Brasil: Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova is a most extraordinary musical style that originated in Brasil in the 1950/1960’s. This music is so smooth, “laid back”, flowing, soothing and gentle that it is the perfect antidote to classical-music (and modern-life) tensions. Although the music is notated “square”, it most definitely should not be played exactly as notated. Most of the notes should be played syncopated and very few of them require a crisp attack. We might think that with this freedom to play “lazily”, our syncopations might all be following the harmonies, but in fact the reverse is true: our syncopations are almost always ahead of the beat. Playing ahead of the beat would seem to have more in common with rushing than laziness, but if we try doing the contrary (playing after the beat) then the effect is truly bizarre and disturbing.

Most of our shifts will be vocal, with smooth glissandos between the notes even when no position change (shift) would be normally required. This music takes us on a dream-like holiday: we can almost feel the sunshine, the warmth, the gentle breeze, the luxuriant tropical flora, the sparkling blue ocean lapping at the shore. Not only does it reflect perfectly Brasil’s climate but also seems to embody something essential about both the portuguese language and Brasilian culture, with its gentle afro rhythms combined with sophisticated western harmonies, reflecting Brasil’s exotic mixture of world cultures. We are very far from the Germanic and northern worlds here and there is little place in this music for angst and grimaces!!

In the Performance Versions offered here many of the rests have been taken away, being replaced by the continuation of the previous note. This is to keep the music flowing. While there should be breaths between the phrases, these should usually be shorter and less pronounced than the notated rests. According to a literal interpretation of written notation, rests are silences in which “nothing is happening” and “the music stops”. This is totally unmusical: we cannot suddenly stop dancing while the music continues! Pinchas Zukerman has this to say …..

“in music, rests don’t exist ….. the music doesn’t stop until the piece has finished …… rests are just breaths (pauses) during which the musical intention continues …..”

The pieces offered here can be played with the play-along CD’s (or downloadable accompaniment tracks) that come with the excellent Hal Leonard compilations of the most famous Bossa Nova music. Those accompaniments may need to be transposed from their original keys. For this, the “Amazing Slowdowner” computer program does the job perfectly. The length of the introductions will be different (longer) than indicated in the sheet-music offered here.

In the editions, many of the pieces are played first in the lower octave and then repeated in the higher octave. For the “Easier Versions” we can simply repeat the lower octave version rather than playing the high-octave one. We may want to repeat the song three times, in which case we can simply go back to the beginning to finish with the lower octave version.

Here first, are a selection of compositions by Antonio Jobim (1927-1994)

Triste:     Edited Performance Version     Clean Performance Version

Girl from Ipamena:     Edited Performance Version         Clean Performance Version

Wave:     Edited Performance Version         Clean Performance Version

Once I Loved (Amor em Paz):     Edited Performance Version         Clean Performance Version

Meditation:     Edited Performance Version         Clean Performance Version

Corcovado (Quiet Nights, Quiet Stars):     Edited Performance Version         Clean Performance Version

Jazz Samba:     Edited Performance Version         Clean Performance Version

Desafinado (Out of Tune):     Edited Performance Version         Clean Performance Version