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February 16, 2004

From Switzerland to Santa Cruz: Grad student pursues study of Indian classical music

By Scott Rappaport

In the late ’90s, Annette Bauer was a student at the Musical Academy of Basel in Switzerland, studying the recorder as a medieval and Renaissance instrument.

Photo: Annette Bauer
Grad student Annette Bauer will perform a program of North Indian classical music--featuring works by Maestro Ali Akbar Khan--on Saturday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m. in UCSC’s Music Center Recital Hall. Below, Bauer plays sarode during a recent performance at Porter College. Photos by Scott Rappaport

Annette Bauer performing

But one of her instructors who taught medieval music improvisation also happened to specialize in northern Indian classical music, and Bauer’s life was soon transformed. She started taking vocal lessons in Indian music, met legendary master musician Ali Akbar Khan, and began playing the sarode--a close cousin of the sitar.

A native of Germany, the 26-year-old graduate student now lives in Oakland and commutes to UCSC where she is pursuing a master’s degree in music. She also takes evening classes at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, practices up to 20 hours a week on the sarode, and juggles a variety of research projects and performance rehearsals.

After receiving her diploma in early music from the Swiss academy, Bauer decided to attend UCSC, specifically because of the university’s Indian music program and its connection to Ali Akbar College in Marin County. Three years later, Bauer is quite happy with the direction her educational path has led, despite having taken on what often seems like an overwhelming daily schedule.

“I’ve only had extremely positive experiences at UCSC, and I’m really glad it worked out the way it did,” Bauer noted. “I’ve been impressed with how helpful people have been in accepting me--knowing that I wanted to study both here and at Ali Akbar College. I’m really the first person to take advantage of going to both schools at the same time,” she added.

Bauer has participated in a number of research projects with faculty from the UCSC Music Department. She worked with Arts Division dean Edward Houghton to transcribe a 16th-century choral manuscript, and has helped assistant professor of music Amy Beal conduct research for a book about experimental American composers in postwar Germany. Bauer is also collaborating with music professor David Cope to translate an opera that he composed about the life of Gustav Mahler.

Annette Bauer and other musicians
Annette Bauer on sarode (center) accompanied by Michael Hoffman on tabla (left), and Derek Wright on oud. Photo by Scott Rappaport

“It’s in English now and I’m translating it into German,” Bauer explained. “I need to make sure that the German version fits in with the music, and that’s even more challenging than the translation.”

Bauer has also gained valuable experience as a performer during her time at UCSC. She has played with several different ensembles, and is currently scheduled to accompany Music Department lecturer/guitarist Mesut Ozgen as a guest musician on recorder for his March 5-6 concerts in the UCSC Arts & Lectures series.

But Bauer’s main focus now is on Indian music, particularly the music of Ali Akbar Khan, who has been a distinguished adjunct professor at UCSC since 1999.

Profiles of other outstanding UCSC students are available online.

Her graduate recital on February 21 will focus completely on the classical music of North India and feature a program of ensemble works by Khan. She will be accompanied in the second half of the concert by fellow students from the Ali Akbar College on a variety of instruments including violin, tabla, sitar, bass, viola, oud, and bouzouki.

Bauer is also set to begin writing her graduate thesis—a historical perspective and analysis of Khan’s musical projects that combine both Indian and Western styles. She remains fascinated by the complexity of Indian music and hopes to divide her future time between teaching, performing, and conducting research in that genre.

“I take music very seriously and in Indian music, there is a lot of respect for playing an instrument,” Bauer observed. “It’s all about the creativity of an oral tradition where you work with your teacher--the music is not written down.”

“In Indian culture, there are ragas for different times of the day—morning, afternoon, and evening—and for every season,” she added. “The music is really connected to the mood of every moment in your life. And I find that very attractive.”

Annette Bauer will perform her graduate recital on Saturday, February 21, at 7:30 p.m. in UCSC’s Music Center Recital Hall. She will present a program of North Indian classical music featuring works by Maestro Ali Akbar Khan. Tickets are $6 general, $4 students, available at the UCSC Ticket Office: (831) 459-2159.

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