Friday, July 3, 2009

Gilberto Mendes on Villa the Modernist

The Brazilian composer Gilberto Mendes is quoted in Neo-Avant-Garde (ed. by David Hopkins), p. 166:
"Villa-Lobos... whose work Mendes likened to that of another typically American composer, Charles Ives, was intent on creating 'sound events', exploring 'the combinatory possibilities of the new sound he was inventing' - where the folkloric element was one among others. And in his best compositions he explored effects, expecially in timbre and instrumentation, that were to become dear to the neue Musik of later decades."
Mendes counted Villa-Lobos among those who,
"...each in his own way, helped to destroy the tonal system and consequently the predominance of melody, giving rise to the music of this second half of the century, made on the basis of noise, electronic sound, microtonal, non-discursive, made up of moments." (p. 177)
There is an interesting generational dynamic between Villa-Lobos and the composers who followed the master, with a natural reaction against Villa's nationalist music of the 1940s in favour of the International Style. It looks like Mendes, who studied with Boulez and Stockhausen, came around in the end, and he adds some lustre to Villa's modernist credentials.

Mendes' best tribute to Villa-Lobos was his piano piece Viva Villa!, which was written in 1987, in celebration of the Villa-Lobos Centennial year. It's included in José Eduardo Martins' disc Music of Tribute v. 1. Those who can read Portuguese should check out the book O antropofagismo na obra pianística de Gilberto Mendes, by Antonio Eduardo Santos. It's available in a Google Books preview; the chapter on Viva Villa! begins on p.108.

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