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Love according to Mário de Andrade

Analysis of musicality in the poet’s verses also sheds light on the evolution of his concept of emotions and the artist’s task

Mario de Andrade_ILUSTRA_ABRE_FINAL_SANGRIAElisa CararetoMuch remains still to be discovered, recovered and analyzed in the writings and documents left behind by Mário de Andrade (1893-1945), the writer, musicologist, student of popular culture, essayist, literary critic and cultural steward. One promising line of attack, owing to the volume and variety of materials available, is to study the overlap in the broad array of activities in which he engaged. Based on study of the influence of the poet’s research on music on the structure of his poems begun 15 years ago, researcher Cristiane Rodrigues de Souza of the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo (IEB-USP) concluded that the poet’s use of formal music-related elements reveals his concept of love in all of his work in verse. According to De Souza’s postdoctoral research project, “Romantic lyricism and the poetry of Mário de Andrade,” which is close to completion, the idea of love as a conflict of forces, apparent in the author’s early poetry collections, gives way to a feeling of serenity and peace in his later work.

De Souza found different approaches to understand the writer’s work, analyzing books from his library stored at the IEB, in addition to other sources. Other researchers have been engaged in similar work. One long-time specialist in the poet, Professor Telê Ancona Lopez of the IEB as well as USP’s School of Philosophy, Literature and Humanities who oversees De Souza’s postdoctoral research, sees this activity – which she describes as “the training of a reader’s writer” – as one of the three main approaches currently in vogue in research on the poet. The other two are based on his correspondence – Andrade exchanged letters with a large number of intellectuals of his era – and the publication of unedited works. “In these research projects, the analysis and interpretation of literary criticism is enriched by a study of the creative process, based on genetic criticism,” Lopez explains. Genetic criticism seeks to reconstruct the writer’s work using traces of his creative process, which is possible only with at least the partial preservation of his material legacy. Professor Lopez asserts that aspects of the poet’s work that still call for study include his work as a newspaper critic in articles about such topics as literature, fine arts and music.

De Souza says that her current research reflects “a moment of maturation after a long period of reflection on the poetry of Mário de Andrade and an ongoing search for connections between poetry and music.” In her early research, she emphasized the modernist poet’s use of musical structures and elements in his work. In two of his works, De Souza focused on poems in Clã do jabuti (Clan of the Jabuti – 1927). Her analysis seeks to shed light on the presence of elements drawn from popular music and folklore (a term used by the poet to designate what is known more commonly today as popular culture) in the poet’s “lyrical voice.” In the poems, she searched for rhythm and the arrangement of phonetic tones which create music as well as the presence of structures from genres of music that are sung, like modal and prayer, and techniques like themes and variations. De Souza believes that the writer’s verses in the poems in Clã do jabuti definitely incorporate “the forms, techniques and themes of popular music.” This bringing together of varied and often opposing elements reflects a search “to define the many faces of his country and himself.”

Trips throughout Brazil
Over the course of his life, Andrade conducted intensive research into popular culture, particularly music, while establishing his literary career and working as a public servant. In the 1920s, he took two research trips to Brazil’s North and Northeast regions, first on his own account (1927) and then in his work as both ethnographer and reporter for the Diário Nacional (National Journal – 1928). In 1935, the writer took the helm of the Department of Culture for the city of São Paulo (equivalent to a municipal secretariat), where he founded the Mission for Research on Folklore. Three years later, the mission took its first trip in search of ethnographic data. After work in six states, the research was interrupted when the writer was forced out during the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas.

In addition to influencing Andrade’s poetry, popular music is also intrinsic to the narrative of Macunaíma, which the author called a rhapsody rather than a novel. This musical genre is characterized by the juxtaposition of several themes, including many derived from popular melodies. In a plot line that brings together popular traditions, legends and myths from different regions in Brazil, the rhapsodic style reflects the notion of a multi-faceted country – complex and “without character” (that is, without a defined identity), just as the writer described his main character. Macunaíma celebrated its ninetieth birthday this year. Andrade said he wrote the book in six days during the month of December 1926 in a shack in Araraquara (SP). The book was released only in 1928.

As she moved further into her inquiry into the musicality of the author’s poetry, De Souza realized something during research for her doctorate, which she defended at the USP School of Philosophy, Literature and Human Sciences (FFLCH-USP) and conducted under the supervision of Professor Alcides Villaça. In the poems where music is most clearly in play contained in the book Remate de males (An end to evils – 1930), love is also constantly present. In this book, “in a more measured tone, the mature poet, while seeking to familiarize himself with and incorporate features of Brazilian culture, also turns his gaze to an inner music, varied and complex like his country,” says the researcher.

Mario de Andrade_ILUSTRA_VINHETAS_FINAL_SANGRIA_NOVAElisa CararetoBy “inner music,” the researcher understands the notion of love as one of the faces of the multi-faceted poet of “Eu sou trezentos… (I am three hundred…),” the first poem in the collection. In the romantic verses, De Souza identified structures like those of popular dance tunes, or “dramatic dances” as Andrade termed them, such as the [Brazilian folk theatrical traditions] bumba meu boi and os reisados. These dances are marked by a sequence of staged battles, which the researcher connects to “the struggle between the poet’s desire and forbidden love” in the collection of poems called “Tempo da Maria (Maria’s time).” In “Poemas da negra (Poems of the black woman),” in turn, the structure is one of flight, ending with a “tonal resolution” that, at certain points, De Souza relates to the “joining of bodies” in a meeting of lovers.

De Souza also analyzed verses from Poesias (Poems – 1941) and Lira paulistana (Lyre of Sao Paulo – 1945, published posthumously). In the former, the collection of poems entitled “Girassol da madrugada” (Sunflower at dawn) stands out. “The poet’s experiences with love come about without the struggle between opposing forces that occurs in the dramatic dances, but rather are staged in a low key way,” says De Souza, drawing on the example of the verses “Não há senão Narciso entre nós dois, lagoa,/ Já se perdeu saciado o desperdício das uiaras” (There isn’t but Narcissus between us, lake/It has already been fulfilled, the waste of the water nymphs.  For De Souza, there is an overcoming of the “deprivation that moves Eros” (romantic desire), giving way to “full blown ecstasy without impatience” in love known as philia (meaning friendship in ancient Greek). In the analogy with dramatic dance, the traditional sequence of “ritual death arising from the climax” and subsequent resurrection is transformed into a continuous repose imagined as a “burning truce.” The music of dramatic dance, with its epic battles, also gives rise to popular melodies which Andrade called “the music of witchcraft,” which suggests a daze-like state.

Lassitude – the emotion that exemplifies the character Macunaíma – is evoked in “Rito do irmão pequeno (Ritual of the younger brother),” another group of poems in the 1941 collection. In this poem, the poet exhorts his younger brother to “practice lassitude, and wander about.” This time, according to De Souza, “there is a full embrace of pleasure, which does not seek sexual consummation but rather a state of contemplation and wholeness,” close to the notion of “love for beauty itself” described by Socrates in the dialogue The Banquet by Plato.

Reason and sensibility
In these poems from the last phase of the poet’s work, De Souza also identifies the desire for a harmony of opposites, leading one to a notion of artistic construction, since works of art can bring together reason and sensibility. This ambition is based on the theory of German philosopher and poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), which suggests that art is the only means of deconstructing, creating a new harmony of opposites, a fracture arising in humans because of the gap between a primordial innocence and modern rational thought.  In Schiller’s ideas, Andrade found a basis for his work as an artist, student of popular music and professor at the Conservatory of Drama and Music in the city of São Paulo.

One important publication among the author’s unpublished works now being recovered is the unfinished novel Café (Coffee), whose publication was prepared over the course of several years by Tatiana Longo Figueiredo, another researcher at IEB-USP. The publisher Nova Fronteira released the novel in mid-2015, upon the 70th anniversary of Andrade’s death, and in so doing, completed the process of making all of his work available to the public. To prepare the novel for publication, which constituted Figueiredo’s doctoral thesis presented to the IEB in 2009, the researcher managed to locate 11 drafts among documents kept at the IEB. Andrade, who’d had ambitious plans for the novel, even though he experienced several instances of dissatisfaction with his writing, worked on the novel between 1920 and 1940. “It was a huge task with many puzzles,” according to Figueiredo.

Music plays a prominent role in Café. “The text is filled with musical elements, from the very choice of the main character, Chico Antônio,” says the researcher, who recalls that in the 1940s, when Andrade anticipated that he would not complete the novel, he transformed it into an opera. Chico Antônio, who inspired the character bearing his name, was a popular singer that Andrade met on his second trip to research popular culture in 1928.  He compared the mastery of this artist with that of operatic tenors like Beniamino Gigli and Enrico Caruso. Figueiredo says that he saw in this character “the creative idleness and extreme lassitude that he believed were ideal components for the creation of poetry.” In several scenes in the book, as in the poems De Souza studied, “the narrator merges the discourse of the poet with that of the singer.” She gives an example: “O ganzá chiou num soluço. Ai, seu doutô, quando chegar em sua terra, vá dizer que Chico Antônio é danado pra embolar! Adeus casa, adeus amigo, adeus sala de estar! Adeus lápis de escrever! Adeus papel de assentar! Adeus as moças sensatas, adeus luz de alumiar, adeus casa de alicerce e a honra deste lugar!” (The ganzá chirred in a sob. Hey, Mister, when you get back to your land, let them know that Chico Antônio is a real sly one! So long home, so long friend, so long family room! So long writing pencil, so long account ledgers! So long to the good girls, so long shining light, so long to the upstanding house and the honor of this place!)

Romantic lyricism and the poetry of Mário de Andrade (nº 2013/25992-6); Grant Mechanism Scholarships in Brazil – Regular – Postdoctoral; Principal Investigator Telê Ancona Lopez (IEB-USP); Grantee Cristiane Rodrigues de Souza; Investment R$ 123,459.28.