Improvisation In The Age of Ready-Made: An Interview With Marcelo Machado

film still by Fernando Fonini
Marcelo Machado, film still by Talita Virginia & Walter Costa

WOMEX Film's Sana Rizvi had the chance to catch up with the Brazilian director about his latest work and more.

WOMEX Film runs a film library during the expo, a space curated to highlight new musical projects and collaborations. Films in the library are accessible on demand at any time to all WOMEX delegates. Musica Pelos Poros (Music Through My Skin) is one of the films to be shown in this years’ film library.

1 October 2018 Interview by Sana Rizvi

Marcelo Machado: started his career with experimental videos in the 1980's and then went on to direct films such as the award-winning music-documentaries Tropicália (2012) and The Piano in The Room (2017), which was also shown at WOMEX 17. His new documentary Musica Pelos Poros moves like a river, meandering through all its ebbs and flows, at times faster, at others slower yet moving at all times and enjoying every moment of the journey. The film has a meditative quality of letting the viewer just be, with no pre-existing conditions.

The setting of the film is a farm, where the Festival Artes Serrinha takes place in Brazilian winter. For a month artists from across the world with various backgrounds like photography, fashion, visual art and music come together. Musica Pelos Poros shares the musical process of eleven musicians that came together to improvise and surprise each other during a music residency programme. Without any plans, without previously created, arranged or mixed songs, the film pieces together through the musicians' experiences.

Machado and his film crew learnt to adapt to these new shooting conditions they found themselves in, accepting the processes as they were unfolding and documenting as freely as the music was flowing to be able to capture it in its true essence. They became part of the improvisation process so much so that they were at times helping with lyrics! Machado says that the shoot would not have worked out as organically as it did if they had tried to organize the space with set up cameras and that would not have been documentation of the journeys of creation the musicians embarked on each day. Machado did come back to the editing room with a ton of material that lacked continuity, but his editor Raimo Benedetti decided to put full trust in the processes that the film had documented by looking at the entire footage and rather than cleaning out the material he let the film be driven by music.

The result is a poetic film, giving utmost respect and representation to the process of creating unadulterated music. The film also celebrates a beautiful space for tolerance and respect; an idea that the director believes is very important in today’s testing times.

Sana Rizvi: The name of your film is very symbolic ”Music Through My Skin.” How did the film title come to be?
Marcelo Machado: It was a music residence with eleven musicians improvising, and we didn’t have a shooting plan. We slept, ate and worked together for a week so; they had this attitude of being open to any idea and just play. In Portuguese I called the documentary Music Through The Pores because it was a free process and music drove our lives during the period, night and day, passing through our entire being.

SR: How did the collaboration with Festival Arte Serrinha happen and in particular your relation with Benjamin Taubkin?
MM: I was shooting another documentary with Benjamin Taubkin (The Piano in the Room), and he invited me to document the music residency where he is one of the curators.

SR: There is a lot of inspiration from nature and the environment in the music shown in the film. Do the same influence your work as a filmmaker? I love the words by Jaques Morelenbaum at the beginning of the film about music being everywhere, coming from everywhere and being in this constant flow.
MM: São Paulo is a huge city, but I live in the suburb in the small forest reserve. The Festival Arte Serrinha also happens on a farm, and I think nature influence not just my life and work but the musicians as well.
But human nature I think is the real inspiration because as I said, we slept, ate and worked together for the whole week, so, being in permanent contact with each other was a more intense experience even then been in that particular natural ambient. The human nature is what I really had the chance to enjoy in this special experience with a lot of direct contact with people over a longish period with no fixed agendas, a rare opportunity.

SR: Could you talk a bit about whether your idea of filmmaking is something that the musicians in the film are trying to explore that is rather than being a beautifully packaged product its more about the process, the experience and creation.
MM: You are right, I was more interested in the experience of the music residency then the final product itself. Nowadays, most of the music that we listen to is post-produced, and in the live concerts, the artist did their rehearsals and prepared for what they play. When they told me that they wouldn’t prepare anything, they wouldn’t be making an album or rehearsing for a concert I thought it was a unique opportunity and I should take the chance to do the same.

SR: You have a strong relationship with music since you were a child, long before you become a filmmaker, does music influence your filmmaking more than being a subject for your films and if yes how?
MM: I look for different music genres changing from classic to Brazilian, from pop to experimental trying to keep my curiosity, interest and pleasure. And I work with different subjects or contents doing my best to not be taken as a specialized music filmmaker. Why? Because music inspires me, music helps me to relax and excite me. And more then this, music heal me from all the torments and sickness of the reality. So, I try to keep this relation as fresh and pure as it can be.

SR: What is the one thing that you hope that WOMEXicans who watch the film will take away from it?
MM: I hope that those who watch the film get the feeling of the essence and power of honest music, improvised with a true love for the art; not made for the industry. I think that WOMEX brings in a lot of musicians who are already in sync with this spirit so it might not be something new for them but I would love if the film brings across the free spirit of the musician who can love, laugh, cry, listen and improvise together with tolerance and respect for a diversity of ideas and thoughts.

Marcelo has just finished shooting for his new project, a musical documentary about a famous pop singer in Brazil whose focus apart from making music is the written word in the form of books, poetry or calligraphy.

Musica Pelos Poros (Music Through my Skin) is showing in the Film Library (Film Room 1, INFECAR), from 25 -27 October from 10:00-18:00.

Interviewed & Written by Sana Rizvi

article posted by:Juliane Bahl, Piranha Arts