Intro to Curto-Circuito in Brazil

Curto-Circuito de Musicà Contemporànea do Brasil/Canada

Curto-Circuito began about three years ago when, after much collaboration with the composer André Mestre, I thought it would be great if I could go to Brazil and perform his works.

André Mestre is a Brazilian-born composer. He completed his Master’s degree in composition at the University of Alberta in 2013 and we worked together often throughout his program. In composition classes at the U of A, students are assigned to write for specific instruments, often for saxophone. I meet with the students to show them some of the less traditional parameters of the instrument, they compose, and then I read-through and perform their works in a workshop setting, culminating in a final concert.

This is a typical format, common at the U of A and elsewhere, but not often in Brazil. We decided to take this workshop format to Brazil as Curto-Circuito. Last year’s Curto-Circuito was entirely solo saxophone works, but this year with generous support from the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Arts Council, we are so pleased to add U of A piano instructor Roger Admiral.

August 15:

Yesterday pianist Roger Admiral and I arrived in São Paulo and were introduced to the participants of Curto-Circuito 2015 (Short-Circuit 2015).  In a bilingual group discussion moderated by composers André Mestre,  André Ribeiro and Valeria Bonofé we talked with the five students about the big questions and challenges composers face:

How to avoid cliché?

For whom are we writing: the performer, the audience, ourselves?

What are the global elements of composition that unite us today?

What attracts us to contemporary music?

For whom do the performers perform?

It was a very rich discussion and a great way to kick off this portion of Curto-Circuito. For weeks already the students at the Escola Música São Paolo have been composing works for piano and/or saxophone and have been meeting in groups led by Mestre and Ribeiro to share their ideas, study scores, listen to older pieces for references, and help each other.

Today Roger and I will perform eight student works in a public workshop, playing and discussing the writing, the notational challenges, and the ideas in their works. There will be some minor changes to make, perhaps, but the final polished concert will take place tomorrow, the world premiere of eight new pieces of music!

The impetus for this project was to give composers in São Paulo access to performers who specialize in contemporary music and would perform their works in a professional context. This is quite rare in Brazil, as it certainly is in varying degrees around the world. After all, the performer and the composer need each other for this art form to function.

Another cultural experience that I will undoubtedly relish experiencing is Brazilian food. In that spirit, I’ll end each with a quick reporting of my findings: Brazilians are at least as serious about their steak as Albertans are. They also know how to roast a mean chicken.