Compositional Amnesia

A few days ago a friend dropped a brief message on the wall of my FaceBook wall, saying that she had seen a video of a Brazilian choir that seemed to be singing my music.

Hmmm. I thought. I wonder which song it was? I lived in Rio de Janeiro for 10 years and wrote quite a few tunes. When she wrote me back and told me the name…I had NO recollection whatsoever of the song. It must be a mistake. How did she even associate this music with me anyway. She sent me the link…I found my ‘alleged’ song at minute 38 of a long worship service.

Near the beginning of the tune they added video title with the title of the song and my name, along with the name of a friend in Brazil, David Spiegel. I listened to the song. Yep, this is not mine. No memories whatsoever of this thing! It’s not bad, but not mine. Then I listened to it again. And this time I began to analyze what the composer was doing….the accompaniment, the vocal harmonies, the chord progressions. The third time, I listened…. this time I began to say to myself…this is very typical of me…my accompaniments…my chord progressions, etc....yeh, I usually do that after I do that, and so on.

Then I started remembering the piece. I shot off an email to David, who I have since remembered wrote a few text back in those days. As I wrote, it came back to me that he once asked me to set one of his text for some event in his church. His email connected more of the dots…It was 1987 and the event was the celebration of the liberation of slaves in Brazil (1888)!

This whole episode just heightens my interest in the human brain and how it works, but more how it doesn’t work. But I’m especially fascinated in these moments where you apparently have to coax out into the open certain memories that you didn’t even know were there. I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences, like when you return to a city after years and find your brain progressively remembering how to get to certain places, even though the day before in another town, you couldn’t remember your way around.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s the video that baffled my memory….A special thanks to my former student, Anderson, the conductor for keeping it alive all these years.

The title Liberatação meaning liberty in English, is repeated often in the chorus…