A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

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setecordas

A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by setecordas » Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:48 pm

There is quite a lot of information to cover so it will be in several parts. The information provided is not meant to be a complete musical analysis or to assist in developing technique, nor to say this music must be interpreted one way and not another. Instead, it is to provide a historic context for the music and musical culture that Villa-Lobos drew his inspiration from and which may inspire you in your own interpretations of the work, at least indirectly, as well as perhaps inspire you to delve deeper into the world of Brazilian music in general.

This analysis will cover just the first two preludes. The Hommage to Bach is covered in detail elsewhere, and the Hommage to the Brazilian Indian and Social Life is straightforward and in my opinion don't necessitate a treatment that first two preludes do. But if anyone would like my opinion on them, feel to ask or comment. My interest and study in diaspora music and culture spans about a decade or more, and was a focus of my studies at university along with guitar, both of which I continue to explore.


Part one

Prelude no 1, Homenagem ao Sertanejo Brasileiro - Homage to the Brazilian Desert Man.

The Sertão is a large semi-arid desert of the Northeast of Brazil with a very distinctive milieu from the rest of Brazil with its intersection of Indigenous, Portuguese, Dutch, Moorish, and Sub-Saharan African cultures. Most of the music traditionally from that area is based on the Mixolydian (major scale with b7) and Lydian Dominant (major scale with #4 and b7) modes which may be an influence of the Moors. They were the first Africans to be enslaved and brought to Brazil, but they also ruled the Iberian peninsula prior to their overthrow in the 15th century.

Villa-Lobos uses as his inspiration one such style of music from the Sertão that accompanies a popular sung poetic form called Literatura de Cordel (cord literature), so called because the poetry and associated woodcut artwork are published on cheaply made stamped pamphlets bound with cord. The poetry is accompanied on a 5 double coursed steel string guitar called a viola (the Spanish guitar in Brazil is called violão - meaning big viola). The accompaniment on the viola is generally a single melodic line in unison with the singer over one of the aforementioned modes with open string drones in the basses. Follow the YouTube link below for an example.

http://youtu.be/D2fE1p0KKAY

Villa-Lobos traveled through the interior of Brazil between 1905 and 1912 when he was still young, and that exposure provided him with a wealth of musical ideas that provided him a wider range of expression than he would have found remaining in Rio or studying strictly classical technique and composition for the rest of his career.

For this piece, Villa-Lobos was inspired by the music of the Sertão but didn't draw as heavily from the tradition as he could have, instead filtering his musical ideas through European art music. Perhaps harking back to the cello, his primary instrument, he inverts the voices and places the melody in the bass and drone accompaniment in the trebles. He uses a 3/4 rhythm instead of the traditional baião common to music of the Northeast (called tresillo in Spanish), makes use of the minor rather than dominant modes, and adds elements of Romanticism and Impressionism.

The B section is interesting, both as a lively contrast to A, but also because it doesn't appear to have any particular connection to other Brazilian musical genres, but does give a faint impression of Aaron Copeland, strangely enough. Though your ears may vary.

Coming soon: A look at the culture surrounding the choro and the Capadócia.

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Steve O
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Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by Steve O » Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:44 am

Interesting. When I play I like to have a story that the song is telling so that I can try to fit the mood/tone to the story. An obvious example is La Catedral with the different moods for each movement.

I've been playing Prelude #1 for about 2 years, and it's one song that I've never developed a story for - whenever I try I draw a blank, so I just go with the flow of the melody line. Next time I'll picture the Brazilian desert and see what further imagery and moods that provokes while I'm playing it.

Maybe I'll picture a Monet painting of a Gaucho playing a Cello in the Sertão.

setecordas

Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by setecordas » Thu Dec 18, 2014 3:57 pm

I picture a night in the Sertão playing for a lost love. A theme in Brazilian music is saudade - sort of strong sense of nostalgia and yearning. I feel like there is a lot of that sentiment in this piece.

I've been working on a write up for Prelude 2. It's been a rabbit hole of Afro-brazilian religion, politics, and street life. I'm trying to distill it to something manageable for an interested but casual reader.

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Steve O
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Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by Steve O » Thu Dec 18, 2014 5:07 pm

setecordas wrote:I picture a night in the Sertão playing for a lost love. A theme in Brazilian music is saudade - sort of strong sense of nostalgia and yearning. I feel like there is a lot of that sentiment in this piece.
That sentiment does feel right for Prelude 1...Thanks!

For Prelude 2...without having done any study of the actual history...I picture a guy having a fun night on the town, exploring the sights and sounds.

setecordas

Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by setecordas » Thu Dec 18, 2014 5:34 pm

Villa-Lobos *may* have had an aria cantabile in mind when he composed Prelude no 1. The prelude is very much in that style: minor key, long and sustained notes in the melody, and simple accompaniment. Villa-Lobos was definitely an admirer of Bach (prelude 3 - Homenagem a Bach, Bachianas Brasileiras). If Bach was a Sertanejo, what would he play?

setecordas

Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by setecordas » Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:58 pm

Steve O wrote:For Prelude 2...without having done any study of the actual history...I picture a guy having a fun night on the town, exploring the sights and sounds.
Well, that's a good summary!

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Tonyyyyy
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Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by Tonyyyyy » Sat Jul 25, 2015 1:29 am

setecordas wrote:I picture a night in the Sertão playing for a lost love. A theme in Brazilian music is saudade - sort of strong sense of nostalgia and yearning. I feel like there is a lot of that sentiment in this piece.

I've been working on a write up for Prelude 2. It's been a rabbit hole of Afro-brazilian religion, politics, and street life. I'm trying to distill it to something manageable for an interested but casual reader.
Thank you, setecordas, this is very interesting.
I look forward to more about V-L from you.

I am interested in mutual influences between V-L and Nazareth, and also the rather younger Waldemar Henrique who also spent time absorbing and collecting the music of the Amazon region-if you do not know his beautiful music listen to the arrangement by Dilermando Reis of the song Foi boto, Sinhá https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1gFV8EuW0Y

setecordas
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Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by setecordas » Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:52 am

I had a big move after I posted this and forgot to come back to it. My apologizes. I'll have to finish this analysis, maybe this weekend!
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Rick Beauregard
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Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and

Post by Rick Beauregard » Fri Jun 02, 2017 2:18 am

setecordas wrote:
Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:48 pm
This analysis will cover just the first two preludes. The Hommage to Bach is covered in detail elsewhere,
Can you tell me where P3 is covered?
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Rick Beauregard
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Re: A Cultural and Musical Analysis of Villa-Lobos Preludes 1 and 2

Post by Rick Beauregard » Fri Jun 02, 2017 2:21 am

This is great by the way. :merci:
All this time I thought I was making music; it was making me.
2015 Steve Ganz "Solidarity"
1980 Dauphin D30
1962 Fender pre-CBS P-Bass
National Triolian Uke ca.1930
Almost as many fly rods as guitars
_/) _/)
_/)

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