Rhetoricity in the music of Villa Lobos

In this paper I propose an analysis of the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa Lobos under the perspective of musical Rhetoric and the theory of musical topics. I argue that this point of view makes it possible to understand a characteristic of his musical style that was not well discussed so far, which led some critics to claim that Villa Lobos’ music is excessively chaotic or formally disoriented. In fact, I claim he is using topics of Brazilian music in a special way. The paper starts by addressing the theoretical adaptation of the theory of musical topoi in the context of National musical styles. I discuss the pertinence of topics theory in this case, departing from several authors who wrote about topics, including Raymond Monelle, and I also use some concepts of the Group Mµ. I draw upon a concept of musical topics that is more interested in the forms of use of music figures than in their fixed structures itself, which can vary among several possibilities inside the universes of topics. Then I argue that Brazilian topics started to appear in the first decades of the XXth-century in parallel to the modernist movement in the Arts, also a time when key popular music styles were in consolidation and were especially important to the agenda of the intellectuals involved with the construction of Brazilian national music. After this I present the universes of Brazilian topics and discuss excerpts of works of Villa Lobos in order to show how they appear there and to argue that rhetoricity and density of topical meaning are important characteristics of his style.

PIEDADE, A. T. C. Rhetoricity in the music of Villa Lobos: musical topics in Brazilian early XXth-century music In: International Conference on Music Semiotics in Memory of Raymond Monelle, 2013, Edinburgh. Proceedings (online), 2012