Resources Part II: Pablo Gil

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Pablo Gil is a highly renowned Venezuelan saxophonist and educator who has lived in Paris and New York and is currently residing in South Florida. I do not know Pablo personally, but know and have worked with numerous musicians who do including Cesar Orozco, Pablo Bencid, Silvano Monasterios and Alvaro Benavides just to name a few.

I simply can’t say enough about Pablo Gil’s 2013 University of Miami dissertation entitled A Jazz Performer’s Guide to Selected Genres of Venezuelan Folk Music. To be honest, this doctoral essay is exactly the sort of method I was hoping to write, so it was a nice surprise to find out that much of the work had already been done for me. Even Gil’s style of writing is incredibly clear and to the point, with succinct objectives and super thorough explanations of every topic covered.

I don’t know if it was Gil’s intention, but his thesis embodies many of the concepts of 80/20 analysis and DiSSS in such a complete and beautiful way. His questions and objectives almost mirror that of Ferriss, only much more applicable to approaching musical genres.

He begins by clearly defining the purpose of his thesis:

“The purpose of this essay is to create a jazz performer’s guide to Venezuelan music. It offers both a repertoire to be performed and guidelines on the stylistically adequate performance of selected Venezuelan genres.”

-Pablo Gil

This statement could also be interpreted as “Creating a guide for a proficient musician new to any specific genre by following a short but strong list of criteria, steps and stylistically suitable procedures”.

Next, he lists the specific questions he wishes to address in order to carry out his research. Again, notice the striking similarity to the questions found in the DiSSS method.

1.   Which compositions and genres should be included in a performer’s guide to Venezuelan music?

2.   Which is the best way to present selected compositions in terms of harmony, melody and other musical elements?

3.   Which traditional subgenres are to be represented?

4.     What information should be included on how to perform the different genres?

What I love about these questions is that they can be used for almost any other style of music. If one where replace the word “Venezuelan” with any other regional title, the principles would be almost exactly the same with little exception.

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In the case of repertoire, he filters the information via an expert panel, which results in a short but potent list of selected songs in which all performance guidelines are primarily based upon. For more information about this process, check out Data Collecting Procedures Related to Expert Panel on page 35.

In Chapter 4: A Brief Introduction to Selected Venezuelan Genres, Gil gives brief but thorough explanations of all genres along with the important terminology associated with each one. Instrumental parts for rhythm section are included in Chapter 6: Performance Guidelines (pages 76-97). As the method is meant to instruct jazz instrumentalists, the rhythm section parts are written for piano, bass and drum set respectively.

Despite all these great aspects of Gil’s work, the most important and valuable component is Appendix C.2: Table 3 located on page 132. Here he lists the 13 songs used in his research, the genre they belong to, the version he used, and even the keys the songs are in. The list includes 5 Joropos, 4 Gaitas and 4 Merengues. For anyone serious about really learning these genres, the combination of this table with the parts in Chapter 6 is really all you need to get the best start imaginable.

It was through Gil’s work that I began to see how many of Tim Ferriss’s concepts could be applied to learning new and often daunting styles of ethnic folk music. In the case of Merengue Venezolano, Joropo and Gaita, there was suddenly a linear path in which I was able to connect the various dots that would ultimately lead me to be able to play and enjoy these styles of music that seemed so “out of reach” to me for a long time. 

In the entries to follow, I will show how I used Gil’s dissertation, in combination with DiSSS, to approach these three genres individually using the information provided in the essay. I will also talk about other sources of information and ideas I gleaned from other music scholars including Hal Galper and David Baker to further explore applying 80/20 and DiSSS concepts into other aspects in my musical development including jazz improvisation, ear training and more.