Lisbon, Portugal

On the last day of October it rained all day. The rains brought a drop in the temperature, from the mid twenties to the late teens, announcing that Autumn has finally arrived here in the city that I now call home. This summer was beautiful, and long and hot, (including a not so nice week of heatwave temperatures of 45C), but the summer seems to have gone by in a flash and although the leaves on the trees are still green, it won’t be long before they bare their naked branches and rain will be ‘the normal’ again. There hasn’t been any rain here since May, so aside from the realisation that summer is over, it was a also a reminder that the stone tile pavements here, when wet, turn into the equivalent of sheets of  ice, and one has to relearn to walk on the slippy slopes to prevent falling over. I have a mixture of things to tell you about this week, none of which have been enough for one post which is why they may seem rather random.

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On the 4 November there was a military parade commemorating 100 years since the end of the 1st World War, (1914-1918). It was the largest parade of it’s kind in the city, honouring the memory of the 100,000 Portuguese people who fought in the war and the 7,500 who died. It was also to honor peace.

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There were 4,500 people in the parade, including representatives from the armed forces of France, Germany, the UK and the USA; approximately 200 vehicles and motorbikes; 86 horses and 30 dogs, complete with their humans; and a fly past by helicopters and F.16 aircraft. The roads around Avenida de Liberdade were closed, where some of the parade participants were waiting, so the city centre, devoid of traffic, became a peaceful place for a couple of hours, aiding time for reflection and commemoration.

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I recently had a guided tour of the Portuguese Parliament Building, which is in the São Bento Palace. The palace dates from 1598 which is the year the monks began building, what was originally a monastery. It remained a monastery until 1833, then it had various incarnations as a prison, a military academy, a hospice, and a repository for deceased foreigners, before becoming the home of parliament.

Over the years the building has been remodelled, with additions like the Lobby, built in 1895; the Grand Staircase, built in the 1930s, which leads to the Session Chamber and the Senate Chamber; and the Hall of Honor  built in the 1940s, with murals depicting Portuguese maritime scenes.

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On a balmy evening in late September, I went to an event of The Environmental Sound Art Festival, held at the Māe d’ Água. I saw Sirius, who are Yaw Tembe, a trumpeter and Francisco Trindade, a percussionist and objects manipulator. Sirius are described in the festival programme as ‘a psychedelic kind of improvised music’.


I also saw Tomoko Sauvage. Rather than do an injustice to the work of Tomoko I have taken this description of her work from her website,  ‘For more than ten years, Tomoko Sauvage has been investigating the sound and visual properties of water in different states, as well as those of ceramics, combined with electronics. China bowls of different sizes, filled with water and amplified via hydrophones (underwater microphones), water bowls is a kind of natural synthesizer that generates fluid timbre using waves, drops and bubbles. These recipients resonate and also produce subaquatic feedback, an acoustic phenomenon that requires fine tuning depending on the amount of water, a subtle volume control and interaction with the acoustic space. Through primordial materials and playful gestures, Tomoko Sauvage searches for a fragile balance between randomness and discipline, chaos and order.’    


It was my first experience of music of this kind and it was very interesting. The water around the stage provided great reflections of the event.


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