In focus

Vítor Rua

“Nowadays, a contemporary musician in order to develop his work, has at his disposal a multiplicity of music forms from various civilizations.” [1]

The work of Vítor Rua – composer, improviser, instrumentalist and video maker – is multidimensional. He began as a rock musician, but gradually moved towards the circles of new music, yet without abandoning completely his activity in other areas[2]. Since then he has gained experience in approaching different music styles, such as: rock, minimalism, electroacoustic and concrete music, jazz and improvised music[3]. Vítor Rua was born in Mesão Frio in 1961. Between 1974 and 1976 he studied guitar with José Pina at the Duarte Costa Music School in Porto. In 1971 he initiated his professional activity by integrating bands, which performed pop-rock covers and by creating groups to execute original compositions. Between 1976 and 1977 he performed with the King Fisher’s Band and two years later, together with Alexandre Soares, founded the GNR. With this band he gave various concerts, among which the performance at the Vila de Mouros Festival in 1982 was particularly noteworthy. The same year he encountered Jorge Lima Barreto, whose influence was decisive for the definitive change in his musical direction. Together they formed the Telectu – one of the first Portuguese groups dedicated to electroacoustic improvised music. Telectu – from minimal music to improvisation “Thanks to Jorge Lima Barreto I got to know a musical world, which until then was practically restricted to rock. Suddenly I began listening to ethnographic music and jazz, electroacoustic, concrete and acousmatic compositions. During 10 minutes I could be with the Eskimos and soon after that with American jazz. What happened was very important to me, as it opened the door to a totally new world and I realized immediately that this was what really interested me.”[4] In its first phase – between 1982 and 1985 – the group performed minimal and repetitive music with simple modules and phrases. The scores were created in non-conventional formats such as pictograms and text. During the following phase, between 1985 and 1987, the Telectu moved towards improvisation and encountered various, international improvisers as well as contemporary music performers. Since 1989 the group has undertaken less common instrumental techniques (instrumental extended techniques). They involved electronic processing in order to explore different timbral potentialities and obtain original sonorous effects. The Telectu performed and made recordings with various, internationally renowned musicians, such as: Elliot Sharp, Evan Parker, Chris Cutler or Louis Sclavis. [5] At the end of the 80-ties Vítor Rua began studying musical notation and initiated his career as contemporary music composer. In 1990 he realized and produced a LP with improvised music entitled “Vidya”, which united some of the most important improvised music performers of that time. In 1994 he founded the Vidya Ensemble, for interpretation of some of his own compositions.[6] Improviser vs Composer “An improviser has to be a little like Lucky Luke: faster than the shadow...” [7] The essence of improvisation lies in spontaneity, intuition and in the aleatory, “where game and chance-based systems take the improviser to unique moments.”[8] In Vítor Rua’s work the connection an interaction between improvisation and composition is of great importance. According to the composer it is “a kind of ping-pong between the two things. In composition, one should know when one needs to finish or whether it is still possible to make corrections (...), even in real time composing. (...) In improvisation the best that comes out of composition is the rational approach – one improvises as if one was composing. On the other hand, in composition, all intuitive and spontaneous freedoms as well as things, which appear from the contact with instruments and improvisation are very useful for my work as composer.”[9] Recently Vítor Rua has been composing for theatre, dance and cinema. Remaining active in various artistic areas his approach towards music is marked by the influence between different music fields. His compositional style, humorous and ironic, can be equally characterized by exploration of small musical fragments as well as by using uncommon instrumental techniques in order to obtain particular timbres. In music notation he uses graphic symbols, not uncommonly innovative, appropriate for sonorities and instrumental techniques of every single work. In the process of music creation he frequently uses sampling and electronic sound processing techniques.[10] Almost the Portuguese Frank Zappa Vítor Rua develops his work by maintaining autonomy of Portuguese contemporary music official current. As in the case of Frank Zappa his musical roots come from rock and improvisation, which allows him to remain open to experiments with different music styles. Humour and irony applied to music in order to comment conetmporaneity play an important role in Vítor Rua’s stance as composer, suffice it to mention some titles – “I Hate Music!” or “It’s So Tonal that Makes Me Vomit”. In January 2009 at Culturgest one could listen to the premiere performance of his opera entitled, “Uma Vaca Flatterzunge” – an absurd theatre of composers, performers and musicologists, which calls upon the stereotypes of opera buffa, seria, comic opera and operetta. Vítor Rua aims at deconstructing musical theatre by creating a flux of artistic gestures emphasized by humour. “To have my own world I see as an advantage, as it will never interfere and compete with the others. Since my roots come from rock music somebody once asked me whether I had any problems, if it was difficult for me to enter into the contemporary music world. And I replied: «and who told you that I wanted to make part of the contemporary music world?»”[11]



Telectu – I Telectu – II Telectu & Chris Cutler

John Tilbury

Vitor Rua - Piano Works (I, II, III) Vitor Rua - What time is it?


Vitor Rua - Uma Vaca Flatterzunge

Daniel Kientzy plays Vítor Rua

Vitor Rua - Saxopera


1 Sérgio Azevedo, A Invenção dos Sons. Uma Panorâmica da Composição em Portugal Hoje, Editorial Caminho, Lisboa 1998, p. 616 2 Pedro Roxo, "Vítor Rua", Enciclopédia da Música em Portugal no Século XX, direcção Salwa Castelo-Branco, Lisboa 2010, p. 1150 3 Sérgio Azevedo, op. cit., p. 607 4 Fragments from the Interview conducted by Teresa Cascudo ( interviews) 5 Pedro Roxo, op. cit. 6 Pedro Roxo, op. cit. 7 Sérgio Azevedo, op. cit., p. 610 8 Sérgio Azevedo, op. cit., p. 609 9 Teresa Cascudo, op. cit. 10 Pedro Roxo, op. cit. 11 Teresa Cascudo, op. cit.