‘The Transcendental Mixtape’: Simone Menezes’ “Metanoia”

KEVIN WHITLOCK travels to Rome for the premiere of the film element of Brazilian conductor Simone Menezes’ groundbreaking multimedia, multi-disciplinary project, Metanoia

Readers of a certain age may remember the age of the cassette, and the joys of the mixtape. For those too youthful to recall those heady days, the mixtape was a carefully-compiled cassette tape put together not just for listening enjoyment, but also to make a point. So, you might create a mixtape as a gift for a boyfriend or girlfriend, or to introduce a friend to a composer or style of music. The thing that makes the mixtape different from a streaming playlist is the care in curation: the pieces on the tape were arranged in a certain order, carefully chosen and all designed, both individually and as a whole, to make a point – to communicate affection, to show off a musician or composer at their best, or to demonstrate the power and variety of a particular genre or style.

Simone Menezes, the acclaimed Brazilian conductor is – I hope she won’t mind me saying – just about old enough to remember the cassette mixtape; but given that the cassette is now a dead format – or at best a niche enthusiasm – she has had to find a new medium to express herself. And what is she trying to express with her latest project, Metanoia?

The answer lies in the title. Metanoia is, as defined by the dictionary, “a transformative change of heart”, or more particularly, “a spiritual conversion”; the project crosses a number of formats: live music, audio and video in order to bring this idea to life. As well as a series of concerts, Metanoia (co-created with funding from the Cartier Foundation) is also a music album (released on Accentus) and a 72-minute documentary. The film, which was premiered in Rome earlier this summer and which will be released on DVD next month, is directed by Paul Smaczny and follows on from Amazônia, a collaboration between the photographer Sebastiāo Salgrado and Menezes (using the music of Villa-Lobos and Glass) around Salgrado’s stunning black-and-white photographs of the Amazon in Amazônia (currently on exhibition at Rome’s MAXXI Museum).

Menezes says she finds a transcendental quality in all the pieces included in the multi-disciplinary – it encompasses music, visual art, dance, sculpture and more – project. Like the concept of the mixtape, it is designed to both demonstrate the quality of metanoia, and to tell a story – not just about Western art, but also about Menezes herself, her interests and concerns. In 2020, she founded Ensemble K, a group that describes itself as ‘Klassic, Kosmopolitan, Kontemporary, Kreative, Konnected,’ with an emphasis on the collaborative, and K is her main musical conduit.

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