Blirium (1965) by Gilberto Mendes: new perspectives

Teresinha Prada

Federal University of Mato Grosso, Brazil


The musical piece Blirium was created in 1965 by the Brazilian composer Gilberto Mendes (1922-2016) in a phase indicated by musicologists as highly experimental in Brazilian concert music. In this paper we will present a description of Blirium, making connections between the composition and ours days, as a revival of this piece with new alternatives, and its relevance to the virtual media that today gather performers, suggesting chamber formations and even solo performances (the classical guitar will be used). In Blirium there are multiple musical representations, such as the tonal and atonal sonorous means and the deliberate use of musical quotations; however, the highlight is, in fact, its strong experimentalism, which imposes on the performer a series of musical creations choices rather than a definitive score.

The Blirium’s sheet music is a register of instructions for the musicians to play according to their own choices, being an improvised and partially aleatory performance, controlled by parameters proposed by the author in the form of tables of musical properties and notes sets, previously established by Mendes for fragments montage: colours, dynamics, articulations, tempo, rests etc., for any musical instrument. The score itself is a script, made for each performer to be in charge of composing their planned parts and there is a chance for improvisation in real time. At each final of parts transition, Mendes proposes the quote excerpts from any wellknown music, classical or popular, that occurs to the performer, and may be improvisations in these quotations of fragments of any song “perfectly recognizable” by the public – it is the moment when Gilberto Mendes called it “uncontrolled freedom”, preferably, doing everything in a very irregular way, including without completing the quotations of known songs, just to suggest to the public an almost souvenir, an uncertain memory of that song.

Thus, Blirium forces the performer to think, more than ever, what kind of musical, technical and interpretive choices will make in your interpretation, since it is a music made only of instructions on how to do it – this was what Mendes thought when composing Blirium, which can be seen as a pioneer collaborative work and, in this sense, which can reflect the aesthetic-cultural and technical training (nowadays, also the extended technique) of a performer. Gilberto Mendes’ artistic career is a cross between the tonal and the atonal, an approach that he takes between Brazil, the United States of America and Europe, mainly Germany and Austria, reflected in his musical work. A fact pointed out by Mendes considers that, in certain versions, the same interpreter can record your performance in a playback to do together with the live performance. As an artistic work in times of social isolation, Blirium can, after more than half a century since its debut, become an important musical work in dialogue with the alternatives of virtual performance, enabling a musical work that portrays the will of its performers and of the instrumental characteristics, in a variety of purposes that would provide from the ludic to the high musical performance.

Keywords: Gilberto Mendes, Contemporary Music, Classical Guitar



Teresinha Prada (Brazilian researcher and classical guitarist) Bachelor of Music in Performance: Classical Guitar, São Paulo State University (UNESP); Master Degree in Communication and Culture, Latin American Integration Program, University of São Paulo (PROLAM / USP); PhD in Social History, Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, University of São Paulo (FFLCH / USP); Associate Professor, the Faculty of Communication and Arts, Federal University of Mato Grosso (FCA/UFMT); Classical Guitar Professor at FCA/UFMT and Doctoral Advisor in the Postgraduate Program in Studies of Contemporary Culture (UFMT); Member of the Caravelas Research Group, CESEM / UNL; author of the books “Guitar: from Villa-Lobos to Leo Brouwer” (2008) and “Gilberto Mendes: avant-garde and utopia in the southern seas” (2010).