Some notes like fallen leaves

Aleš Rajch

Playing the oboe sensitively has been likened to the closest thing representing the human voice. This slender and attractive double-reeded woodwind device provides a superior mode of musical expression, a type of instrument-as-island because it produces sounds that can be used both in the solo and the ensemble sphere. I have been playing this music-producing tool since I was 11. While most of the heard of these years has been lost to the ether, some notes like fallen leaves, I have tried to capture the essence of this aspect of my creative life in recorded musical outputs. The pieces I provide here aim to do justice to this striving.

Music doesn’t really exist in symbols depicted on a stave. Recording offers a bit more. Because we live in an age where aural documentation is possible, it is more than conceivable to capture the essence of someone’s life as recorded harvest. And because the oboe and its modern manifestations are relatively young, the instrument’s field has been ripe and verdant for making and creating change. My teacher, Jiří Tancibudek, migrated to Australia with his wife and oboe in 1950. He brought with him a bourgeois approach to oboe playing and a chink of Central European culture ripe to be planted in Australia.

As his student, he shaped me from the raw Moravian child I was—I myself arrived from the former Czechoslovakia to this continental island as a 7-year-old in 1982—to a striking resemblance of himself. Listening back to the recording from 1992, it is uncanny how alike my playing is to his. He crafted me, my playing, and my whole approach to treating the oboe not only as a musical instrument, but as a container for feeling and representation. This is the implement Jiří encouraged me to use to invoke feeling through musical art.

Now with him gone, as a middle-aged musician looking back at what I have accomplished and not consummated, I endeavour to transpose the instrument into the future. As I developed with him as my teacher, there was something which emanated from me in the spaces which he left unaddressed. I eventually became convinced that I was able to fulfil his desire that I would continue his legacy. His moulding of me gave rise to certain bubbles of stylistic preferences and technical and theoretical optimisations. These became mine to fill with my own ideas.

I have experienced through performing on the oboe that it is a capable, stand-alone instrument. When played well, it distributes the same level of splendour as the voice of any top opera singer or vocalist. Like any artist, I have regrets about not putting all my energy and emotion from an early age into my art form. Now that I am more mature, I can now put these things into place. Sharing works and music is but one part of this.  

* This article is dedicated to Scott Morphett, Aleš’s friend, who died on 24 December 2022. Scott was a musician, a sound and electronic engineer, an amplifier designer, and a lover of all things rock and aural. He was able to spontaneously express himself through his doing.