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Rachel Nusbaumer: The Music of Creation

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

"Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashipn the theme of Iluvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Iluvatar were filled to overflowing, and the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void"

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Music is more than just sound. Music is more than just vibrations and tones. Music goes beyond musical notes. It's everywhere. It's inside us. In every action, every moment and every emotion. It's with us since our first breath and it's what pushes us forward till our last. It's hard to tell where we would be without it, considering that music is the pillar of our Universe's genesis. In a way we're part of a big orchestra. We're all part of the Universe's Song.

Artists are aware of that and takes inspirations from what's around them. Nature is a powerful source of inspiration. Our experiences works as well. But I think that the best source is what makes us humans, our emotions and empathy. And these, these are what allow a musician or a composer something more, something which will stay with their fans till the end of time. One of them is Rachel Nusbaumer, a young and talented composer from the Swiss city of the bending river, Geneva.

A lot of musician starts because music is part of their but for Rachel it was different. She discovered her quirk when she was only four years old. She was fascinated by it, by the possibility to express her emotions. Music became not only his passion but also her life's compass, what kept her in balance, what lifted her up when she was sad and what enhanced her happiness. It all started with two instruments which aren't mainstream but she loved them at first sight: flute and oboe. She studied these at the Conservatory of Delémont and Geneva. But she didn't want to stick with what other people taught her and she wanted to branch out and find her own way and genre.

At first she started with recorded music but what excited was a niche's genre which used to be played in royal courts for kings and queens: Baroque, and she liked it Italian. After that she entered a huge world of composers from around the world. Three of them caught her attention: Bach, Bergersen and Richter. Messe en si by Bach has really impressed her the 1st time she listened to it. She was young and it was one of her first concert, an experience which she consider incredible. She consider Bergersen some kind of genius because in her opinion all his tracks masterpieces, especially Cry, Forever More and Canon in D. The Nature of Daylight is what made her fall for Richter. Classical music was just the tip of the iceberg and her expanded knowledge toward neoclassical music and soundtracks. It wasn't out of the blue because before that she always loved what happens when classical music meets modern sounds. An interest which started with Yanni, a greek composer, but it has always been in her DNA, because she likes too associate her music to images and cinema is the best medium to express it.

She discovered soundtracks with the great Ennio Morricone, an artist who became is favourite after watching the movie Mission. She finds the oboe theme pretty remarkable. That's what happen when you create a connection that strong with the instrument which started your musical journey. After him followed the discovery of other talents like Hans Zimmer, I don't have to introduce him because he's everywhere, Alexandre Desplat, known for The Imitation Game and Argo, and Ramin Djawadi, who scored a little show called Game of Thrones. She remembers dearly an Hans Zimmer's concert she attended last year. That should've been amazing. Hans is incredible. Nonetheless her favourite movie doesn't feature one of them, which is weird. But I think that she has good taste because she's into stuff like Into the Wild, Thelma & Louise, Le Prénom, a frenche movie, Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I could say the same about series because she likes How I Met Your Mother and sitcoms, even though the ending isn't so good.

What I find particularly interesting is her artistic process. I think that her words will seem more genuine, because her works, all of them, are built by following the same sequence. It could be considered her trademark. As she says:

"When I begin a track I have absolutely no idea what I will do. I am waiting for the inspiration to come, I play with my keyboard, I try to choose instruments that sound good to me. I experiment and then when I think I have something interesting I record it and I compose around that theme"

Out of whichis generated her music which she considers an instrospective and emotional process.

Out of all her albums the one which she consider her best is Baroquissima. A project which was born when she was younger and it's a tribute to Italian Baroque music. An idea which started to form while playing the recorder. With this instruments she used to perform compositions of Vivaldi, Corelli and Albinoni, whose energy, passion and modernity of their writing touched her deeply. It all started when she was 15 years old, when she didn't have a PC to compose her works and she didn't know about MAO. In this period she wrote Concerto per Flauto e Oboe, a feat which is remarkable for a teen. All of it was written on paper and the rest of it would be stuck in her head for years, before she restarted to work on it. Here she explains how this album's tracks came to life:

"It is not easy to explain... When I start working on a new track, I always have high expectations because I want to make my masterpiece, which is rarely the case but it is my goal. I need to be inspired. Sometimes inspiration comes, sometimes don't. I need to wait until I am really inspired. Then I forget everything that's around me and I am alone with my music, the world doesn't exist anymore. I love that feeling. I usually compose at night, when my kids are sleeping. I love that atmosphere at night, when I feel alone with my music."

And now, now it's time to analyze the tracks of Baroquissima, to understand what she wanted to tell us with her music and how every piece stands in the ensemble.

The first track is Adagio in A minor, a soothing track which evokes fields of emerald grass under a blue untainted sky. The wind's soft breeze caresses us and let us wonder and relax. We lay down and close our eyes, meditating in stillness. She says that:

"I wanted to create a classical piece with all the classical markers in it. Something quite majestic as it is the 1st track of the album, like an opera opening"

Figlie di Coro is the following one and is more like the songs which were played at the royal courts of europe. It seems to tell a story, like a bard, a tale of adventure and love in Medieval Europe. It slightly faster and less quiet than the previous one and it seems there to prepare us for an ascending climax. In her own words:

"I remember my recorder lessons, with my teacher. My recorder's teacher has been very important to me, really. I have not tell her, but it is a little bit for her that I composed this piece. This is a nostalgic track because I am a bit nostalgic of this period of my life"

The third one is Anthem for an Archangel and it's a blend of church and epic music. The pipe organ is the prominent instrument. In my opinion it sounds like a requiem for a fallen archangel. It's completely different from what came before and this is why it stands out. Rachel thinks that:

"This is an old piece which I've composed years ago. I thought it could fit my Baroque album. I made it after I've purchased a new orchestral library and I've really liked the organ's sound. It is this sound which inspired me to create a "church" piece. I wanted something very solemn for this one"

La Follia seems like the music which royals used to dance with during balls, at first. After a while it becomes like a war march and it's particularly uplifting.

"This is a long story beween La Follia and me. I remember my teacher once came with the score. I played it for the 1st time and I felt in love with that theme and all the variations (it is the Corelli's ones). Then I composed many many variations during my life. And I decided to include those to my album, it was an evidence"

Concerto per Flauto e Oboe- 2 Mvt. Largo and Concerto per Flauto e Oboe- 3 Mvt. Vivace are the tracks which I talked about previously and I think that's Rachel favourite composition. This is where the album slows down to breath and relax. I think that there isn't another way to express my feelings while I'm listening to that. It seems like the kind of music which could fit well in The Lord of the Rings as the Hobbit theme.

"This has been quite a long process. I have composed the "Concerto per flauto e oboe" when I was around 15. At his time, I didn't know anything about MAO, I didn't even own a computer. So I wrote it on a paper sheet, the music was only in my head. Then, many years later (and little more practice on Cubase and sounds libraries), I thought it was time to get it live. I took my old partitions back and I wrote it on my computer, with my orchestral libraries. I was deeply moved when I listened to it for the 1st time. That is all the magic and power of music! I am a bit frustated by the overall sounding of my concerto, it was really hard to program it with virtual instruments, I am sure it should sound better with real players"

Conversazione tra Allegorie, an interesting title. Is the most lively and I like the pace. I like the fact that it seems like a dialogue, an animated and emotional one. This is one is my favourite.

"I got inspired by that violin sound. I just bought Spitfire solo violin when I made this track. I was just playing with this new sound on my keyboard, to listen to the sound, see how to play with the different articulations, mics etc, and then this theme came out. I thought I could do something with it. I wanted to create a kind of a baroque fugue, something very energetic, a sort of a dialogue between the 2 violins. I was really happy with the result and I think it may be my fav track of the album"

The next one is Andante per la Serenissima. The Serenissima is Venice and this is how the people used to call it in the past, when it was a kingdom. I think that it's intended to be an homage to the city and its channels. It sounds like the entering of a foreign king through Venice but it can work also as the accompaniment for the Venice's Carnival. It has a good pace and it doesn't drag.

"It is a tribute to Italian baroque music and masters like Vivaldi, Corelli, Albinoni etc. For this one too I wanted something quite pompeous"

Kappelmeister, which means Master of the Chapel, starts slowly but the pace grows during the composition and culminates in epic sounds. I don't know why it makes think about a raging battle where there're havy losses on both sides. I think that this is her least favourite piece of the album. I mean, her words are pretty clear:

"I was just trying to make something more epic"

Venezia 2020, a weird title, but the piece has good sounds. It makes me feel hopeful and relaxed and, in a way, it bring me back to my childhood. There's a genuine and tender style on display here, a thing which is wonderful. I like the decision to make it dynamic, because it exudes a sense of freedom. In my opinion it should have been more varied but it's interesting to know that this track was composed during her teens and it was remastered here. As she says with honesty and humility:

"The sounds were horrible, I didn't know anything about mixing and mastering, but 15 years later I decided to completely re-work it, and here is the new version"

The last one is Masquerade and it could be considered the bonus track of this album. It seems like Vivaldi and the style fits the title perfectly because it works well for Gala and such because it's characterized by an high level of pomp. The chorus inclusion elevates the tracks and make it godly. The last part is the best one because it's like a climax.

Rachel is a talented composer and, as we've seen during the analysis of Baroquissima, she has a lot of good ideas and exceptional execution. I think that if you're into classical and epic music you're going to love her. Each of her creations is soaked in her emotions and feelings and it's a result of years and years of dedication and experience.


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