Portuguese improviser and composer Nuno Rebelo, born 1960, first performed in pop bands Street Kids (1980-82) – with Nuno Canavarro – and Mler ife Dada (1983-89). If this is any indication, both Rebelo and Canavarro studied architecture.
Mler Ife Dada was a band formed by Nuno Rebelo, Augusto França, Pedro d'Orey and Kim, in 1984. With this line-up, the band launches its first maxi-single: Zimpó. The songs on this EP were in English, except for the title-single. Pedro d'Orey leaves the group and is substituted by Filipe Meireles, but he was called to make obligatory military service, and Kim also leaves the group (he would return only for some concerts, in 1988). In 2014, Mler ife Dada return to the stage in Portugal in order to celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band, who, because of their creativity and originality, have gained a cult following in the Portuguese music world. The band continues to be led by Nuno Rebelo and Anabela Duarte, the duo that was their creative core throughout the 1980s.
In the late 1980s, Rebelo turned to improvisation and experimental music. He founded Plopoplot Pot (1990-92) with Paulo Curado (sax), Rodrigo Amado (sax), Luís Areias (electric guitar) and Bruno Pedroso (drums) and Poliploc Orkeshtra (1993-95), the latter specializing in silent film music. Apart from his regular bands, Rebelo plays guitar and electronics with leading improvisers and composes music for choreography, art exhibitions, Sound and video installations, TV...
Nuno Rebelo composed the music for the following theatre plays: Frei Luis de Sousa (2001), Só para iniciados (1999), E no intervalo faz-se qualquer coisa (1998), What Molero is saying (1994) (or "O que diz Molero"), Minimal Show (1994), O Auto da India (1989)...
Nuno Rebelo composed the music for the following films: Too Late - 1999, by José Nascimento, Biography of a Mine - 1997 a documentary by Filipe Verde, Man on the Train - 1996, co-composed with João Lucas, by Ricardo Rezende and Elsa Bruxelas, The Faded World - 1995, by Edgar Pêra, Nosferatu with live music by Poliploc Orkeshtra (1992-95), Douro, Faina Fluvial - Manoel de Oliveira's silent documentary with live music by Poliploc Orkeshtra (1994), The Moon Sightseeing - 1992 by Jorge António, Narcissus Requiem - 1992, TV film by João Pedro Ruivo, Goodbye Princess - 1991, by Jorge Paixão da Costa, The Funeral - 1990, by Jorge António, Three Sculptors - 1989, by António Cerveira Pinto, Sea at Sight - 1989, by José Nascimento, The Mystery of Boca do Inferno - 1988 by José Pina.
Nuno Rebelo has been doing improvised music concerts mostly with drummer / saxophone player Marco Franco.
He has performed live improvisations with musicians such as Alfred Spirli, Américo Rodrigues, Carlos Bica, Carlos Zingaro, Ernesto Rodrigues, Gianni Gebbia, Graham Haynes, Gregg Moore, Hendrik Lorenzen, Hilmar Jensson, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Jakob Draminsky Hojmark, Jean-Marc Montera, Joan Saura, João Lucas, John Bisset, Kato Hideki, Le Quan Ninh, Luis Desirat, Michael Moore, Michael Vatcher, Paolo Angeli, Paulo Curado, Peter Kowald, Philippe Aubry, Rodrigo Amado, Sei Miguel, Shelley Hirsch, Telectu (Jorge Lima Barreto and Vítor Rua), Ulrich Mitzlaff, Vincent Peters, Xavier Maristany, Massimo Zu, Damo Suzuki, Eric M, John Bisset, DJ Olive, Audrey Chen, Agusti Fernandez, Liba Vilavechia, Carlos Bechegas, John Zorn... etc.
In informal improvisations he played with musicians such as Barre Philips, Jim Black, Mats Gustafsson, Raymond Strid, Alfredo Monteiro, Matt Davis, etc.
He attended improvisation workshops oriented by Carlos Zingaro, Peter Kowald and Günther Müller.
Nuno Rebelo directed himself several improvisation and guitar workshops.
Improvisatin as Proccess. Constanza Brncic & Nuno Rebelo. Photo Tristán Pérez-MartínAlso, he's been doing improvisation with dancers. "Extension" was an improvisation show presented several times in France with dancers Mark Tompkins, Steve Paxton, Lisa Nelson, Julyen Hamilton, Carme Renalias, Frans Poelstra, David Zembrano, Vera Mantero and João Fiadeiro, plus live music by Nuno Rebelo and Marco Franco. In other occasions, Nuno Rebelo improvised with dancers such as Boris Charmatz, Malpelo (Maria Muñoz and Pep Ramis), Cindy Cummings, Howard Sonnenklar, Nuno Bizarro, Silvia Real, Teresa Prima, Cosmin Manolescu, etc.
In March 2000 he programed MILX, an improvised music festival in Lisbon.
Improvisatin as Proccess. Constanza Brncic & Nuno Rebelo. Photo Tristán Pérez-MartínHe has released some music for Dance: Bolero (2002), Choreography by Mark Tompkins for the Paris Conservatoire Company. Creation (2002) by Vera Mantero, How to joyfully roll over an interior emptyness (2001), choreography by Vera Mantero, Capitaine Nèfle (2000), choreography by Mathilde Lapostolle. Live music by Nuno Rebelo (guitar) and Marco Franco (sax), Comédia Off (2000), choreography by Paulo Ribeiro, remiXamor (2000), choreography by Mark Tomkins, Extension (1998), Improvisation show presented at "On the Edge" festival, in France, Oceans and Utopias (1998), music and soundtrack for Philippe Genty's show in the Expo 98, Lisbon, Emerald blue (1997) choreography by Paulo Ribeiro, No angels(1996), choreography by Cosmin Manolescu, live music by Nuno Rebelo (on electric guitar), A burning desire must come along with a strong will (1995), choreography by João Fiadeirom, Love Series (Not Talking About Perfection)(1995), choreography by Aldara Bizarro, Saturday 2 (1995), choreography by Paulo Ribeiro, Alvo me imposso (1993), trio project by Aldara Bizarro (dance), Pedro d'Orey (voice and texts) and Nuno Rebelo (live music), More precious details (1997) by Cindy Cummings, Feathers (1997) by Leonor Keil, Scourge Tryptic (1994) by Aldara Bizarro, Amok (1994) by Keith Ormand, White Nights (1994) by Margarida Pinto Coelho, Intimacy Items (1992) by José Laginha, High Contrast (1990) by Luís Carolino (music co-composed by Nuno Rebelo and José Peixoto).
Current projects are Pocketbook of Lighting (duo with Marco Franco), Surf Faces (duo with Vítor Rua), among others.
Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?
When I was in kindergarten, each Saturday we used to play a game called “the silent game” - it was as simple as all the children sitting on the floor, in a circle, in silence, just passing a felt ball between them, across the circle, letting the ball roll over the wooden floor. I enjoyed so much this game, all that children in silence and nothing but the sound of that ball rolling on the floor, again and again...
There's something else I recall: I'm older now, I would say 10 or 11 years old. I'm by a stream, using my fingers to alternately close my left and right ears. I realize, surprised, that I hear totally different water sounds from each ear and that I can modulate what I hear, using nothing but my fingers on my ears.
Music for Paulo Ribeiro's choreography "Sábado 2" and for the theatre play "Minimal Show". 01 January 1996. Featuring Paulo Curado on sax; all other instruments by Nuno Rebelo (electric guitar, bass, percussions, samplers, etc).
Why did you decide to pick up the guitar?
At the age of 8 i some had piano lessons, but it was too boring for me and i soon gave up. On the other hand, my father had an acoustic guitar, he knew a few chords and the guitar was already there, at home. At the age of 12 I picked that guitar and started to learn how to play some Cat Stevens songs, who happened to be the first musical love of my life. A few months later, having heard Santana's solos for the first time, i became obsessed for having an electric guitar. I tried to convince my parents to buy me one, but it was too expensive. So, I had to wait until I was 22 to have my first electric guitar. This was because my friends - with whom I formed my first band - they already had guitars, but there was no bass player. So, at the age of 17, I bought a very cheap second hand bass guitar in a pretty bad shape, I fixed it and I became the bass player.
What do you recall about your guitar learning process?
As I said, I started learning a few chords on the acoustic guitar. Little by little I started to play by ear some melodic lines from records. I remember a “major” break through in these first steps was when I managed to play the bass line of Mike Oldfield's “Tubular Bells”. A couple of years later I was able to play by ear some classic guitar pieces like the ones found in some “Genesis” or “Yes” records. Then a couple of fragments of Spanish guitar pieces from my father's records of Andres Segovia and Narciso Yepes. And that's about when I started to play bass. While playing bass in my first band, I composed a few solo classic guitar pieces, inspired in the ones I mentioned previously.
The electric guitar came into my life, finally, at the age of 22, as I said before. At that moment I was no longer interested in soloing like Carlos Santana; instead I was getting acquainted with contemporary music and, inspired by John Cage's prepared piano, I started to do experiments with preparations on the guitar. I had no idea that, by then, so much had already been done in this direction by musicians such as Keith Rowe or Fred Frith, whose work I would discover a few years later.
The next step happens when the guitar player of “Mler ife Dada” (the band I had from 1983 to 1989) decided to leave. I left the bass and became the guitar player of the band. That made me learn how to play guitar in that specific context.
In the beginning of the 90's I started to play improvised music live, using the experimental languages and preparations of the guitar that I had been experimenting at home in the previous decade. But it's only in 2000, when I bought a Digitech RP21 pedalboard that I came across my own personal language. I use the pedalboard not so much to transform the sound of the guitar but mainly to provide some degree of unpredictability, becoming a tool that provides interaction between what I play and what it's heard, which is not necessarily the same. Since then, my learning process on the guitar has been related more with detail, personal atonal fingering and improvisational mind.
Music for "Azul Esmeralda", a choreography by Paulo Ribeiro, first performed by his dance company at S. João National Theatre, Porto, Portugal, 24-7-97. Dancers: Claudia Soares, Peter Michael Dietz, Leonor Keil, Mathilde Lapostolle, Paula Moreno, Joana Novaes and Paulo Ribeiro. Recorded, composed and mixed at home (Lisbon). Support for this record was provided by Paulo Ribeiro Dance Company and S. João National Theatre. Musical input by Carlos Bica (double-bass), Greg Moore (trombone and tuba) and Marco Franco (drums).
I recorded each of them solo improvising, without any background or any clue about what i would do with their material.
What gear do you use?
Regarding the guitar, I've been using 2 contact microphones on the arm and body of the guitar and a small mixer to mix these two with the sound coming from the guitar pickups and send the signal to the mentioned Digitech RP21 pedal board, connected in stereo to two amps or a P.A. System. Plus, the bag with objects that I use to prepare or play the guitar. I've been using this setup for almost 15 years. A few months ago, I wanted to upgrade from the RP21 to a more modern pedal board, so I bought a Digitech RP1000. But I soon found out it wasn't possible to continue my line of work with this new machine, due to its loss of versatility in programming, so I decided to send it back. I think I'll stick to the old pedal board for some more years. I've been checking other brands too, but none seems to be able to provide the possibilites I found in the old RP21.
Separados Frutos live at Pompidou Center, Paris, Vera Mantero - voice, Nuno Rebelo - guitar and musical direction, Ulrich Mitzlaff - cello, Manuel Guimaräes - piano and sampler
Which work of your own are you most surprised by?
I'll refer two different works.
The first one goes back to 1984, about the time I was doing my first musical experiments using a 4 track cassette recorder. That day I had bought my first guitar amplifier and brought it home. On the other hand, my guitar wasn't there and I had nothing else to try out the amp other than a microphone. As I plug the microphone, the amp starts to feedback and I immediately got fascinated with these sounds. After some try outs (moving the microphone, using the amps buttons, inserting the microphone in pots of different sizes) I realized a lot could be done to shape and modulate what appeared to be an uncontrollable beast. So I decided to record it. I did a first track of about 10 minutes improvising with the feedbacks, than I added a second track, while listening to the first one. And then a third track, listening to the previous two. At that point I felt it was done, no need for a forth track. The result was astonishing, I was indeed surprised with what I got there. Sometimes it sounded like a trio of clarinets playing contemporary music. Sometimes it sounded like electronic music. Anyway, for the first time in my life I felt I had achieved an entry in the aesthetics of “serious” music. This piece it's called “New amp” and an excerpt of it can be heard in “Antologia da Música Electrónica Portuguesa”, a compilation that Rafael Toral put up for Plancton Music records.
The second one is much more recent and it's almost the opposite.
In 2008 I wrote about one hour of symphonic orchestra arrangements for a musical by choreographer Mark Tompkins - “Lulu, an operetta of circumstance”. Since I am a self taught musician with no musical training other than accumulated experience, it was quite a chalenge to do it. The result is totally conventional, no experimental stuff whatsoever, but I do love it. It's surprising because, each time I hear it, I find it hard to believe that it was I who actually did it and I really don't remember anymore how I got into those musical solutions, how I came up with those melodies, how did I get there. In some sort, it's a mystery.
Where are your roots? What are your secret influences?
My roots are in symphonic rock of the seventies, specially “Gentle Giant”, who left a strong imprint on me. Then I might add some moderate influence of some bands of the eighties like the “Talking Heads”, “The Stranglers” and “Gang of Four”.
Later on, I came across the music of Fred Frith and it stroke me as it was exactly where I wanted to go. The problem was that he was already there and some steps ahead... Nevertheless, he was a major influence for some years. Somehow, I had to learn how to integrate his influence in a positive way and then how to exorcise it.
On the other hand, there are a lot of persons I have, or had, direct contact with that were important. First of all, my brother Sérgio. In some way, my findings in music go alongside with his own findings in visual arts. Then my close friend Filipe Verde, anthropologist, who I've been sharing since ever my music processes and listen to what he has to say (not necessarily that we agree all the time...). Then, Vitor Rua, portuguese guitar player and composer. He is like a soul mate, we grew up musically together in the eighties, sharing interests and experiences. Through him I met Jorge Lima Barreto, who opened to me a broader vision of music than the one I had at the time.
In the middle of the 90's I met choreographer Mark Tompkins and from my collaborations with him, specially in his improvisation projects, I saw a whole new world of possibilities, a world where the musician is no longer merely someone who provides music for the dancers but becomes a performing body in space as well, a dance performer who makes sounds. And through him I met other dancers with whom I was able to deepen this line of work: Steve Paxton and specially Lisa Nelson. Finally, all these great musicians I had the chance to improvise with.
Specially in a time where I didn't have so much experience in improvisation, each chance to improvise with a more experienced musician used to be feed me with understanding of what free improvisation is about, what were my weaknesses and how to overcome them.
Nuno Rebelo: electric guitar, Don Malfon: sax, Vasco Trilla: drums and percussion
Recorded live on May 13, 2013 by Lopinski and El Pricto , at Robadors 23, Barcelona
Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?
Starting with the dead ones: Tristan Tzara, Kurt Schwitters, Hugo Ball and the portuguese futurist poet and painter José de Almada Negreiros. Now, from the ones that are alive, I think a collaboration with David Byrne, or with the Brazilian singer Arnaldo Antunes, would be quite nice. Then there are all the artists that I had the chance to collaborate with in the past, hoping that we will have a chance to collaborate again in the future. And all the ones that I don't even know they exist but at some moment we will cross paths in the future and have a fruitful collaboration. Finnaly, there are some musicians with whom I played in the past but are no longer among us: I wish I could play once more with Peter Kowald, Joan Saura and Jorge Lima Barreto.
Improvisatin as Proccess. Constanza Brncic & Nuno Rebelo. Photo Tristán Pérez-Martín
What is some valuable advice that someone has given to you in the past?
To forget architecture and dedicate my life to music, otherwise I would be wasting my life. I did graduate as an architect, but never worked in that field. I followed Jorge Lima Barreto's valuable advice with no regrets.
If you could, what would you say to yourself 20 (or 25) years ago, about your musical career?
“Nuno, I won't tell you where music is going to take you, but you can be sure it will be a surprising and extremely rewarding journey”
Nuno Rebelo's sound sculptures at I-Park's Environmental Art Biennale 2011, East Haddam, Connecticut, U.S.A.
What would you enjoy most in an aesthetic work?
The revelation of a spark of genius, combined with a manifestation of freedom, with no place for the superfluous.
Nuno Rebelo's Sound Sculpture Workshop at Oficinas do Convento, Montemor-o-novo, Portugal, 2009
How do you experience or feel time through music? How do you experiment with time in your music?
I believe time is omnipresent in most aspects of music, from the tiny detail to the overall form. The duration of a note it's time. How much one can stretch a silence, it's time. How long should I stay in this kind of material before shifting to something else, it's time. A rhythmic pattern is a mathematical division of time. The duration of a musical piece or a sound installation that has no beginning or end, that's time. These are a few thoughts that came just like that. Time is so integrated in me when I do music that it's hard to speak a few lines about something that is so deep. I would have to go through a deep process of reflection to analyze all the different manners how I feel the manifestation of time in music. Time it's there, all the time, constantly present. Sometimes it's ticking, sometimes it's flowing, sometimes it's scattered in bursts of instants.
Fragment de la improvisacio d Agusti Martinez i Nuno Rebelo dins el cicle Musiques Disperses, el 21 de juliol del 2012, al Roxanne.
How would you define the present musical time?
To me it seems to be overcrowded, overpopulated. There's far too much of every kind of music. It's saturated. It's too much. We don't need all this music, do we?
What are you currently working on?
I'm preparing two concerts that will take place in Portugal next October. These will be an hommage to Sun Ra for the centenary of his birthday. It will be a mix of some Sun Ra songs, some music of mine composed for the occasion (using video fragments of Sun Ra's interviews as vocals) and some structured free improvisation. The curious thing is that it will be performed by students of the conservatoire (violins, doublebass, percussions, trombone, trumpet, clarinets and flute) plus a choir of 20 singers and some amateur musicians. I guess there will be no jazz musicians in the ensemble, although it would be great if I could use a jazz drummer or a sax player. We'll see...
Apart from that, I'm currently teaching free improvisation at Escola Superior d'Estudis Musicals del Taller de Musics, in Barcelona. And of course, I continue to improvise often in concerts.
Removed From The Flow Of Time - Guitar Solos 1992-2012
Creative Sources 2012
Nuno Rebelo / Kato Hideki / Marco Franco - ZDB
On The Edge
CD Ananana, 1998Music for Paulo Ribeiro's choreography "Azul Esmeralda".
M2 (Sábado 2 / Minimal Show)
CD Ananana, 1996Music for Paulo Ribeiro's choreography "Sábado 2" and for the theatre play "Minimal Show".
Sagração do Mês de Maio
(1ª Sinfonia Falsificada)
(CD / 2LP EMI, 1989)
MLER IFE DADA
Espírito Invisível (CD / LP PolyGram, 1989)
Coisas que fascinam (LP PolyGram, 1987)
Zimpó (MX Dansa do Som, 1984)Featuring Nuno Rebelo (bass), Pedro d'Orey (vocals) and Kim (guitar).
Other releases by MLER IFE DADA:
Coração Antibomba (SG PolyGram, 1988)L'Amour va bien, merci (SG Ama Romanta, 1986)
Luis Ventura (vocals), Eduardo Sobral (guitar), Nuno Rebelo (bass), Nuno Canavarro, (keyboards), Emanuel Ramalho (drums)