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"If you were music, I would listen to you ceaselessly, and my low spirits would brighten up." - Anna Akhmatova

Egberto Gismonti

The complexity of Brazil, its interweaving and co-existence of culture, finds its echo in the music of Egberto Gismonti, who draws on resources both “primitive” and “sophisticated”. As critic Josef Woodard observed, in Gismonti’s work “the line between folklore, classical heritage, hints of jazz, and nameless modes of invention is beautifully smudged.” Born in 1947 in the small Brazilian town of Carmo, Gismonti studied piano from the age of five and, later flute and clarinet. He is self-taught on guitar, which he took up at age of 21, soon developing his innovative, two-handed techniques of simultaneous lines and counter-melodies on the instrument. In 1970 he travelled to Paris to study with two important teachers, famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger and twelve-tone composer Jean Barraqué, Webern’s most dedicated disciple. Valuable as these experiences were, they served also to strengthen Gismonti’s respect for the music of his homeland, which seemed to him an unlimited resource. “World music”, as it would later be termed, was on his doorstep – so many musical traditions overlapped and dovetailed in Brazil: “All European cultures and other cultures are part of our culture.” He has always cited his time with the Xingu Indians in the Amazon jungle as a crucial part of his musical and philosophical education, heightening an awareness of essentials necessary for survival, in art and elsewhere.

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Agnes Gosling