At home with Heitor and Lucilia


David Appleby, in his biography Heitor Villa-Lobos: A Life 1887-1959 brings the story of Villa's life to the year of 1919, in a section entitled "Freedom to Compose."

"The year 1919 was important to the marriage of Villa-Lobos and Lucilia.  For the first time they were able to obtain their own living accomodations, separate from Lucilia's family, with whom they had lived since the marriage in 1913.  Located on the ground floor of a housing complex in the Tijuca district, it provided a place where he could compose with greater freedom from interruptions.  Villa-Lobos and Lucilia were to remain on Rua Didimo no. 10 until the dissolution of their marriage on May 28, 1936." - p 48.

Appleby provides a sketch of the area around the Villa-Lobos house, by the former manager of the housing units.  Here's that area in Rio today:


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And a closer look at the satellite image:

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Number 10 was half-way down the East side of Rua Didimo - across from the North end of the high-rise building that's gone up across the street.  There are trees there now: I wonder if there's a plaque.

1919 was a productive year for Villa-Lobos; besides the Third and Fourth Symphonies, he wrote Cancoes tipicas brasileiras, Vidapura, Simples Coletanea, Historietas, Historias da Carochinha, and the Danca frenetica

Appleby tells a great story about this period in Villa's life:

"He went to a nearby medical school and purchased a human skeleton.  He hung the skeleton in the front room of the apartment, near Lucilia's piano.  As he composed, he shook the skeleton and took careful note of the sounds of rattling bones as a percussion background to newly composed works." - p. 48

There are 206 bones in the human skeleton.  At this point, you must take a look at this picture, from the Wikipedia article.

Of course, percussion was an important part of Villa's orchestral music throughout his musical career.  Here is a list of instruments he used, from Villa-Lobos, Su Obra, 2nd edition, 1972, p. 182-183.  There aren't 206 different instruments, but there are a lot.  For more information on Brazilian percussion instruments, see this page of Instrumentos de Percussao.

 Bateria  Percussion
 Assobio  Whistle
 Baguete de Pau  Big or Bass Drum
 Bombo  Side Drum
 Caixa  Bass Drum
 Caracaxa  Bamboo cylinder filled with small stones
 Caxambu  Tom-Tom
 Chocalho  Metal gourd filled with small stones
 Coco  Dry coconut hulls
 Ferrinho  Small iron stick
 Folha de Flandres  Tin plate sheet
 Ganza  Cow bell
 Gongo  Gong
 Glockenspiel  Glockenspiel
 Guizos  Sleigh bells
 Maceta  Stick (metal and wood)
 Madeiras  Wood Block played with wood stick
 Ophicleid  Ophicleide
 Pandeiro  Tambourin without jingles
 Pratos  Cymbals
 Prato com maceta de Madeira  Cymbal with wood stick
 Prato com maceta de metal  Cymbal with metal stick
 Prato de Louca  Dinner plate
 Reco-Reco  Notched bamboo cylinder played with wood stick 
 Sino  Bell
 Tamborim de Samba  Tom-Tom
 Tartaruga  Indian drum (medium pitch
 Tambi (Substitution by xylophone) 
 Tambor Africano  Large tambourine without bells
 Tambor Indiano  Indian Drum
 Tambor Militar  Military Drum
 Tambor Surdo  Big snare drum 
 Tam-Tam  Tom-Tom 
 Tarol  Side drum
 Timpano  Timpano
 Triangulo  Triangle
 Vassourinha  Little broom
 Vibrafone  Vibraphone 
 Violao  Guitar 
 Surd (Copo)  Mute Cup 
 Xilofone  Xylophone 
 Surd de papelao  Large straight mute