Dismembering bossa nova: Aspects of the incorporation of the genre into jazz

Activity: OtherTypes of External academic engagement - Invited talk


Commentators on the bossa nova genre often characterise it as marked by a deliberate integration of melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrical content into an aesthetic whole greater than the sum of its parts. David Treece (2013) identifies a ‘dynamic equilibrium’ between these elements that lends the music its ‘incantatory fascination.’ What happens, then, when one dismembers those elements for new permutations of the music, or for study? For this talk I am especially interested in bossa nova guitar, as it so closely identified with the sound of the genre as to have earned a kind of global ‘iconicity’. Most listeners with prior experience of this ubiquitous music will identify the genre after hearing a bar or two of a ‘bossa’ guitar figure. My aim for today is to explore this iconicity—and its remarkable durability over decades—in relation to transmission (particularly, learning of bossa nova guitar) and translation (in particular, to jazz).
Period21 Mar 2017
Held atSOAS University of London, United Kingdom


  • Brazil
  • bossa nova
  • jazz
  • guitar