Singer, Songwriter, Music Researcher & all that Jazz

Everybody’s got a thing
But some don’t know how to handle it.

– Stevie Wonder

Last week I have mentioned a new podcast project I was work on, and today I would like to talk a bit about it, but be prepared, because you mught be surprised with my bombastic revelation! Drum roll, please: it is not about music, but about comics. Research on comic art, as a matter of fact.

How come? Although I have always been involved with music, my academic background is not in the field of music. I have a degree in History, a Masters in Communication and Culture and a PhD in Communication Sciences. The reason why I changed areas was precisely my object of research: comic books. Now you are probably thinking about superheroes or graphic novels. Of course these are also on my radar, but my area of expertise is caricatures and cartoons, especially those with political and satirical content.


Among the many comic-related activities that I have already carried out, perhaps the one that most impacted my life was my term as chair of a research group on the Ninth Art called Comic Art Working Group, created by Prof. John A. Lent, who is also responsible for the International Journal of Comic Art an essential publication for any researcher in the field. The Comic Art Working Group is part of the IAMCR International Association for media and Communication Research.

I shalll say no more for my story in the group is precisely the subject of the second episode of the podcast Comments on the Top, created to celebrate the 35 years of the group celebrated in 2019. You can listen to all ten episodes on your preferred streaming platform or just click here.

For a long time I insisted on keeping music activities completely separate from research activities, and I came to think that they would never meet, but my friend S. was right when he said that, with time (and a lot of commitment, too) the loose ends in our lives end up coming together.

And now that you know all about the other me, how about you telling me about the other you?

Be seeing you!

G. F.

Do you have the feeling that much of your time is being used to return to old projects, review pending issues and, on the other hand, some people you thought you had left completely behind in your life decide to make contact? If your answer is yes, I have two pieces of information for you:

  1. you are not alone and
  2. It’s not your fault

In fact, it’s nobody’s fault, just a planetary, astrological condition: Mercury is in full retrogradation movement. In other words, looking from our (that is, from Earth´s) point of view, Mercury seems to be moving backwards on its trajectory. Do not be alarmed: everything will return to normal by mid-October, ok?

Until then, my special recipe for those periods that come repeatedly three or four times a year is to simply go with the flow, which in this case means it is time to review, redo, reschedule, repeat, rethink. re… you got the idea. You will be amazed at how productive this cosmic break can be, if you allow yourself to take two steps back and say to your past self: “Honey, we were wrong.” (always be kind to your yourself, remember?)

Recently checking out a project for a podcast, I´ve found that all the audios needed some sort of review. Details such as the pronunciation of the name of the guest or the fade out effect of the vignette, which had gone completely unnoticed by me, immediately jumped to my eye (or better saying, ears), when I allowed myself to review them with a frrank attitude.

I know that in a world obsessed with the quantity and speed of content production and very little concerned about the quality of that production, proposing a joyful stroll through the land of review can seem strange, to say the least. But how about being different from the crowd just by being careful with what you do? Does it sound too revolutionary to you?

Well, you know, it is like Lou Reed says: sometimes you need to take a walk on the wild side.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Superwoman (Where were you, when I needed you) is a 1972 song by Stevie Wonder and one of my favourites from his vast repertoire. Musically complex and refined, the long history of loss and resentment speaks straight to the heart, as is often the case in the work of this genius musician.

The love story cut short because “Mary wants to be a Superwoman” and the pain-filled, resentful acceptance that follows also seemed like an interesting parallel to the plot twist of last week.

After weeks of hard work, everything seemed to go as planned: I had drawn up a long, detailed work plan for the month and stuck to it, much to my delight. Such a success had not been achieved without effort. I had not slept properly for days, my meal breaks were no real breaks and in the last 48 hours I had not even had time to comb my hair, which gave me the looks of an abominable tropical woman, but did I manage to follow my plan!

I was really feeling like a super woman (resting is for the weak!), when the harsh reality reminded me that even super women need to take care of themselves. I caught a cold, which while far from being a tragedy, can change your productive capacity overnight, not to mention the immediate effect on the voice and singing capacity (after all, singing is air, remember?).

In other words: to fulfill a previously established work plan, I put the final activity (singing) at risk. Seeing it that way, my over busy routine did not make much sense.

Regardless of your area of expertise, I am sure that you, like me, often feel in the middle of a race. Well, we are not. Do not know which practical use these words will have in your life. Probably none, but if you can make room in your heart for things that have no practical use, then maybe someday this statement will be of great value.

Being always busy, running from task to task will not make you live longer, or better. Maybe we should try to weigh more often whether the ends really justify the means. Sometimes the answer is yes, so go for it, and other times it is just not worth it.

Take my superwoman word on that.

Be seeing you!

G. F.

Why we do stuff? I am sure your answer involves some kind of rewarding definition. From losing weight to making money; from prestige to the smile of a beloved one. We do stuff because we want something in return, do not trust me, trust Sociology on that.

One of my favourite reasons to do things is just… to feel good. Sounds silly to you? Maybe, but think about the number of times we have to do things that don’t make any sense to us and you will understand what I mean. This is why I am always very grateful for the moments when I can do things that make me happy and singing is what makes me the happiest in this life.

I have participated in four different editions of International Jazz Day producing local events (and counting!), but every time I receive the certificate of participation, the six-year-old girl in me jumps for joy and delight. And I do not even care if every participant gets the same letter. In my heart, I feel as if Mr. Herbie Hancock had written those lines only for me. Check it out.

The feeling of reward is sky high, especially because the performance on Jazz & Comics represents a fusion between my academic background and the experience of being a singer and songwriter. This edition was actualy a double treat, as it was also my first in person peformance since the world turned upside down in 2020.

Starting over is always difficult and I remember that on that day (April 30th, when International Jazz Day is celebrated) not even the weather helped, but in the end it was all worth it. Although I do not need a certificate to know that, it has an enormous value to me, because even the things we know for sure can be forgotten im moments of trouble.

On these occasions, the letter signed by Mr. Hancock will be my reminder that, once again, despite the difficulties, I managed to do what was important, what really made sense to me.

I cannot think of a better reward.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

“The sun on the newsstands
fills me with joy and laziness
Who reads so much news?”
Alegria, Alegria (Joy, Joy)
Caetano Veloso, 1967

What´s New? is one of the many incredible interpretations of Billie Holiday. The 1939 song by Johnny Burke and Bob Haggart was included in the album Velvet Mood: Songs by Billie Holiday, released on Clef Records in 1956. I wonder about the first verses: “What’s new? How is the world treating you?” and how they relate to the last verse of Notícia de Jornal (Luis Reis and Haroldo Barbosa), sang by Chico Buarque : “Our pain doesn’t come out in the newspaper

I don’t know where you live, but I can bet that the vast majority of the incredible amount of news flashing across your screen daily rarely treats you well, let alone mirrors your pain. And yet we waste precious scrolling down an infinite screen of events that might fill our hours, but are fairly unable to appease the feeling of not being informed enough.

At the end of the day, which always seems shorter than the previous one (what do you mean it’s already that late?), how much information do we retain afterall? Very little. The bitter truth is that nobody needs so much news, and this is not an easy thing for me to admit for I am a confessed news junkie. Fear of Missing Out hadn’t even been invented yet and I already suffered from it.

Frankly, before digital media everything seemed to be under control, because the volume of news that a newspaper or printed magazine could contain was limited, not only in terms of the physical space occupied, but also in terms of time. Even in publications with two runs a day, once the edition was over, there was not much to do, even in the event of the biggest scoop ever.

The patience factor was even more important when it came to weekly or monthly magazines. Now think about the number of times the same content can be updated, rewritten and re-edited in the interval of, say, half a day. Pretty insane, isn’t it?

I remember an interview with the late Portuguese writer José Saramago, in which he said that if he subscribed to forty-three printed newspapers and magazines daily, his neighbors would certainly call him crazy when they saw the volume of information dumped at his door every morning. On the other hand, no one would question a cable TV subscription which included the same number of channels.

As we say in Brazil, Saramago shot at what he saw and hit (also) what he didn’t see. Not only we got used to a connstant hyper-supply of news, we have also expanded the concept of what can be considered relevant enough to gain the status of news. The faits divers, for instance, have been fully upgraded and are now sometimes considered more important than, well, basically anything else.

We discussed previously the importance of sorting out relevant songs in order to build up a consistent set list. Maybe exercizing fine curation also in other departments of life is not a bad idea at all. Sometimes it is good to take a break and take it slow.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

p.s.: in case you want to take five minutes relaxing from the news, I would like to suggest this lyric video of a song from 1893, which got new lyrics due to the 150th birth anniversary of the composer, Ernesto Nazareth.

Do you consider yourself an organized person? I would love to tell you that I have my whole year planned in advance or, at least, the entire month, but instead I have to admit (with a little bit of shame) that despite my efforts to classify my priorities in short, middle and long ones, in terms of sticking to a pre-schedule list of activities, I barely reach a week.

How come? Well, if life happens while we are busy with our little things, sometimes it throws a big flaming ball on our direction. “Catch it!”, life says. You know you are going to hurt yourself anyway, but what can you do? You simply try not to drop the flaming ball, than you handle it (and your burns) the best you can, and when it cools dows a bit, you keep playing the game.

Some call the flaming balls “problems”, but I´d rather prefer to describe them as big things. All right, I know we learn to remember and cherish the good big events in life, but let us be honest: we all know that there will also be lots of rainy days, some storms now and then and, eventullay, even biblical floods.

“It´s allright, if it´s going wrong“, sings Ed Motta in the refrain of his 1997 song Vendaval (Windstorm). Gilberto Gil reinforces the message in Retiros Espirituais (Spiritual Retreats):

In my spiritual retreats
I discover certain banal things
How to have problems,
Be the same as not
Resolving to have them, is to have them,
Resolving to ignore them, is to have them

Last week I got one of those flaming balls thrown right in my face. Lots of burns, probably some scars. Needless to say, my weekly schedule was (again) totally ruined, but gee, did I manage to handle it well! Now, dear life, it is my turn. Catch it!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Valsa do Pequeno Amor (Little Love Waltz) is a composition of the great Joyce Moreno. Part of the album Slow Music (2009), it is about the little loves in life that prepare the soil and the soul for the event of a big love. Dealing with the little things in life help us to handle the big ones. It is a complex, continuous movement wonderfully described in the song. But what happns after that? What comes after the big love?

Joyce has the answer for that question, too and it comes in the form of another equally beautiful track from the same album called Sobras da Partilha (Leftovers from sharing). This time, her crystal voice sings about all those things that one accumulates in a lifetime as a couple and that need to be separated after a breakup.

Maybe because I am not the collection type, I have always found that material memories are the easiest to deal with in those situations. The symbolic partitions are the treicky part. To separate yourself from a happy laugh, from the touch of hands, irreplaceable little things that once gone, are gone for good, this is the real hard task.

My guess is that if we thought of life as a succession of small things that together form a majestic design, like a mosaic, some events that we take as a waste of time would gain a new outline and some meaning. I know we always wait for great events, those three lines of great deeds that will appear in our biography, but how much life, I mean real life, is there?

Think about the time it takes a musician to create a song and all the steps to recording and publishing it. The work is immense, extremely time consuming and most of it is not even heard, never gets an applauded, not even comes to light. The same is true for all arts and professions. Big results come from accumulating small triumphs in a long process that mainly involces hard work.

There is a fat chance that you will completely disagree with me on that and, frankly, you have the entire dense mesh formed by social media and digital influencers on your side. In the current business model, in which the main goal is the so-called engagement in socials, it seems that everything must be gig: big deeds, big numbers of likes and sharings, big deals.

This aspect, in itself, is bad enough, because it is based on a model that is very far from the reality of someone who works with music, but is not a millionaire (needless to say that this is the majority of cases). However, in addition to the false expectations, there is still another aspect, worse and more perverse, as it acts discreetly and gradually: the change of focus from music to…, well to everything that is good for business, basically: licensing songs for publicity, personal life scandals, personality cult and a lot of showing off.

Still sounds too vague? Here is a quick exercise: think about two or three digital influencers linked to music. Now think about how much of the news about them you’ve seen in the last twenty-four hours has really had to do with music, strictly music. Not much, I’m sure.

Anyway, these are just reflections I wanted to share with you, as I finish a cup of tea. There is still a lot to do before I can call it a day. A bunch of wonderful, magical little things. As John Lennon said in Beautiful Boy, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans

Be seeing you!0

G.F.

Renunciation is liberation. Not wanting is power.
Fernando Pessoa

Today I decided not to take part in a music competition that promises a huge amount of money as the main prize. You see, I did not say that I gave up participating, but that I made a conscious decision, after informing myself and reflecting on the matter. In fact, I spent a lot of time on this process, enough to remind me of a college story.

M. was one of the colleagues with whom I shared student housing. She had built a solid reputation as a heartbreaker and one day, for reasons I no longer remember, she tried to convince me (or, more likely, tried to convince herself) that her last disastrous relationship had, after all, been worth it, for as the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa would say:

“Everything is worth it
If the soul is not small”

Pessoa is a very intriguing author and I am also a fan of these famous verses that praise the courageous character of human experiences. Perhaps inspired precisely by the taste for labyrinths so typical of the author, I replied: if all experiences are acts of courage, so is to refuse to have an experience.

Saving yourself from a bad time or company would also be a worth living experience. In other words: it is also ok to say “no” sometimes.

I still remember the expression on her face. M. was shocked by the new angle I was presenting. Months later she would tell me that those words had indeed had a big impact on her, which I took as a huge compliment.

One of the most famous poems in the vast oeuvre of Fernando Pessoa, Navergar é Preciso (“Sailing is Necessary”) refers to an ancient Latin expression credited to the Roman general Pompeu (1st century BC), who used it to encourage his sailors: “Navigare necesse, vivere non est necesse” (“Sailing is necessary, living is not necessary”):

“Ancient navigators had a glorious phrase:
‘Sailing is necessary; living is not necessary’
I want for myself the spirit of this sentence
transformed the shape, to match who I am:
Living is not necessary; what is needed is to create”

The beautiful sentence that inspired Pessoa is also found in the song Os Argonautas, by Caetano Veloso, released in 1969. I wonder how many times the topic will come to light, whether in the arts or in daily conversations that will one day become memories.

Living, sailing, creating: if the soul is not small, what to fear after all?

Be seeing you!

G.F.

I am a big fan of Leonard Cohen. Among his many amazing songs, Dance me to the end of love has a special place in my heart. It moves me to tears in a very tender, bittersweet way, as only a true work of art can do.

It is one of those examples of a song in which lyrics and melody combine so perfectly that they get lost in each other to the point where it’s impossible to hear the notes on the chorus without singing along. Its sweet and sad refrain echoes like a promise and a redemption: since even love comes to an end, may we be led to it with tenderness.

Brazilian musician Chico Buarque de Holanda also addressed the theme of the end of love, but his interpretation was a little different. In his song Futuros Amantes (Future Lovers) love does not end, it simply passes from lover to lover, dodging time and space.

The love from yesterday will be revived by the lovers of tomorrow in a continuous flow of love. What a wonderful theory, isn’t it? And brilliant, as we are used to seeing in the work of this great artist.

I particularly like this idea of love that continuously comes and goes, for it explains the fact that so many songs talk about this feeling. The truth is: they are talking about the same love. Sure each experience of love is very personal, and a million other factors will be responsible for turning every single story unique, but the core of love would be the same.

And how to get to that core? How to reach the source of love? The verses of Futuros Amantes give a hint:

Don’t worry, nothing is for now
Love will always be lovable
Future lovers, perhaps
They will love each other, without knowing
With the love that one day
I left to you

The source of love can only be reached by loving. Preferably with the right music in the background.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Have you ever experienced a Sackgasse period? You know, the “dead end street” feeling. The one that usually comes during the times (days? weekes? months? we better stop here), when nothing seems to change, and the more you try to move, the more you find yourself in the same place.

The feeling that nothing changes, despite your greatest efforts, is probably one of the most destructive ones, for it goes against nature. Life is all about changing, as we recently discussed. Actually, if you think about it, change precedes existence.

I was deep immersed on these thoughts as I got a message notification from my friend A. She wanted to know how things were going and we chatted for half an hour or so, while she was waiting for her flight to departure. I asked her if the trip was business or pleasure and she told me that she could not afford any leisure time, since the war in Ukraine had deply affected her job and life plans. Long story short: her “home” has now been reduced to two suitcases.

A. is a trooper, so I know she will be all right, and it was very nice to hear from her, but I could not help wondering how weird it felt to be talking about a war, as a natural ocurrence. Frankly, I was expecting a little more from the twenty-first century.

How far from the thruth were our furturistic dreams! We took aim at The Jetsons and ended up on a Orwellian-esque plot (did anyone mention reality shows?). How come?

My vision of the future also includes long and passionate discussions about really relevant things, for example, Why is Vermeer so important? , why some of the most detailed images of the universe  look a lot like a jazz album cover? Or maybe the links between jazz and comics. Creative, important stuff and not, you know, the current death-and-devastation set.

I wanted to have a happy closure to our conversation today, but I think I owe you this one. Or maybe we owe it to ourselves and we will finally decide to pay it off.

Be seeing you!

G. F.