Philippe Meyohas - A Arte do Retorno


Meet Brazilian composer, Philippe Meyohas. He has a remarkable ability to adapt and explore his ever-evolving musical talents. He continues to shape and unfold an array of styles you cannot put in one genre. From Jewish Liturgical to Polyphony in Baroque and Contemporary Minimalist. To Traditional Folk and Rustic Brazilian styles. A key point to mesh culture and shift beyond convenient comfort.


Philippe's second EP, A Arte do Retorno, means The Art of Return in Portuguese. Inspiration Philippe says, comes from the incomplete work of German Composer, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). A Arte do Retorno explores minimal instrumentation to express reflections on experimental classical works. 

Continue reading below. You will discover a more in-depth discussion. A conversation meant to dig deeper into the mind of a brilliant producer.  As you may realize by now, I don't care for the word "interview." This exchange is much more than slapping standard information and facts together. It is an opportunity to converse about what matters. The creative process. Enjoy.



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You started your second EP, A Arte Do Retorno, with a different approach from your debut EP, Alvíssaras. You can hear minimal and experimental elements throughout A Arte Do Retorno which is quite an evolution I must add. Was this your inner motivation or was it influence?

It was completely intended. After releasing a singer-songwriter EP hugely based on the Brazilian and the Portuguese folk song, deeply involved by its form, by its language, by its repertoire, my only wish was to break up with the song itself and with me as a songwriter. And I did it through the exploration of the compositional procedures of classical music, something that I was already into while arranging the songs. Then, unlike arranging a simple theme with a lyric, I’ve put to myself that I should compose a big and dense piece of music with only 1, 2 or 3 melodies, no lyrics, just implied harmony or tonal counterpoint or “post-counterpoint” of 2 or 3 parts. The minimalistic and sometimes modal features have occurred during the process as a reverberation of my musical interests at the time and maybe some perennial personal aesthetic tendencies.

To quote you, "The Art Of Return is not only a title very pretentious as it is also a pun." I'm curious, can you tell me about the individual reference or perspective that led you to this witty insight?

If I was a listener and I got to a musical release that named itself as the art of something, I would certainly find it the most pretentious and obvious name someone could possibly put in work. But “A Arte do Retorno” or “The Art of Return” is just a wordplay with Bach’s “The Art of Fugue.” Just like in his work but it in an extremely different way, I’ve dealt with polyphony in mine — not the most traditional or strict polyphony — and with the constant presence of the return. I can say the whole EP is actually based in a rudimentary rhythmic cell, that repeats and repeats, comes and returns.

I've gathered you became a composer so as not to present yourself. Does this mean you were a performer first? 

After releasing “Alvíssaras” I’ve made some tiny solo concerts during 2015, adapting the arrangements to just acoustic guitar and voice, playing its songs alongside “Terra dos Bravos” and “Nesta Rua,” a Portuguese and a Brazilian folk song which I also had guitar and voice arrangements. But I confess these were very painful experiences.

What are your primary impulses to compose music?

It may sound disappointing, but I consider musical composition as metaphysical art. What a composer does is basically articulating concepts, intentionally or not. There is no difference between what is physically and linguistically felt and what it is conceptualized about it. And I’m a very methodical composer. So the primary impulses for me to compose are just vaguely articulated concepts and every day during the composition I work on it. And naturally, during this development, my feelings and sensations flourish in the work.

Can you tell me one of your fondest musical memories growing up?

I guess the first song or piece of music that I have ever truly enjoyed, that have been kept in my mind, that touched me, etc. was the musical theme of Disney’s Tarzan by Phil Collins when I was like six years old or something. I didn’t know what was that before.

I very much adore the cover you've chosen for A Arte Do Retorno. In fact, track III reminds me of a pleasant and charm-like atmosphere. Can you describe the creative concept behind the album artwork?

This photograph has a really strong and important meaning to me. And the cover itself, simulating and old photo album, has to do with the title, with the “return,” with the nostalgia, something that I experienced during the composition.

As I previously mentioned track III above (which is my favorite), there are candid moments. I cherish the laughter and conversing toward the end. It makes my smile grow wider with each new listen. What can you tell me about track III? 

I guess “III,” especially the second half of it, is the most lyrical and intense track. Everything that precedes it is actually a big preparation. It’s common people telling me this track is their favorite. It was certainly the apex of me as a composer of musical narratives until now. And it’s just tonal music narrative. A very emotional tonal music narrative. Which ends with a cellphone recording with my mom improving a song with me.

Can you reflect on the relationships between yourself and the players of the music you compose? 

Victor and Murilo are just excellent performers. Not only technically but as artists that perform a score. And, of course, during the rehearsals and recording, I try all the time to go beyond the score with metaphors, explaining feelings that I have wanted to pass, explaining a big sense of the piece, etc.

Your music is on Spotify.  Some musicians choose not to be on Spotify or only decide to put up a few songs and want the listeners to buy the entire album. What’s your general perspective on streaming?

I can’t have any problem with that. All my music background was based on illegal downloads and streamings during years and years and years. Not only my background but to all my generation. Today I know a relatively big repertoire in music thanks to illegal downloads and streamings. Frankly, the best thing musicians could focus to earn their money is in concerts. Or in an academic career like me.

Do you feel it’s necessary for listeners to derive the meaning from your music? 

Absolutely not. It must be only a curiosity.

Say you were to ask a question of a musician you admire. What is one thing you'd most like to know and, most importantly, from whom?

I guess I would have questions to every composer or any composer that I could get in touch. Technical and artistic questions. But I think I don’t have a big and only one question to someone.

Lastly, you must choose a song that is not your own to conclude this chat, think of it as a closing theme.

Melodia Sentimental” by Heitor Villa-Lobos, during his “Bachian” times. There are really few themes that are so devastatingly beautiful to me as this one. And I recommend you Olivia Byington performance.

Philippe's Links

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