2018: A Year In Food
In 2018, my gym coach assigned me to keep a food blog so he could track my meals. Through developing healthy eating habits to satisfy all of my nutritional needs and a rigorous exercise programme, I lost the 21 kg between January-August 2018 I'd gained on anti-depressants.
I wanted it to be somewhere more private rather than being shoved down people's throats (literally) through Instagram/WhatsApp. Hence I've posted my culinary creations here.
Being vegetarian and/or vegan always presents a challenge in terms of hitting the protein target so this was particularly the most interesting challenge for me.
I made a conscious decision to stop food blogging in 2019 (due to time restraints), but it's useful to have a year's diet documented as a reference and a source of inspiration!
In this article, Rory Duffy looks into the aesthetic differences of Brazilian popular music styles in terms of their relationship to society.
The film ‘Black Orpheus’ opens up an avenue of philosophical discourse between European-Western ‘art’ music and African-Brazilian ‘popular’ music (Samba and Bossa Nova), since it is a modern-day re-making of the Ancient Greek tragedy ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ set in Rio during the Carnival. Music a central theme in the Orphic myth; hence, Chapter 1 examines the film in relation to the meaning and function of music. It draws on Ancient Greek perceptions of art according to Plato and Aristotle, and Nietzsche’s nineteenth conception of the Apollonian-Dionysian dialectic outlined in the ‘Birth of Tragedy’ to cite aesthetic differences between Samba and Bossa Nova.
Once these aesthetic differences have been established, it is important to realize that Bossa Nova grew out of Samba, and therefore retains inherently similar formal characteristics. Chapter 2 examines a period 1958 1962 during which there was a convergence between art and society, and Bossa Nova developed as a ‘threshold’ between tradition and modernity. It draws on the doctrines of Critical Theory and Organicism, and the theoretical work of Theodor W. Adorno, to explain this. The second part of this chapter investigates the organic mechanic dichotomy in Bossa Nova compositions from both a contextual and analytical viewpoint (analyses of Tom Jobim compositions).
The divergence of art [music] and society is documented in Chapter 3 to explain, in Adornian terms, how sociological forces resulted in the emancipation of Bossa Nova from the socio political sphere and eventual reconstruction as a ‘world music’ phenomenon; as social alienation and commodification. The remainder of the chapter investigates ensuing trends within Brazilian popular music at large through the examination of contemporary artists, culminating in a case study of the modern day musical production ‘Tom e Vinícius’. Ultimately, I will be debating whether Bossa Nova is a dead, time bound movement, maintained through revivals of classic songs, or whether it is being innovated or renewed.
The precise nature of the connection between art and society has been a central theme in aesthetic debates ever since the Ancient Greeks. To put it succinctly; should art determine society, or should society determine art? Music, as an art form (and arguably a cultural product of society), has become caught up in this dilemma; since unlike other art forms, it speaks in its own sonic language of time, pitch and timbre that bears no immediate ‘extra musical’ meaning. Underlying all contemporary assessments on music is the distinction between ‘serious’ and ‘light’ music, determined by its relationship to society. For Adorno, ‘serious’ music sublimates and transcends social forces, whereas ‘light’ music is determined by them:
‘[P]roduction and consumption can be divided drastically into that which unconditionally recognizes its commodity character and, refusing any dialectic intervention, orients itself according to the demands of the market and that which in principle does not accept the demands of the market. A somewhat different view: music of the first category – passive and undialectic – takes its place on the side of society; the second, on the side of music. The traditional distinction between ‘light’ and ‘serious’ music, sanctioned by bourgeois musical culture, ostensibly corresponds to this division.’
The distinction between art as an ‘end in itself’ and art as a ‘means to an end’ resulted in the intellectual distance between ‘art culture’ and ‘popular culture’. It created an elitist cultural body of people that prided themselves on the knowledge that music has no aesthetic value if it is justified by something else and that it must be appreciated purely on its own terms. This knowledge was the key to understanding the value of ‘autonomous art’ over ‘communal art’ and it still forms the basis of many of our assessments of music.
On the one hand, most criticism is concerned solely with the analysis of those abstract, formal relational structures and tools of expression, and it rarely extends beyond the form of music to its social, cultural and political meanings; with the belief that music retains its own unique, inherent aesthetic value as transcendent and autonomous. On the other hand, a number of new musicological disciplines arose during the twentieth century opposing the idea that music is exempt from sociological study, and that music should be assessed in relation to society. One of these disciplines is ethnomusicology (the socio cultural study of music). This, effectively, turns the connection between art and society on its head. The debate is therefore over an irresolvable compromise; either, music is studied as an abstract set of structural formulae emancipated from its socio cultural context of playing and listening, or, music is reduced entirely to those forces of social, cultural and political control – thus robbing it of those internal structures that make it so compelling as an object of study. From the outset, it would therefore be contradictory to attempt to reconcile the disciplines of aesthetics and ethnomusicology, and it might seem tenuous, even ludicrous, to rationalize an explanation of ‘popular’ music in aesthetic terms, although there are a number of scholars who have done this.
Adorno’s aesthetics was groundbreaking because although it privileged the value of ‘autonomous’ art; it justified a means by which art could be understood sociologically without compromising its aesthetic autonomy. Whilst Adorno’s aesthetics privileged the transcendent formalist view, ethnomusicology relies heavily on fieldwork. The traditional ethnomusicological technique involves making a recording and analysing it within its socio cultural context. To marry a ‘fieldwork study’ with sophisticated aesthetic critique is therefore unusual, and such is my approach towards the Brazilian song form known as ‘Bossa Nova’. Yet I believe that there are compelling grounds to combine the two disciplines, as detailed later on in the study.
In this study, I ask some important questions regarding Bossa Nova and its arguably antithetical social origins in Samba. What meanings did Bossa Nova create in the socio political context of Rio during the period 1958 1962, in contrast to today? What forces contributed towards its emancipation from the socio political sphere and eventual reconstruction as a ‘world music’ phenomenon? What parallels can we draw between the aesthetic developments of Bossa Nova with that of the ‘Western’ art music tradition, such that Bossa Nova has become heavily commodified globally yet socially alienated locally?
The term ‘Bossa Nova’ is typically attributed to a body of repertoire inspired by the pioneering collaborations between composer Tom Jobim, singer guitarist João Gilberto and poet-lyricists Vinícius de Moraes and Newton Mendonça. Since then, the term has become associated with many other artists far too numerous to mention here and, as such, it embraces a wider range of meanings and trajectories that extends far beyond the boundaries of this creative nucleus. At face value, it incorporates a distillation of Samba rhythms fused with re-iterated, transposed melodies and functional tonal harmonies (influenced by jazz) within a predominantly minimalist performance practice. Bossa Nova is an exceptional case, because although it is formulated on Samba (a local Afro-Brazilian ‘popular’ tradition) for its rhythmic basis; it developed under considerable influences from European ‘art’ music. This gave Bossa Nova a certain technical sophistication, enabling it to transcend from the local sphere (rooted in Rio during the narrow window of 1958-1962) to the global sphere in which it became timeless and enjoyed by many for its aesthetic value. Some ethnomusicologists and scholars actually divide Brazilian popular music into a pre Bossa and post Bossa era which suggests that Bossa Nova was a dividing line that facilitated a transition of popular music from the ‘communal’ to the ‘autonomous’ sphere. It is claimed that Bossa Nova bridged ‘mass’ popular music and ‘art’ popular music and that;
‘[f]or all its diversity, contemporary Brazilian popular music owes its high standards to bossa nova. Whatever the style, Brazilian intellectualised middle class audiences, the direct descendents of the bossa nova generation, expect to be taxed by their musicians. Only the best wordsmiths, the most precise interpretations, and the most careful arrangements meet with their approval. Hence their pride in their musical heritage, which often lies at the border between popular and High Art.’
Bossa Nova emancipated itself from society to become a global phenomenon, whilst Samba and other local traditions were still relevant to society. Hence, there is a disparity between the two genres; and their receptions internationally and in Brazil.
Globally, elements that we associate with our ideal conception of the ‘Brazilian sound’, samba rhythms and rhythm instruments, sophisticated jazz harmonies and brassy instrumentations, are amalgamated under the ‘Brazilian beats’ strain of popular and commercial music marketed under labels such as ‘World beat’ and ‘Jazz’. When I visited Rio de Janeiro in February 2009, I was surprised to discover that these elements actually derive from genres that originated specifically in Rio; Samba and Bossa Nova, widely considered archetypes of the ‘Brazilian sound’. In reality, these genres are only one ‘tip of the iceberg’; they only represent one family of styles that originated in Brazil, and fail to account for myriad of styles that exist in other areas of Brazil – genres that embrace different rhythmic structures, accents and cultural ideologies that bear no formal relation to those originating in Rio.
Locally, there is a noticeable disparity between Bossa Nova and Samba in terms of their demographic appeal. At face value, the popular music scene in Rio is dominated by hybrids of Samba and foreign infusions of rock, reggae and rap. Samba is heard everywhere, especially during the Carnival; in the Sambadrome, on the street and in the favela and it is played by anyone and everyone. Samba compositions are written annually for the Carnival, and as such, the idiom is consistently being innovated and renewed. Meanwhile, there is a small community of Bossa Nova musicians including Maria Creuza, Leny Andrade, Peri Ribeiro, Os Cariocas, Roberto Menescal and Wanda Sá, who perform regularly in the nightclubs of Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone); the neighbourhoods of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.
These musicians are all key figures that played a part in the original development and dissemination of Bossa Nova during the early 1960s. They sing the same standard songs that they have been singing for years (nevertheless, they do it very well). Hence, Bossa Nova has been preserved as a ‘museum piece’ part of the ‘folk heritage’ of Rio in cultural institutions such as the ‘Festival de Verão Bossa Nova’ (‘Summer Bossa Nova Festival’) and musical productions such as ‘Tom e Vinícius’ (a modern day reconstruction celebrating the long-term creative partnership between the composer Tom Jobim and the poet lyricist Vinícius de Moraes, to which much of the Bossa Nova repertoire owes its success) .
These observations reveal fundamental differences between Samba and Bossa Nova, both in their production and consumption. Samba is a mainstream tradition. It is an accessible medium of communication between individuals and groups at all levels of society, both as a political tool and as a vehicle for cathartic expression. It is an integral source of cultural regeneration, revitalization and communal spirit, and thus an important asset to the economy, leisure and tourism. In contrast, Bossa Nova is more marginal, and occupies an unusual place in music. It sits on the fence between the ‘popular’ and ‘art’ spheres, and is enjoyed by a narrower age range of a predominantly middle-class social stratum, for its aesthetic value rather than its potential utilization for extra-musical concerns. For these reasons, my study falls at the midpoint between ethnomusicology and aesthetics. Like many ethnomusicological studies, it hinges on the distinctions between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’; however, it stands in opposition to conventional fieldwork methodology. Much of the understanding gained results from my participating in the Carnival as a temporary inhabitant of that culture. In this way, it serves to highlight the aesthetic parallels between that and our own culture relating to art and its place in society.
Many thanks to David Treece (Kings College, London) Zezo Olimpio (University of York), Thiago Trajano (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), Josimar Carneiro and Marcio Tiuco (Tom e Vinícius) for helping me with my fieldwork and contributing towards my understanding of popular music in Rio.
‘Black Orpheus’ – A Modern Greek Tragedy
The Tom Jobim composition ‘A Felicidade’ (‘Happiness’) is typically considered a Bossa Nova, yet its refrain, ‘tristeza não tem fim, felicidade assim’ (‘sadness has no end, happiness does’), replicates the raucous, exuberant sound of the Afro Brazilian Samba batucada (drumming ensemble). My first premise is that although Bossa Nova grew out of Samba and developed in a completely different direction, it still contains references and links to the Carnival and Samba – the sediment of its essence. To initiate my enquiry into the potential forces that might have contributed to its emancipation from Samba, I cite a quotation from David Treece, who, in his own enquiry, describes the innate differences between Bossa Nova and Rock;
‘The market was thus divided down the middle between the Dionysian appeal of rock, with its celebration of sound and movement in all its physical, bodily ecstasy (suggesting, in this case, a modern, cosmopolitan and industrial alternative to the music of carnival) and the Apollonian rationality and intimacy of Bossa Nova [emphasis mine].’
The Apollonian-Dionysian dialectic points us back to the dilemma between music [art] and words [society] that has existed ever since the Ancient Greeks, and was to become crucial to Nietzsche’s conception of the birth of Greek Tragedy. The relation between music and words is a universal dilemma in art that can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle , and may also shed light on Bossa Nova and its emancipation from Samba.
Plato and Aristotle have frequently been counterposed according to their views on art; mimesis or catharsis? Plato, in the Republic cites a quarrel between philosophy and poetry [art]. For Plato, all poets [artists] should be excluded from the city [society], under the assertion that art is a mere mimesis or representation of phenomenal (everyday) objects that are, in turn, imitations of the noumenal (Platonic forms; referred to as ‘Ideas’ or ‘Truths’). Plato’s critique of poetry (the Greek Tragedy, and all subsequent art in general) thus carries with it the absurd attribution to the artisan’s rudimentary perceptions of Platonic Ideas:
‘This, then, will apply to the maker of tragedies also, if he is an imitator and is in his nature three removes from the king and the truth, as are all other imitators…’
For Plato, mimetic art is imperfect, in that it is twice removed from the original ‘Idea’ and it therefore leads man away from the ‘Truth’. Aristotle, in Poetics, conversely argues that art is a form of catharsis, and defines Greek tragedy as;
‘a representation of an action that is heroic and complete and of a certain magnitude – by means of language enriched with all kinds of ornament, each used separately in the different parts of the play: it represents men in action and does not use narrative, and through pity and fear it effects relief [catharsis] to these and similar emotions.’
Tragedy re-enacts a sequence of disturbing events calculated as such that the audience experiences these feelings and fears. It stimulates a collective release of emotion and empathy with the fate of the tragic hero, which is considered to have a cathartic effect on the audience. According to Aristotle, the purgation of emotions is important in art, since it rids us of excess emotions and therefore has a healing, therapeutic effect on society. Hence, music, like a drug, is a form of intoxication. The aesthetic opposition between Plato and Aristotle lies in their antithetical treatments of the emotions; for Plato, emotions should be subdued through abstinence, whereas for Aristotle, emotions should be purged through indulgence. Nevertheless, the main issue is their perceptions of art; as mimetic, representative of extra musical concepts (art as a ‘means to an end’ according to Plato) or cathartic (art as an ‘end in itself’ according to Aristotle).
This distinction touches on a crucial debate in the link between art and society; should music be united with poetry, or should it speak on its own terms, in its own language? This dilemma reached a climax during the nineteenth century. It set up an opposition between two factions; Programmaticism (e.g. Wagner ) and Formalism (e.g. Brahms, Hanslick ). The sheer breadth of this aesthetic debate falls well outside the scope of this project, however, it can be summarised thus:
‘Still today this question divides the [‘Western’] musical world into two factions. For one faction, music is a fantastic play of notes determined by the rules governing pleasing sounds, and by aesthetic laws which are derived from the purely musical works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven (the latter only in so far as he conforms to this ideal): unity in diversity, clarity and moderation in forms and materials, and so on. According to this faction, music should make its impression alone, without serving as a vehicle for secondary ideas: it should uplift the soul from the confines of the mundane to the loftiest regions of the ideal, its wells of sound washing away the dirt and detritus of real life… [Formalism]
‘The other faction considers music as passed down by the great masters to be a poetically conditioned language, a mode of expression and representation; they view it as a created world which should be populated by humans and poetic ideas… They no longer wish to arouse contented, indeterminate feelings in listener… They want to take their material from the rich treasury of mythological, biblical and historical subjects and from the inexhaustible source of poetry, their own hearts, in order to serve their most fervent concerns and passions, their struggles with the world and with life… [Programmaticism]‘
In short, Formalism upheld that music should speak purely in its own sonic language of pitch, metre and timbre (described by Hanslick as ‘tonally moving forms’ ), whereas Programmaticism upheld that music could only find true meaning through being combined with words. Friedrich Nietzsche attributed these two factions to Apollonian and Dionysian impulses;
‘…art owes its continuous evolution to the Apollonian-Dionysiac duality…It is by those two art-sponsoring deities, Apollo and Dionysus, that we are made to recognize the tremendous split, as regards both origins and objectives, between the plastic, Apollonian arts and the non visual art of music inspired by Dionysus.’
Plato’s view of art translates to Apollo; the extra musical world of images, concepts and ‘plastic art forms’ because art was merely a mimetic representation of higher truths. Aristotle’s view of art translates to Dionysus, the musical world of tonal submersion and emotional intoxication since music had a cathartic effect on audiences.
Brazil may be classed a non-European, non ‘Western’ country, and it may seem contrived to impose philosophical concepts and politically motivated ideologies – originating in Ancient Greece and culminating in Germany during the Romantic period – upon 1950s Brazil. Nevertheless, there are considerable cultural similarities between Ancient Greece and 1950s Brazil (the genesis of Bossa Nova). Both contexts have been described as a ‘Golden Age’ during which the convergence of art and society was at its peak, such that art proliferated. The dominant art forms in Ancient Greece included epic verse, comedy and tragedy (representing happiness and sadness respectively); in much the same way that, before the advent of Bossa Nova, the most popular musical trends in 1950s Brazil were the dual voices of heroism and tragedy, represented by samba exaltação (exaltation samba), a carnivalesque hymn of patriotic celebration epitomised by the Ary Barroso composition ‘Aquarela do Brasil’ (‘Watercolour of Brazil’); and the samba canção (song-samba), a lyrical song tradition that had become a medium of expression for the icons of the romantic tragedy. Furthermore, Charles A. Perrone notes the cultural similarities between the Sambadrome (erected in 1984, for the parades of the first division samba schools in the Rio de Janeiro Carnival) and the arena erected at Olympia:
‘The name is Praça da Apoteose, or plaza of apotheosis. This Greek term has natural mythical overtones and specific meanings in the context of Carnival. In a literal sense, apotheosis connotes the culmination of the parade of each school, the ultimate point of development (called evolution) of the thematic parade. On a next level, if a samba school is victorious (an expected result that occurs in Orfeu and Black Orpheus alike), apotheosis will refer to the moment of crowning glory, the exaltation to a superior status of the school, its songwriter(s) and its samba-enredo.’
Hence, the most significant connection between Greek and Brazilian culture is the 1958 French film Orfeu Negro (‘Black Orpheus’), directed by Marcel Camus and produced by Sacha Gordine. Inspired by the musical production ‘Orfeu da Conceição’ (‘Orpheus from Conception’) from the collaboration between composer Tom Jobim and poet lyricist Vinícius de Moraes, this was an adaptation of the Greek myth ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ set in Rio during Carnival season. Sacha Gordine took the script from the play, but he demanded that Tom Jobim and Luis Bonfá write new material for the film. Bossa Nova was chosen as the soundtrack in the response to the demand for ‘new music’. With its association with economic development and modernist cultural expression, and its ties to class structures altered by middle class growth, elite society and the upscale optimism of the 1950s ; Bossa Nova was something that international audiences could relate to. The film and score made Bossa Nova famous worldwide. In its extensive use of the geographical landscape of Rio and its cultural symbols, both the seasonal, recreational festivities of the Carnival parades, and the spiritual possession trance found in traditional Afro Brazilian Umbanda rituals; it created the mythical socio cultural connection between Bossa Nova (progressive ‘new music’ from Zona Sul) and Samba, along with its symbolic meanings rooted in the favela.
The Hellenistic Brazilian connection that led to the film ‘Black Orpheus’ is apparent from the outset. Vinícius de Moraes first had the idea of the Brazilian setting of the Greek myth when, with the reading of a neoclassical version of the story fresh in mind, he heard a batucada (percussion section) and ‘began to think about the life of the blacks on the hillside and to Hellenicize their life’ . The literary and musical association between Brazilian music and the Greek aspect of the film is evident with the way that the film both begins and ends with an Ancient Greek frieze depicting Hermes, Orpheus and Eurydice accompanied by the compositions ‘A Felicidade’ (‘Happiness’) at the start and ‘Samba de Orfeu’ (‘Orpheus’ Samba’) at the end – the latter combining the Brazilian genre with the Greek mythical name, therefore sealing the Hellinistic Brazilian connection. Vinícius de Moraes came from a predominantly middle class background, and the mythical romantic association of ‘the other’ with the Ancient Greek ideologies is natural; it suggests that its lessons are universal, and can be applied to any culture. Moreover, Elizabeth Newby notes;
‘Depending on where one finds oneself in the history of Western musical speculation, Orpheus may be seen either as the quintessential poet musician, whose artistic talent stands for the ultimate power of musical affect, or as an illustrious failure, whose musical, intellectual, and moral limitations serve as a lesson for those who would follow in his footsteps in pursuit of musical enlightenment…the myth stands as one of the central symbolic statements in the history of Western musical philosophy for man’s search for a definition of the meaning and function of music.’
The Orphic tragedy is a medium through which music and words are united. My contention is that Ancient Greek principles are, to some extent, universalisable, and are applicable to the Brazilian Bossa Nova and Samba, which form the soundtrack to ‘Black Orpheus’; which is, effectively, a modern day Greek Tragedy. The Apollonian Dionysian duality is examined through the identification with Orpheus as the tragic hero in the film ; Orpheus represents both the ‘ultimate power of musical affect’ (Aristotle) and the shortcomings of pursuing musical enlightenment (Plato). Most significantly, however, the film demonstrates the parallels between Brazilian popular music and paradigmatic developments throughout ‘Western’ art music history. Ultimately, the birth of Tragedy represented Nietzsche’s conception of the proper meaning and function of music. Nietzsche concluded that this constituted a synthesis of Apollonian and Dionysian elements in equal measure. In the Greek tragedy, the chorus is the manifestation of the Dionysian consciousness, which serves as a moral commentator on the Apollonian narrative; one cannot exist without the other, since the concrete Apollonian element gives form to the abstract Dionysian.
The chorus was a component essential to Aristotle’s concept of Tragedy or ‘serious drama’ and it has remained an important tradition in music (and its conjunction with extra musical art-forms) since the Ancient Greeks. F.L. Lucas (1966), in tracing the historical development of the chorus, identifies that;
‘[the Greek Chorus] performed certain functions essential in any drama; and when it disappeared other means had to be found of doing its work… its early predominance and subsequent extinction illustrate excellently the larger process which has been going on since time immemorial, off the stage as well as on it – the struggle of the Individual against the Group, of the One against the Many.’
The dialogue between the offstage chorus and onstage characters was a collective spectatorship vocalizing the audience emotions fuelled by the unfolding drama. In ‘Black Orpheus’, the chorus (or ‘extras’) are the participants of the Carnival, and provide a contextual, musical backdrop against which the actions and character progressions of its main protagonists transpire and are brought into relief. There is a scene in which Eurydice is fleeing from her murderer through a crowd heard singing strains of ‘A Felicidade’ and ‘O Nosso Amor’. The chorus serves to highlight her desperate, confused emotions. Furthermore, the chorus also symbolizes the dialogue between the individual and society. In the opening sequence of ‘Black Orpheus’, ‘A Felicidade’ is set to the percussive sounds of the Afro Brazilian Samba batucada, accompanying scenes depicting everyday life in the favela community. When the focus subsequently shifts towards the individual characters (Serafina, Zeca and Benedicto), the song continues, albeit, in the Bossa Nova idiom; harmonic and melodic sophistication, restrained vocal delivery and subtly nuanced guitar attack.
The chorus is also and important feature in Brazilian popular music. The Clara Nunes song ‘Canto Das Três Raças’ (‘Song of the Three Races’) condemns the evils of slavery. After describing (at a personal level) the ‘weeping of pain’ and the ‘sad lament’ of the African slave held in captivity (Apollonian element), the chorus enters in a wordless vocalization of pain (Dionysian element) that magnifies this pain and sadness for all. The proliferation of vocal ensembles in 1950s Brazil, such as Os Garotas da Lua (of which João Gilberto was originally a member) and Os Cariocas, reveals the need for a collective, harmonized musical expression during this time. Since the 1960s (and influenced by this tradition), expanded vocal harmonisations of Bossa Nova songs have become common. Thus we can see how internal processes integral to the Greek Tragedy have been translated into modern day song.
Like the myth, music plays a central part in ‘Black Orpheus’. It is heard throughout the film, and there are seldom moments of silence. The soundtrack is permeated with percussive textures and interludes, both in the foreground and background, which provide a cultural backdrop upon which the storyline is set. Like the chorus, ‘[p]ercussion tracks, songs, voices and other ambient sound are overlaid and interlaced, a fabric that suggests raucous festivities but also the proximity of others in the favela, paths crossing, lives intersecting, and destinies intertwining.’ The score contains five songs; three by Tom Jobim (‘A Felicidade’, ‘Frevo’ and ‘O Nosso Amor’) and two by Luis Bonfá (‘Manhã de Carnaval’ and ‘Samba de Orfeu’) which appear in various forms and highlight significant moments of the plot. The plot engages directly with these musical aspects. For Orpheus, retrieving his guitar from a pawn shop is more important than buying his fiancée Mira an engagement ring (in the same way that it is a lyre that Orpheus is famous for playing in the original Greek myth). In the film, music is present at the moment that the lovers are first introduced; when Eurydice overhears Orpheus singing ‘Manhã de Carnaval’ (‘Morning of the Carnival’) she declares that;
‘[although] I remember the words of the song…It was the tune I liked.’
Here, the Apollonian-Dionysian unity of music and words is brought to the forefront; for Eurydice, the tune made more of an emotional impact on her than the words (during this scene, the couple also acknowledge their semblance to the Ancient Greek myth). Music functions as a structural device to separate day from night (Orpheus plays his guitar to make the sun rise), Ash Wednesday from Shrove Tuesday and the quiet aftermath, or ‘calm after the storm’ from the Carnival (Orpheus serenades Eurydice on the morning after the Carnival) . Attention is fixed on the instrument when the inscription ‘Orpheus is my master’ is identified on the guitar; Orpheus declares that;
‘[t]here was an Orpheus before me. Perhaps there will be another. But at present, I’m master.’
This foreshadows the ending, when, after the Orpheus’ tragic demise, Benedicto and Zeca retrieve his guitar and Zeca ‘inherits’ it by playing it to make the sun rise. He is soon joined by a girl who presents him with a flower. The juxtaposition between the young children and the ancient frieze establishes the continuity of the Orphic myth, and henceforth, the permanence of music.
In the same way that the concrete Apollonian element gave form to the abstract Dionysian, ‘Bossa Nova was a means of bringing Samba out of the streets and into the nightclub.’ Broadly speaking, the nightclub, basement, and locations such as the parents’ apartment of singer songwriter Nara Leão and Beco das Garrafas (‘Bottles Lane’) were self enclosed spaces in which Samba rhythms were taken off the streets and integrated into compositions that would later form early Bossa Nova repertoire. Today, the disparity between Bossa Nova and Samba, between the nightclub and the street, is so extreme, that it is hard to imagine how one grew out of the other. I experienced this disparity on two consecutive nights.
On the first night, after inadvertently stumbling into the Praça Onze district, Centro Rio (North Zone), lost on the way back from the Sambadrome, I witnessed a Bloco Samba. This is an ‘unofficial’ parade by the second division samba schools that did not qualify for the ‘official’ parade of the first division samba schools within the Sambadrome, and it takes the form of a street party. The result is, possibly, the closest thing to chaos, or Aristotle’s communal purgation of uncontrollable emotions and desires; scenes of unrestrained, indulgent hedonism fuelled by the excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs sold on the street. Significantly, Nietzsche draws the comparison between the barbaric nature of the Dionysian orgy and the modern day festival - therefore sealing the attribution of the Dionysus to the Brazilian carnival.
On the second night, I attended a Bossa Nova performance given by Maria Creuza, who performs regularly in Garota de Ipanema bar, Vinícius de Moraes street, Ipanema. Attendees were from a narrower age range; smartly dressed, sophisticated and well presented young couples in their twenties, thirties or forties. The atmosphere was dignified, controlled and subdued. The differences between these two experiences made me realise how much Carnival and Samba provide ample opportunity to indulge in pure Dionysian pleasure and intoxication; a world far removed from the Apollonian rationality and intimacy of Bossa Nova, a carefully structured, balanced, measured ethos. For these reasons that I draw the same ApollonianDionysian dialectic between Bossa Nova and other local forms of popular music such as Samba and Rock:
‘[a]nyone who has seen Black Orpheus can surely recall the haunting, primal feelings the movie evoked and the music that counterpointed the dark, erotic story line… When I left that theatre, however, my feelings about Brazil, its music, and music in general had been forever transformed…the movie seared Brazil forever in my being.’
‘Black Orpheus’ was a prime force in the disparity between ‘local’ and ‘global’ perceptions of the Rio sound. In its juxtaposition of Apollonian and Dionysian (Bossa Nova and Samba) elements, the film was a cultural mediation between the city and the hill, and a key force behind the later emancipation of Bossa Nova from Samba.
Like ‘Black Orpheus’ and the Ancient Greek Tragedy, the João Gilberto recording of ‘A Felicidade’ unites Bossa Nova and Samba (Apollonian and Dionysian elements) within the same composition. The recording was revolutionary when it was released, because it was a juxtapositional crystallization of a chapter in Brazilian popular music that underlines the historical conjuncture between the old and the new, between the Dionysian and the Apollonian, and the contrast between Afro Brazilian Samba (rooted in the context of the Carnival) and the new style that ‘Black Orpheus’ disseminated; Bossa Nova. Hence, Samba and Bossa Nova, although formally similar, were inherently different in their very aesthetic nature, and it is for these reasons that they grew apart. The second chapter applies the aesthetic doctrine of Critical Theory to investigate the formal similarities between Bossa Nova, Samba and their antecedent forms Maxixe and Choro, as ‘roots of the same plant’; originating in Rio as socially conditioned cultural products.
Critical Theory applied to Brazilian Popular Music
The music of a culture is said to contain the underlying essence or ‘blueprint’ of the society from which it originates, and, as established through ‘Black Orpheus’, the music of Rio de Janeiro is no exception. Critical Theory maintains that the values, structures and belief systems of society manifest themselves within musical material, and through its analysis, we can discover much about its social origin. Robert W. Witkin, in his discussion of the German composer, social philosopher and critic Theodor W. Adorno, identifies that;
‘The idea of art as a homology, as a structural analogue of social relations, was a very important part of the Germanic tradition in art history…Like many German philosophers in the Hegelian tradition, Adorno tended to see all cultural processes and practices of a given epoch as governed by the same set of principles. That is, he expected to find the same inherent tendencies in the philosophy of the time that were present in the social institutions, the economy, religious systems or artworks of the period…It was natural, therefore, for Adorno to move freely, in his critical thought, between society, philosophy and music, since all three were seen as aspects of the same phenomena.’
Since artworks (like other disciplines) are the products of the ‘same set of principles’; these principles manifest themselves through the artistic medium – whether it be (in music) through the structure, harmony, melody, instrumentation, orchestration, lyrics or performance practice – rather than being deliberately represented by the artwork. In short, the artwork is said to be socially mediated. Thus, Adorno’s view avoids the subordination of artworks as representations of higher concepts, and instead reaffirms the autonomous value of art.
We can identify this corollary relationship in our own culture and music. August Halm equates the Baroque Fugue and the Classical Sonata (pioneered by Bach and Beethoven respectively) to Feudalist and Capitalist social structures. Feudalism was a system whereby landlords owned land that they let to individuals for farming, harvesting crops and producing goods for money. Likewise, in polyphonic music, all instruments were integrated within an overall, unified texture. Capitalism is formulated upon the doctrine of efficiency. Its principle encouraged the minimization of output and profit making as a way of improving the economy. In homophonic music, this meant that one could develop an entire composition out of a single idea. Furthermore, the separation between leading voice and accompaniment immanently reflected the emancipation of the bourgeois from the proletariat.
I would go further to contend that similar paradigmatic developments exist in the internal, rhythmic spatial structures of Brazilian popular music, albeit, within a narrower timeframe. The opposition of Samba and Bossa Nova has been established through the film ‘Black Orpheus’, the Apollonian Dionysian dichotomy and its use in the composition ‘A Felicidade’. My contention is that Samba represents a ‘Baroque’ idiom approximately equivalent to the Fugue. Bossa Nova (as formulated on Samba for its rhythmic basis) still retains some of these elements, yet it is underpinned by ‘Classical’ ideologies of progressivism, modernism, economic development and the age of mechanical reproduction, and, as such, is built like the Sonata.
The first part of this chapter examines formal, rhythmic similarities between the two genres and their common cultural heritage in Choro. The second part of this chapter analyses the mediation between African Brazilian and European Western elements in Bossa Nova, both at a contextual and a formal level.
a) Organicism in Samba and Bossa Nova
August Halm drew on the notion of the ‘organic’ in music;
‘Thus in the sonata a wealth of variously shaped material is made serviceable to a whole…in contrast, the fugue form is dedicated to the idea of a theme, to its embodiment. The fugue has more a structure than a construction; it resembles more a separated existence, a living being, a tree, say, if we wish to venture concrete representations; it is the formula of an individuality. The sonata by contrast is the formula of the collective activity of many individuals; it is an organism in the large: it is equivalent to the state.’
Organicism grew out of the distinction between the ‘end in itself’ versus the ‘means to an end’ in art that derived from Immanuel Kant (1790) and came into fruition under Karl Philipp Moritz, and his distinction between the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘useful object.’ Moritz’s ‘beautiful’ object [work of art] is a fully realized aesthetic whole that requires nothing beyond itself for explanation; its elements signify nothing but that which could already be found in the artwork. Organicism maintains that art is more than an imitation of nature; it is nature. According to Moritz, ‘[t]he born artist is not content to observe nature, he has to imitate it, take it as his model, form and create as nature does.’ Thus, the composer is an agent of the natural laws; the act of composition occurs in the original realisation of the idea, which already contains the ‘germ’ of the composition. The idea develops from within itself, spontaneously and organically obeying the laws of nature, so that the overall composition is coherent with its constituent elements. Adolph Bernhard Marx, in his appraisal of Beethoven, explains this process;
‘Each musical creation evolves, just as organisms do in nature, from a germ, which however, like vesicles or cells in plant and animal life forms, must itself be a formation, a union of two or more elements (notes, chords, rhythmic units), an organism, if it is to be capable of propagating organisms. Such a germ is called a “motif”. Every composition rests upon one or more motifs.’
I contend that the doctrines of Critical Theory and Organicism are applicable to ‘popular’ music too, since despite its apparent subordination of music to representation of extra musical concepts, popular music still originates from social practices. As such, its formal material characteristics reveal much regarding the socio political landscape and climate of a culture. In Brazilian popular music, there is a clear, logical progression between Choro, Maxixe, Samba and Bossa Nova. The unity and cohesion between the rhythmic spatial components in Samba and Bossa Nova during their evolutionary stages resembles the idea of ‘organic growth’. The common root of Samba and Bossa Nova is Choro, and is therefore the key to understanding the formal similarities between Samba and Bossa Nova (despite their aesthetic differences, as cited in the previous chapter).
The cultural appropriation of European ‘art’ music influences in Afro Brazilian ‘popular’ music is a process that is not unique to Bossa Nova but has been occurring, at all levels of society and at all stages in the development of contemporary Brazilian popular music, since the Slave Trade. Cliff Corman (a session pianist from Rio) identified the comparison between the Choro of Brazil and the Ragtime of New Orleans, since they both contained the same equal measure of African and European ingredients. The ‘European influence’ came via the Portuguese conquest in the form of dances such as the polka, waltz and habañera, and the salon music popular in France during the nineteenth century. These popular dances were in strict ternary form; an exposition of the first theme, a second theme, and a recapitulation of the first theme, and were characterized by balanced sections in the closely related keys of I-IV-V. The ‘African influence’ came via the slaves who were often hired by the military state bands to play this music for court and ceremonial purposes. The African slaves applied syncopations. These began with the anticipation of the ‘on beat’ so that it became an ‘off beat’. They began to add in extra notes to give it movement and swing. This process can be seen in the following polka.
This basic rhythmic cell provided the ‘germ’ of many rhythmic forms, including the lundu, the maxixe and the Brazilian modinha, and can still be heard today in the samba de morro and sometimes the batucada. It is played by all instruments, from the pandeiro on the street or in the batería , to the hi-hat in the drum kit. Moreover, it reinforces a unity between all styles within Rio. The African syncopated approach was not a process that happened ‘overnight’, but over the course of the years after when the first Portuguese colonizers arrived in Brazil in 1808, right up until the early twentieth century. The process happened all over Brazil with all these dances gradually becoming more syncopated, and with the anticipations becoming more idiomatic and free, so that they eventually sounded completely different.
Therefore, Choro did not prescribe a particular rhythmic pattern; fundamentally, it was an African syncopated approach towards European dances. In Choro, most of the harmonic content is carried in the melodic line, which outlines the harmonic contour through florid, arpeggiated passages; thus, Choro places much emphasis on the virtuosity of the soloist both in the interpretation of and improvisation on these melodic lines, and their ability to add original rhythmic variation to the melody.
Like other forms of African-derived music, particularly Afro-Cuban music; Brazilian Choro, Samba and Bossa Nova all work on a two-bar rhythmic structure, which can be described as a form of Clave. The Maxixe was a rhythm that developed out of the ‘Choro-polka’, and was based on this rhythmic cell.
This rhythmic cell is known as the ‘Tresillo’ – a Spanish term, used in Cuba to describe the syncopated 3-3-2 division of the four-beat bar. The term is used in Brazil too (although the four-beat bar is traditionally in 2/4). This rhythm formed the basis of early Samba. Samba became a vehicle for the semi improvised cathartic expression of saudade, a concept unique to the Lusophone world that loosely translates as a sense of sorrow, nostalgia and longing. This could be connected with broad themes (such as love) but also depicted the horrors of slavery. The Samba song ‘Canto Das Três Raças’ (‘Song of the Three Races’), by Clara Nunes, describes the ‘African [syncopated] accent’ in music. The song also testifies to the Portuguese, African and indigenous American races whose influences combined to create the popular music that today we recognise as Samba. Samba rhythm developed into a two bar structure comprising high and low accents. The high accent is usually played by the tamborims. The African slaves increasingly syncopated the first three beats of the polka, gradually shifting them forward by a quaver, creating an anticipated version. The two-bar structure subsequently became a bipolar alternation between the ‘on beat’ and the anticipated ‘off-beat’ version. The low accent is the bass note that falls on the second beat of the bar. It effectively fills in the gaps, off setting the high accent. This diagram illustrates how the high and low accents work together.
If the two-bar structure is reversed, then the rhythmic accent changes.
This two-bar structure developed and functioned in a similar way to the Clave in Afro-Cuban music – where there is a standard version, and an inverted version. It is a fundamental rhythmic principle of Brazilian popular music that can be found in Bossa Nova.
Bossa Nova compositions ‘Chega de Saudade’ (‘No More Longing’) and ‘Samba de Uma Nota Só’ (‘One Note Samba’) by Tom Jobim best illustrate how this two-bar rhythmic structure, so integral to Samba, also later functions as a defining rhythmic principle in Bossa Nova. ‘Chega de Saudade’ begins with the anticipation of the on-beat:
However, the principle can also work in the reverse, as we can see in ‘Samba de Uma Nota Só’.
Since many Bossa Nova compositions are based around this rhythmic structure, it is important to understand which two-bar structure best fits the structure of the composition; either starting with the anticipated version (‘Chega de Saudade’) or with the on-beat version (‘Samba de Uma Nota Só’). Similar to the Clave in Salsa, the two-bar rhythmic structure is then a unifying principle within Samba and Bossa Nova.
Hence, the ‘organic’ can be found in both Samba and Bossa Nova. In Samba, the organic ‘African [syncopated] accent’ is apparent at both microscopic and macroscopic levels, from the overall structure right down to the individual rhythmic cells. It can be identified at many different zoom levels that all relate to one another, and that which is found at the surface is coherent with that which is found in its innermost cells. Bossa Nova is a mediation between the ‘organic’ and the ‘mechanic’. The next stage is to examine this mediation at a contextual and analytical level.
b) Historical Mediation: Organic versus Mechanic
The evolutionary stages of Samba and Bossa Nova are characterised by processes of composition that are simultaneously governed by and defiant of its own rules and technical frameworks, and thus a form of historical mediation. The concepts of the organic versus the mechanic and historical mediation are central to the thinking of Theodor W. Adorno, who summarised this view in this statement;
‘The work of art is not a being immune to change but an existent in the process of becoming…The link between art and real history is the fact that works of art are structured like monads. History may be called the content of works of art. Analysing them is the same as becoming conscious of the immanent history stored in them.’
Music is sedimented with history; as a temporal art form, it constitutes the substance of history itself. The composer ‘inherits’ this substance from previous composers and his task is to create new music. The composer is faced with a dilemma; should he take into account what had been done before, or should he create something radically new? This dilemma was no different to that which musicians in Rio encountered in their own experimentations. The concept of historical mediation recognises that although tradition presents us with certain problems, expectations and technical frameworks (such as tonality); modernity demands that we break free from these boundaries and create something new that subverts conventions. Composition is the mediation between tradition and modernity. Brazilian musicians wanted to create a soundtrack to their times that was ‘simultaneously Brazilian and non-exotic; it had to speak of guitars and tambourines as well as Rolliflex cameras’ – or simultaneously
‘African Brazilian’ and ‘European Western’. Hence, it is important to understand that Bossa Nova emerged in a historically mediated social context that was part African, part European and it therefore retains an inherently dialectical character; despite its later globalisation.
Bossa Nova emerged during a turbulent time. In 1954, the national populist Getúlio Vargas regime was replaced by that of Juscelino Kubitschek, who spearheaded modernist, cosmopolitan sentiment and the country’s demand for progress, with his manifesto encapsulated in the slogan ‘fifty years progress in five’. This coincided with a cultural revolution. Construction work had begun on the futuristic capital Brasilia at Minais Gerais in central Brazil. In culture, the movie industry’s progressive Cinema Novo (New Cinema) movement was emerging and Brazil had the most flourishing scene in theatre, concrete poetry and literature. There was a prevailing mood of optimism among Rio’s middle class, secure in the belief that Brazil was finally making an impact on the international arena, and that ‘tomorrow is in safe hands’.
The music that arose out of this time immanently reflected the dialogue between antiquity and modernity. The figures that created Bossa Nova were an eclectic mix of composers, poet lyricists, performers, artists and filmmakers who were searching for a soundtrack to these times. These people were, for the most part, white, middle-class and well-educated. They imitated João Gilberto’s guitar ‘beat’ which drew on the local ‘popular’ tradition, Samba, for its rhythmic basis. Conversely, these artists were influenced by Existentialism, Impressionism, Avant-Garde, Jazz and other ‘Western’ disciplines and schools of thought (popular in France) imported and cross appropriated through educational, intellectual and artistic networks. Tom Jobim himself was equally influenced by European ‘art’ music composers Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel and Villa-Lobos, as he was by African Brazilian samba composers Pixinguinha, Ary Barroso, Noel Rosa and Nelson Cavaquinho. The historical conjuncture brought about a resurgence of new ideas, critical evaluations and progressivism, combined with the prevailing nationalist, cosmopolitan sensibility. Brazil was on the threshold of a new era, and there was a dual sentiment of reform and complacency. It is within this context that Bossa Nova – the ‘new wave’ – formed its stronghold. In its adoption of local traditions and appropriation of contemporary ideas, it embraced both the old and the new.
Tom Jobim, the most noted Bossa Nova composer, might be compared to Arnold Schoenberg, in terms of his part played within tradition. Adorno admired Schoenberg because his music engaged directly with tradition (tonality); it inherited, perpetuated and immanently critiqued what came before. Adorno claimed that, for Schoenberg;
‘traditional music was stamped through and through by the schema of tonality; it moved within harmonic, melodic and formal paths that were pre drawn by this schema. It was as if every musical particular was subordinated to an established generality.’
Subsequently, Schoenberg replaced diatonicism with chromaticism;
‘[H]e rewrote tonality…In the end, every sound became autonomous, all tones enjoyed equal rights, and the reign of the tonic triad was overthrown.’
Despite the subversion of the tonic triad, it still remained an important influence on Schoenberg’s music, precisely through its absence. Like Schoenberg, Jobim took ideas from the European ‘art’ music composers that he studied, yet he used these to directly engage with his own native ‘popular’ tradition (Samba). He stated;
‘I could write a piece using the twelve tone scale, but Brazil, with all its rhythms, was more important. I liked Pixinguinha, Donga, Vadico, and Ary Barroso…I had those new harmonies coming from me only. I was always revolting against the establishment, against normal harmonies. It was a very personal thing. Sure I heard Debussy and Ravel, but they didn’t have this African beat we have here.’
For both Schoenberg and Jobim, twelve tone serialism involved simultaneously imposing a structural order (inheriting tradition) and then breaking free from it through responding to the problems that it presented (perpetuating tradition) – even if through the deliberate subversion of tradition. Nevertheless, It is crucial to establish, contextually, how ‘art’ influences in Bossa Nova engaged with the ‘popular’ Samba tradition.
On the one hand, Bossa Nova inherited tradition. The term ‘Bossa Nova’ was actually first used in by Newton Mendonça in the lyrics to the song ‘Desafinado’ (‘Slightly out of Tune’ or ‘Off Key’);
‘If you insist on classifying my behaviour as anti-musical,
I, even lying, must argue that this is the Bossa Nova, that this is very natural.’
Originally, the term ‘Bossa’ literally meant ‘wave’ or ‘trend’ and was already used colloquially to refer to a special ability and a ‘new way of doing something’. When João Gilberto replicated the rhythms of the Samba batería on the guitar – where the thumb played the low accent (surdo), while the middle three fingers played the high accent (tamborim) – this was originally seen as a ‘new way of playing samba’, or a ‘new wave’, hence ‘Bossa Nova’.
On the other hand, Bossa Nova perpetuated tradition, and countered everything that came before. Before the advent of Bossa Nova, the dominant vocal trend was that of the operatic crooner; vocalists such as Johnny Alf, Frank Sinata, Dick Farney and Lúcio Alves, backed by extravagant instrumental forces, with an intense singing style that magnified the vocal subject to an elevated status – whether the epic persona of the nation (samba exaltação), or the tragic persona of a long suffering hero (samba canção). Bossa Nova was radical because it deliberately went ‘against the rules’ . It was minimalist, usually performed by a solitary singer accompanied solely by an acoustic guitar, perhaps with the light percussive attack of the tamborim, but nothing substantial. Compositions such as ‘Desafinado’ and ‘Chega de Saudade’ sounded stranger in the 1950s than they do today, and challenged the ears of listeners when they were released.
Bossa Nova is both ‘organic’ and ‘mechanic’. Tom Jobim, prior to his departure to the historic Bossa Nova concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, 1962, made the following statement to a journalist of O Globo, a major newspaper in Rio;
‘We are not going to sell [Brazil’s] exotic side, of coffee and carnival. We are not going to wheel out the typical themes of underdevelopment. We are going to pass from the agricultural to the industrial [emphasis mine]. We are going to use our popular music with the conviction that it does not only have its own character, but also a high technical level.’
The ‘agricultural to the industrial’ indicates an organic versus mechanic dichotomy that gives Bossa Nova a dialectical character.
On the one hand, Bossa Nova is ‘organic’. Bossa Nova compositions are usually formulated upon a single idea, motif or cell – the ‘germ’ of the composition, reiterated and transposed over a modulating harmonic sequence. The movement arose out of a collective, inter disciplinary collaboration between the forces of music, poetry and other members of the creative vanguard residing in Rio between 1958 1962. Compositional processes were integrated in the act of collaboration (e.g., the collaboration between Tom Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes and João Gilberto behind many compositions) to such an extent that there was no longer the separated notions of composer, lyricist and performer; it was all one unified art form, both in its creation and exposition, with a performance practice rooted in the ideology of equality and democracy among individuals. The debut performance of ‘Garota de Ipanema’ at the Au Bon Gourmet restaurant was preceded by the following dialogue;
‘Tom, what if you were to sing a song that could tell us what love is?’
‘Hey, Joãozinho, I wouldn’t know how without Vinícius to write the poetry…’
Vinícius de Moraes:
‘In order for this song to happen it needs to be sung by João…’
‘Ah, but who am I? I am nothing without you. It would be better if all three of us sang…’
Unlike the popular styles of the time where the music was serviceable to the dominant vocal subject; Bossa Nova encouraged a symbiosis of various elements including melody, harmony, lyrics, instrumentation, orchestration and interpretation. These elements received equal weighting, and were reliant on each other for their inherent meaning. Lyrics were often chosen for their sonic as well as semantic effect; for example, in ‘Rio’ by Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Bôscoli, short words with similar sonorities, ‘é sal, é sol, é sul’ (‘it’s salt, it’s sun, it’s south’), are used to evoke Rio de Janeiro on a hot summer’s day. The whole is equal to the sum of its parts, and one cannot sing the melody without the accompaniment because it simply would not make sense. Like Samba, Bossa Nova compositions retained their own formal, internal cohesion.
On the other hand, Bossa Nova is ‘mechanic’. Although compositions are formulated upon the idea of ‘efficiency’; these ideas were nonetheless influenced by Capitalist ideologies of mechanical reproduction. As such, Bossa Nova compositions retain a formal sophistication, and rigorously stick to the popular ‘AABA’ song form (comparable to the ethos of the Sonata, characterised by an exposition, development and recapitulation – or resolution between contradictory ideas) and Capitalism; such that its ‘technical sophistication and rationality in many ways reflected the self-conscious modernism of a new technocracy.’ Composer Roberto Menescal also stated;
‘for the composers and performers at least, the professionalisation of music making made possible by bossa nova actually offered a viable alternative to more utilitarian careers dedicated to the construction of the new capitalist economy, such as engineering, medicine or architecture.’
Bossa Nova made possible a career in professional music. Initially, musicians in Zona Sul came together to play music merely for fun, not to be professional, but then when people started listening to it, it became a profession for many. Both Tom Jobim and Carlos Lyra had originally planned to become architects, but then decided to dedicate their careers to music. This suggests that the music that grew ‘organically’ out of Samba – a pre Capitalist idiom, both in its form and its exposition – came to function ‘mechanically’ as a means by which artists could make a living.
Tom Jobim’s songs, as archetypal products of the ‘new way of thinking’ that came with an increasingly progressive, cosmopolitan and self conscious Brazil, effectively capture the inner workings of society. At a purely formal, material level, I superimpose a further dialectic upon ‘organic’ and ‘mechanic’; and argue that the dynamic interplay between two world historic musical traditions, the European Western and the African Brazilian, gives Bossa Nova compositions a dual character. I draw much of my analyses from the examples performed by João Gilberto in his ‘classic’ recordings of Tom Jobim compositions to demonstrate these two traditions in action.
The European tonal tradition is driven by forward motion aided by the dramatic alternation between harmonic tension and resolution, progressing towards a definitive arrival point. The combination of a transposed, reiterated motif and chromatically modulating harmonic sequence (the interplay between a fixed element and a variable) automatically sets up a ‘chain reaction’ of discord and concord, where the constant divergence and convergence between the melodic line and the bass line creates an ambivalent relationship between the two. The musical character is unsettled, never resting on one or the other. This dynamic polarisation occurs within the ‘AABA’ song form, employed as a vehicle for their narrative logic; the ‘A’ section being an exposition of the subject, and the ‘B’ section as a development or deviation away from that subject through modulation or the introduction of a new idea, culminating in some form of resolution with the recapitulation of the ‘A’ section and a reinstatement of the original theme, transformed, through having undergone a process of development. This formal logic is analogous to the classic Hegelian thesis antithesis synthesis theoretical model. The dialectic between harmonic tension and resolution, moving upwards towards a dramatic finale is, arguably, the most basic, fundamental force in ‘Western’ art music history. This assertion would place Bossa Nova within the European tonal tradition – supporting the nationalist view that Bossa Nova is an imported ‘art music’ instead of originating exclusively in local ‘popular music’ traditions. Compositions such as ‘Chega de Saudade’, ‘Desafinado’ and ‘Samba De Uma Nota Só’ best represent this tradition. These compositions are meta linguistically constructed, such that the lyrics reflect what is happening in the music. In each case the musical dramatisation of the social dynamic between a man and a woman functions as an allegorical reading for the dynamic between wider social forces. As such, Bossa Nova compositions critique society, in a mediated fashion, through the allegory of two lovers.
In ‘Chega de Saudade’ (No More Longing) the narrative development between the two lovers epitomizes the feeling that Brazil, and in particular, Rio de Janeiro and its Carioca musicians had ‘moved on’ from the age of the Carnival towards becoming an industrialised, cosmopolitan world city;
‘While drawing on various Afro-Brazilian traditions, the mellow sound of the guitar and the soft percussion highlighted their complex principles of rhythmic organisation rather than their visceral qualities. João Gilberto’s timid and quiet voice negated the stereotype of Brazilians as an over emotive, exuberant race, the natural products of a tropical climate, to portray them as contemplative, intimate and sophisticated. The perfection and precision with which he fitted his accompaniments to the deceptive simplicity of Tom’s melodic lines are comparable to the workings of a finely tuned machine. ‘Chega de Saudade’ was a masterful response to Rio’s search for a new medium of popular musical expression. The land of the Carnival had entered the modern era.’
The first half of this statement suggests an organic principle. The second half resounds modernity and (in the spirit of Walter Benjamin’s essay ) the artwork during the age of mechanical reproduction. João Gilberto’s interpretation of Tom Jobim’s compositions grew organically out of samba rhythms, yet Bossa Nova imposed technical frameworks that prescribed certain formulae, such as the ‘AABA’ song form and meta linguistic constructions, which partially determined the composition. Tonality is used as an expressive device to contrast between the two sides of the song’s personality. The minor key of the first two quarters effectively transmits the saudade felt in the ‘longing’, ‘[lack of] peace’, ‘[lack of] beauty’ and the ‘sadness and melancholy that won’t leave me’. These somewhat negative sentiments are expressed in a re iterated, descending theme of awkward, dissonant intervals superimposed against a chromatically descending bass line. The major key of the third quarter transforms the mood of the composition with the euphoric fantasy of the lover’s ‘beautiful’, ‘crazy’ return, and introduces a new melodic theme. It is only during the last quarter of the song that the original theme returns, now, in the major key ; once more, re enforcing the dialectic contrast between longing and ecstasy, and reconciling the old with the new.
‘Desafinado’ (‘Slightly out of Tune’ or ‘Off-Key’) is structurally asymmetrical. It combines standard II-V-I jazz chord progressions with abrupt modulations into distant keys, obscuring the song’s tonal centre. Furthermore, the melody moves in unexpected directions through angular intervals, fluctuating between states of dissonance and consonance to create the illusion of the singer being ‘off-key’ and adjusting his voice to match the key. The words ‘desafino’ (‘off-key’) and ‘dor’ (‘hurt’) are both marked by awkward, descending intervals to a dissonant flattened degree. This also happens when he laments that all he has is the ‘voice God gave’ (‘Deus me deu’). Nevertheless, the mood is transformed when the composition modulates unexpectedly from E into Ab , accompanying the mysterious explanation behind his ‘off-key’-ness; ‘that this is the Bossa Nova, that this is very natural’ – reinforcing the illusion of initially being ‘off-key’ and then miraculously finding oneself the right key. João Gilberto’s transparent, ‘dead-pan’ delivery was unconventional, timid and introspective, and critics claimed he could not sing. Tom Jobim acknowledged this cold reception, and commented;
‘Actually it’s not an off-key song. It’s crooked on purpose. It’s tilted. It could be a very square song, except for the endings of musical phrases that go down unexpectedly. It’s a criticism of experts…The guy next door, he’s off-key but he’s in love with this girl, and he can say that to her because loving is more important than being in tune. Some people are always in tune, but they don’t love anybody.’
The self-conscious vocal insecurity suggested by the text and the music indirectly addresses this criticism. It justifies, within Bossa Nova, the extent to which the musical ideas and thematic argument were inextricably bound up with the lyrical content, infused with the critical sensibilities of Bossa Nova artists and the self-conscious awareness of their potential impact on society and established norms.
Perhaps the most extreme example of Tom Jobim’s defining structural principle is found in ‘Samba De Uma Nota Só’ (‘One-Note Samba’). Although this song employs an ABA structure, it is still in accordance with thesis-antithesis-synthesis, and the logic of tension and resolution. During the ‘A’ section , one single repeated note is counterposed to another in a pseudo dialogue, representing the dynamic between two lovers, diametrically yet complimentarily opposed; attached to one another through their differences. The harmony underneath descends chromatically so that the note transforms itself through the minor third, major third, eleventh and sharpened eleventh in a succession of concord and discord. The ‘B’ section , contrastingly, uses up all twelve notes of the chromatic scale, literally exhausting all possibilities of adventure outside such a balanced ‘marriage of opposites’. With its semblance to Schoenberg’s serialism, the composition is, effectively, historically mediated in itself.
This dialectic correlation of dissonance and consonance, tension and resolution, separation and reconciliation is a structural pattern that can be found in countless Bossa Nova compositions by Tom Jobim and other composers too, where the transposed, re-iterated theme revolves tightly around a chromatically fluctuating harmony, constantly striving for a stable settled home. The constant regression of tonal harmony towards a ‘magnetic centre’ implies a sense of eternal continuity beyond the structural boundaries of the composition, aided by the potentially endless repetition of the composition around a central structural pattern (similar to jazz), or a displacement of chords and pulses, holding the listener suspended, harmonically and rhythmically, in a trance-like state. This is where the African modal tradition comes into effect, and it is exemplified by the compositions ‘Corcovado’, ‘O Barquinho’ and, to the extreme, ‘Águas de Março’. Unlike the European tonal tradition, these compositions are not meta linguistically constructed; however, social comment is made indirectly through observations of nature.
‘Corcovado’ (‘Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars’) creates the sense of displacement through a twelve-bar introduction, divided asymmetrically into an eight bar flute passage and a four-bar string passage, in a call and response. The flute ‘call’ begins on the third beat of the first bar, and is only joined by the guitar accompaniment when it ‘lands’ on the first beat of the third bar, immediately upsetting the listener’s sense of rhythmic and harmonic orientation. The ensuing string ‘response’ is cut short four bars earlier than expected, and ‘interrupted’ with the song’s main theme. The song is based upon a fluctuating two-note motif that balances a succession of complimentary images and sentiments; ‘a little corner, a guitar’ / ’This love, a song’ / ’To make happy the one you love’. The lyrics imply a sense of eternal contemplation with ‘so much time to think, and time to dream…until the final flicker of life’s ember’ that transpires infinitely before and after the composition has elapsed. Subsequently, the endless circular structure, bound by the reoccurring two note figure, is by no means conclusive, and the potential for recapitulation is almost inevitable in the way that the composition begins and ends on the same unresolved A-minor sixth chord. Time loses all meaning, and the listener is suspended in the continual unfolding of the present. Yet behind this present contingency lies an infinite ‘stream-of-consciousness’, into which the composition is only a glimpse. The composition (‘Corcovado’) is merely a ‘window’ into this world, in the same way that ‘from the window you can see Corcovado, The Redeemer’s Statue’ and Rio de Janeiro’s seemingly endless mountain scenery. Likewise, ‘O Barquinho’ (‘The Little Boat’) composed by Roberto Menescal and Ronaldo Bôscoli ‘transports the solitary couple into an endlessly cyclical universe of tides and sunsets, suspended in the song’s open-ended, circular refrain ‘A tardinha cai / O barquinho vai’ (The evening falls / The little boat drifts on)’.
‘Águas de Março’ (‘Waters of March’ or ‘March Rains’) is formulated on a descending melodic figure that fluctuates between the tonic and the third, always returning – either directly, via the second, or indirectly, via the octave, major sixth, minor sixth, fifth and then via the second – towards the tonic, like a magnetic gravitational pull. This is underpinned by an equally cyclic chromatically descending chord sequence. Paradoxically, the composition ‘begins’ on the inverted seventh where the unstable note (seventh) is in the bass. This chord contains its own self-contained potential for resolution, implying (in a similar fashion to ‘Corcovado’) that the composition does not necessarily begin at a definite point, but has instead merely ‘tapped into’ an already endless moving cycle. The song was inspired by liturgical incantations found in Afro Brazilian religious ceremonies. As such, the lyrics have a liturgical quality and depict a series of disconnected images, many of which are specific references to Brazilian culture, selected for their sonic as well as semantic potential. The continual juxtaposition of decay and growth, death and birth, night and day, evokes the organic processes of things all governed by the same system of natural cycles and relationships. All these images swirl around the continual undertow of the ‘March Rains’ – implying that behind nature is revealed that which is ‘the deep mystery, it’s whether or not’ therefore suggesting that nature answers life’s most profound questions. Just as the waters signify the continual passing of everyday life and its inevitable progression towards death, the March rains signify the end of the summer, and the beginning of the cold, wet season. They symbolize the dawn of a new age in Brazil that was always approaching, but never arrived. Just as the approaching March rains are ‘the promise of life in your heart’, Juscelino Kubitschek made the promise of ‘fifty years progress in five’. Although the song is not directly a critique of the changing times, it encapsulates the sense of simultaneous anticipation and exasperation felt by many to see that, perhaps, the times had not necessarily changed after all.
Tom Jobim also exploits the antagonism between the two conceptions of time; between ‘the cyclical, ritualistic world of repetition, of the eternal return’ of the sacred age (African tradition), and ‘the chronological, progressive, accumulative temporality of our secular, modern age’ (European tradition) in the compositions ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (‘Girl from Ipanema’) and ‘A Felicidade’ (‘Happiness’).
‘Garota de Ipanema’ (‘Girl from Ipanema’) juxtaposes two ideas; the side-to-side sway of the object [girl] as she walks past during the ‘A’ section (European tonal tradition), and the hypnotic, trance like gaze of the subject during the ‘B’ section (African modal tradition). During the ‘A’ section , the melodic line circles the bass line but does not affect it consonantly; the relationship between the melodic line and the bass line is initially very dissonant. It is only at the word ‘graça’ (‘grace’) that the harmony re-adjusts itself in a consonant relationship with the melody, shifting the transfixed gaze from a state of erotic contemplation to a state of grace, resolving the tension. During the ‘B’ section , the quasi ‘cycle-of-fifths’ suspends the listener in a timeless void underpinned by the implication of an eternal return. The trance is only broken during the recapitulation of the ‘A’ section, when the focus shifts once again from the inward, despondent thoughts of the subject back to his outward, distant contemplation of the object of his desire – the girl that ‘passes by’ – thus, from the timeless void, back into the narrative.
‘A Felicidade’ (‘Happiness’) contains its own internal historical development that unfolds in ‘real-time’ history. The unresolved chords heard during the introductory ‘A’ section in each verse suspend the listener in a void of eternal sadness, of which the song describes; ‘tristeza não tem fim, felicidade sim’ (‘sadness has no end, happiness does’). The focus then returns to the realm of the present in the ‘B’ section with the constant exchange of discord and concord. The brevity of the opening ‘A’ section suggests that the Carnival exists more inside the mind of the poor man, as ‘he works and he plans each day through the year to live it just for a moment’ than in the happiness it actually creates; as such, the anticipation of the Carnival is greater than its actual realization. The song re enacts the transition between Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday – between the euphoric ‘illusion’ of Carnival and the ‘reality’ of its quiet aftermath (the ‘calm after the storm’) – and the reluctant return to the ongoing trials and tribulations of daily life. It defies the progression of ‘real time’ and instead elongates time, suspending us in the moment of the floating feather as it is held delicately in the air by the breeze, the dew drop as it hovers tantalizingly on the edge of a petal, and the gaze of the lover as he watches his beloved sleeping before she awakens, at the twilight between night and day. There are two distinctly contrasting settings juxtaposed within the composition, giving it a distinctly dialectical character.
In this sense, Bossa Nova underlined the structural duality of Brazilian culture and its fundamental values; on the one hand, the ‘village-centred, seasonally oriented, ritualistic world, of repetitive, cyclical, interlocking rhythms and melodies weaving in an ever denser fabric around the stable, grounded focus of home, community and tradition’ – the African modal tradition, and, on the other hand, the ‘decentred, restless, individualistic pursuit of change and development, the flight from repetition and familiarity, the deliberate postponement of satisfaction, through ever longer and more complex sequences of relaxation and tension, progression and dissonance’ – the European tonal tradition. The African tradition represents an organic tendency in music; the ‘organic’ in compositional structure is the manifestation of nature, and, as established, derives from the unity and coherence in Afro Brazilian rhythmic structures. The European tradition represents a mechanical tendency; this societal urge manifests itself as the mechanical structures in the music and, later, its mass reproduction and distribution.
Tom Jobim’s compositions work on two conceptions of time; the cyclical ritualistic eternal threshold of ‘becoming’ and the chronological progressive historical (or, the unfolding present versus the past future narrative). These relate to wider socio political contexts and timelines; one the one hand, the restless demand for change brought about by the new regime and its conviction of ‘fifty years progress in five’ (European tonal tradition) and, on the other hand, the carefree sense of optimism of living in the moment, secure in the conviction that ‘tomorrow is in safe hands’ (African modal tradition).
‘Garota de Ipanema’ and ‘A Felicidade’ create sections of static, immanent timelessness. However, they are considered innovative compositions in their own right. Adorno criticised Stravinsky because his work defies the logical progression of ‘real-time’. Adorno argued that music is not indifferent to time, and that, in Schoenberg;
‘beneath the shell of the traditional musical idiom all the forces are evolving that would later burst that shell and lay the foundation for a new musical material.’
The Bossa Nova idiom and Tom Jobim’s compositions were unique because they utilised tradition to engage with what came before, and directly succeeded one another in a consequential manner. But this idiom would eventually be exhausted from within itself, and a new musical recipe would need to be created. Hence, Bossa Nova, as a compositional mediation between ‘popular’ and ‘art’ music influences, was innovative between 1958 1962 since it resided at the threshold between tradition and modernity, and therefore musically ‘in sync’ with society.
Commodification and Social Alienation
So far our assessments rely on the dialogue between ‘art’ and ‘popular’ music, the European and African tradition, the city and the favela, and so on. Compositions by Tom Jobim and Roberto Menescal have an inner ‘sociality’ between their internal relational structures, illustrating that,
‘Their unique backgrounds and personal creative abilities – dare I say ‘talent’ – allowed them to draw on material that stood at the border between the popular and the erudite, the national and the international, to produce a sophisticated sound that was simultaneously Brazilian without resorting to the exotic.’
Bossa Nova originated from a convergence between music and society; however, there was a divergence. This chapter explores the forces that led to this divergence and the directions that artists took.
In New York, the historic Bossa Nova concert at Carnegie Hall, 1962, swiftly prompted a number of Bossa Nova artists into signing recording contracts and embarking on solo careers. The celebrated 1964 recording of ‘Garota de Ipanema’ by João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto and American saxophonist Stan Getz (with lyrics in both Portuguese and English) effectively translated the idiom for international audiences, and resulted in the song being recorded no less than forty times in Brazil and the United States, by artists such as Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra. Internationally, Bossa Nova received the full ‘coca-cola treatment’ and became a household name. The increased reification of Bossa Nova in the 1960s led to ‘overkill and boredom’ ; Bossa Nova compositions no longer challenged listeners in the same way that ‘Chega de Saudade’ and ‘Desafinado’ had done before. At this point, Bossa Nova was assimilated into mass culture as a popular idiom, and its internal resistance was not sufficient to stop this. Furthermore, many of its original creators became victims of exploitation. The French director of ‘Black Orpheus’ Sacha Gordine influenced composers including Tom Jobim, Luiz Bonfá, João Gilberto, Carlos Lyra, Chico Feitosa and Baden Powell to sign contracts declaring that whatever they produced in the next twelve months would become his exclusive property. In 1964, the American lyricist Ray Gilbert obtained the rights to compositions by Tom Jobim, Marcos Valle, Roberto Menescal, Baden Powell, Durval Ferreira, Eumir Deodato, Aloysio de Oliveira, Oscar Castro-Neves and Dorival Caymmi; resulting in these composers becoming short changed. Outside Brazil, Bossa Nova was thus increasingly succumbing to the forces of commodification.
In the essay, ‘On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening’, Adorno laments that the uses of music immanently reflects the problems of society, observing that;
‘Until the end of history, the musical balance between partial stimulus and totality, between expression and synthesis, between the surface and the underlying, remains as unstable as the moments of balance between supply and demand in the capitalist economy.’
Music, both in its creation and reception, is determined by market production and consumption. The standardized production of music stimulated by the recording industry relegates art to the status of ‘musical goods’; art reduced to product. The endless recordings of ‘Girl from Ipanema’ were driven by imitation and artists’ desire for ‘ownership’ of this song, which, in essence, betrays the foundation of originality and individuality upon which this song was initially created. This encouraged the regression of listening habits. Adorno claims that;
‘The listener is converted, along his line of least resistance, into the acquiescent purchaser. No longer do the partial moments serve as a critique of that whole; instead, they suspend the critique which the successful aesthetic totality exerts against the flawed one of society… The isolated moments of enjoyment prove incompatible with the immanent constitution of the work of art, and whatever in the work goes beyond them to an essential perception is sacrificed to them.’
The listener already knows what he is going to hear before he even hears it. The ‘isolated moments of enjoyment’ (the song’s familiarity) became surrogate of its quality, and its ‘immanent constitution’ (the individualistic, compelling aspect that made the song famous in the first place) went unnoticed. Artists recorded Bossa Nova songs to succumb to commodity listening, instead of creating anything original, and ‘[r]egressive listeners behave like children. Again and again and with stubborn malice, they demand the one dish they have once been served. A sort of musical children’s language is prepared for them.’ Thus, the ‘ownership’ of the song became more important than the joy that it actually brought.
Meanwhile, in Rio de Janeiro, the mood of society changed. The carefree optimism of the 1950s was replaced by a sentiment of realism; that the development programme culminating in the construction of Brasília would have to be paid for, and that inflation was rising. Juscelino Kubitschek resigned in 1960 and was replaced by the left-leaning president João Goulart, whose reformist administration demanded that, in response to this new sentiment, popular art should transform the political consciousness. Until now, Bossa Nova music had become absorbed in alienated introspection, and although Samba formed its rhythmic basis, it failed to reconcile the socio cultural disparity between the artistic vanguard and the popular audience; between the city and the favela. Institutions such as the Centre of Popular Culture (CPC) required music to combine ‘popular form’ with revolutionary content; music should become a vehicle to articulate realistic concerns. The influx of foreign styles such as rock ‘n’ roll accelerated the striving for realism in popular music. As a result, student groups and organizations (the protagonists of the ‘intellectual middle class’ that had created Bossa Nova in the first place) became more politicised. This was paralleled by the military coup, which, in 1964, once inflation had risen to one hundred percent, deposed João Goulart and installed a new military dictatorship. Inside Brazil, Bossa Nova had become autonomous ‘art’ music, and, in its alienation, needed to be reconciled with society.
In his essay ‘On the Social Situation of Music’, Adorno identifies two contradictory aspects, stating that autonomous music;
‘sketches in the clearest possible lines the contradictions and flaws which cut through present-day society; at the same time, music is separated from this same society by the deepest of all flaws produced by the society itself. And yet, society is unable to absorb more of this music than its ruins and external remains.’
Autonomous music has its own structure and does not depend on extra musical concepts for meaning. Art is autonomous, yet it is historically mediated by society. Here lies the contradiction. The idea of ‘autonomous art’ indicates that art is separate from society. Yet art (as originating from society) is inadvertently affected by the cycles of production and consumption that maintain that art. For Adorno, although there was no direct link between music and society (such that the composer does not intentionally ‘map out’ social structures into musical structures), musical structures reflect social structures in their immanent form. As such, art bears the ‘scars’ or ’wounds’ of society and it can therefore be used to critique society. The divergence of socio political developments away from Bossa Nova rendered this music without function in society. Upon analysis, we can discover incredible things within Bossa Nova; its composition, its internal structures, that it is purposive and compelling – but this bore no relation to society and effectively cut it off from society.
Outside Brazil, Bossa Nova was being marketed to such an extent that the exchange value of Bossa Nova recordings surpassed its autonomous value. Inside Brazil, Bossa Nova, both in its form and content, had advanced to such a technical level that it had effectively emancipated itself from society; its carefree, alienated lyrics, with their prevailing ‘love flower sea’ themes, were no longer relevant to society, and therefore encouraged a disparity between the artist and the audience. The idiom was trapped between the irreconcilable forces of commodification and social alienation. Consequently, Adorno identifies that ‘the unity of the two spheres of music [‘serious’ and ‘light’, or, ‘art’ and ‘popular’ music] is thus that of an unresolved contradiction.’ In many of his essays, Adorno attributes these two spheres to Schoenberg and Stravinsky respectively. Adorno condemns Stravinsky in his regression to archaic forms:
‘He borrowed their idiom [neo classicism] from tonality, which had preserved the illusion of the organic right up to the threshold of modernity but which had now manifested itself as something on which history had pronounced judgement.’
The reason that classicism was no longer sufficient was because history had pronounced judgement – it had moved on; for Adorno, Stravinsky defied the logical, ongoing progression of history, and undermined the concept of historical mediation, based on the premise that ‘musical content is not indifferent to temporal form.’
Schreiner (1993) outlines the musical currents that came out of the post Bossa Nova era, and attributes these trends to the following three premises, that;
‘In both form and content, the bossa nova’s intellectual isolation had caused it to lose all connection to Brazilian reality.
‘Form renewal required that the bossa nova’s highly stylized monorhythms and dreamy melodies, which stood in sharp contradiction to the pluralism of MPB [musica popular brasileira] should be modified. This effected a return to the older canção urbana (samba, marcha, rancho, modhina, frevo etc.) and canção rural (moda de viola, desafio, samba de roda)…
‘Content renewal meant overcoming the rift in communication that had existed between author-singer and the populace, and a change in textual themes to a more realistic content…’
The musical direction taken by Bossa Nova artists generally went two ways; either towards the regression to local, Afro Brazilian ‘popular’ traditions (Baden Powell, Edu Lobo); or towards the progression to politicized lyrics (Tom Jobim, Carlos Lyra). Ruy Castro attributes these two ways to politically right wing and left wing factions; the left wing faction being a group of composers that;
‘still went around calling itself bossa nova…alienated the others and automatically pushed them to the right, for the plain and simple fact that they continued to be exclusively interested in making music[,]’
– or, autonomous music instead of communal music. The left wing faction composers preserved Bossa Nova for its aesthetic value, but the idiom increasingly functioned mechanically as an arena for debating social concerns and therefore lost some of its original essence. The right wing faction composers, however, abandoned aspects of its formal characteristics in favour of Afro Brazilian forms that would allow for a more ‘organic relationship between the music and its lyrics’ .
Baden Powell was introduced by Vinícius de Moraes, as early as 1963, to a number of Afro Brazilian forms from Bahia and the north-east, including samba de roda (the antecedent to modern samba in the form of a circle dance combining hand-clapping and percussion), candomblé (a West African syncretic religion invoking possession and trance) and berimbau (the musical accompaniment to the martial art capoeira; a type of friction bow with an amplifying gourd). Subsequently, they collaborated on a series of compositions, including ‘Berimbau’, ‘Consolação’ (Consolation) and the afro sambas; ‘Cantos’ (Chants) for Ossanha, Xangô and Iemanjá.
‘Berimbau’ (like ‘Samba de Uma Nota Só’) counterposes two single repeated notes against each other; however, the harmony is modal instead of chromatic. Its lyrics are a series of contradictory aphorisms that argue against betrayal and injustice in favour of loyalty and integrity. The constituent elements of the composition; melody, harmony, and lyrical settings, are subordinate to the rhythm, illustrating how Brazilian popular music regressed to a pre-Bossa phase. Edu Lobo took a similar direction in compositions that adopted regional, Afro Brazilian traditions.
Carlos Lyra, contrastingly, retained the formal Bossa Nova characteristics in his music, yet he politicised the lyrics. The 1962 composition ‘Influência do Jazz’ exploited the disparity between the hillside slums and middle class apartment blocks in a dialogue between Samba and Bossa Nova (referred to here as ‘Jazz’) that ‘echoed the problematic relationship between the cultural vanguard and its popular counterpart, between the city and the favela’ ; isolated on separate sides of the social, cultural and ideological divide. This song retains the ‘AABA’ structure of the Bossa Nova style, harmonic complexity and the conversational style melodic posture. However, the introduction passage uses an offset, syncopated figure evocative of the ‘forward-to-backward swing’ of jazz. This passage is repeated after the initial exposition of the verse, followed by an interlude that replicates the salsa piano figuration characteristic of the ‘twisting, complicating’ Afro-Cuban dance style described in the ‘B’ section that killed the balanço (‘side to side swing’) of samba.
The recapitulation of the ‘A’ section is reflected in the return to samba’s roots in the favela. All the elements of Bossa Nova are, to some extent, preserved; however, the narrative has now switched over ‘from lyrics about the sun, beaches and girls to lyrics depicting life in Rio’s slums’ – and addressing the concerns of the CFC in a ‘tongue in-cheek’ manner. Thus, what was once ‘art’ music for Carlos Lyra now addressed ‘popular’ concerns.
Tom Jobim addresses similar social concerns in the 1965 composition ‘O Morro Não Tem Vez’ (‘the morro [hillside favela]does not have time’) . The lyrics talk about a social problem in Rio where the favela did not get a say in political matters ; therefore directly addressing the problem of the disparity between bourgeois and proletariat sectors of society. The lyrics hypothesize a scenario where ‘the favela does not get any chance, but if they had a chance, the city will sing’ and analogize the batucada as an instrument that gives ‘the people’ a voice with which to sing (or protagonist tool to express political concerns). The Wilson Simonal arrangement combines close harmony voices and sophisticated brassy orchestrations of Bossa Nova and jazz of ‘the city’ with the sounds of the tamborim and cuica from Samba and batucada of ‘the hill’ in a cyclic refrain at the end of the song. Together, these create a sound world that depicts a fictitious, ideological Rio; one that unites the disparity between the city and the hill, whereby the favela does get a say. Tom Jobim also utilised the Bossa Nova idiom to express environmental concerns. He spent his childhood days ‘contemplating the birds, trees, dolphins, and other aspects of nature’ ; and his ecological perspective became an increasingly active political concern later on, when he became a prominent supporter of the movement to defend the last areas of forest on Brazil’s Atlantic coast. His environmental concerns manifest themselves in compositions that celebrate nature, such as ‘O Bôto’ (Amazonian porpoise), and compositions that demand the protection of Amazonian life, such as ‘Borzeguim’ ;
Deixa a onça viva na florestaLeave the jaguar alive in the forest
Deixa o peixe n'água que é uma festa Leave the fish in the water
Deixa o índio vivo Leave the Indian alive
Deixa o índio Leave the Indian alone
Nara Leão, having earlier been known as the ‘muse of Bossa Nova’ whilst still a teenager (her parents’ home was the fraternity for many up and coming artists in the formative stages of Bossa Nova) endorsed the CPC manifesto and went in a political direction, resulting in a departure from and against Bossa Nova, and everything that it stood for:
‘Enough Bossa Nova. Enough of singing little apartment compositions for two or three intellectuals. I want pure Samba, which has much more to say for itself, which is the people’s way of expressing themselves, and not something written by some small group for another small group… Bossa Nova always has the same basic theme: love flower sea love flower sea, and it goes on ad infinitum. It’s very complex. You need to hear it sixty times in order to understand what’s being said. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life singing ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ much less in English. I want to be understood, I want to be a singer of the people.’
Nara was not satisfied with being associated with a purely aesthetic movement, disconnected from society, and desired for her music to be an expression of the ‘people’. The denial of what was arguably her own past resulted in two albums ‘Nara’ in 1963 and ‘Opinião de Nara’ (‘Nara’s Opinion’) in 1964, the latter of which incorporated sambas, carnival marchinhas, protest songs and Bahian capoeiras. To Marcos Valle, Nara Leão represented a denial of modernity and regression to backward looking folk music traditions. Nara later returned to Bossa Nova and recorded an album with him entitled ‘Samba ’68’ that contained songs even more closely aligned with the love flower sea ethos, yet blended the technical sophistication of Bossa Nova with frequent Samba themes. Like ‘A Felicidade’ the compositions ‘Os Grilos’
(‘Crickets Sing for Anamaria’) and ‘Batucada’ contain percussive batucada interludes. Lyrics in songs such as ‘A Reposta’ (‘The Answer’) and ‘It’s Time to Sing’ consciously address the relationship between music, poetry and modernity. Marcos Valle felt that combining Samba references, both musical and lyrical, with the escapism of Bossa Nova and its hypothetical ‘love smile flower‘ ethos, created a ‘Happy Samba’. This third trend was effectively a compromise between the regression to popular traditions (Samba) and the utilization of politicized lyrics.
If Bossa Nova went in such diverse directions, how do we define the Bossa Nova ideology today compared to how musicians defined it in 1958 1962? Josimar Carneiro is a Rio based musical director working on the score for the musical production ‘Tom e Vinícius’ ; described as ‘a true story about the meeting of Tom Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes and how they created this beautiful music.’ Like Black Orpheus, music is integral to the plot, and is the subject of contemplation; Bossa Nova is therefore appreciated as an ‘end in itself’ rather than as a ‘means to an end’. Nowadays, the arranger faces many of the same challenges as the composer, and Josimar Carneiro cites Tom Jobim as a major influence on his work;
‘The music from the show consists of Tom Jobim songs that are very well known. I was almost afraid to create an arrangement in case it didn’t reflect the true intention of the composer. Everyone listens to it and thinks of it as ‘Bossa Nova’ – because the songs are by Tom Jobim, but this is my own take on it.’
Bossa Nova can only be recreated to a certain extent. Particularly within jazz, new compositions have been written in a ‘Bossa Nova style’ and recordings have been made of jazz standards set to a ‘Bossa Nova rhythm’. But these examples lose the essence that is preserved within Tom Jobim compositions, simply because they were composed in a time space reality far removed from 1950s Rio. Instead, Josimar Carneiro has recreated Bossa Nova in arrangements of Tom Jobim compositions. The connection with ‘Bossa Nova’, whatever it may be, is retained through playing familiar songs, yet it is the ‘how’ (the way that these songs are played) that is different. Therefore, re creation (the work of the arranger) like creation (the work of the composer) is the mediation between traditional material and personal influences, a sort of dialogue between arranger Josimar Carneiro and composer Tom Jobim.
Josimar Carneiro was strongly influenced as a child by vocal ensembles such as Os Cariocas, which were popular in Rio before the advent of Bossa Nova. He translates the techniques made famous by Os Cariocas, such as the texture with the top line singing in falsetto, into Bossa Nova compositions, and orchestrates his arrangements in such a way that they replicate the sound of Os Cariocas. When asked about his relationship to this tradition, he responded;
‘I feel that my arrangements are a contribution to this tradition rather than fighting with it. Many composers, upon watching the show, agree with me, including; Carlos Lyra, Nelson Motta, Francis Hime, Durval Ferreira, Billy Blanco, Edu Lobo and even Paulo Jobim, son of Tom Jobim. Tom Jobim is regarded as the most famous composer of Bossa Nova. My music is my way of recreating his music and the music of other composers who he admired, such as Villa Lobos, Noel Rosa, Ary Barroso and Nelson Cavaquinho. As a result, people say that I am very good at adapting the music to the scene, in particular, preserving the essence of Bossa Nova – singularity, minimalism – within a large-scale production. This is the compromise that I have made.’
The show included richly harmonised vocal arrangements of compositions such as ‘O Morro Não Tem Vez’ and ‘Carta ao Tom 74’ . These would sound like ‘Bossa Nova’ to an outsider even though it is actually setting these compositions (written in the 1960s/1970s) within an earlier style, a musical contextual ‘background’ in which these compositions were created. Thus, Bossa Nova maintains itself through its association with local Afro Brazilian traditions but simultaneously creates a cultural homogenization out of itself, divorced from its essence of singularity and minimalism that originally made it so attractive.
Samba and Bossa Nova both unite music and words. Yet the way they do this is different, and this is what contributed to their subsequent emancipation. Bossa Nova is ‘art’ music because its alienated ‘love smile flower’ language is arguably hypothetical and although it critiques society, it only did this indirectly. Samba was latently more accessible as ‘popular music’ because it critiques society directly;through its protest songs and politicized lyrics. This distinction is the reason behind these contrasting directions.
This study has identified the dialectical patterns found in Bossa Nova that, in my view, must be considered in light of the ‘art versus society’ [aesthetic] debate. Although these distinctions are a broad generalization, they do reflect overall dialectic patterns that characterize most ‘Western’ aesthetic discourse.
The composer Peter Crossley Holland identifies a distinction between the preservation [revival] and renewal of folk music traditions. He reveals that through the transcendence of music from the local to the global sphere, regional traditions are enriched by universal trends. However, new media demands that these regional traditions adapt themselves to fit new conceptions of time and uses in music; therefore betraying, to some extent, the underlying ‘essence’ of originality and functions to which these traditions owe their existence. I contend that this logic can apply to Bossa Nova.
Globally, Bossa Nova, as ‘popular’ music, is a renewal. But it can only renew itself by blending with other genres such as Jazz, Samba and electronic music to maintain its aesthetic autonomy, often at the expense of its immanent form. This trend is evident through the proliferation of modern electronic ensembles such as Bossacucanova and Azymuth that create upbeat versions of Bossa Nova compositions – something more familiar to us as the ‘Brazilian beats’ movement. These ensembles essentially continue the work of ‘Black Orpheus’ in creating culturally homogenized misrepresentations of ‘Brazilian music’ that contradict its unique social origins, and blur the distinctions between Samba and Bossa Nova; something that, within Rio, is a cultural reality.
Locally, Bossa Nova, as ‘art’ music, is a revival. I went to Rio expecting to discover a hidden repertoire of new, contemporary Bossa Nova compositions; instead, every performance I attended contained the same collection of songs that I was already familiar with. The familiarity of the music was surrogate for innovation; audiences appreciated it for its romantic, nostalgic evocation of a bygone era, rather than for its concrete, formal manifestation of modern day society. This, surely, defies Theodor Adorno’s ideal conception of ‘art’ music; as ‘turned against the closed work and everything it implies’ . Bossa Nova, although proven to be socially alienated in Brazil, is still a ‘closed work’.
Fundamentally, then, Bossa Nova challenges the distinctions between ‘art’ and ‘popular’ music set out by Adorno, and prove that value judgements between the two must be considered from both angles; aesthetic and ethnomusicological. From an aesthetic standpoint, Bossa Nova reflects trends set out by ‘Western’ philosophers. From an ethnomusicological perspective, Bossa Nova must be considered in accordance with the social reality of existing practices; which, upon examination, illuminate significant differences. As ‘art’ music, Bossa Nova is a revival of a bygone era, yet its aspect of familiarity contradicts ideals of ‘art’ music; historical mediation and engagement with tradition. As ‘popular’ music, Bossa Nova is a renewal, yet unlike many forms of popular music, it is appreciated for its aesthetic value rather than for its revolutionary content. The contrasting insights gained undermine common perceptions and definitions of music as established in the New Musicology (influenced by Adorno); and therefore justify the demand for a unity between aesthetic and ethnomusicological disciplines, which subsequently reveals two sides to the same story.
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Rory spent the first few years of his life in an ice cave, carving out his palace of wonder. He's a bit of a love doll, but he who melts the ice shall have their reward.