BRAZIL – The Beauty of Olinda – The Light of Tieta


Brazil – Spirit of Brazil

167969-004-b94cd598Olinda is a beautiful historic town, one of the oldest in Brazil, founded 1535 in the state of Pernambuco.  The large metropolitan capitol city of Recife looms just south, contrasting modern high rises at the horizon with the quaint colorful buildings and handsome churches of historic Olinda.

Today let’s stroll up and down the sometimes steeply inclined cobblestone streets of Olinda, taking in the beauty of the town as well as some of its history; for example how slavery has left its mark quite literally on the cobblestones…





Olinda’s great historical trauma was the looting and burning it suffered under the Dutch in the 17th century.  Guides will repeatedly make reference to that short-lived time of occupation.  For example, the religious statue to the right was hollowed out so that the Portuguese could smuggle gold unnoticed past the Dutch invaders.

When later in our tour I would get glimpses of what 400 years of slavery had wrought, it put the Portuguese trauma of Olinda’s handful of years under Dutch occupation in some perspective.

On the highest point of Olinda stands the Church of Grace, and at the left corner of the photo sits “the Problem of Olinda”, an unsightly modernistic viewing platform.  I’m sure it provides pretty views of Olinda for tourists (we didn’t bother), but it does mar the view from every other vantage perspective that includes its presence:


Another view of the Church of Grace:



Church of Carmo, with the multicolored Atlantic ocean behind it (beautiful waters, but dangerous: this area suffers from one of the highest incidents of shark attacks in the world):


Church of St. Benedict:


A train for tourists:


As we stroll past the quaint colorful houses of Olinda, let’s listen to my favorite Brazilian song:

A Luz de Tieta – Caetano Veloso

This song was written for the movie 1996 “Tieta do Agreste”, starring Sonia Braga, based on Jorge Amado’s popular novel “Tieta”.  Ed and I got a sense of how popular this song is in Brazil when we heard it performed during an open air concert in Salvador; everybody in the large crowd joyously sang along to the catchy chorus:


Eta, eta, eta

É a lua, é o sol é a luz de Tieta

Eta, eta!…”


And if you would like to sing the chorus in English, it translates (and fits the melody) thusly:


Eta, eta, eta

It’s the moon, it’s the sun, it’s the light of Tieta

Eta, eta!…”


(Although I prefer to sing the less directly translated but more pleasing:

“See the moon, see the sun, see the sun of Tieta, eta, eta”)




This hill up to Igresia da Misericordia (Church of Mercy) is ascended by the faithful on their bare knees every May 1st.

Have mercy indeed.


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BRAZIL – Salvador High and Low


Brazil – The Coasters


Brazil’s city of contrasts – topographically, historically, religiously…

bahiaSalvador, in the state of Bahia, is a Brazilian city full of highs and lows.  Quite literally, at first blush, due to its topography.  The historic center sits on a high plateau separated by a steep cliff from a lower section of town at the shore.  Which makes parts of Salvador look like a city on top of a city, like something dreamed up by Escher or Christopher Nolan (see top photo).



The high and low of Salvador is also applicable to the extreme contrasts from street to street, section to section.  You have streets of beautifully, colorfully restored old houses right next to dangerously run down roads your New York honed street smarts warn you against walking down (at least in 2012, when these pictures were taken); a business district of sleek office buildings next to old buildings in various states of disrepair; wealthy modern high rise apartment buildings conspicuously fortressed behind gates and private security details.

The high and low of Salvador is also present in its many famous and fascinating churches and their intractable relationship with Brazil’s history of slavery.

We’ll catch glimpses and word of all that, as well as Salvador’s lively beaches and famous municipal elevator.

But first we’ll stroll past some of the more picturesque corners of the Old City:







Mas Que Nada – Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

s-7For our Brazilian musical selection, it is long past due that I share one of the most famous upbeat selections Brazil has gifted the world.  You may not know the title “Mas Que Nada”, but you have surely heard this track’s lively chorus.  Possibly no piece of music has been used more often as a shorthand to illustrate Brazilian high spirits.

And to honor our “high and low” theme, this high spirited take on “Mas Que Nada” will be followed later by a “low”, more earthy version later in this post.

By the way, “Mas Que Nada” is Brazilian Portuguese slang, literally translated as “but, that [is] nothing”), yet it has flexible meanings (“come on”, “no way”, “whatever”, or “yeah, right!”) depending on the context in which it is used in informal conversation.


The Elevator (Elevador Lacenda) connecting “high” and “low” Salvador.


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Brazil – Les Paul and Mary Ford

In my previous Brazil post I introduced you to the Lençóis region – the “Bedsheets” of Brazil, including two unique approaches / views of this one-of-a-kind landscape.

Today we will explore the Lençóis from three more angles, again revealing extraordinary and unique views.  We’ll start from above:

Lençóis Approach #3 – Airplane Flyover

bl-001This is the little 4 seater airplane we hired (with some birthday present “mad money”) to take us on a thirty minute flyover across the whole Lençóis region.  The pilot and his trainee sat upfront and Ed and I sat behind.

I couldn’t help but have nervous thoughts of JFK Jr. and James Horner.  Especially when our pilot waited many minutes with the engine running before lifting off (we wouldn’t find out why until later…)


We started with views of Rio Preguiças, which snakes past the town of Barreirinhas and separates the Grandes (Big) Lençóis in the West from the Pequenos (Smaller) Lençóis in the East (look at the map here).



Above a view of the Smaller Lençóis to the East.

Below, the lighthouse near the delta of the Rio Preguiças.  (We will climb it later.)



The Lençóis beaches are fabulous.  I could have posted plenty more gorgeous high and ground level views of sun-dappled oceans and wide smooth beaches, but the real sensation of this area (and point of this post) is of course the unparalleled white dune landscape.



Eventually the Grandes Lençóis stretched out before us.




Last post I went highbrow with musical selections from Brazilian artists that directly reference the Lençóis.  But I also went cheeky with “Whiter Shade of Pale”.  This time I’m going to double down on the on-the-nose “white noise”.  And because I am an LOTR fan, I’ll start with:

Gandalf the White – Howard Shore

But I think you’ll find most of the track works nicely for this landscape too.


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September 11, 2016

For this day:


from the oratorio The Song of Job 9:11


For the full concert, go to the  Song of Job page.



THE SONG OF JOB 9:11 – 14 year anniversary of 9/11/2001

The Song of Job 9:11 – Chapter Ten: HOPE – concert video, Sep 9, 2011 The Song of Job 9:11 – Chapter Ten: HOPE – concert audio, Sep 11, 2011 Above are recordings of the finale of the tenth anniversary … Continue reading


HOPE for a New Year

I believe in the good of mankind I believe in the end truth prevails It resides in our hearts and our minds Should we seek it we’d find love unveiled HOPE Happy New Year.  Let’s hope for a 2016 that … Continue reading


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LENÇÓIS – The Bedsheets of Brazil


Brazil – Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra

HouseofSandAround ten years ago Ed and I saw an extraordinary Brazilian movie called “The House of Sand”.  It is set in a landscape of endless, blindingly white sand dunes.  So unusual and otherworldly the film seemed to be taking place on another planet.

Turns out The House of Sand is set and was filmed in the Lençóis Maranhenses, the “Bedsheets” of the State of Maranhão.  The Lençóis is a nearly 600 square mile region of white dunes and blue lagoons.  It looks like a white desert, but it wouldn’t be right to call it that.  More accurate would be calling it the biggest whitest beach on the planet (Further down this post I share the what and why of this unique environment).

l-00bEver since seeing “The House of Sand” I have wanted to explore this fantastical landscape in person.  And this August we did it.  It required flying into São Luís, the capitol of Maranhão, then taking a 4.5 hour bus to Barreirinhas, the largest town near the Lençóis Maranhenses, from where most tour excursions originate.  But even once in Barreirinhas, most routes  into the “Bedsheets” require a long, bumpy trek over sandy roads.  On the map below, only the black dotted line represents an asphalted road.  The red dotted lines are deeply sandy paths over which four wheel drives slosh and jump and jostle their way for at least an hour before you reach the white dunes.  It’s like riding a bucking kangaroo.




Among many musical bonbons I will share two Brazilian musical tracks with Lençóis in their title.  The first one, a jazz instrumental, definitely refers to the region, since it is called Lençóis de Areia (Bedsheets of Sand).  The second one, simply called Lençóis, which I will share at the end, may just be about actual bedsheets, as it clearly describes lovers in bed, but the music and the landscape still go well together.

Lençóis de Areia – Leonardo E. M. Cioglia


We will be exploring the Lençóis from 5 different approaches, each revealing another distinct side of this incredible world.

Lençóis Approach #1 – from the northern beaches by Atins


After over an hour driving north from Barreirinhas towards Atins, we got our first glimpses of the famous white dunes.  But these are still outliers and the full splendor of the Lencois was still to come.



We then drove west along the shore.  Near the ocean there are wide expanses of impossibly white sand.





Eventually we left the northern shore area and drove south into the dunes.


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BRAZIL – Upstream into the Pantanal Waterworld


Watery Vistas with Sky Filling Flocks of Herons; Jacaré Alligators, Howler Monkeys, Toucans (well, One Toucan), and the wonderfully weird and brilliantly named Tuiuiu!

Brazil – Django Reinhardt

Our second Pantanal excursion.  You can explore the Pantanal by car in the dry season, but to really grasp the water-logged region, it’s best to take a boat into the waters.  We took a day trip up the Paraguay river from Corumba.


Before we left, two green Parakeets sat on a wire just at the dock.  After all the trouble they gave me when I tried to photograph the flighty buggers during our road excursion, this was mighty obliging of them, even if they did keep their back to me.



Br-pa03Above and beside, these great lily pads are called Victoria Regina.  Something tells me it wasn’t a Portuguese gentlemen who coined the name.




Our guide pointed out two shapes in the tree that untangled and revealed themselves to be howler monkeys that eventually slunk away to another tree beyond our view.








And next, the beautifully strange and man-sized Tuiuiu birds.

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BRAZIL – The Black & Brown Waters of the Amazon UPDATED, NEW & IMPROVED


Well, no, the waters themselves are pretty much as they were, but my blog post about them has been updated, with all new and improved pictures and information about the truly spectacular Meeting of the Waters in the Amazon river by Manaus.

Why, and how? Well take another look at the original post, now enhanced and upgraded:


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BRAZIL – Wildlife Encounters Driving into the Pantanal


Vast watery landscapes, birds birds birds, and really close encounters with the largest and cuddliest monster rodents you can imagine as well as the jacaré, Brazil’s alligators!

Brazil (Sam Lowry’s First Dream) – Michael Kamen / Kate Bush

PantanalmapTwo weeks ago Ed and I flew into Corumba, near Bolivia in Brazil’s southwestern state of Mato Grosso du Sul, the main southern access point to the vast Pantanal region.  The Pantanal might be best described, to Americans at least, as Brazil’s version of the Everglades.  An immense system of rivers and wetlands, with water levels that rise and inundate the land in the rainy season and fall again in the dry season, releasing some ground from a watery blanket.  The Pantanal waters are separate from those that form the Amazonian system.

August is in the dry season, so it was possible for Ed and I to drive the Estrada Parque hundreds of kilometers west and south of Corumba in a regular car (that would get really dusty in the process).  During the rainy season only 4 wheel drives would make in through the then muddy and water logged trail.

North of Corumba the Pantanal, even in the dry season is completely inundated with water (the photo above is looking north, the photo is from the start of the Estrada Parque road).  We explored that section by boat, a completely different experience, which I will share in the next blog post.


The dirt road gives way to many bridges, which allow the waters to flow freely in and out.





Even in the dry season, most of the view on either side of the Estrada Parque road is water covered terrain.








To the left, the golden trumpet, Brazil’s National Tree.







Br-p5bHarpy eagle.

The eagles look so distinguished and calm on their high perches overlooking the landscape.

Regal eagles indeed.












We saw so many parrots whizzing by, sometimes in groups of 4 or 6, but capturing them on camera proved nigh impossible.  Even when they stopped in trees, they had a way of blending in and moving out of sight behind branches.  Still, I have a few shots to prove the encounters happened.  I was less fortunate with the toucans, who would fly past us suddenly and beautifully and too quick for the camera.  On this day I would shoot no images of toucans.  On another day, however, well… stay tuned…



Although August is a winter month in Brazil, it still reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Corumba.  So I’ll take this opportunity to include the famous Summer Samba as a musical interlude:

So Nice (Summer Samba) – Bebel Gilberto

Take a close look below, do you see it…?


The jacaré caiman, proud member of the alligator family!


So many more jacaré, up close and jaws agape, plus much more “below the break”, as they say…

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BRAZIL – The Caves of PETAR


Brazil – Geoff Muldaur

The pictures of Brazil I have posted so far have been from our trip four years ago.  Today for the first time I post pictures from our current trip.  Our first stop in Brazil after touching down in Campinas (Sao Paulo) was State Park of PETAR (Parque Estadual Turístico do Alto Ribeira), in the south of Sao Paulo State.  It boasts one of the largest areas of original Mata Atlantica rainforest (the pre-Columbian Atlantic coast rainforest that had been largely decimated by development).  PETAR State Park is most famous for its many caves.  Below is a picture of Casa de Pedra, a Petar cave with a nearly record big opening of about 18o meters.


You however need about a day’s hike into the forest to reach Casa de Pedra.  More humble tourists that we are, we hired a guide to take us into those three caves most accessible to day trippers.  They are pretty impressive in their own right.  The first one, Santana, goes on for over 12 km.  800 meters worth is deemed safe for tourists and their guides.  And that alone is a lot of cave to explore, with too many fabulous formations of stalactites and stalagmites to contain in even this blog post, and I’ll share plenty.

Br-c1To the right, that’s Ed and me and our head protection (it’s easy to bump your head making your way through and past the tight corners, low ceilings and odd protrusions of a cave system).  Below is the entrance to the Santana cave.  It looks rather modest for what would wind up being an elaborate, impressive 12 km cave system.  Turns out this entrance was blasted open by dynamite a hundred years ago.  Originally the opening was much smaller, just enough for the water to pour out and make a strange grumbling sound, which is why it initially was called the Snoring Cave.



The opening of the Santana cave, as seen from within:


Taking pictures inside the caves with just my regular old canon automatic, there is the decision of whether to use flash photography or try capturing the image in the low light available from the helmet headlights.  Below you can see the difference of the same section of the cave being photographed in the “natural” light of the head lamps and with the camera’s flash.  Although the flash photography for the most part gives much more detail, it can have a flattening effect, and it doesn’t represent the actual experience of being in the darkness of the caves, guided only by the lights from our helmet lamps.




I will include pictures taken both ways.  So you can share the experience of being in the dark cave system, spookily illuminated by limited light, as well as revel in the details of some of the fantastic calcium carbonate deposit formations we encountered.

All this talk of camera usage brings me to our Brazilian musical number of today: Desafinado.  Why?  Because of this lyric of course:

Fotografei você na minha Rolleiflex

(I took a picture of you with my Rolleiflex)

Desafinado – Antonio Carlos Jobim

Desafinado is actually less about cameras and more about music.  Desafinado means “out of tune” and the lyrics describe a lover’s disdain for the narrator’s singing.   The lyrics’ dissection of the relationship is actually a sly defense of bossa nova itself, the musical style which was just being introduced at the time of the song’s writing.  Desafinado may now easily be not only the most famous bossa nova tune but also the song that more than any other defines the bossa nova style.

Okay, back into the caves:




Br-c6Above and beside you can see some of the walkways we took to get through the cave system.  Ed says “I love about Brazil that you can do things here that would be considered totally unsafe for tourists in America”.



Br-c8spiderThere are animals that live exclusively in the caves, like this spider.


Below note the glittering of the minerals on the cave wall, like a star filled night.



Time for some stalactites, in columns and curtains:



Br-c12aEd is looking at a rock formation which is called the horse’s head for obvious reasons.



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BRAZIL – Rio Religioso


Brazil – Ritchie Family

Welcome back to Rio de Janeiro, currently in the midst of hosting the Olympic Games.  Ed and I are currently in other parts of Brazil, but four years ago we were all over Rio.  I already shared our impressions of Ipanema, Copacabana and the Sugarloaf, now let’s explore some other awe-inspiring places in the city.

And when you think Rio and inspirational, it’s hard not to think of the Cristo Redentor statue on top of Mount Corcovado.  The statue of Christ the Redeemer looking over the city is such an indelible image.  There may be many cities with a greater claim on religious importance, but no other city has an image of such unmistakable religious significance laying claim to being its most recognizable emblem.



Therefore this post’s Brazilian musical example must be Antonio Carlos Jobim’s song Corcovado, in which the narrator finds hope and redemption in a new love sharing his bed, while he awakes in the morning and looks out the window at the statue on top of the mountain that gives this love song its title:

Corcovado – Antonio Carlos Jobim

Br-r1aToday’s  tour through Rio will conclude on Corcovado.  And I promise you I will be sharing pictures of Cristo Redentor that are unlike the typical postcard pictures or Google Images you will find of the iconic location.  Our visit there turned out to be less than typical, and that will be reflected in my photos.

Until then we have plenty of Rio to explore, and to stick to the theme of Rio Religioso we will be viewing Cathedrals of Awe, mostly religious structures in the strict definition of the term, but also cathedrals of culture, that inspire their own spiritual awe.





Let’s start with Rio de Janeiro’s Metropolitan Cathedral AKA Catedral de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro.


I was particularly taken with the way the modernist cathedral reflected off the multifaceted glass of the nearby tall office towers.




Then we went inside the Metropolitan Cathedral.



Massive statues, above see Saint Francis, guard the entrances into the Cathedral.




And below another view of Cristo Redentor on Corcovado.  It’s a view that dominates most of the Rio de Janeiro skyline.  So in anticipation of the “climax” of this blog post I will include a series of favorite “Jesus” songs.  Since I am what I would call “spiritually unaffiliated” no church hymns will be included.  But spiritual uplift and/or contemplation are inextricably linked to each musical choice.

Let’s start with a really famous one:

Superstar – from “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice)





From the Catedral Metropolitana we walked uphill towards the Santa Teresa neighborhood.  The roads are very steep, more so even than these pictures indicate.


And we didn’t yet know that a hidden religious secret would reveal itself to us.  We might have noticed it as early as standing outside the Metropolitan Cathedral, but we wouldn’t see it for ourselves until much later.  The photos we took along the way however would drop big hints…


The Sugarloaf in the background.  We’d ascended it previously.


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BRAZIL- RIO DE JANEIRO – Ipanema, Copacabana and the Sugarloaf


Brazil – Frank Sinatra

Ed and I are in Brazil this August, but we are not going to Rio de Janeiro.  Not this year.  Not going to compete with the Olympics.  But four years ago, we spent 6 fabulous days in Rio.  Today I share impressions of the famous beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana, and a trip up the famous Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar).  The picture above is the view from the Sugarloaf, a Gondula coming up from the city below.  Copacabana beach can be seen center left, with Ipanema beach just on the other side of the peninsula and hill behind Copacabana.

Let’s start with Ipanema:


The Girl from Ipanema – Antonio Carlos Jobim




Version 2

Ed and I took turns frolicking in the waves.  It was enormously fun.


Ed, I’m actually off to the right, in the water, not over there… uh… Ed?





Vendors on the beach peddle souvenirs, foods, jewelry (below) and even bikinis (above).




And on the other side of a thin peninsula, Copacabana beach:


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BRAZIL – Floating Forests, Piranhas, and Sunsets of the Amazon


Above, the Jungle Lodge, where we stayed for a weekend Amazon Adventure on the Urubu River

BRAZIL (Bachianos Brazil Samba) – Michael Kamen

Below views of the Urubu River from the Lodge tower.


The Urubu river gets its name from the Urubu (vulture).  The story is that when the European invaders killed scores of natives they dumped them in the river, and the many vultures descending on the floating corpses gave the river its name.





Yes, there are Piranha in the river.  But we were told it was safe to swim in the waters by the Lodge, as long we didn’t go in with an open wound…


Then we took a field trip – or rather a water trip – into the floating forests.


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BRAZIL – The Black & Brown Waters of the Amazon

Br-a14 (1)

A dramatic photograph in a Manaus gallery shows the stark contrast of the waters of the Amazon and the Rio Negro as they meet and continue side by side for many miles without blending.

Brazil – Pink Martini



Welcome to Brazil.  Today we look at the waters of the Amazon, first at Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, where the brown waters of the Amazon, flowing in from the West and Southwest, meet the black waters of the Rio Negro, flowing in from the North and Northwest. Br-a0 The second part of this post will take us to the waters of the Urubu River, an Amazon tributary where we spent an “Adventure Weekend” after leaving Manuas (These pictures are from our Brazil trip 4 years ago).

But first the great Black/Brown divide of the Amazon and Rio Negro at Manaus.  As the picture above, as well as the photographs I took on the river myself will dramatically show, at this juncture the waters of the two river systems meet but don’t yet blend, and flow on eastwards visibly separated by their hues side by side for many miles.


We took a public bus to a spot just East of Manaus to a port where you can take ferries across the river.


The northern side of the river contains the black waters of the Rio Negro and its tributaries.  The southern side contains the brown waters of the Amazon and its southwestern tributary rivers.  The separation between the two is as clear as a horizon line, but in this case a horizon line one may visibly cross in one’s boat.




And we’ve crossed the line, and are now looking back:



8/25 UPDATE: Pictures taken from our 2016 visit to the Great Amazonian Water Divide

Today, back in Manaus, we went “private” rather than “public”; as in we took a tour boat that lingered in the brown/black water divide instead of the municipal ferry we opted for in 2012, crossing the Amazon and the Meeting of the Waters as the boat delivered passengers to opposite shores.  In 2012 I had the experience of going shore to shore.  Today I had the opportunity to linger at the Meeting of the waters and take some more incisive pics of the brown/black water phenomenon.


The tour boat took us right where the two rivers come together, beginning  a side by side division of waters that continues for 8 km before finally mixing as one.



Why the division?  The short answer is density, temperature, speed….


Meaning, the original Amazon source is in Peru, and from there the waters carry more silt than the Rio Negro waters, making them denser (as well as browner).  The Rio Negro waters originate from as far north as Columbia.  They are up to 4 degrees Celsius warmer than their western Amazonian cousins (they can get as warm as 35 degrees Celsius, almost human body temperature).  They also flow faster than the western Amazonian waters.  All three of these factors contribute to it taking up to 8 km before the two bodies of waters have finally properly mixed as one, as two bodies of waters coming together really rather tend to do more easily.



Back to the original 8/3 post:

Even at this mid-point of the Amazon, thousands of miles from the Atlantic, the river is already so wide that the immense swath of the black half of the waters seem but a sliver from the opposite shore, and vice versa.


Still more pics of the immense Amazon ahead, and then heading towards our jungle adventure on the Urubu River.  And for music I’m including a classic Brazilian pop instrumental.

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BRAZIL – The Big Brazil August Adventure is about to Recommence!


Ed and I for years ago in Amazonas


Br-foz6Four years ago Ed and I spent a fantastic August touring Brazil.  This month we do it again.  Which means Notes from a Composer is going to go all out on a Brazil themed Two-Fisted Touristing series all month long and maybe longer.  I will be posting photo diary entries from our current and previous Brazil travels, with musical accompaniment of course, starting with the most famous song about Brazil, natch, “Brazil”; above is the recording from the Disney movie “Saludos Amigos”, which made the song, originally known as “Aquarela do Brasil”, a worldwide hit.


To whet (or wet) the appetite, below is a repost of last August’s “Chasing Waterfalls”, which takes you on a musical tour of the most amazing waterfalls on the planet, the Foz do Iguacu falls, which lie partly in Brazil and partly in Argentina.  They were an unforgettable highlight of our Brazil tour four years ago:

Version 2

map with overhead view of the falls


CHASING WATERFALLS – The Flabbergasting Force of Foz do Iguacu

Fall 1

Time for another bout of Two-fisted Touristing with musical accompaniment.  Today the amazing Foz do Iguacu waterfalls, which cascade partly in Brazil, where Ed and I first encountered them three years ago, and partly in Argentina, where we saw more of them on a day trip visa the next day.  This collection of enormous waterfalls covering several square kilometers requires at least two days to be fully explored (regardless of border crossing issues).  They are astounding in person.  I hope these pictures give at least some indication of their awesome power and beauty.

Fall 2

We’ll start on the Brazilian side of the falls.

And of course must play “water” music, and so we’ll start with the most famous cut (Hornpipe) from the most famous water music, Handel’s Water Music:

Fall 2

It may be called Water Music and it’s very pretty, but does it sound watery?  Or even flowing?  A little near the end, I suppose, but certainly not cascading…

How about Saint – Saens’ Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals:


Speaking of Animals, do you see the bird flying INTO the waterfall? These birds have their nests on the inside and could be seen diving in and out of the falls all evening.

Speaking of Animals, do you see the bird flying INTO the waterfall? These birds, Great Dusky Swifts, have their nests on the inside and could be seen diving in and out of the falls all evening.


Fall 5

I first heard Saint-Saens’ magical piece of twinkling, flowing, cascading music when it was used quite effectively as the main theme for the documentary on cinematography “Visions of Light”, whose smorgasbord of visual splendors I dined on often, always lamenting that the credits never listed what beautiful music the documentary was featuring as its main theme.  Finally some moderately intense internet sleuthing led me to Aquarium by Saint-Saens.

I love the Saint-Saens, but it is perhaps a little too twinkling for such massive waterfalls?

Fall 9

Fall 5

This is just the beginning.  And was a taste of the view from Brazil.  Next stop is the next day in Argentina.  Also, Beethoven produces the ultimate in cascading awesomeness.  And, of course, TLC…

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Subway Motion Animation

Look at the video below.  This sight thrills me every time I am on a Brooklyn subway train heading towards the Manhattan bridge.  I think of it as Subway Motion Animation:




The video clip above was taken with my phone as I rode the B Subway train from Brooklyn’s Dekalb station towards Manhattan yesterday.  It’s a long ride between the Dekalb station and the Manhattan bridge where the train exits the tunnels to ride in the open air before diving back into the tunnels and Grand Street Station on the Manhattan side.  At one point the typical subway tunnel darkness outside the windows turns into brightly lit walls with numerous panels of art.

And lo, whoa!, it’s the MTA magic lantern show!

As the train whizzes past the art, vertical beams passing between the subway and the carefully spaced out art panels act like the sprockets of a film projector with the subway window the lens and the art on the wall the film strip.

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The Many Voices of Marni Nixon


Marni Nixon passed yesterday.  She had a long, accomplished career as a classically trained singer on the concert and theater stage, but she is most famous for her leading contributions to some of the most famous musicals of Hollywood’s golden age.

Except she was heard, not seen.

She is the singing voice of Deborah Kerr in “The King and I”, of Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady”, of Nathalie Wood in “West Side Story”.

Initially the fact that the stars in these movies had been dubbed, and all dubbed by the same woman, was kept secret by the studios.  But eventually word got out and spread, and Marni Nixon became famous for the being the singing voice of the leading ladies of some of the greatest musicals of our time.

As her New York Times obit details: “Starting as a teenager in the late 1940s and continuing for the next two decades, Ms. Nixon lent her crystalline soprano to some 50 films, sometimes contributing just a line or two of song — sometimes just a single, seamless note — that the actress could not manage on her own.”

She had an uncanny ability to match her voice to the actor, like a vocal chameleon.  She said herself in a 1964 interview with The New York Journal-American: “It’s fascinating, getting inside the actresses you’re singing for. It’s like cutting off the top of their heads and seeing what’s underneath. You have to know how they feel, as well as how they talk, in order to sing as they would sing — if they could sing.”

I met her a few times.  She was an acquaintance of my mother, also a classically trained singer.  When Ms. Nixon performed in the musical “James Joyce’s The Dead” on Broadway in 2000, we joined her backstage (met Christopher Walken) and then went out to lunch together, where she and my mom shared stories from a combined century of singing careers.

So to honor Marni Nixon, and to save you the YouTube searches, here assembled are the most occasions where she sang for the stars, and one where she got to finally be seen in a classic movie musical too, perhaps the most famous one of them all.  It really is amazing to recognize that all those amazing musical scores were sung by the same woman, sounding like the star we were watching on screen, “if she could sing” as well as all that.

Let’s start with Marni Nixon getting to sing for you, Deborah Kerr, in “The King and I”:


Follow that up with Marni Nixon feeling and sounding pretty for Nathalie Wood in “West Side Story”:

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