Our first class is Portuguese at 10 and it’s on the other side of campus, so we have to leave at 9:30 to get there on time. I am always tired and hungry in this class and it lasts for two hours, so when it gets out all I want to do is go to lunch. I know I should say and talk to the other Americans from Westpoint, but I’m probably going to see them again soon. We tried going to RU, the on-camups restaurant the serves lunch for 5 reais, which is about two dollars, but the food is terrible and the line takes about an hour to get in. So instead, we might go to Ka-sabor, a self-service in the closest quadra, or walk back to Colina to eat whats there.

When we go back to Colina, there is a door man who sits a booth towards the other side of the build that lets us into the building of our apartment. It’s set up that he should be able to see us when we come to the door, but most of the time he is facing the either direction watching TV. If I am lucky, he’ll be there and open the door right away. If I am unlucky, I have to walk over to his booth and wake him up. But, on a day like today I literally cannot find anybody to open the door. It’s a holiday, one of the many, and there is no one there. So all I can really do is write.

The next class we have is at 2. It’s one of our three classes with Bruno and it’s pretty much him talking about Brazilian music and it’s history and playing recording for us. It’s actually really great. For a while we had a big problem with him because he would talk about harmonic concepts we already know and are a part of American music. But one day he was talking about the whole tone scale, something we have in America, for the third class in a row to the very uninterested three of us and says “But it would be better for you all for me to talk about Brazilian music since you are here,” and almost simultaneously we said “Yeah, that sounds great. (Why are you just realizing this now?!?!?)”

As we leave the class with Bruno, Ricardo, the dean of the music school, drags us into Choro class with hardly enough time to pick up our instruments. For a while we tried to avoid him because Choro is super hard and everybody in the group is awesome and we felt like the stupid gringos that couldn’t play anything. But as we are practicing more Choro on our own time it’s getting easier to play and honestly one of the high points of my week. I’m trying to learn 7 sting guitar (in Portuguese it’s called violão sete cordas) which sort of functions like the bass in the group, although it’s more like the lowest part in a group of improvised counterpoint, which is different but it’s hard to explain. The point is I’ve never played anything quite like this before. Some bassline with chords in Jazz, but it’s still not the same; there is a different function, language and rhythm that you can only learn form listening and play with great players. There is an amazing sete cordas player in that group named Danilo that speaks no English, so for a while all he could do to help me is to play what he might play during a song and I’ll play it back.

At times we could go to Alfredo’s, a pizza place in the quadra closest to Colina that plays 90s rock and has an amazing sausage pizza. From there, we might meet up with some friends or go back and practice. I don’t know, it depends.

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