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Unloved (?!?) and Underground

A story about art and subterranean concerts


My friend Erin and I met while we were both studying music performance at the Université de Montréal. Back then, we were part of the underground music scene. Before you get carried away imagining us partying every night with the cool kids, let me set the record straight. By underground, I mean we were literally giving classical music performances below the city. A couple of times a week, we would get dressed up 'black tie' and play flute and cello duets (sometimes trios with violin) at a Montréal Metro station. We were the original flash mob- surprising commuters with the sounds of Mozart in our glitzy duds. We experienced firsthand the power of music; the way it could interrupt the 'grind' and rejuvenate a sense of humanity. Here we are, posing after one of these performances, while we waited for a train to take us home for the evening.


So, why the word unloved in my title, you ask? While he eventually became known as Brazil's most celebrated composer, Villa-Lobos started out quite unpopular with his critics. Apparently he received some scathing reviews. I won't get into the details, but his story is a reminder that art isn't always a hit. Just like other people, politics, religions, ideas, etc., art takes a point of view. It may be that it's poor quality, difficult to understand, the timing might not be right, or it's just not for you. But why not take a look, or a listen, anyway? You might find some inspiration, no matter what. Check out our performance of Villa Lobos' The Jet Whistle by clicking on the video below. At the end, Erin blows directly into her flute- it's the 'jet whistle' !


What are your impressions? Do you hear any influences from Brazilian folk music? It was written in 1950, does it sound fairly modern to you? Any reactions are welcome, so don't hold back, I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Erin and I were supposed to perform this piece in the spring of 2020 in Washington D.C. Instead, we put together the first movement of the piece, and sent it out in December 2020. You can find it here: https://www.catherinelittle.com/post/erin-nyren-and-catherine-little-perform-the-jet-whistle

This third movement is hot off the press ;)

Many thanks to Erin Nyren for her fabulous playing. I don't know how she manages to breathe and fit in all those notes as she listens to me play cello through her headphones! WOW!

Thanks also to Brad Reid, who helped me with putting the recordings together. Brad is good with computers, extremely patient, and is first and foremost an awesome musician/fiddler. Find him and his new music video, Northumberland Shores here: https://www.bradreid.ca

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