“Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida Jobim (January 25, 1927 in Rio de Janeiro – December 8, 1994 in New York), also known as Tom Jobim, was a Brazilian songwriter, composer, arranger, singer, and pianist/guitarist. A primary force behind the creation of the bossa nova style, his songs have been performed by many singers and instrumentalists within Brazil and internationally.”
So goes the WIKI. Happy Birthday, Tom.
I can’t say that I’ve ever been a Bossa Nova fan per se but the more I hear it the deeper my respect grows. Not surprisingly, it grew by leaps and bounds in recent years while working in Brazil. Something about actually being there and taking in that vibe. I’m sure that’s a quite common effect when we travel to a place where any art originates.
This year, to celebrate Jobim’s anniversary on January 25, the radio station WKCR 89.9 FM in New York City is having an all-day on-air festival of his life and music. As part of that series of events, NYC-based composer Arthur Kampela, himself a native of São Paulo, Brazil, put together a group of composers to create recorded arrangements of Jobim’s music. That airs at 8 PM (01:00 GMT) and is able to be heard via streaming on the internet through the station’s web site.
Amongst the composers that Arthur put together to create arrangements were: himself, Clarice Assad, Gene Pritsker, Dan Cooper, myself, and most likely a few more that I won’t know about until I hear the broadcast. When the email went out, Arthur had a list of the composers and included suggestions of pieces we might want to work with. Like I said, not being the biggest Bossa Nova fan, and, the more famous pieces already having been doled out (The Girl from Impanema et al), I had to YouTube the suggestions I was given. I listened to them. Hmm…I wasn’t particularly inspired, despite the fine pieces that they are. Scrolling through a list of Jobim compositions, One Note Samba (Samba De Uma Nota So) caught my eye. With nothing more than the title (one note? I can handle that!) I listened to the original once (OK, I had heard it before I realized) and set to work.
Having no interest in trying to beat the Brazilians at their own game, I had to choose an approach that would be respectful yet unique enough to be worth the effort. I started thinking: how many things do we hear every day that push one note “melodies” at us? I made a short list to get started and then began collecting samples, tuning them all to the same pitch and beat mapping them into the same tempo.
The result was a new piece I call One Note Sampla for Tom Jobim. You can listen to the original here.
“One Note Sampla for Tom Jobim” by Patrick Grant
If you tune in and want to follow along, here’s a list of sounds that one can hear when listening to the piece:
1. A chorus of touch tone phones, from dial tone to keypad to busy signals. The busy signals build up into the first chord of the song (D#m7) in patterns of 2s, 3s, and 4s. A chromatic electric guitar duet is accompanied by strings and timpani as a drum loop of junkyard metal establishes the down beat.
2. A garbage truck alarm sounds as it backs up, left to right, with strings playing the harmonies of a slowed down chorus.
3. Submarine SONAR pings with added dripping water FX. Dripping water in a submarine? Not good.
4. Cells phones ringing and the door chimes of a NYC subway car. Going somewhere.
5. Bells and anvils clang during a double-time jazz version of the chorus.
6. More cell phones ringing with different model car horns playing the one note melody in the distance. Brazilian traffic jam?
7. A heart monitor and respirator. After a gasp, the monitor goes flatline. An international vehicle siren is heard following the descending chromatic harmony of the piece, mimicking a Doppler effect.
8. A rock band kicks in. Under the jangly guitars, an orchestral cresendo from Alban Berg’s expressionist opera Wozzeck is heard. This comes from the end of Act Two Scene Two of the opera, Variations on a Single Note. At the end you can hear the timpani play the dominant rhythmic motive from Berg’s piece:
9. One last chorus. The guitars are now in canon, one beat behind the other.
10. Two guitars battle out the last instance of the one-note melody. The orchestra swells on that one note again until…