July 4, 2014

Day 3: Ponta Delgada

I met with Rafael Carvalho in his office at the conservatory at 9 AM to do some recording before the students arrived and it would get too noisy. Got some potentially useful material, though no idea yet how I’ll use it. It's a beautiful instrument, with lots of significant symbolism built into the design.

The twin sound holes are heart-shaped tears, representing the saudades of the people who leave the islands and those of the people who stay behind. The thread that connects the two is also in the shape of the crown, an image used in the Espirito Santo (Holy Ghost) festivals that are mostly an Azorean thing and still occur in the US and Canada as well. The ends of the tailpiece, where the strings attach, are the heads of a kind of kite that lives here and was originally mistaken for a hawk, giving the islands their collective name (açores = hawks). The inlay at the bottom represents the crops that people grow here, and their close ties to the land.

Rafael was very patient with me, and we recorded some variations on the desafio music, a very typical piece called Saudade, and one of his originals. He refused to let me pay him for his time. A great musician, and a really sweet, bright guy who is easy to hang out with.

After our recording session, I spent the rest of the day wandering the city, making more recordings, getting a better sense of where I am and where things are. Went to the public market near the conservatory. Found a good book store where I bought a book of (I think) very beautiful short poems that I can translate without too much trouble, "As Palavras do Silêncio" (The Words of Silence) by Joaquim Castilho. My kind of title.