I am currently sitting on the balcony of my uncle’s house in Southern Lebanon as my cousin is blasting Lady Gaga inside and the country is still calming down after the world cup game. My uncle just got married and now we’re trying to decide what to do for the rest of the month.
A lot has happened here so far, musical and personal, but I think I want to focus this post on how the people here reacted to my music. The thing I noticed right away was that people were much more interested in me as a performer than a composer. We only had one night where I showed my closest relatives recordings of my music, and I was able to give them a quick run down of how I wrote my music, why and how the performers liked it. They nodded and thought it was ok, then asked me to take out my oboe and play for them.
The only piece I know well enough I can just take out my oboe and play would be Pan, from the Metamorphoses after Ovid by Benjamin Britten (fantastic piece if you don’t know it). I played Pan so many times for so many people I’m getting pretty close to mastering it…and getting sick of it. Due to my own stupidity, I decided that I should learn two new pieces this summer, both so ridiculously contemporary your brain will ooze out of your ear and start scratching its head. They’re both fantastic pieces, but not at all appropriate as an introduction to classical music. Although I was so surprised by peoples reactions, they may just get it.
You see, people actually loved it! Not the obligatory “oh, that was nice” after a performance. These people, the ones who listened to Lebanese folk music all their lives, music that is extremely lively and rhythmically driven, loved the cute little pictures Britten wrote for solo oboe! My uncle loved them so much, he asked me to play in his wedding.
I was completely bewildered by his request. Calming oboe music? at a wedding? at the night party for the wedding? In this culture, night weddings are eerily similar to frat parties, we’re just a bit more stylish in our clothing. To give you a proper picture, they had 7 speakers blasting at full volume when the bride and groom came down, they were accompanied by a full set of dancers, 2 drummers and a shawm. the drummers and the shawm were louder than the seven speakers laid out across the virtually indoor (it was more like a tent) dance floor. They had a full bottle of Red Label Whiskey and Arak (arab vodka) on each table and people were determined to drink it all. Each table also came with a couple hookahs, and a complete feast. I played right after the bride and groom sat down.
I decided I would play 3 movements from the Metamorphoses. Pan, Narcissus, and Arethusa. I figured they were appropriate (My uncle did remind me and Narcissus). I was micd. I had to be. It was too loud, and they weren’t all going to fall silent to listen. This is just supposed to be pretty background music. They set up the mic for me, there was no time to adjust it. They put it in a perfect spot for speaking….my bell was quite high up. I had to be really far away from my stand, it was dark, I could barely read the music! It was an embarrassing performance. I finished, gave my congrats to the married couple, and was met with a thunderous applause. People throughout the night congratulated me on my playing, invited me to dance with them and I met some very lovely people who wanted to learn more about western music. My uncle told me there was a professional singer who wanted to meet me (Unfortunately I couldn’t find him).
Now I’m afraid I must go, my hour of internet is up. to be continued…