Fábio Caramuru: EcoMúsica

When field recordings are used to augment musical materials, the former often performs a complementary yet nonetheless secondary function. On EcoMúsica, the balance is adjusted so that the emphasis is equally split between the musical element, Fábio Caramuru's piano playing, and the field recordings, in this case the sounds of different creatures from the Brazilian fauna. What helps distinguish the recording is that the São Paulo, Brazil-born artist appears to be interacting with the environment and engaging in a dialogue of sorts with the non-pianistic sounds around him. Such an innovative concept encourages a general reconsideration of the approach typically applied to music-and-field recordings projects.

The pristine recording quality and fundamental contrasts between the two elements ensures that a clear separation between the piano and environmental sounds is always present. The piano playing by Caramuru, a formally trained musician who earned a Master's Degree at the University of São Paulo, is refined and radiant on technical and tonal grounds, respectively, and the mood is generally uplifting. It's easy to visualize him within a luscious natural setting playing the piano whilst surrounded by towering trees and serenaded by Brazilian insects and birds.

The recording's fourteen pieces draw from different styles, classical obviously but jazz, too; not only does the latter seep into “Bem-te-vi” and “Sapo-cururu,” for instance, but one even detects a bluesy hint of R'n'B within the pieces. Throughout the collection, Caramuru modulates his touch so that some pieces are delicately rendered and others executed with intensity. In some cases, there's a strong suggestion that the birds are replying to the piano playing (“Tico-tico”); in others, it seems as if it's Caramuru who's following their lead (“Quero-quero”). During the representative pieces “Uirapuru” and “Araponga,” the interactions between the parties are so intertwined, it truly does feel as if we're overhearing conversations.

Still, as interesting as the album concept is, there's one part of me that would have been glad to have had the recording feature Caramuru alone. His playing is so striking, nothing more than the piano is needed; were one to strip away the bird cries from “Quero-quero” and “Tangara,” for example, the material would hardly suffer as a result. Admittedly, that change in approach would negate the very concept upon which the recording's built, but it would still make for an interesting comparison study.

September 2016