Volume 5, April 2015
Lino José Nunes's 1838 Methodo : Historical, Analytical and Editorial aspects of an Afro-Brazilian Double Bass Jewel

by Fausto Borém, Alfredo Ribeiro, Gustavo Neves, João Paulo Campos, and Rodrigo Olivarez

5. Conclusion

In a long history associated with European traditions, the discovery of Lino José Nunes's manuscript of 1838 in Brazil opens a new perspective in the appreciation of the double bass outside the Old World. Considered now to be the second double bass method written by a double bassist in the world, the Methodo Prático ou Estudos Complettos para o Contrabaxo is the outcome of an amazing story with a war, politics, and social transformations in a new empire in the New World. Probably the son of a black slave woman and an abandoning European father, Nunes became the most recognized double bass player in the first half of the 19th century in Brazil. Moreover, as an eclectic musician (comfortable in the symphonic, operatic and popular scenes), he excelled not just as a double a bassist, but also as a singer, guitar player, pedagogue, and composer, which contributed to the unique traits and musical qualities of the Methodo's content.

Part I of Lino José Nune's "Methodo" (manuscript provided in Appendix II) reveals several double bass performance practices in Imperial Brazil. It tells us that the Italian 3-stringed instrument tuned in perfect fourths — A2-D3-G3 — was the most common 16-foot string instrument. It also points to the existence of the 4-stringed double bass tuned to G2-A2-D3-G3, with the 4th string tuned only one step below the 3rd string. According to Nunes's time, bassists developed skills to sight-read in all clefs and transpose to all tonalities during the performance, a practice connected to the intense agenda of vocal music, especially the opera.

Part II of Nunes's "Methodo" (manuscript provided in Appendix III) was left incomplete in the middle of the 7th piece. However, it brings music that can be incorporated to the historical double bass repertory: the six complete Lessons. The variety of these unaccompanied pieces was planned by Nunes to provide the students with technical and musical skills to face the demands of the symphonic and operatic repertory. Restricting rhythms, articulations, register, and the harmonic spectrum, he designed Lesson 1 as opening preparatory study allowing the focus on legato versus staccato in scalar phrases, and the interruption of the musical flux for the opera fermata. Lesson 2 explores the contrast between military and operatic cantabile music. Lesson 3 brings virtuosic symphonic scales and arpeggios. Lesson 4 gives the student the opportunity to practice opera elements such as the aria-cabaletta pairing and the cadenza. Lesson 5 is an audacious adventure into chromaticism and distant modulations while anticipating the mood of Verdi's famous Otello double bass solo. Lesson 6 also is in the operatic mood as it is focused in the realization of ornaments and virtuosity in the fiery finale.

The analysis of Nune's performance procedures and compositional process in Part 1 of the Methodo was providential for the preparation of the performance editions of the six Lessons. His use of a structured harmonic plan (at local, medium and large compositional levels), parallel periods and phrasing based on motifs, and their thematic development allowed the correction of wrong notes and compatibility of inconsistencies in articulations and dynamics. The addition of bowings, fingerings and some character indications are intended to provide a more substantial and clearer musical context. The notation of all interferences between brackets allows the double bassist and other readers to identify the original and the edited music.