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.

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.