The story of Baroque Obama

Last semester, I was studying for a big music history midterm, which focused mainly on the Baroque era. As my roommate and I quizzed each other late into the night, my tired tongue slipped and I asked a question about the “Barack Period” instead of the “Baroque Period.” We laughed at that, and then I said “Ha ha, BAROQUE OBAMA!”

Of course we laughed hysterically, and to top things off I spent a good two minutes Photoshopping Barack Obama’s face onto that really famous portrait of J.S. Bach, and posted it on Facebook to great acclaim. (From there it moved on to Ben’s blog.)

Of course, I decided that it was imperative I show this to my music history professor, so I printed out Baroque Obama. The next day, as we trooped into class ready for the midterm, I went up to Dr. W and said “Look Dr. W, I made you Baroque Obama!”

Now, Dr. W is a fairly serious woman. But when I handed her the printout, she burst out laughing harder than I have ever heard her laugh. People’s heads whipped around, surprised, and the guy sitting next to me turned to me and said, “I have never, ever seen her laugh like that. I applaud you.” And he did.

And that is how Baroque Obama came about.

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Musical going-ons

I need to start blogging more because I feel like every time I update, I apologize for not updating more. In my defense, I’m currently swamped in rehearsals and practicing and studying for finals. (Not to mention that in addition to my own piano and violin juries, I’m accompanying two vocalists, a clarinet player, and a tuba player for their juries.)

These past few weeks I’ve been plowing through several rehearsals per day in addition to hours of practice, and last Friday I performed Debussy’s La Puerta del Vino and Liszt’s concert-etude Gnomenreigen. (To which my piano professor told me both that it was the best I’ve ever played it, and that I also played it faster than he would ever dare to play it himself.) Saturday I played the same program in a church gig and received some pretty positive feedback.

Tomorrow I will premiere a voice-and-piano piece, titled “The Right,” written by a composer friend. It alternates between being fierce and being sweet, and it’s set to text from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Learning and rehearsing music that has never been performed before is basically a process of discovery. Alon Goldstein, the concert pianist who taught the master class I played for in September, recently blogged about rehearsing a newly written piano concerto. (Okay, I’m not premiering anything as big as a piano concerto, but it’s the same concept.)

When I perform with an orchestra, whether Mozart or Beethoven, Schumann or Rachmaninov, the days of rehearsals are devoted to building the interpretation, the performance. We don’t have to “worry” about the piece. It has already proven itself. It transcended time and place. It is settled. Our time is spent on making our understanding of the piece work.

When premiering a new piece, the center of our attention falls on helping the piece settle as a new entity. Similar to helping a new baby stand on his two feet, we help the piece stands on its 337,486… notes. Of course a good performance helps.

So wish us luck!

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