composer, pianist, music theorist


“Vasa-Barris” (1998)

for septet: flute, Bb clarinet, trombone, violin, viola, violoncello and contrabass.

When I first started working on “Vasa-Barris”, my idea was to conceive something like an epic poem or a historical portrait, in short, a musical commentary on the Canudos War, one of the most gruesome events in the history of nineteenth century Brasil. Fully described by Euclydes da Cunha in his important book “Os Sertões” (also, my main guide when approaching the Canudos theme), this war has always stirred my imagination with its astonishing, almost absurd stories of a slum-city of religious fanatics, miserable, starving and rejected people, defying the just born Republic and resisting hordes of fully equipped soldiers. Masters of an astonishing guerrilla-type war, these villagers never did surrender and fought until their very last man was killed, after months of bloody combat and thousands of casualties. Actually, my idea was not to write program music but, instead, I tried to think more in terms of some historical epic paintings and pictures of the life of saints I saw in some museums, where several episodes of the portrayed theme, that obviously didn't physically happen at the same time, would all coexist in the composition of the painting in one single place, one dateless time, one unified canvas. With this in mind, I worked on several independent fragments (something like very short pieces, all representing complete closed thoughts), each one developing some aspect of the Canudos historical theme. All these fragments have different lengths and different characters. Some of the fragments share several structural elements and musical ideas, some of them do not, at all. My next step was to study the effects of superimposing those fragments, not only thinking that I could have one fragment following another immediately, but also considering that some fragments could actually be heard simultaneously. Basically, what “Vasa-Barris” became was merely the product of this polyphony of fragments. In a way, this was how I tried to make an analogy between the epic paintings I mentioned and the music I wanted to write for Canudos. As a curiosity, “Vasa-Barris” was the name of a river that passed right through the city of Canudos in those days of 1897.
This work received its premiere on Dec/09/1998 at the Kathryn Bache Miller Theater, New York, USA, by the Ensemble FA from Paris, conducted by Dominique My.

score: recording:

The Ensemble FA

The naive peasant stories have long revealed the fascinatingly treacherous
roads that led to Hell. Canudos, filthy waiting-room to Paradise, poor peristyle of
the Heavens, must have been just like that - repugnant, frightful, horrible…
Nonetheless, many have gone there, harboring unique hopes. They found either
a dried up or a bloated Vasa-Barris, tumbling just the barren waters from the
floods, in between the lumpy flanks of the hills…

Euclydes da Cunha (1866-1909)
“Os Sertões”

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