Marcus Tardelli — a unique approach to guitar
A quick look at the left hand of the Brazilian guitarist, Marcus Tardelli, and you realize something very different is going on. If you know guitar at all and listen to his music, you will hear impossible voicings and counterpoint that are strikingly more pianistic in nature. This is clearly a case of technique serving the music and not the other way around. Marcus was largely self-taught and, luckily for us, developed his technique to play what he heard internally, without the normal restrictions of the instrument itself. He is obviously not the product of any particular school of guitar. Instead, his music is the result of his love for orchestral music and complex, contrapuntal constructs.
By the age of sixteen, Marcus had developed a repertoire of nearly one hundred pieces including transcriptions of orchestral music and his own arrangements of Brazilian music. In 1999, he graduated from the National Music School in Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro). From 2001–2005, he was the primary soloist for the guitar quartet, Maogani, and during that period won three of the most prestigious awards in Brazilian music: the Prêmio Caras de Música (2001), Prêmio Rival Br de Música (2004), and Prêmio Tim de Música Brasileira (2005).
In 2005, he returned to his first love—playing solo—and made his first solo recording, “Unha e Carne” (Nail and Flesh), featuring the music of Guinga, who also served as producer on the date. Regarding Marcus’ playing, Guinga says: “It is like Rubinstein at the piano. There are certain musicians who are beyond mere technical judgment, who have a relationship with the unfathomable. God touched the heart of this boy.”
Bestowed with an eidetic memory, perfect pitch and incredible technique, Marcus is one musician we hope to hear a lot more from in the future.
Recently, we had the chance to speak with Marcus via email about his career and upcoming plans. (Text below translated from original Português.)
NA: Regarding your left-hand technique, at times it looks like you are using your thumb on your left hand on the fingerboard to achieve more complex chord voicings, etc. I remember reading that you developed your technique in somewhat isolation from traditional methods. Can you explain how you developed this techinique?
MT: So, I am self-taught and learned everything by ear. I never felt like I belonged to any method or school of guitar. I always listened to more recordings of orchestras and other instruments rather than guitar music. To play the sounds I heard, I developed an unusual technique, very different from the traditional approach. For example, I use the thumb of my left hand for melodies and harmonies that traditional technique wouldn’t allow. I’ve always found it easy to break the technical barriers to the guitar and that has helped me a lot. But, all of these new provisions exist only for the purpose of serving the music I imagine and my personal style of arranging and expressing music. All of my technique is a result of my musical feeling and not the cause. It’s always a function of the music.
NA: One more technical question: In one of your videos, there is a close-up of your right hand and it appears you are using your thumb in down and up stroke fashion. Am I seeing this correctly and, if yes, could you tell me how you developed this technique and possibly explain the difficulties and advantages of this technique?
MT: As I said earlier, my technique was not developed listening to guitarists, but rather other instruments and formations such as the piano, orchestra and percussion instruments. I was not specifically interested in guitar. My relationship is more direct with the music. This movement of the thumb of the right hand I did intuitively, seriously thinking of the pandeiro’s role in samba. This same rhythm could be played with alternating fingers but wouldn’t have the same swing. Using the same finger in an up and down stroke (in this case the thumb) produces an irregular intensity that closely resembles the swing of the samba percussion.
NA: Regarding your career, what are your plans in the near and long term future? In your Bio, you mention two upcoming CDs. When will they be released? Do you have any other CDs or DVDs in development?
MT: I have several projects in the works. I am preparing final arrangements of Brazilian music for recording in the future, possibly this year, and working on arrangements of impressionistic music. I plan to release scores of these arrangements. I’m also thinking about doing a DVD.
NA: Any other exciting arrangements or ideas you are working on that you would like to share?
MT: I think my next work will show more of my personal style of playing and arranging for solo guitar. The repertoire of Brazilian music disc for example, will be best-known songs from Brazilian popular music such as “Valsa de Eurídice” (Waltz of Eurydice by Vinicius de Moraes). I envision a more orchestral instrument, bringing new introductions, counter melodies, harmonies and melodic variations and, consequently, creating a new sound and a new way of thinking about and playing the instrument.
NA: What are your tour plans if any?
MT: Last year was a great year full of performances throughout Brazil and abroad. I needed to stop touring a little to concentrate on my next recordings. It’s what I’m doing now—finishing the arrangements and recordings. I’m booking show only for the second half of the year.
NA: In your biography you mention some composers/artists as influence and interests: Guinga, Baden Powell, Tom Jobim, etc. Are there any other artists and, specifically guitarists, who are a major influence on you?
MT: As I mentioned earlier, I always heard more music of other instruments rather than guitar. I consider my playing more influenced by the music of composers like Tom Jobim, Villa Lobos, Garoto, Ernesto Nazareth, and the French impressionists such as Ravel and Debussy. I also heard more instrumental music such as piano, orchestra (classical and popular) and percussion rather than guitar. When creating something on the guitar, I always think more about these sounds. I was never interested in following a school of guitar and ended up finding my own style. For instance, as a guitarist, I consider myself not being influenced by Guinga, but perhaps to the contrary; he employs some of my left hand technique, using the thumb on the fingerboard. I was honored to teach him this when I showed him some chords I created using this technique. But, what influenced me most were Guinga’s compositions.
NA: Who is the artist you would most like to play or record with?
MT: The musicians I wish I could have known are Tom Jobim and Villa Lobos but, unfortunately, they’re gone.
NA: Aside from music, what are your main interests?
MT: I love the arts in general. If an artist strikes me emotionally, no matter what the medium, I love it. I love the Brazilian sculptor, Aleijadinho, the painter, Van Gogh, Charlie Chaplin, in short, every artist. Besides the arts, I love to chat and make small talk with friends. I love animals, especially dogs and cats. I am crazy about nature, the forest and the seas. Whenever I can, I go to the beach. Usually once a year, I go to Região dos Lagos (Region of the Lakes) in the state of Rio de Janeiro. When I was a teenager, I used to be good at table tennis. But, now, I don’t have much time to pick up a racquet.
NA: What are your thoughts on the Brazilian music scene? Where do you find the most interested audiences? What are your thoughts on the American music scene? Europe?
MT: When it comes to popular music, Brazilian and American music are the richest and, Europe is the cradle of grande música (great music), and the home of the greatest composers of all time, like Bach and Mozart. In terms of the audiences, I think people are receptive to good music everywhere. I think art is important because it makes people aware, especially nowadays as humanity becomes more cold and materialistic. Art is more than necessary. I travel a lot and notice that, not only in Brazil, but the world at large increasingly overwhelmed by an industry that prefers to only make a profit from the professionals. But, at the same time, I am optimistic, and even with all of this banality sold by the industry, that great artists would always exist because they don’t rely on knowledge or recognition from others, but rather, the real sensitivity to the feelings that move the planet.
Find out more about Marcus Tardelli at: www.marcustardelli.com.br