Hey there! So nice to see you! This time you probably thought it was the end of The Red Flower Press and I don´t blame you for that at all. With that said, I would like to inform you that I have the best excuse ever: I was improving my website! I am sure that even if you do not have a site (yet), you understand that making changes to our virtual home-sweet-home is the sort of thing that can consume a lot of your time and basically all your patience.

And what´s new? First of all, I added three (yep, three!) new pages. Let´s check?

Interviews: They ask, I answer.

Research: Talking about music, comics, visual arts and more (includes a link to download my PhD thesis).

And last, but not least, a new podcast: 10 Minutos de Jazz com Geisa Fernandes. The idea was to talk about Jazz to a general audience in three short episodes of ten minutes each. I am specially proud to announce that this podcast is part of 2021 International Jazz Day official events. So, if you understand Portuguese (or would like to learn it), check it out!

If you check the new pages, you will see that I´ve been quite busy lately, talking to fellows from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico… meaning that I had to stay a really long time seating in front of a notebook screen. In order to do some stretching, from time to time I would stand up and do some house related activity, like cleaning, cooking or, the most challenging of all… baking cakes.

If you are one of the happy few that think baking is easy, a piece of cake, so to speak (sorry, I couldn´t resist), my suggestion is that you stopping reading this post, for now I am talking to you, my dear sister or brother in arms in the eternal fight for a cake that goes right. You, that cannot understand how can your cake look (and probably taste) so different from the one in the picture or video tutorial. I get you. I am with you. My last failure was a lemon cake. A simple, foolproof (so they said) lemon cake recipe.

Watching the result of my attempt, I realized that baking cakes has a lot to do with classical music. Ever thought of that? Each ingredient (instrument) must be added respecting a predetermined order and treated in a specific way. Try to use a bit less sugar or a bit more butter and the whole thing is ruined. Eggs are a separate chapter. Same thing when we talk about the temperature of the oven. The result depends on this beautiful perfect balance.

Now think about jazz, a genre that has improvisation in its DNA. A totally different creative process. As beautiful as, but different.

And suddenly, there was a light. That´s it! I finally understand my problem with baking cakes and it is not a problem at all, just a matter of style: I cook like jazz.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

p.s. My next try in the baking field will be a pumpkin and coconut cake. I´ll keep you informed.

At number 4, Rue de Sévigné in Paris there is a Cider bar. The name is simple and lovely as the place itself: Cidrerie du Marais. I found it by chance, while wandering around the city. It was a rainy Summer day and my next appointment wouldn´t be for the next couple of hours. Not a hard decision at all to get in, and choose a seat by the door.

Savouring my cider alone in the empty place, watching the clouds passing by, I enjoyed the coming sun stretching its rays, while the gentle summer breeze carried all troubles away. I think the technical term for what I felt that day is joie de vivre. The kind of feeling that is hard to feel during a pandemic. The kind of feeling that is hard to feel when you lose a friend.

The world is full of people, but one single beloved person goes away and, suddenly, there is a huge empty space in our world, don´t you think?

Last week was very hard and, frankly, I believe you had your share of grief and pain yourself, so instead of talking about the seemingly endless sad hours I went through, I would like to turn this into a feel good post, and share a few glimpses of happiness I had over the last couple of days:

I found out there is a passion fruit plant in front of my building.

I saw an orange butterfly and it flew quite close to me for a while.

A friend of mine told me he could see my point and changed his mind about a sensitive subject.

One of my former German students (long story, but in another life I was a German teacher) contacted me and thanked my for helping her embrace change and follow her dream career.

I guess this is as much joie de vivre one could wish for now. Small miracles are all around.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

p.s. Click here for four and a half minutes of joie de vivre

Hey, there! Good to see you again. That means you stick with me despite my random posting days. Thank you very much for that! Maybe you are also like me: sometimes a step ahead, but mostly a few steps behind the schedule. If so (and even more if not), thank you for the company! It really means a lot me.

As you know, March was hard, but I cannot complain about April. I was interviewed for the Ilustre Podcast, a small jewel made by an illustrator, my dear friend E., and could talk about my musical and research projects (to be aired on April 28th, stay tuned!). There is also another comic art related event coming by the end of the month, but I will not tell about it now. Oh, the mystery …

A busy month, as you see. Well, maybe not so busy for you, but quite so for me, since I had to add to the current month´s agenda all the remaining activities from last month. Procrastinators have the toughest life, trust me. To confirm my theory that procrastination can hit us all and nobody is really safe, I got an e-mail from one of my favourite newsletters and, guess what? It was about procrastination! And coming from one of the most productive professionals I know. Earthshaking!

My secret to keep a positive attitude about procrastination is cheating on it. How I do it? I fill my procrastination time with things that I can use later: from cooking to doing the laundry, any mildly challenging household activity will usually do. But some days require major measures, like watching a movie. Following the suggestion of my cinephile sister, I saw the 1969 classic They Shoot HorsesDon’t They?

Set in 1932, during the great Depression, the plot brings light to a lesser known moment in the USA history, the dance marathon contests. It is impossible not to be amazed by the accurate way it shows the origin and the essence of today’s reality television shows. Scary! A masterpiece, no doubt, but what really caught my attention was that the only tender element in the bitterly sad story was the music.

The beautiful jazz ballads from the 1930´s bring rare moments of relief to the tense narrative, and the black musicians playing it are portrayed as having way more dignity and class than the pitiful, starving bunch of white marathon dancers. A new approach made possible by the late 1960´s social movements maybe, but certainly something to think about today.

See how far procrastination can take you?

Be seeing you!

G.F.

“My grandmother was born on April 5th. I was nine years old when she died but as I age, her traces seem to be more and more present in me.”

I started the sentences above yesterday, the day I´ve planned to release this text, but then I was too busy and I missed the date of birth of my grandmother. I didn´t want to do it, because I have a great respect for dates and I really wanted to honor her birthday accordingly, but the fact is that I missed it.

I wonder how many times my grandmother missed or had to give away things that were very important to her, simply because life came in between, changing plans, re-arranging things we took for granted, leaving us no choice than recalculating the route. And sometimes we don´t even know which route we are in.

Belated or not, I would like to share a few words with you about my grandmother for she is probably one of the strongest, most interesting women I´ll ever meet in my life, and I am not only considering the way she managed to raise her seven children despite being often in dire financial straits (and frankly, we should stop reducing a woman´s bio to her role as a mother and how good or bad she played it), but also how ingenious she was. Every time she faced adversity, she dribbled it, as we say.

She was a short-tempered free thinker that would make her point looking straight to the eyes of the person she was speaking to, rather than in her/his back and, according to my family, I inherited all the previously mentioned characteristics. She was an avant-guarde woman in many ways, an excellent cooker and hers is the finest reply to a racist comment ever (long story).

Her name was Aurea, which means golden and I cannot think of a better word to describe her. She was made of gold and I know that somehow, she never stopped shining. She never will.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

p.s. Many songs remind me of granny, who had a good voice and also liked to sing, but this one has a special meaning to me and I try to include it in all my performances.

p.p.s. Wanna see a picture of granny as a young lady? She is on the collage of pictures on my Facebook profile (top left)

Hey there! If you are reading this post, it means that I somehow overcame the tremendous inertia I was in during the month of March. Did I post my weekly reflections? Yes, but the concept of “week” had to be a bit extended. Do I think this is problem? Of course I do, but after an year of social isolation, I learned that the recipe to avoid anxiety is… well, I don´t know what it is, but I would guess it includes a bit of self-indulgence and a lot of acceptance, two ingredients that I generously used this month.

Nevertheless, I new month is about to start and I promised myself that things would change around here, although I didn´t know exactly how, so I decided to start by checking my to-do list. I always discover something nice there and I feel like moving fast forward every time I rearrange its items. Good, old to-do list!

On the top of it, I read: “upload last tour videos”. Ok, sounds good. Can do it. Let me explain it to you: on the last year of the old normal, aka 2019, I had a tremendous experience travelling through a lot of places in South America in a double mission: both as a singer and as an assistant to Prof. L., who was interviewing cartoonists in Montevideo, Córdoba, Santiago, Lima and Quito. Remember the good days, when we could travel like this? Boy, oh, boy!

Anyway, the double identity led me to a poor amount of visual content of the trip, but I do have some pictures and short videos that I would like to share with you on my YouTube channel. This is my big task for April. You may find it too humble of a task for a whole month, you obviously ignore the size of my to-do list. It is really very long, but seriously, if you are one of those “I keep my to-do list short” kind of person, keep on the good work! And, please, tell me your secret. Meanwhile, I will be realistic. Besides, April is also International Jazz Day month, but this is another story, Morning Glory.

Be seeing you!

G. F.

And the river bank talks of the waters of March
It’s the end of all strain, it’s the joy in your heart

Waters of March (Tom Jobim)

What is your favourite season of the year? In Rio de Janeiro this question has a limited number of answers, since Winter is usually very mild and Spring and Fall are hardly noticeable in their most subtle details. On my previous post I talked about personal quests, the great causes that lead our lives, and today I would like to share another song-related experience with you, this time related to Summer or, better saying, the end of it.

I am not really a fan of high temperatures. A big disadvantage if you live in a tropical country, but to be totally frank with you, even when I lived in the north of Germany, where Summer sometimes lasts no longer than a weekend, it was not on the top of my list. I believe it has something to do with the lazy, on-pause feeling connected to the season. Do you know what I mean?

I was on one of those “on hold” periods, at the very beginning of the production of my first album, when a heat wave hit town. I tried to stay calm and follow the recording schedule, but everything seemed to be a bit harder under the hot temperatures. In the middle of this mess, After Summer , lately added to the album repertoire, came to my mind:

“I want the end of summer
I want another season
Stop thinking about what is going to be
And see
everything that goes on around me
After the summer I will be
Magazine covers, invitations to interviews
After the summer will happen
Magazine covers
Invitations to interviews
As soon as the summer is over
You’ll see
I want the end of summer
I want another station
Going out at noon wearing a heavy coat
Golden shades on my eyes
Highlighted by the autumnal light
As soon as the summer is over
it will happen
Magazine covers, invitations to interviews
When no one notices
Magazine covers, invitations to interviews
After the summer I will be
the one”

The magazine covers are still waiting, although I´ve already given a couple of interviews, but the truth is that when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I am felling sad I suddenly remember this refrain and then I really don´t feel so bad.

I may not know about your Summer dreams and I bet that lately a lot of them had been ripped at the seams, but remember: there is always room for hope and faith, no matter which season this is.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

On my previous post I talked about the influence of cartoons and movies I watched during my childhood on my musical taste and today I would like to share with you some thoughts on a song included in my first solo album (Geisa Fernandes). It is called Grandes Causes (Great Causes).

Unlike most of my songs, I am not able to tell its “zero point”, the first idea, the match that started the fire of ideas that consumes the mind of any songwriter in action. I´ve tried everything: from searching in all hidden corners of my memory to double checking the little notebooks I use to write the first version of any lyrics. And yet nothing. No clues at all. Does it feel weird not to remember the inspiration for a creation of your own? Yes, it does! A lot. On the other hand, when I read the lyrics of this tune, the words are so clear and meaningful to me that it sounds more like a manifesto.

The first verses say:

“In my opinion
People should only die
Of love
Or for great causes”

If you ask me what is my definition of a great cause, I would have problems to explain, but let´s see…

I would start by saying it is definitely not your dream purchase, so forget “I shall not rest until I buy that car/house/boat or private island.” Your great cause is not something you can buy, it is not something you can trade and, above all, it is not something you use to feed your social media. As I see it, it is your mission, your quest, your goal in this incredibly crazy journey called life.

I wonder what would you call a great cause and how hard would you fight for it. I wonder if there is still a place for great causes in the world of today or if it became an old, rusty concept that sounds somehow misplaced.

I wonder a lot of things.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Are you a cat? If you are anyhow related to the jazz world, or even if you are not, you probably heard this slang before. Like many others from the same origin (“gig” comes immediately to mind) it belongs to he current mainstream vocabulary and has such a broad use now, that basically describes anyone who plays or likes very much jazz music. If you read my previous post, you already know that I am into animations and if you are a regular Red Flower Press enjoyer, you might even know about my researches in the visual arts field.

My first step towards becoming a cat had the help of many animated animals, among them the cats from the US sitcom Top Cat. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, the adventures of a gang of Manhattan alley cats leaded by T.C. had jazz almost as an extra character. From the main title theme to the looks of the cats, the jazz vibe is everywhere and I loved to watch it in the afternoon reruns.

The show forged my taste in many ways and it belongs to my fondest childhood memories. I remember being specially fascinated by the way the cats turned the alley into a multi-functional space. The police box phone was the highlight of their creativity and it has a lot to do with the way I deal with decoration, using objects for multiple purposes, alley style.

I never had music classes as a child, neither was taken to concerts and had even less contact to jazz, what makes those visual references so important to me. Gloria Wood singing The Woody Woodpecker song, Louis Prima´s I wanna be like you from The Jungle Book (check out the very nice story behind his participation), Henry Mancini and The Pink Panther theme, among many others, were more than an important part of my musical background, they were my first music lessons. Music will always find a way.

Be seeing you!

G. F.

“Jazz is freedom. You think about that.” – Thelonious Monk

How many lockdown weird habits did you acquire so far? Now don´t be shy, we are all together in this pandemic crazy cruise and it is absolutely fine to find a chill-down activity. My thing is to re-watch cartoons, mainly The Simpsons. Name an episode, any season and I´ve seen it at least twice. To be totally honest with you, the show has been my comfort content for quite a while (check out season 15, episode 22 and find out how I got inspiration for the name of this blog), but since the pandemic started it got way worse, proportionally to my need of being comforted. Before you think I could have found a less silly way of being comforted, let me say that the references on the show already led me to many interesting discoveries, such as the oeuvre of Edgar A. Poe, whose poem The Raven was the basis for my song Nevermore and, lately, the 1967 British television series The Prisoner.

The Orwellian, avant-guarde, psychedelic social critic saga of former secret agent Number Six (“I´m not a number! I´m a man!”), brilliantly interpreted by Patrick McGoohan trapped in an idyllic, yet in many aspects creepy place known as The Village comes as a reference in the sixth episode of The Simpsons’ twelfth season. I could not understand the many hints to the series at first, but after a little research… boom! I got totally hooked on it. I watched all the episodes, read the critics on them, saw the interviews with cast members about the many behind-the-scene stories, learned about Portmeirion and the Six of One appreciation society and, most of all, I enjoyed the music of the show. The irresistible mixture goes from classical music to Carmen Miranda, from spirituals to The Beatles. And jazz. A lot of jazz. 1960´s jazz combined many elements from Africa and Latin America, so expect congas and a very intense mood, which fits quite well the tense plot.

The inspired soundtrack alone could be the reason for my enchantment, not to mention that many issues addressed in the series, such as living under the constant surveillance of cameras and the limits of freedom are more relevant than ever, but I believe that the main element that made me fall in love with The Prisoner was empathy. Being one of the “happy few” still strictly following the hashtag #stayhome, I immediately related to the anger and confusion of the protagonist and his urge to get out, although lockdown in the Village sounds like a super premium triple upgrade to me right now.

Having a home is a huge privilege and I am sincerely grateful for mine, so do not consider this a complaint. I am just pointing out that sometimes, as the main tune in the last episode of The Prisoner says, all you need is love. Love is all you need.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Life on Mars? is a 1971 song by David Bowie and I could not help remembering its verse “Oh man, look at those cavemen go”, as I watched the Perseverance rover landing on the Red Planet. It is amazing what an increased brain size (even if it consumes about twenty percent of the body’s energy) and a opposable finger in the palm can do for a species! Come on, don´t you feel a little bit prouder to be part of the human being club, when you see the achievements of knowledge? I cried my eyes out during the live broadcast!

It was deeply moving to see the gender and age (although there´s still room for racial) diversity of the team at NASA and their true commitment to the mission. Talking from my own experience as a singer/songwriter and as a researcher, I know that passion is a key element to both art and science, together with what I call a contract with the human kind. The contract goes far beyond the simple awareness of being part of humanity, let´s say, accidentally by birth, but also the further step in the direction of actively contributing to its legacy. Think about songs, movies, photos, smartphones, glasses, wheelchairs… you got the idea.

I am afraid and ashamed to say that the pandemic made me have serious doubts about that contract. People having parties and going to crowded beaches, refusing to wear a mask or sabotaging the immunization process, emergency funds being misused, the list is long and I am only giving examples of what happens in my own country. How to keep that contract in such a context? How not to become profoundly disappointed with human beings? How to avoid perpetual bitterness? How not to give up? I believe Perseverance is the answer.

Oh man, look at those cavemen go.

Be seeing you!

G.F.