Think about the number of photographs you took today with your mobile camera. Now think about all the pictures that passed in front of you on this same device. How many of these images could be considered a work of art, in the same way that we refer to the content produced by Cartier Bresson or Sebastião Salgado?

The expansion of tools, despite democratising access to content, was not responsible for the corresponding increase in talent. In other words: having a camera and taking lots of pictures does not automatically turn anyone into a professional photographer, let alone an artist.

Perhaps because being an artist is not about owning something material. It has much more to do with giving something, providing something that is not measurable: an emotion. And I am not talking about viral videos and memes. I am talking about the ability to deliberately and repeatedly cause a certain effect, a reaction, an emotion in your audience.

Recently (to my immense embarrassment) I became aware of the work of Les Luthiers, a sensational Argentinian group, active since 1967 (currently in their fifth formation), which combines music and refined, sometimes delirious humour. With austere lighting and costumes and very few scenic elements, the ensemble manages to build its own universe, which works even in the worn out video tapes images of their first recorded concerts, now available on the internet.

A unique aspect of Les Luthiers is the virtuosity of their members, not only in the execution of various instruments, but also in the handling of the so-called informal instruments, an idea of founder Gerardo Masana. Toilet lids, tubes, gas balloons, nearly everything becomes “a musical thing”, as the Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Paschoal would say.

Early deceased, Masana did not get to witness the incredible success of the group he formed, although he is very present in each performance through his unusual inventions played to perfection. That is another thing about true artists. They are capable of provoking brand new emotions in their audience, despite of space and time.

Watching and listening to Les Luthiers’ musical-comic sketches is a lesson in stage posture, stage presence, dedication and genius, if that can be learned. Their performances turn the question “What is an artist?” into pure wonder: What great artists!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

The Goalie´s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick is a 1972 movie directed by Werner Herzog, adapted from the novel with the same title, by Peter Handke and music was written by Jürgen Knieper. It is also known as The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty, but I personally don’t like either of the two translations.

The original “Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter” does not imply that the player is afraid of the kick, but afraid at the moment of the kick, which is completely different (and fits much better to the plot). When it comes to anxiety or fear, the choice is more complicated. “Angst” usually means fear, but “anxiety”, in general, is a term less used in German than in English (or Portuguese)

The genius title came to my mind as I take a look at the calendar, and realize that the date it shows does not correspond to where I was supposed to be in my schedule. As usual, I am a few steps behind my weekly plan. I am starting to think I have to change the way I calculate how long I need to complete my chores. Am I maybe overrating myself? Are my projections realistic or do I just overfill my plate with tasks?

One thing is for sure: if I want to understand the butterflies in my stomach (is it fear or anxiety?), I have to accept that I am doing something wrong in my planning. In fact, admitting this should not be a problem for anyone. After all, when it comes to time management, everyone struggles.

Everyone? Yes, everyone. And do you know why I can say this with such certainty? Because everybody’s life has its ups and downs. Every day, we are all subject to unforeseen events, mishaps and all kinds of unplanned events. Some dramatic, some funny, some just boring. We all have to accept the fact that we do not have everything under control (thankfully!).

Have you ever imagined how petrified life would be and how we would be subject to our old desires and dreams if everything went exactly as planned? If you’ve ever changed your mind about people and places or maybe changed courses, ended or started a relationship, tried a new job, all of this was only possible because you recalculated the path along the way and allowed yourself to change.

And, of course, there are also cases where some plans need to be revised because unforeseen opportunities arise, say, a meeting that can open several doors in your career. Don’t you think this is a good reason to get out of planning? Wish me luck!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Earth, Wind & Fire is a super groovy disco, soul, R&B band from the US formed in 1969. Their name evoques the four classical elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air. They represent the attempt of ancient cultures to explain the nature and complexity of all matter.

Although this concept is no longer embraced by science, it is very useful for establishing relationships and explaining complex processes. For example, when we define photography as the art of writing with light. In the same way, I like to think that singing is the art of playing with air.

Before you say that the same definition could apply for all wind instruments as well, let me reply by reminding you that, in the case of singing, there is no instrument “between” the musician and the thing air. In other words, musicians play with air in pairs (musician and instrument), while singers face the same task having nothing but their own body.

As I hear my neighbor blowing her nose so loud that, well I can hear it from here, for the millionth time today, I was wondering how fragile this balance is. A mere cold or a sore throat and you are out of the singing game.If you cannot breathe well, you will not be able to sing well.

Personally, I prefer to stand up when I sing. The clearer the way, the easier the flow. And the flow is a crucial element to keep your voice sounding fresh, doesn´t matter if you are singing the the first or the last theme on the set. Again: if you do not breathe well, you will not sing well. Probably you will not speak well either.

I remembered my appointment last week. I was waiting for my treadmill exercise stress test to be done. Finally, they called my name and a few seconds later I heard that the workout top I was wearing was not suitable for the test, although the e-mail sent by the clinic clearly said “workout top” in the description of “what to wear during your test”. Crazy world.

A few minutes and a frank exchange of ideas later, there was I, wearing a bra and with a lot of tiny cables connected to my chest. Oh, sure, and the lovely detail of a face mask. Frankly, I thought the doctor would ask me to take my mask off, so I could proceed the test on a more, let´s say, accurate way, concerning my lungs and heart capacity. Never happened. I kept my mask on did my very best.

By the end of the procedure I asked about the mask and the answer was simply: “The patient may feel uncomfortable, but for test itself, the mask makes no difference.” I beg your pardon? Is it the best you guys could think of?

I was not asking too much. A generic: “we´ve adapted the parameters for the new protocol” would have done the trick, but trying to convince me, with a single sentence, that the mask does not interfere at all was simply to cheap.

As much of a mask enthusiast that I might be (and I am), I am also a singer, and I can certainly tell the difference of singing with or without a mask. I did not bother replying.

Remember the flow? Sometimes, you just have to go with it.

G.F.

p.s: last but not least, I just wanted to remember a very special person, my late aunt, who was born on this day. I talk more about her and the super power that she gave me here.

Do you know the sound of a black hole? NASA does. The agency has recently released an audio recording of a black hole and the first thing I thought was: Wait a minute! What happened to all that talk about space being a vacuum and therefore being no medium for sound?

Whenever I find the news to be disturbing, I try to get more information about it. This is what I have found so far about the sounding black hole: according to NASA, “the popular misconception that there is no sound in space originates with the fact that most of space is essentially a vacuum, providing no medium for sound waves to propagate through.”

Misconception? Wait a…ok, ok, let´s read their statement further: “A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, has copious amounts of gas that envelop the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for the sound waves to travel.”

Gas is the medium. Got it or…. have I? Actually, I still had a lot of questions, such as: how come the travelling sound waves became audible by human ears? And, most important of all: how do they sound?

Again, a little research can do wonders for you: the process of data sonification consists in re-synthesizing the sound waves and scaling them up in order to make it possible for human ears to hear them. According to NASA, “another way to put this is that they are being heard 144 quadrillions and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency.”

Anything involving quadrillions is simply too much for my mind to imagine, but the whole process is so fascinating! Music is indeed everywhere.

I couldn’t help wondering that all this talk about how this “new thing” sounds is quite similar to describing a new genre. People will get it sooner or later. Just give them time to process it.

And, as for my last question, click here and find out how this music without music sounds.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Victime de la mode is one of the most famous songs from the album Qui sème le vent récolte le tempo, by the French rapper of Senegalese and Chadian origin MC Solaar, but surely the title also fits someone you know.

I never had neither the money, nor the inclination to be a fashion victim. My motto has always been: “do the most with the least”, meaning: handling well a limited wardrobe, and this applies to what I wear on stage, as well. Since the pandemic made us un-learn how to dress (don´t know what I am talking about? Lucky you!), I had to to exercise my special skills as never before.

In fact, I owe my little super power to my dear late aunt, who was a seamstress. She taught us from an early age to pay attention to the fit of the fabrics, the cut of the clothes and the details of making, even when buying fast fashion pieces. And once you´ve learned how to buy well, it is much easier to create several looks wearing the same dress.

It is amazing what you can do with the help of a few accessories! The choice of colors is also very important and it can make a lot of difference in the final result. I talked about my many reasons for wearing only black on stage in this podcast episode, but among the most important ones is the fact that this color allows you to recycle dresses better than any other.

As I get things done for my Jazzday 2022 event, I think that every return is like a premiere. You know what you´ve got do, but the butterflies in the stomach seem more intense than ever, the production details to handle seem more numerous than usual, and even the choice of a combination of accessories for my little black dress seems particularly difficult. Despite all that, it feels great to be back!

Talking about elegant women, Sammy Stein is an awesome writer and jazz lover and I´m sure you are going to love her website and her blog: The Jazz Report. I had the pleasure of collaborating with an article on the birth places of Bossa Nova. Enjoy your reading.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

My friend J.P. likes to know what I think about things. From a slap on the Oscars Award to international politics, he cares to hear my point of view and I certainly appreciate it. For this reason, even perfectly aware of the risks implied, I allow myself to be very sincere with him.

When he asked me about elements to consider when choosing a career, the first thing I mentioned to him was the importance of passion. People usually say that you have to like what you do, in order to become good on it, but I would go even further and say that “liking” it, is just the beginning.

If you plan on doing something for the long term, you need to be passionate about what you do. How passionate? To the point of dedicating an incredible amount of hours of your day, of your life, to it and still have a twinkle in your eye when you talk about it with someone else.

Don’t be a fool: there will always be disappointment, disillusionment and a lot of tears along the way. Will that stop you? No, because you will still know it is part of a game worth playing. How will you know that? You will simply know, trust me, or better, don´t trust me, trust yourself.

Be passionate about what you do, but don´t forget that the word passion carries both sides: the drama and the thrill, high and low, yin and yang. Be passionate about what you do and you will be in tune with the continuous flow of life.

Be seeing you!

G.F.

It is amazing how some dates are engraved in our affective memories. May 5th, for example. It is linked to a very special date for me, my grandmother’s birthday. I’ve already talked about my mother’s mother here and how her faith in education managed to change the destiny of her children. However, as time passes I feel more and more connected to my grandmother not because of what she did for the family, but because I understand what she stopped doing precisely because of the family.

In other words, I admire her for the woman she was.

It may seem obvious, but if you take a look at the social media bios and see how many people define themselves as “mother of…”., “father of…”, you will see it is not that obvious at all. Besides, as much as I fail to understand such personality definitions based on motherhood or fatherhood, these are at least voluntary definitions, I believe. The same cannot be said for what happened to women in relation to marriage and motherhood in the early twentieth century.

Before being a choice, raising a family was an obligation and while men usually managed to keep some outdoors habits, the limits imposed on the life of a married woman with children would be much stricter. My grandmother was a very intelligent woman and I would loved to have chatted with her about many things.

What were her dreams as a girl? Her first love? Her favourite dress? I’d like to have asked her a lot of questions, though I know she wouldn’t have had all the answers. I wish we could have had at least the chance to look for some answers together. I wish many things, but that’s okay, for I know that every time I succeed, she is with me on the way.

“And what about time?”, you may be asking yourself. Well, as Caetano Veloso would say: Time is as weak as water. Happy birthday, Granny!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

Que será, Será is a 1956 song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It was part of the movie The Man Who Knew Too Much[, and a immediate success. Among its many versions, the one, by singer and actress Doris Day is considered a classic.

The song talks about fate and uncertainties of life and the answer to the question “how it will be”, repeated all through the song is only one:

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

As I opened my fortune cookie, these verses popped up on my mind. It said: “It is never too late to start it all over again”. Fortune cookie hits the bull’s-eye again! It is amazing how they never fail! This is exactly how I feel now: starting it all over again.

Remember the set list odyssey? Well, my friend, it was only the beginning. Ready for the new challenge? Looking for the right musicians. And how many failed along the way… And before you think I am being picky, let me remind you that I am not even talking about musical skills, oh no! I am actually talking about a behavior that you be in compliance with what is expected in the twenty-first century. Sounds too vague?

In one example: I have already cancelled (yes, that´s right c-a-n-c-e-l-l-e-d) a gig because during rehearsals it became clear that the musician I was working with was tremendously patronizing, which is always something unpleasant to handle and far worse if you are the boss. Got the picture? Anyway, let us drop this part and jump straight to strictly music related matters.

The right musicians to work with are the ones, who are not only interested in the gig (and we all are, nothing wrong about that), but also in taking part of the project in a deeper way, buying the idea and improving it. Musicians that are able to respect my vision, and yet leave their own signature” are the right ones for me.

And talking about talented musicians who have a signature, I would like to end with a special note to my dear friend V. and say that the sensitive souls are the ones who suffer most, but they also bear the power of turning pain into beauty. I am sure you are going to find a way to turn those rainy days into bright, starry nights.

Be seeing you!

G. F.

p.s.: more songs about fortune telling?

Superstition, (Stevie Wonder.)

Bijuterias, (Aldir Blanc/João Bosco)

Finding a new place to live is a extenuating, sometimes very painful process. You have to check a lot of places before finding the right one and there is a good amount of frustration involved. On the other hand, it is also a tremendous opportunity to learn about people, to hear about their stories and to understand the multiple meanings of the word “home”. Personally, I find it a lot like building up the set list for a concert.

I already mentioned here how I truly believe in the power of learning and you can learn quite a lot by listening to what other people have to say. The same is true about songs. Give them the chance and the time to grow on you and they will tell you so much! That is why I always find it hard to shorten a set list, but as with people, sometimes you have to curate.

After a lot of time and dedication, you get to that small group of songs that expresses the concept of the concert, in other words, what it is about. Then you realize that some of them don’t talk to each other, so you have to make choices again. And again. And again. It might as well be true that for every moment of life there is a matching song, the one that hits the spot, but it is certainly not easy to find it.

In order to deal with the task in a easier way, I developed a simple 3-steps-method, which consists in brainstorming, peer-reviewing and final treatment. The brainstorming part is always a lot of fun, but it is also very tricky, for some of the songs in the first list are “just songs that I like” and not the ones that I really need to fit the idea of the concert.

The second step could also be called “reality bites”, for it consists in presenting the list to the lead musician, the one that will be responsible for the arrangements. It is when you can check if your storytelling works. It can be a positive experience or you can realize that your first list needs a lot of changes. Though a bit less fun than the first step, the second one is responsible for building up the spine of the show, so to speak and it always involve losses (songs being cut off) and gains (suggestions being added).

And as for the set list final treatment, all I can say is that you have to trust your choices and stick to your timetable. Just like in life there are magical moments in which we meet the right person at the right times, the perfect set list is all about finding the right theme and placing in the right position. If you thought about movie editing, you got the idea.

There will always be room for improvement, but once the storytelling works, declare that part of the mission accomplished and start rehearsing. As in life, the show must go on!

Be seeing you!

G.F.

One of the most undervalued untapped markets for advertisin is the condo meeting. A vast, unexplored land teeming with all kinds of people… until the meeting starts. From this moment on, all types melt into just one: the self-centered owner/tenant who tries to pass an improvement that suits him, as if it were for a common cause.

Performances are often grandiose, but over the years I’ve learned not to be affected by anything that happens at a condo meeting, especially after the pandemic turned them into Zoom meetings, which means logging into an account and using a username that will be for all to see during the meeting.

In the early days of virtual meetings, I uploaded a profile picture to my account (can´t remember where or when), but since all the meetings I´ve attended so far required an open camera, I simply forgot abot the profile pic… until my last condo meeting started.

After a short while being able to see everybody´s face (“new normal” equivalent to meet and greet), participants were asked to turn off their cameras, in order to avoid further connection failures. And there it was: my profile picture. The only smiling face amidst a sea of cold initials.

The problem was not the picture. As a matter of fact, it is a very good one for a jazz singer: good lighting, in front of a mic and all, but not exactly appropriate for a condo meeting avatar. Besides, I always tried to keep a very low profile. Most of my neighbors don’t even know I sing. Rehearsals at my place, for example, only happen on rare occasions, and I always make sure we’re not too loud or playing too long.

All this care for nothing. Just like that, I was busted at a condo meeting.

Jazz-shamed (and despite the scwitched off camera), I kept my expression as haughty as possible until the end of the meeting. As silly as it may sound, the situation was quite uncomfortable for me. “What would my neighbors say?”, I kept mentally repeating to myself.

Suddenly, I remembered that I used to sign academic essays with my other surname, to separate the researcher from the singer, something that makes no sense at all for me today. So why on Earth should I bother about my neighbors opinions? Why?

The truth is: I shouldn’t. So, I didn’t.

Be seeing you!

G.F.