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International Conference: “Variações sobre António. Um colóquio em torno de António Variações”

07/12/2017 - 08/12/2017

With only two LP’s, edited in 1983 (Anjo da Guarda) and 1984 (Dar & Receber), António Variações – born António Joaquim Rodrigues Ribeiro in 1944, and deceased in 1984 – has become a singular case-study in portuguese popular music, either through the effulgent stamp of his impact or by the lasting after-image he left, both manifest in several tributes. Throughout the years, tributes took the shape of collective homages in record form, live shows, a «posthumous record» – Humanos, 2004 -, prepared by a group of portuguese musicians from still-tentative tunes he had recorded in cassettes, and even a significant biography, published by Manuela Gonzaga in 2006 (António Variações. Entre Braga e Nova Iorque, Âncora Editora).

The music, lyrics, imagery and video clips, all have contributed to the ever-presence of António Variações in portuguese culture. Plus, they have steadily and continuously fed the public’s imagination. Eaqually important, though, is the paradigm that Variações represents in the portuguese scene of the 1980’s, well resumed in a sentence he supposedly uttered to the producer of his first studio album in order to formulate the esthetic place where he envisaged his music: “Something in between Braga and New York City”. This particular phrase does not suggest a balance (in earnest impossible to ensure); on the contrary, it seems to formulate a drive for imbalance or for fabrication, not guaranteeing a previous identity stability (whether nurtured by «traditional culture» or by «cosmopolitism») for any project of creating a modern version of the «popular» in Portugal. In that sense, Variações’ biography (which mirrors the typical course of a portuguese male in the 20th century, from the province to the metropolis, the Colonial Wars and to emigration) seems to predicate a particular quest, from the humble origins in Minho to Lisbon and, afterwards, to London, Amsterdam, New York and so forth. The quest, though, is for something that is to be produced, fabricated and falsified along the way, without giving way to any illusion of a «fraught encounter with the soul» of portuguese culture or of the subject with his «roots» or «deep truth». Furthermore, the quest is, in itself, subject to a queer staging bordering kitsch or even camp, thus rendering, in spectacular fashion, identity as recoding. The process is also recognizable through the extraordinary lyrics he wrote to his songs, fluctuating between a vivid version of popular poetry and the literary reinvention that led him, for instance, to turn Fernando Pessoa’s poems into music.

To discuss António Variações is, therefore, to talk about much more than just his songs, since it is not difficult to read into his work and in the ways by which he forges his identity (both personal and collective) to fit performative instances, something that enables us to peruse what and how Portugal was in the second half of the 20th century, from music and poetry to culture, society and the state of the «body politic».

The conference «Variações sobre António» is intent, therefore, on studying not only the work of the singer-songwriter but also what in it relates to far-reaching phenomena: one of which (and perhaps amog the more important) is the ways by which the post-1974 revolution portuguese culture tried to be in and out of sync with the outside world and, specifically, with the culture and civilization that had emerged out of the 1960’s, mainly the one broadly referred to as pop. The conference was devised by the Doctoral Program in Materialities of Literature (Programa de Doutoramento em Materialidades da Literatura) and of the Arts Studies field of study, both of FLUC (University of Coimbra, School of Arts). It is currently backed by the Center for Portuguese Literature (Centro de Literatura Portuguesa), by Centro de Estudos Interdisciplinares do Século XXTeatro Académico de Gil VicenteRádio Universidade de Coimbra and Jazz ao Centro Clube.

Other partners of the conference are: project Keep It Simple, Make It Fast, headed by Paula Guerra; Núcleo de Estudos em Género e Música, headed by Paula Gomes-Ribeiro; and the project Mural Sonoro, headed by Soraia Simões. All of the aforementioned entities will be represented at the conference’s Scientific Committee.

The conference will take place on the first week of December 2017 (7th and 8th), and it may extend to three days depending on the number of participants. Inscription fees will be requested. The conference was sketched as comprising as main targets the following disciplinary fields: musicology, arts studies, literary studies, intermedia studies, cultural studies, social sciences, media and communication, contemporary history.

We invite researchers to present talks exploring the following thematic range:

  1. Variações’ music, between portuguese rock, pop, fado and folk
    2.      Variações’ lyrics: from popular (or fake) poetry to pop lyrics
    3.      Text & Sound, Image & Body: performance and intermediality in Variações
    4.      Identity, resistence and excess: queerglam and camp
    5.      Records: production; record industry
    6.      Production and handling of Variações’ media impact
    7.      Culture and society in Variações’ Portugal
    8.      Legacy and reinvention of Variações

The conference will display a side, complementary program, comprising a concert and performances. As to the first item, the Organising committee will challenge bands around the Coimbra area to reinvent Variações’ music in a concert to take place at TAGV; as for the performative side, a Call for Performances is available, under the title «Performatic variations on António» (the selected performances will take at Sala do Carvão, at Coimbra University Bolier House, and at Salão Brazil.


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Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Coimbra
Largo da Porta Férrea
Coimbra, 3004-530 Portugal
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