Leblon, Rio de Janeiro
Alexandre Schubert, born 1970, in Manhumirim, Minas Gerais, moved with his family to Rio de Janeiro while still young, and studied music at the Escola Villa-Lobos, a secondary school for music operated by the State of Rio de Janeiro, located in downtown Rio, and at the Escola de Música of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), also in the center of the city. He has already produced a large and diverse body of work, and is part of the prominent composers’ collaborative known as Prelúdio XXI. We spoke at his apartment in the center of Leblon.
TM: I would like to ask about your musical training, your musical experiences as a child, and about the musical environment in your family.
AS: I always liked music, and my parents always liked to listen to music as well, but neither of them was a musician, neither professional nor amateur. No one knew how to play anything except for records on the turntable. My sister started to study recorder, and she taught me a little. I learned a little music theory at school. I always wanted to compose, to create. I remember that I already was writing some little pieces for recorder. Instead of playing music by other people I preferred to invent my own little things.
And so my father and mother thought that it would be a good idea for me to go to conservatory so that I could work seriously at some instrument. I went to the Escola Villa-Lobos, which is run by the State of Rio de Janeiro, and studied theory. I had a class in harmony with Guilherme Bauer there, which was my first contact with a composer, and I started to learn violin. All of my apprenticeship in violin was there, and I always was trying to play in groups, because I thought staying by yourself all the way was a bad idea. I always liked to be with other people, with other musicians my own age.
I took the entrance exam for the course in composition at UFRJ, and passed. It is a seven-year program, and gave me a chance to develop. I had good professors there who managed to give me direction without imposing ideology on me, something I think is very important.
TM: Sometimes it seems like the violin is falling into neglect, and often young composers have more exposure to popular music, rather than classical music.
AS: Choosing the violin was a little….in fact, my parents’ guidance was important. I was thinking about studying piano, and we were living in a house that was not so big, we didn’t really have space for a piano, and my parents said, “Look, violin is an orchestral instrument. If you play piano, you will always be by yourself,” and it was my desire to be participating in groups that led me to choose the violin, and also because I liked classical music. At this point I hadn’t been exposed to much popular music. That would come later, when I was at UFRJ, with other students who played choro and so forth.
I played chorinho on violin, and participated in informal groups, and it was really great to let loose, relax. I started to compose in a more systematic way, with greater attention to detail, about halfway through the course. In my first few years I was developing as an instrumentalist, playing in the orchestra, in professional orchestras. After a while composition began to demand more time, more dedication.
My experience with the violin was very calm, no traumas — I adapted to the instrument. Starting to study the violin can be rather tiresome, rather difficult. It’s your family that suffers. But it was nice, especially because I was able to play in ensembles right away. This was when there was a youth symphony orchestra here in Rio de Janeiro, and I could feel that I wasn’t an ET, because I had lots of colleagues who were my age playing violin, playing other instruments. We had good conductors. It was a sort of laboratory where we could get to know the music. My colleagues who weren’t from a musical milieu would say “Violin? Couldn’t it be a guitar, at least?” Later they got used to it.
I didn’t begin early, because my son is nine and he is already playing the violin, and my wife, who is a violin teacher, has groups of students who are already playing at 3 or 4 years of age. I began at 11 or 12, but it was something that I wanted, not something I did because I was forced to.
TM: Does your family come from a German background? Often Brazilian composers seem to come from Italian or German backgrounds.
AS: My family comes from Germany. My great-grandfather was German. He came to Brazil because he was from Hamburg and was in the Merchant Marine. On one of his voyages he came to Brazil, and there was already a colony of German immigrants in the south of Brazil. He met my great-grandmother, who was already here, and was German as well.
TM: Where was this?
AS: In Joinville, Santa Catarina. So on the next voyage he came planning to stay. He came back and stayed, and founded this branch of my family. On my mother’s side there are Portuguese, but there are Swiss as well. My mother is from Minas, and the region from which she comes, Manhumirim, had a large population of Swiss immigrants. They first went to Friburgo (RJ), and there was a road which went from there to Manhumirim, by the Serra do Caparaó. It’s funny, because you are driving along in the back country, and all of a sudden you see a bunch of little kids with blond hair and blue eyes, because they all descended from Swiss. They are different from Mineiros from other regions. My grandfather was tall, strong, blue eyes, very Swiss.
My father always liked music, classical music, light music. We always listened to a lot of music at home — always. On Saturdays and Sundays our entertainment was to put on records. They would take us to concerts often. He ended up in Rio because of work. He was from Joinville, went to Minas, and lived there for a while. I was born in Minas, in Manhumirim, but when I was one year old, he got a job here in Rio. He is a project designer for urban design, architecture, and so forth. And so the family all moved to Rio. Outside of the big cities in Brazil it is difficult to have opportunities to study music, to hear an orchestra, a string quartet. Playing violin, composing classical music, are not things that most people are interested in. It’s not very popular.
TM: You studied violin at the Escola Villa-Lobos. With whom?
AS: I began studying violin with Astrogildo Reis. He played at the Theatro Municipal and was a professor at the Escola. I studied with him until I went to UFRJ. When I started at UFRJ I changed teachers, but by that point I was already moving to composition, and violin had become secondary. I did as much as I could with violin as a minor. Then I entered the technical course, which I didn’t complete, since I had begun to work a lot, and I didn’t have time to spend with the violin. I needed to do composition, and work, to earn my living. I married. The day I graduated from UFRJ was also the day that my son was born. He was born in the early hours of the morning, and the graduation was at night. I was up all night, super-happy. I played at the graduation, music by my colleagues, because I would have been too nervous to play my own music. We were all supposed to wear black. I was so happy, and was wearing a white shirt. “You’re dressed in white?!? What’s going on?” “My son was born, I am not wearing black, I am going to wear white.” They understood….It was great. My professor, Astrogildo, was very happy. These days we play together in orchestras, he’s sitting next to me. It’s nice for him to have a student who has become a colleague. This is not so common. Some people don’t get through the program, or they move to other cities, or continue their studies outside Brazil. It’s unusual to have one generation follow the other, to sit next to your first teacher.
Education at UFRJ
TM: What was the composition program like at UFRJ?
AS: It’s quite academic. The approach to analysis comes from the French school. Solfege, harmony — it’s very European, from the Paris Conservatory. I thought it was great. I learned this style of analysis very easily. It is very useful — I very much like analysis, thanks to my first professor. When we were analyzing Beethoven, she would always say “The great masters…”. After beginning with harmony and analysis, we moved on to counterpoint, instrumentation, orchestration, and composition. I was lucky to have excellent professors — counterpoint with [Henrique] Morelenbaum, who was a master. I hold him in the greatest esteem. He made me look beyond what was on the written page. When we began to do a lot of counterpoint, the rules were very strict. I began to rebel. “We are not going to use this in music nowadays — what’s the point?” But it wasn’t meant to be practically useful, but as an exercise. A way to see further, to see more deeply, to look at a piece in eight parts, with each part different from the other, to perceive the relations between the bass, and the second soprano. The contrapuntal relations. This is essential for composition, to have mastery over the material which you are writing. I think this is very important — for someone to be aware of what they are doing. You can be inspired — sit down, write a piece quickly for your own instrument, play, improvise, and produce very nice things like that. But I believe also in detailed work — knowing exactly what you are doing. Sometimes I write something very quickly, from inspiration, and later I will take a look at it — it’s already almost ready — and will see the inter-relations and so forth — but this is something that is already incorporated [in my way of writing]. After you study so much and work on this for years it becomes a part of our brain, of our consciousness, so that when we are writing from inspiration, we bring with us all this intellectual baggage.
I also studied instrumentation and orchestration — one or two semesters with [João Guilherme] Ripper, and also with Murilo Santos, who comes from a much earlier generation. He is someone who knows a great deal about instrumentation and orchestration. He knows on a practical basis what works and what doesn’t work, because he was also an orchestral musician — he played piano in the orchestra of the Theatro Municipal. He lived in the middle of the orchestra, and since often the piano wasn’t playing, he would bring the full score of the piece which was being played, and follow it to see what was happening. He has a very practical side, which he handed on to us.
I had only one chance to work with the orchestra of the Escola de Música, but it was a very good opportunity. In my case I did an orchestration of a prelude by Debussy, just for strings. Other people did arrangements just for winds. They had one rehearsal for us. It was a class, live, with people playing what we had written. It was nice to write something and hear it immediately.
I had classes in composition with Marisa [Rezende], another exceptional figure, as a professor, and a friend. We have a very close relationship even now. She also did analysis, not just in that European style, but she brought in lots of recent books, with analyses of more twentieth-century pieces, Stravinsky, Bartok, Lutoslawski, Britten. Then we began to study dodecaphonicism, serialism — Webern, Dallapiccola, various composers that we had never heard of. We listened to lots of music.
When I began to study composition there was a group at the school called Música Nova — I am sure you have already heard of it. This was a brilliant idea of Marisa’s, when she came to Rio. She wanted to form a group of students from the school. She didn’t even present it as something that had to do with studying. She said “Anyone who is interested in playing contemporary music, with support from CNPq [Conselho Nacional de Pesquisa], please come on such-and-such a date and play a piece of twentieth-century music. Various people showed up, people were chosen, and at the end of the process there was piano, flute, vibraphone, percussion, and clarinet. This was the first instrumental nucleus of Música Nova, and there were two student composers as well.
So what happened? You would write compositions in your classes for the group. One class was the student and professor in class, and there was another class where you went to rehearse the music. You would write two lines of music for flute, the flutist would play it, and would talk about how it worked for the instrument, if it didn’t work… The composition of the group changed, because people would graduate, and then there would be new auditions. I eventually played violin in the group, but my fellowship was in composition. The fact that I played violin meant that that was another possibility for the group. The new makeup for the group was piano, flute, clarinet, violin, trombone and contrabass, and it stayed that way for quite some time. Later there were cello, bassoon…it was gradually getting bigger. I would write for the group, and it would play. The group was getting good — not just a school workshop, but began to have a real level of artistry, which meant that it was invited to participate in things like the Bienal de Música Contemporânea, even the festival of new music in Santos. We played two concerts, one in Santos, one in São Paulo, which was packed. Two pieces were commissioned by the festival, to be played by the group at the festival, one by Edino Krieger, and one by Marisa. She also put a piece of mine on the program. My piece was not commissioned, but she thought it was worth presenting. So we went there, it was fantastic, we went to Cuiabá, where Roberto Victorio was doing some very nice work with the orchestra there. We played there, and for them it was music that they never dreamed existed. The church was full, lots of people, and we were playing a repertoire that they didn’t know, but they were very receptive. Sometimes people who live in big cities and who have access to lots of information take in a lot of prejudices along with the information, and people who live in the interior who have open minds accept new music as something interesting. Another thing is that if people are used to hearing popular music, and not Beethoven, Haydn, classic repertoire, when they do get to hear contemporary music, they think it is fantastic. But if you play classic repertoire for people who go to concerts regularly, and mix Bach with contemporary music, then you find people who are reactionary.
Recently I had an experience, which though understandable, was not pleasant. There were six pieces which were semi-finalists in a competition at IBEU [Instituto Brasil-Estados Unidos], including one of my pieces. My piece was the second to be played. All the pieces were anonymous, nobody knew the names of the pieces, it was something quite abstract. All there was in the score was a metronome marking — that’s all. It was part of a series at IBEU which always had traditional repertoire — one concert would have Chopin, another would have sonatas for violin and piano, Cesar Franck. Something which appeals to the public in Copacabana — all the ladies go [note by TM: known in Rio for its concentration of senior citizens]. Just that this concert was only contemporary music, an hour of contemporary music, and with the usual audience for the rest of the series attending. The first piece began, and the ladies in the front started to whisper. The concert was being recorded in order to release it on CD later, and there was really a lot of noise. When my piece began, I could clearly hear the ladies talking, and one my colleagues said “SHHHHHHH!” They were not respecting the music at all. Finally they left after my piece, and the other pieces didn’t suffer so much.
To go back to Música Nova, the group no longer has the grant from CNPq, but continues active, playing concerts, commissioning pieces, but it is more difficult once there is not stable funding people move to other work. Nevertheless the group is still at a good level.
Marisa is someone who brings people together, and the pieces are always interesting. People like doing it. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be there.
These days in Rio de Janeiro, if you are talking about institutions supporting contemporary music, sponsorship, organizations, there are fewer and fewer. We have the Bienal, sponsored by Funarte, which is federal. It always stretches the funding to the limit, in order to pay for rehearsals and concerts, and usually the funding is approved at the very last minute. You have to organize everything with very little advance notice. Orchestras are usually not very interested in participating. Their repertoire doesn’t usually include music written today — just the usual traditional pieces.
There is also the Panorama at the Escola de Música, which alternates years with the Bienal. And so people’s music is usually heard at these big festivals, but last year there was no Panorama, so there was a hole. This year there is the Bienal, and people always worry about whether it will really take place, whether the funding will be approved. There is a crisis at all levels in Brazil, and abroad as well. This means that people are looking for other possibilities in addition to these festivals — groups of composers, etc. There are some composers from the older generation who put together a project of concerts of their works with support from the city, and another group, Prelúdio XXI, which recently invited me to take part. And there are musicians who ask for new pieces and play them in recital. Joaquim Abreu and Paulo Passos asked me for a piece for clarinet or bass clarinet and marimba. They toured throughout Brazil with my piece. There was also a guitar duo which commissioned a piece last year.
TM: What is the piece for bass clarinet and marimba called?
AS: “Cidade das Pedras.” It’s named after a city which I really like in Minas, called São Thomé das Letras. They have a beautiful stone, which you can use for decorating walls, or for floors. The stone is unique to the region — it is called São Thomé stone. The houses are made of wood, but with the stones laid into the walls. So the architecture is unique as well. I made the piece in homage to the city, which is full of stories as well. The piece has various movements. I wanted to make images of the region. They liked the piece, and even recorded it. It will probably be released by SESC in São Paulo.
TM: Could you talk about your works — pieces for chamber ensemble, for chorus, for orchestra?
AS: I have always written for a variety of different ensembles. Chamber music, music for orchestra, for chorus and orchestra, voice and piano, voice and chamber ensemble, voice and orchestra. I have a certain facility in getting my music played, since I wrote for Música Nova to play, and I have lots of friends asking for pieces. “Write me a piece for trombone and piano”, I write a trombone sonata, and he plays it. I have very little music in the drawer which has not been premiered. I always participated in the Bienal — the pieces I wrote were always chosen. I had a piece for string orchestra called “Aura,” which I wrote as the basis for my master’s thesis, since I was working with textural analysis, something that is not done very often. I wanted to create analytical tools for textural analysis. The piece was played the orchestra at the Bienal, with Ripper directing, and it was a piece with many divisi. It wasn’t a normal orchestra — first violin, second violin — there were two first violins, two second violins, two violas, two cellos, to create the textural web, ideas of greater density, lesser density. It was later played by other orchestras. It’s a popular piece.
Another piece from the Bienal was “Em Si.” This was the piece that Música Nova played at the festival in Santos — flute, clarinet, violin, trombone, contrabass. The group played it often, it was recorded and released on CD by UFRJ, on their label, which is called Tons & Sons. It made a certain impact, because it was chosen by the Center for Documentation of Contemporary Music in Campinas to played on the radio in Europe, along with a piece by Marisa, “Ginga.” At Panorama, I had various pieces — a piece for violin solo, called “So,” played by my wife, Ludmila; “Caminhos,” which was another piece I wrote for Música Nova, violin, violoncello, flute, clarinet, piano, which has been played. For orchestra, I wrote “Sinfonia Festiva.” There was a competition when Brazil celebrated five hundred years, and I wrote the Sinfonia for this competition. It was awarded honorable mention. I went to Recife, Pernambuco for the competition. It was played by the orchestra of the Escola de Música [UFRJ], and also at the Panorama, where they made a nice recording.
I like to write for competitions, as an incentive. You end up writing for different combinations. The 2001 Bienal had a competition for composers who had only participated in a certain number of Bienals. If you had been in more than three, you were not eligible to enter. There were ten categories, and I was finalist in three. A piece for solo instrument, for harp, called “Toccata,” in three movements, which won a prize from the audience, and won second place. There was a brass quintet called “Das Esferas,” in nine movements, quite dense, which took first place in the category. There was also a category for music for the stage, where I entered a piece called “Sobre o Infinito,” with a text by Giordano Bruno, a Renaissance philosopher who was killed by the Church because his ideas were very advanced for the time. I took several texts of his, and made a piece for the stage, which also won first place.
I was feeling rebellious, because it was Carnaval, and you know how that is — parties, samba, beleza pura, you know? What happened? Just when I was writing these pieces, they stopped playing samba and started playing funk [funk carioca, a hip-hop style created in Rio de Janeiro], that kind of music where they don’t really sing. You would turn on the television to see samba and Carnaval, and all there was was this kind of music. It had nothing to do with Carnaval, it was horrible. I thought “How can things have sunk to this level? I am going to write something difficult to send to the competition as a form of protest against this mediocrity.” I had already read Giordano Bruno on the infinite universe and worlds, a dialogue in the Platonic style, and I took the first dialogue, some of the fundamental ideas, individual sentences, to make five scenes. Musically speaking I worked with series, and made a very intellectual piece, very [makes an aggressive sound]. But when it came time to put it on stage, there were unbelievable problems with the rehearsals, because the singers took a look at the score and freaked out. It was for actor, soprano, baritone, flute, clarinet, piano, vibraphone and trombone. The music was quite difficult — difficult to sing, we had to have lots of rehearsals, a level of technical demands above the norm, lots of singers refused to do the piece, because it was difficult, lots of tricky pitches, not so many references… I had even put in some references, but the conductor said “Yikes, you should have put in more references for the singers. Can you mark my score so that the instrumentalists can play the note louder for the singers to hear?” I took the score and began to circle notes which were references. And it got to a certain point in the rehearsal when it became evident that they weren’t going to hear them anyway –they were so nervous about memorizing the text that they weren’t going to hear the piano going plink plank. I ended up doubling the vocal parts — the trombone playing ppp con sordino with the baritone, so he could hear the pitch. It was only the baritone who could hear it, since there was a certain distance between the stage and the audience.
The production was very good, because the guy who did the staging used simple elements — just a chair on stage. Instead of a wooden chair, he used one of those transparent chairs from a swimming pool, and filled the stage with balls, the sort of thing you would have at a birthday party, the actor wore a suit, and the two singers, who were not characters, but ideas, simply voices, were dressed as astronauts, with lots of smoke on stage. It worked very well with the music. They entered through the audience, singing. Just that alone gave an effect from outer space, and went on stage, and the actor, who had been sitting in the middle of the audience, stood up and started saying “Infinite universe?????” It was very well done, and received first prize, and also first prize from the audience. That gave me hope. I hadn’t thought that it would be a piece that would be very accessible to the audience. After all, what people wanted to hear was funk. The piece was completely atonal, completely serial, something that no one is accustomed to, and there was a positive response from the public. So I thought “not all is lost.”
The same year I wrote, for another competition, a “Sinfonia para Mário Covas.” Mário Covas was governor of São Paulo, candidate for president. He died after a long illness, people followed it on TV, the progression of his disease. People were moved by his loss. Three groups got together to organize a competition in his memory. The State of Pará, the Department of Culture of the state of São Paulo, and the Brazilian Society for Contemporary Music, as well as the Brazilian Academy of Music. The piece had to be for orchestra, but you could have chorus, soloists, electronic music, tape — whatever you liked. The orchestra could be as large as you wanted. So I decided to participate. I learned about it a little bit late, but decided to enter anyway. I wrote a piece for chorus, orchestra and soprano — a large orchestra, a powerful chorus, with lots of counterpoint. It turned out very well, and won second prize, with a nice fee. The best of it is that the piece, “In Memoriam,” is supposed to be recorded, with the possibility of a really good performance.
This year there was a competition in Bahia, sponsored by a contemporary music group, Bahia Ensemble, which is a chamber orchestra, mostly strings, with some winds as well, piccolo, flute, clarinet, an oboe, a bassoon, a trumpet, a trombone, a horn, percussion, timpani. I wrote a piece for them, “Micro-Concerto,” six minutes, perhaps ten — short for that genre of music. I wrote it for the whole group, with a lot of divisi, working with textures…it is in three parts, and in the first the piano is not a soloist — it’s more like chamber music, with fragments which are incorporated into the weave. There are also very important parts for timpani and percussion. These parts, along with the piano, are virtuosic, so it is a sort of triple concerto. These generate the second section, where the piano is more of a soloist, and in the third section the fragments return. It won first place.
I already mentioned the piece for IBEU, a piano quartet, which is called “Lumini,” which won third place.
I was also commissioned to write a string quintet, which was played in the Planetarium here in Gávea. Mariuccia Iacovino [the violinist] was celebrating her ninetieth birthday. She was married to Arnaldo Estrela, and they were part of the Quarteto Guanabara. The idea was that the quintet was going to play the “Schubert Quintet,” the one in C major, a marvelous piece, very long, forty minutes, and they asked for a piece in homage to Mariuccia, and it was nice to have another piece by Schubert — a musical curiosity, you could see. I said yes, and they played it – it was moving — a completely new piece for her ninetieth birthday. The Schubert C major is very well-known, and very difficult technically — long, exhausting. But they did well. The idea is to repeat the concert next year in other places. A colleague of mine also requested my sonata for trombone. He wanted to do a CD of music for trombone and piano. He played in Música Nova, and likes to do contemporary music.
TM: Where do you stand aesthetically, with respect to serialism, modernism, Brazilian nationalism, minimalism, other influences from outside Brazil?
AS: I had a professor, Marisa, who gave us a lot of freedom. She didn’t want to push us down any particular road. She said, “Make the music that you are comfortable making. If you are comfortable writing tonal music, fine. If you are comfortable writing atonal music, fine. Of course, we spent a semester working on twelve-tone music. She showed us various possibilities, and everyone went their own way.
I don’t have a single aesthetic position. I think we are living through a moment of great esthetic diversity. There’s no longer that obligation to become a twelve-tone composer, and do that for your entire life, or belong to the ultra-avant-garde, and make music with noises. These days, my credo would be the freedom to write what you want. I think if we don’t have freedom, we end up stifling our creativity. The core of what we have as composers is this creativity. Maybe you want to write a modal piece. Why not? Am I not going to write a piece because it is modal, out of fashion? One day something is trendy, and the next day something else? I have been criticized because I have pieces which seem very different one from another. At the Bienal I had “Sobre o Infinito,” which was very contemporary, while the toccata for harp had Brazilian rhythms, suggestions of modality, quartal harmony. I move between these with a lot of freedom and naturalness. I have twelve-tone pieces because there are creative necessities for which the serial system is very useful. The only thing that I really don’t like to write, because I just don’t like it, is something completely tonal, with triads. I just can’t do it. I can’t write a chord in C major, C-E-G. I have just given up on it — I can’t. Only if they forced me.
When I am not writing serial music, I very much like to write with quartal harmonies, and a high level of tonal instability, always playing with tonal centers — every fragment has the possibility of a tonal center. This is always changing rapidly. There is no sensation of tonality, but of mutability, always.
All my pieces have lots of counterpoint, many melodies together, many voices. The texture where you have an accompanied melody is almost not to be found in my music. There are always lots of line interweaving, lots of contrapuntal work. On the other hand, this is also related to my work with textures, because since I really like counterpoint, I began to try to organize the question of texture, and I found the work of Wallace Berry, Structural Functions in Music, which has an entire chapter on textures. He tried to organize a nomenclature for naming textural events, and I worked on developing these ideas in my master’s work. Because of this I write thinking about levels of density, basing sections on different types of textures, instead of simply creating a melodic form, there is an A, there is a B, a development — it is based more on texture — what is happening here, what is happening there, the density. In “Aura” this is very clear. I was already thinking consciously about defining sections based on sonorous groups, but I hadn’t organized it theoretically yet. So when I did my master’s I could organize it. It’s quite complicated, but it’s basically the development of textures. So this is present in all my music.
There was a time in my life when I really liked choro. I still do, but to sit down and play, experience it — there was at time when I did this. It was a pleasure. You get there, play with the music, play with the instrument. I never managed to write a choro, in spite of the fact that I like to play it. I just can’t write a chorinho. I like folk music, but as long as it remains folk music. We saw the folia de reis in Parati. I love to see things like that, to hear cantoria, the repentistas at the Feira de São Cristóvão. There were great Brazilian composers who dedicated themselves to researching this kind of music, and used it in their concert music. I don’t like to do this, because I prefer to see it there live. Maracatu — I don’t want to take a melody like picking an orange from a tree. I prefer to create rather than to collect something and put it into my music.
There are many possibilities that we ourselves can explore. Of course, Villa-Lobos, Guarnieri did this exceptionally well, you have to take off your hat, but it’s just not something that I feel comfortable doing, because I don’t like it. I prefer to pick up a disc and listen to authentic folklore. You might say that someone is singing out-of-tune, but he’s not — he is singing in his own characteristic scale. On the other hand, I recently began to incorporate rhythmic elements from Brazilian music. There is such vastness of rhythm in our music, our way of being. I have incorporated rhythms more in terms of accentuation. I avoid quoting folk music. I use serialism when I think it is appropriate, quartal harmony, which I like. These are freedoms which I have.
AS: Yes. This is the period we are living in. I like minimalism. Some of my music draws consciously on minimalism. The second movement of “In Memoriam,” which is just orchestral, without chorus, is quite minimalist. The idea of repetition, and minimal variations, in the weave of quasi-imperceptible changes of the harmonic planes, functioned very well, because I wanted to make an image of the life of the metropolis of São Paulo, where you just go out to work, and the work is repetitive.
There are influences from composers whose work I like and listen to, and I end up being influenced. I very much like Ligeti, especially from the sixties, the things from 2001. I like Messiaen, though not as much. Penderecki is very expressive. John Adams, yes. Steve Reich I think is too simple. Here in Brazil we have Villa-Lobos, the works from the twenties, with a great richness of harmony, and a will to make a sound for Brazil, to capture the forest, the polyphony of the birds and noises. For me the “Choros no. 10” is a Brazilian masterwork. He was an idol, but he is not an artistic influence in the sense of looking for folklore.