March 3, 2024

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Interview with Vinicius Mendes: The meaning of life is made of disorder: Video

Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist and fluteist Vinicius Mendes. An interview by email in writing. – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Vinicius Mendes: – I grew up in the state of Minas Gerais, in the metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, capital of the state, more specifically in the city of Betim. My involvement with music happened since my childhood. My father, a factory worker, could indulge in few consumer pleasures in life. One of those pleasures was buying vinyl records. His Sunday routine, his day off from work, spending the morning and afternoon listening to his LP’s was sacred. In his collection there were rock albums from the 1960s to the 1980s. A lot of progressive rock, Beatles, and some Brazilian music, specifically from Clube da Esquina. I developed a natural taste for it too, and listened to it daily, but little by little I made my own sonic discoveries, opening up to jazz and instrumental music.

JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

VM: – I had contact with many musical genres. Starting with my father’s rock collection, then developing my own interest in jazz, Brazilian music, and in the middle of my bachelor’s degree in popular music at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, I developed an interest in Free Jazz. In this way, I brought together several influences in my sound of tenor saxophone, flute and bass clarinet, which are the instruments I play. Having contact with different sounds, from the most common to the most experimental, helped me to shape not only my sound on the instruments, but also my language.

JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

VM: – Here in Brazil we have a great interest in rhythmic matrices. I have been studying technique for a long time involving traditional Brazilian rhythms, as well as delving into jazz rhythms. I apply it in scales and I usually apply it in my compositions too, things I study daily. But I try to do it not in a traditional way, I just try to respect the basic principles of rhythm, and develop the composition and improvise a lot on them so that I can develop my skills. My studies and compositions are always focused on improvisation, which is the way I like to study, because I think it develops creativity in an interesting way.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

VM: – In fact, I believe this is impossible. I think every music I make, the way I’m improvising, is necessarily influenced by all kinds of emotional states. I don’t worry about inhibiting that and I let it flow, I think that exactly there we have interesting situations of improvisation and composition. Not that it’s easy, sometimes these disparate influences cause us to procrastinate so that a great creative moment can be missed. But I certainly don’t make a big effort to inhibit them, I just try to deal amicably with them.

JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

VM: – I always book my concerts in advance. I do few concerts, as this gives me the possibility to spend 1, 2 or even 3 months studying the repertoire, trying things out, imagining. I don’t like last minute concerts, but I’ve done a few and I realized that this is not the best way for me. Basically I like to do it calmly and with a lot of thought about what I’m going to play.

There could be talk or advertising about your CD

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?    

VM: – The sincerity. Since there is sincerity in a musical work, I think there is a great balance between the intellect and the soul. It is letting be heard when using the intellect and letting be heard when using the soul.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

VM: – I particularly have the intention of making my work interesting for the public in the last stage. But honestly, this concern doesn’t exist in the creation process, it’s not a motto right now. Besides, it is difficult to imagine the reception of the public, especially in the globalized world. As an artist I can’t have this panorama, I can only use myself.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

VM: – I think one way to make jazz interesting for young people today is to insert them into jazz culture. The most technical part of music is always thought of and they tend to leave out the socio-cultural aspects of jazz. As it was for me, music (arts in general) when contextualized become much more interesting because every creation is related to some common feeling, anguish, happiness, passion. I find it more effective to tell Coltrane’s trajectory and ideas in A Love Sopreme, for example, than just saying it’s modal jazz, flirting with free music. Taking one of the previous questions, if we show more soul in jazz and less intellect, I strongly believe that young people would be very interested.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

VM: – I understand the spirit as Paul Valéry said: “our spirit is made of disorder”.

Consequently I believe that the meaning of life is exactly the same thing, the meaning of life is made of disorder and we are constantly trying to put them in order. And it is the movement of putting them in order that is essentially the meaning, not exactly the order.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

VM: – I can talk about the musical environment here in Brazil. If I could change anything, it would be the monoculturalization of music. I think just as I’ve been able to listen to many different types of music throughout my life, so this was essential in determining my aesthetic parameters, I think everyone should be able to have that. But the market doesn’t allow that, so I think people are missing the opportunity to hear a lot that expresses the most significant nuances of human existence.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

VM: – Lots of different things. I’m trying to listen to Andrew Hill’s extensive discography, my favorite jazz musician. But I recently discovered Joni Mitchell (I discovered it late, unfortunately), I’ve been listening to Sergio Meriti, my favorite samba composer these days, and I keep an eye out for releases from labels I like like ECM, Pi Recordings, Intakt Records among others.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

VM: – The message that we are all in the same place, trying something, me with my improvisation, and the listener with his enjoyment of the music.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

VM: – I would like to go to AACM in the 1970s, talk to Muhal Richard Abrahms, feel the creative impulse and the spirit of time of all the musicians who influence me who started releasing albums at that time!

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

VM: – What are your favorite works of art where the intellect and soul are in a good balance?

JBN: – There are many of them, but not yours. You follow our website and you will see.

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

VM: – In the best way putting it to music!

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Multi-instrumentista Vinícius Mendes é o convidado de novo episódio de podcast de música - Centro Cultural UFMG

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