LARGE CHAMBER ENSEMBLE - Canzonas Americanas Program Note

i. el dude
ii. silvioudades (ecos e lembranças)
iii. montuno blue
iv. itaparica

While writing Canzonas Americanas I kept in mind a request from Gustavo Dudamel to consider the interconnectedness of North and South American musical traditions. This was not a difficult task, as our cultures are sonically intertwined, both historically and contemporaneously. From Gershwin and Copland to Ellington and Gillespie, many of our trailblazing composers have been indelibly influenced by Latin music, and vice-versa. Apart from their distinct instrumentations, Afro-Brazilian and African-American compositions - such as Pixinguina's chôros and Joplin's rags - can be difficult to distinguish. My hometown of New York has become as much of a center for salsa and merengue music as Havana or Santo Domingo, and the U.S. as a whole is becoming more bilingual and bicultural with each successive generation. In preparation for writing the piece, I returned to Brazil for a month, where I spent days refamiliarizing my fingers with chôros, bossa nova, and samba standards, at night jamming with friends in clubs around Rio de Janeiro. In this way I reconnected with the South American spirit, and the piece now feels to me to be as much about memory as music.

In the first movement, El Dude, a quintessentially 'Americana' diatonic/pentatonic melody is transformed as it encounters Latin rhythms, blues, jazz, rock & roll, funk. The second movement,Silvioudades (ecos e lembranças), is an homage to Silvio Robatto, the great architect and photographer of Salvador; it is a simple Brazilian chôros - with a slight Bulgarian inflection - which adds a canonic 'echo' in each succeeding verse. The third movement, Montuno Blue, is derived from an atonal salsa that recalls the spirit of two great pianist/composers: the Puerto Rican Eddie Palmieri and the American Thelonious Monk. The fourth and final movement is a short song that I wrote while resident at the Fondação Sacatar on the island of Itaparica in Bahia. The island exudes a gentle seductiveness; accordingly, the bass carries a mellow bossa rhythm as the traditional berimbau melds into the sound of the guitar. I wrote it for the magical singer Luciana Souza. Special thanks to John Adams and Chad Smith.

- Derek Bermel

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