My first Guitar Craft Course in Brazil, by Gabriel Vidal

Date or timeframe: 20-08-2004 / 22-08-2004
Venue: Centro de Espiritualidade Monte Alverne
Address: Rua Retirada da Laguna, 195 - Mogi Mirim / São Paulo
City: Mogi Mirim
Country: Brazil
Category(-ies): /

January 7th, 2017.
I became an avid admirer of the guitar work of Robert Fripp, mainly because of his work with King Crimson. I’ve started to read some interviews with him in the Internet during the begining of the 2k decade and learnt about his Guitar Craft seminars, in which most of them were done in a retreat format. I wanted to learn more because of the way he plays it, with focus, efficiency and musicality.

Guitar Craft was already widely spread in Argentina, but at the time, the reality of travelling abroad to participate in a course there was not possible for me, at least that’s what I tought. And at that time, there had never been a Guitar Craft course in Brazil.

It was about March in 2004 when I read in a Progressive Rock newsletter the news that an Intro Course would take place in Brazil organized by some people who, like myself, was interested in taking part in a Guitar Craft course.

Of course I felt very enthusiastic about the possibility to be able to participate. I applied to it and began preparing myself. The course was to be held in August in the city of Mogi Mirim, in the state of São Paulo.

I left work earlier on Friday and headed directly to the airport in Rio de Janeiro. During the flight, I learnt from the lady that was beside me that it was easier to travel from Campinas rather than from São Paulo to get to Mogi Mirim. She said she was heading there with her private driver and asked if I wanted a ride. I thought it was a good idea since I was afraid I couldn’t get there at the scheduled time.

The ride inside the city of São Paulo was a bit rough, but as soon as we got out of the city, the trip was more pleasant. I explained what I was doing there to take part in a guitar retreat in a distant city from home.

I thanked her and was most grateful, even to the point of riding me to the Bus Terminal in Campinas.

Finding the right bus was really difficult. There was no clear information, but I managed to find one bus to Mogi Mirim. Read the ticket and saw the plataform where I should wait for the bus to arrive. The time was approaching but no bus was coming. Chill was elevating through my spine and didn’t know what to do. Then, I asked to a worker from there where was that bus and then, he pointed to one that had just left.

Obviously, I got angry and immediatelly demanded him to find me a solution ASAP because I was going to arrive very late to the course. He said I could pick another bus that wasn’t going to stop in Mogi Mirim but was getting near it. The only thing I should do was to get out of the bus on the right spot. Oh, boy!

After an hour or so, I asked the bus driver when I should get out to go to Mogi Mirim. He said: “In a few minutes.” Then, he stoped in the middle of the road, pointed right through a path in the dark and said: “You only need to follow that way!”

There was me in the middle of nowhere, full of trees and woods and walking lonely at night. After some minutes, finally found signs of civilization where I could pick up a taxi. I showed the taxi driver the address and asked if he knew where was it.

Finally, I arrived at the retreat place, aproximatelly 20:30h (the scheduled time was 19h). First location I got to was the bathroom, since I hardly had time to breath properly. There I saw someone leaving the bathroom, It was a very tall man, and I asked him in portuguese where was the dinning room. He didn’t understand me, clearly was a foreigner so I asked in english and he pointed to the direction of the dinning room.

When I said my name, he introduced himself: “Martin.” It was the course director himself!

So here it is, a little bit of my rough trip to finally arrive there. Next, I’ll write more regarding the course itself.

January 14th, 2017.
So finally I arrived at the course. The team was still dinning so, hopefully, I’d still be able to dine as well, which was perfect since I was very hungry after all the difficulties I had passed.

That was the first time Guitar Craft was coming to Brazil. I felt very enthusiastic while I was in the dinning room, eating and looking at the participants talking, geting to know each other. The person sitting beside me asked if I was from Rio and he said that he was from Rio too. He introduced himself: Alex Frias, from a band called Luz da Ásia. I didn’t know it at the time, but tought it was very interesting to know more, since I always liked eastern philosophy.

More surprising was when I learned that one of the participants was the guitarist from a famous band in Brazil, Carlo Pianta from Graforréia Xilarmônica, a rock band from Porto Alegre.

Also got to know Marcel Rocha, from Campinas. He was the one that contacted Martin reporting interest in participating in the GC Course in Mendoza, due to happen the same year. Martin said it was necessary that all the participants of the Level 1 course had to take part of an Intro Course before. Since it would be very difficult to travel twice abroad, Martin offered to come to Brazil to direct an Intro Course, provided there would be others interested in participate as well.

From this conversation, it was then that Marcel contacted Jorge Pereyra, an argentinean living in Brazil. Jorge had already participated in previous Guitar Craft courses in Argentina, so he accepted the task of organizing the logistic around it.

On this course, also participated André Bordignon, from Campinas, Fabiano, who was Carlo’s student at the time, and Custódio from São Paulo. A small group, but considering Guitar Craft was not widely known in Brazil, it was already a considerable group.

We were all chatting during dinner, but Martin remained silent, eating his meal in what seemed a very focused way and sitting in a very steady yet confortable manner, quietly waiting. And then, a bell-like sound from Martin, asking for attention, announced the inaugural meeting and stated the house rules.

Excitment was all around when everyone gathered around in circle in the ballroom. While we waited for Martin to speak, silence was now a little more clear. That was when each one should say who we were and our aims for the course. From what I remember, almost everyone (perhaps everyone) talked for quite some time… It was clear it was a remarkable moment for everyone that was attending the course.

January 21st, 2017.
It could be felt that the participants of the Intro were very anxious and eager to begin with the course. After the inaugural meeting, we tuned the guitar and came to the first meeting with guitars. The energy was very high there, it was a very good start.

However, as the guitar meeting went underway, it was getting late. So, when Martin announced we were going to wake up very early, I felt desperate. Not only because it was late but also because I had a very rough trip to arrive. Martin also said we would meet together before breakfast to do nothing. This seemed a curious thing to do (or not to do, I wasn’t sure).

As I anticipated, the exercise of doing nothing was very unfocused, since no one there had been introduced to it before. But the guitar meetings were very productive, and the participants were very much able to ride along. Martin even said that we were the best intro group he directed so far.

Of course, I’m reporting this regarding the majority of the participants, but for myself, the experience was a hard one, specially with my Right Hand, where I could realize it was really messed up. But for me, the directions given could be a new start for me as a guitar player.

We were introduced to Thrak (without guitar), Aspirations and Eye of the Needle as repertoire pieces, primaries as techniques and, of course, circulations.

On Saturday, Martin introduced the Sitting exercise so, on Sunday, we could expect it to be a little more focused. However, it was also difficult for us to do it properly. For me, it was a nightmare. My control over my body was terrible.

During the Intro Course was also the first time when I heard about Alexander Technique. Martin was an awesome example of a centered guitarist and that inspired me. When Martin told the history of F.M. Alexander, the impact it had on me was so huge that I would begin taking classes of AT some months after.

Finally, Martin gave us a performance challenge. We would play Aspirations and Eye of the Needle. Saturday night was splendid for repertoire practice. We spoke between ourselves that everyone would play a solo in Aspirations. I felt I couldn’t honour a solo at that moment, with lots of superb players there.

I was right. The solo section in Aspirations was too much, and only one good solo emerged. Eye of the Needle was done nicely.

The energy generated on the course was felt by most of the participants, even tough lots of comments didn’t regard the course itself, but related more to our experiences prior to the course. Most of them related to Robert Fripp (and not with GC, since GC was very much unknown in Brazil). But, nevertheless, it was a very intense course.

We talked between ourselves (mostly me, Alex, Carlo and Jorge), and we agreed on creating a group in Internet Networks of GC in Brazil, so we could spread the word. The aim was to maintain GC practices in Porto Alegre, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and, eventually, gather everyone in São Paulo.

Because of the inspiration generated on the Course, Alex composed the song “Mogi Mirim”, which would form a repertoire piece many years later in the Rio de Janeiro Guitar Ensemble.

Gabriel Vidal

Related posts

Introduction to Guitar Circle and the New Standard Tuning

Centro de Espiritualidade Monte Alverne
Sao Paulo

with Martin Schwutke.

During this weekend the New Standard Tuning will be introduced, and an introduction to basic techniques, commonly ... Read More