Thursday, September 10, 2009

Report from Brazil Music Camp

Just returned from Brazil Camp, our third and final
music camp of the summer. While the other two were a
fun mix of very eclectic music classes and a lot of
jamming, Brazil Camp was serious business for very
serious musicians.

It was fun, don't get me wrong. But it was a serious
challenge. But people ask me, "Why Brazil Camp? What's
the deal with Brazilian music anyway?"

Many people associate Brazilian music with the Bossa
Nova. Certainly Bossa Nova is a big part of Brazilian
music, but it's only a part. Here's what make Brazilian
music so special to me.

Consider the music that was created and has developed
in the New World. The influences come from two primary
sources, Europe and Africa. A little after the time of
the discovery of the New World, European music was
beginning to become very rich in harmony (think
Bach/Beethoven/Mozart). But it was pretty anemic
rhythmically. The meters were mostly 4/4, 2/4, or 3/4,
and syncopation was almost non-existent.

Contrast that to the music of West Africa which there
were almost no tonal instruments to create harmony, but
whose rhythms were so glorious, they defied European
musicological examination.

As music developed in North America, it borrowed from
and modified the European models of harmony and even
adopted some of the simpler African rhythms. But to
this day, the rhythms of the music of the Americas are
pretty simple compared to those of Africa.

Except for Brazil.

Here in this music you have extremely challenging
rhythms side by side with some of the most
sophisticated jazz harmonies you've ever heard. The
result? Jazz with a Brazilian flavor. It's rich and
complex, yet from a listener's point of view, very
approachable. It's exciting, but not self absorbed or
over analytical. It's music you want to stay and listen
to or get up and dance to. But unless you're well
versed, don't try to play it.

Brazil Camp, however, was very forgiving to a newcomer
like me. I was either in class or practicing seven
hours a day, and I actually got a chance to be included
in spite of my limitations. And I was inspired to try
hard to "get it."

And some day I will get it. I've got plenty to work on.

Keep playing (it all comes back to that).


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