An interesting article (with an amazing, uncredited picture, above) from the Continente Online blog: should arrangements of works by Villa-Lobos be allowed under any circumstances?
The Academia Brasileira de Música, which holds the copyright of Villa's works, is having this debate. Speaking in the negative: Guilherme Bauer, who complains about "...a work tampered with arrangements or versions that disfigure, like the inclusion of drumming." Speaking for is former ABM President Ricardo Tacuchian, who says "A arte é a arena da liberdade": "Art is the arena of freedom".
I'm sure I'm missing all sorts of subtleties having to rely on Google Translate. But it's clear what side of this argument I'm on. It's been amazing to see the many popular versions of Villa-Lobos works and themes that have come out of Brazil in the past few years. Highlights include the jazz projects A Viagem de Villa-Lobos by Projeto B, and Villa's Voz with Bruce Henri; and O Papagaio do Moleque by the Choro Novo group Rabo de Lagartixa. One of the reasons Brazil has such a strong musical culture is the incredible interplay between erudite and popular music, going back to Villa's involvement with choro and samba, and continuing through Tom Jobim's hero-worship of Villa-Lobos to Villa's high profile in MPB and other forms of Brazilian popular music.
Villa-Lobos was no stranger to copyright controversy in his own career, when he quoted the song Rasga Coração by Anacleto de Mediros and Catulo da Paixão Cearense in Choros #10.
The music of Villa-Lobos is in the Public Domain here in Canada, where we have a reasonable 50-years-after-death rule. Villa-Lobos royalties are undoubtedly welcome to the ABM, which I'm sure does great work for classical music in Brazil. But I would hope that the ABM doesn't put too many barriers up for new generations of Brazilian musicians to use Villa's works as a stepping-stone for their own music. After all, Villa-Lobos made use of a certain German composer to create some of his own most important pieces. I'm sure there were academicians who didn't appreciate the transformation of Bach's music into the Bachianas Brasileiras. Music marches on!