The Guitar in the Brazilian Choro

The Guitar in the Brazilian Choro

I wrote my dissertation a while ago for my Ph. D. in theory from Catholic University. A German publishing company approached me to publish it, and here it is. Coming soon!

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Bug poems


A cockroach died on my toothbrush last night

And the cock’s crow lied in the morning

I woke up so early it was dark in the house

And I stuck that damn cockroach right in my mouth

Spider Cider

A spider crawled in my water and drowned

my water for waking up thirsty at night

And the cider that brewed by my bed with no sound

was two gulps diminished ‘ere I noticed the sight

What am I, chopped liver?

Mosquitoes don’t like me

They seldomly bite me

And when sweeter blood’s in the room

I can hear them swoon

And they totally leave me alone

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10 strategies I have learned to deal with Psoriasis

1. Don’t eat sugar. Sugar causes most of the itching. I used to wake up with my hands (I get psoriasis on my palms) feeling like they were on fire from itching so much. Quit sugar, most flakiness and all itching stopped

2. Sleep on your right side or on your back. Don’t sleep on your left side or on your stomach. Sleeping on your left opens your right nostril(read: The Science of Breath by Swami Rama), which stimulates your left brain and overheats your body. You wake up sweating and the itching feels like it’s on fire. No dermatologist told me this. I discovered it by reading that little book and by experimenting on myself

3. Acupuncture really works, especially for chronic ailments like psoriasis

4. Stress is the trigger; exercise, yoga and meditation relieve stress. The food you eat can exacerbate or relieve stress. Figure it out. Reduce your stress

5. The food you eat is the cause. The body is basically trying to eliminate toxins through the skin, triggering an auto-immune response that leads to attacks on the skin.
a. Make sure your digestion is good.
i. You should eliminate in the morning everything you ate the day before, including at night
ii. There are ways to test the transit time of food in your body. If it’s staying in the gut too long, toxins will flourish. Meat stays in the gut for a long time.
iii. Do very careful cleanses because, if you are too radical, the cleanse is more harmful than the disease.
b. Eat foods that are easily digested
c. Don’t eat out; prepare your food with love, not with the anger and frustration that most chefs use as seasoning
d. Find out which foods alkalize and which acidify your body. Alkalize.
e. Eat a little – don’t overdo portions
f. Avoid bad salt, bad oils (even good oils go bad if overheated), nightshades, and other     toxins
g. Drink water at the rate of half your body weight in ounces per day

6. Go to bed early (10 pm), wake up early (before sunrise). This gives you real rest. When you are poorly rested, you tend to overeat to compensate for lack of energy, craving quick energy food like carbs, sugar and caffeine.

7. Surfing is great for relieving flaky skin and sores. I guess it’s the salt water; maybe the ozone of the crashing waves; maybe the exercise and stress relief; maybe the wide horizon and nature; probably everything

8. Read books like Healing Psoriasis by John Pagano

9. Dermatologists are useless when dealing with chronic or degenerative diseases. Actually, most doctors are, but dermatologists seem to be the most conservative and closed-minded physicians out there. Avoid them; they are drug pushers.

10. Live a little bit. Find joy in every moment. Louise Hay says psoriasis indicates “a fear of being hurt, deadening the senses of the self and refusing to accept responsibility for my own feelings.” So, Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

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Beijo de Guinga

My favorite living composer from Brazil is Guinga ( The first time I saw him was in Rio de Janeiro at the music hall named after my uncle—Sala Sydney Miller. I was floored. Great musicians were in the audience, like Yamandu Costa (arguably the best Brazilian guitarist ever), but the greatest music was happening on the stage. I couldn’t believe the lyrical quality of the melodies, combined with the sophistication of the harmonies and the driving pulse of the rhythms. It was a glimpse into an entirely new universe.

The year was 2001, and I was in Rio doing research for my dissertation. After that concert, Guinga came to feature prominently in my writing. After returning to DC to begin writing, I discovered that Guinga would be touring the DC area and I arranged to interview him. He was on the tour with “International Guitar Night.”

To prepare for the interview, I listened to every recording of his available, played all the music of his that I had scores for, and read his biography and several internet blogs about him. I totally immersed myself in Guinga.

Guinga is a dentist. He followed this career so that he could play his own music and not have to compromise in order to survive. He is proud to be a dentist, and said so on stage that evening in Sala Sydney Miller. As the interview proved, he is also one of the most generous, frank and down-to-earth people I have ever met. A group of friends and I followed him to his hotel and sat in the lobby talking about his music. His words quickly melted into musical notes as he picked up the guitar to illustrate his point. He ended up giving us a private concert and it was one of the most magical evenings of my life.

About a week later I was sitting in my little room, overcrowded with books and CDs at the yoga ashram where I lived and wrote my dissertation. I was only able to write it because of the peace and space of that life—doing yoga and meditation daily, and not rushing to fill the spaces with activity. I was sitting in my room meditating when the phone rang; it was Gigi, one of the friends who had accompanied me that night of the interview. I did not pick up the phone so as to not interrupt my meditation, but the answering machine picked up and I heard her message. She had just called Guinga and spoke with him in Brazil. She told me that as they hung up Guinga sent me a kiss “manda um beijo no Richard.”

Immediately after she hung up I began to hear a melody playing in my head. I finished the meditation and began to write it down. It was like taking dictation. I wrote the entire melody down in that sitting and later harmonized it and made a solo guitar arrangement of it. I think the melody has a lot of Guinga influence and was definitely a transmission from this gentle genius. I called it Beijo de Guinga—“A Kiss from Guinga.” Here is a rough recording of it, with clarinetist Andy Connell.

01 Beijo de Guinga

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Believe in yourself

The rocks by the sea are shaped by the water, the constant movement of the waves. The water is moved by the air, creating currents and swells. The air is moved by the sunlight, which heats up certain areas, causing the hot air to rise and creating vacuums which cause colder air to rush in. Rocks are the most dense substance, next water, next air, next sunlight, which is so subtle that it is sometimes considered a particle and sometimes considered an energy wave.

This is an analogy from Aivanhov. Rocks = body, water = emotions, air = thoughts, sunlight = beliefs

Our bodies are shaped by our emotions, liquid and constantly moving. In the faces of elders you can see the dominant emotions that prevailed in their lives and shaped their features. Our emotions are moved by our thoughts. Have a thought of fear and you will feel the panic and then your legs shake. Have a thought that you lack something and desire is felt in your body. Our thoughts are generated by our beliefs. I once asked a child if he could ski. He said “yes!” His mother said, you’ve never skied so how can you say you can? He believed he could if he tried. And he probably would have been able to. Somewhere the mother (and most adults) change the answer to “no” for something they have never tried. And the answer is self-fulfilling.

So, instead of chiseling away at rock and trying to create something out of such dense matter, fighting emotions that tell us to stay in bed and thoughts that we are inadequate, focus on your beliefs. Do you believe you have what it takes to be an artist, a musician (fill in the blank)? A great one?

What happens is that we remember little things along the way that we take as messages that we don’t have what it takes. But these are all false. It is our fear that generates the belief structure. No. Do not accept these. Look at yourself and the talent you have. It is incredible. All you need to flourish are the right conditions, like a plant needs water and good soil. The seed already has all the potential to bear abundant fruit. Look at the rocks. All they need are waves and time. The motion of emotions massage our bodies for good or evil. We can control these with our thoughts, which in turn are controlled by our beliefs.

I’m here to tell you to believe in yourself, no matter what evidence you are amassing to the contrary. I am here to wake you up and tell you to create the conditions so that your talent can grow and flourish in your life. Don’t listen to thoughts of fear and beliefs of inadequacy. You have a beautiful gift. Let it grow. Give it time. Feed it. Water it. Go to work, and while you work focus simply on feeling your inner body and experiencing the art that is happening in the moment. Go out of your mind and come to your senses. Let beauty wash over you. Have no thoughts of anything else.

Posted in On Practicing, Philosophical Digressions | 2 Comments


A cricket was making a racket one night

He’d start up his love song as I’d close my eyes

To fix it meant trying to track it by ear

But as soon as I’d move, he’d shut up in fear

Now one thousand crickets chirping outside

Is God’s own symphonic lullaby

But one lonely creature lost in my room

Is an ear-splitting nails-on-chalkboard typhoon

I proceeded to disassemble my house

In search of this one sleep-stealing louse

But I only managed to shatter a glass

And slip on the water and fall on my ass

I finally stopped and my dear little friend

Started his singing all over again

I whipped my head back to search through the wreck

And painfully noticed a crick in my neck

Oh miserable miserable miserable me

From one little problem, I now had three

A cricket, a crick and crystal glass shards

Painfully lodged all over my arse

So I started my day, what else could I do?

The sun and the moon sing their own little tune

After working in pain, I came home at night

To start up again my embarrassing fight

But something was different, somehow I had changed

The anger had gone and the strategy plain

Instead of fighting what I could not control

I would simply accept it and loosen my hold

And when my little guru started to sing

I smiled cause I knew he was singing for me

And I slowly drifted to the most peaceful sleep

And softly fell into the deep, deep, deep.

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Blue Shifted Light

Blue light has a higher frequency than red light. So when the sun is approaching us in the morning, it has a blue shift as described by the Doppler effect; when it is receding it has a red shift. This is analogous to the sound of a siren that rises in pitch as it approaches us and falls in pitch after it passes and moves away from us. The energy of the sun has an undeniable effect on everything on the planet, an effect that we feel deeply when over exposed or under exposed. I think this Doppler effect explains the difference in our experience of time in the morning and in the afternoon. The morning goes by so quickly and we are able to accomplish a lot. The afternoon feels like it drags. The sound of a receding propeller airplane as it drones through a hot afternoon sky captures the internal feeling we experience in the red shifted light of the receding sun.

So when we wake up early and take full advantage of the blue shifted energy coming from the sun, we experience a sense of accomplishment, of achievement. But if we wake up late, miss the morning, and try to work in the afternoon, we experience a drag, an inability to produce, a frustrating feeling that we are pushing against the current. The importance of riding the blue shifted light energy is captured in sayings like “the early bird gets the worm.” We are not the only ones to experience the blue shifted energy. Birds and animals seem to sense its arrival an hour or an hour and a half before sunrise. They wake up and begin singing or crowing. That sound in the early morning of the birds singing in a chorus of joy, while most of humanity is in slumber, is the most peaceful and energizing experiences in life. Being on the threshold of a new day, with all its promise, and the excitement and impulse of the blue shifted light gives us a sense of thrill and a determination to be productive. It is a very different experience than being on the threshold of night, at sunset. The sunset is also beautiful, but for entirely different reasons. It is a time of resting and lying back and enjoying life.

There is a renewed sense of energy in the late night, and I wonder if that is due to the beginning of the sun’s approach toward us after it reaches its zenith on the other side of the planet. Students often only begin to be productive at that point. However, I believe that that energy is best used by the body in rest. Nighttime is a time to restore and, though we are asleep, the body is active in repairing the damage done throughout the day by stress, poor diet, and simply the processes of living. When we use this energy to try to be productive, we rob ourselves of the true benefits of deep restorative sleep. We wear ourselves out by fighting the red-shifted current all afternoon and evening, and if we go to bed late because we are using the blue shifted late night energy, we make ourselves unable to wake up or too tired to enjoy the blue shifted flow of the approaching sun in the morning. It becomes a vicious circle.

So break the pattern. Go with the flow of energy. Go to bed early. Wake up early and accomplish a lot, riding the blue shifted wave of the sun. Then relax more in afternoon and evening. Stop fighting the ebbing flow of energy. Meditate, stretch, restore, have some tea. These are the natural rhythms of life; and the great musician learns to keep the flow of time.

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Treble is my middle name

So, there is something wrong with “Brazilian Guitarist Richard Miller.” What’s with the gringo name? My father is American, my mother is Brazilian. I was born in Rio de Janeiro and lived there (and São Paulo, Puerto Rico, and a few other places) until I was 15, when I moved to U.S. My parents gave me the most American of names, not knowing that I would develop a passion for Brazilian guitar. Even worse, my middle name is Elbert, after my uncle from Tennessee. Backwards that spells treble.

I’ve considered changing my name to sound more Brazilian. Ricardo Miller, Ricardo Ribeiro (mother’s maiden name being Costa Ribeiro), Viola (my capoeira nickname), Ganesha (that’s a whole other story). I’ve pointed out to people that my uncle was Sydney Miller, quite well known in the Bossa Nova era in Rio (there is a music hall named after him — Sala Sydney Miller at the Biblioteca Nacional in Rio) and who apparently didn’t feel a need to alter his name (nor did he speak a word of English). Then there is the Brazilian crooner Dick Farney who changed his name to sound American …. For one second I thought maybe I should be in country music. But I’ve decided just to stick with what is on my birth certificate and leave it at that, and express the music that is closest to my heart.

Some people judge books by their covers and people by their names. I hope I’m judged by the sounds that come out of my guitar.

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