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Ulab Sessions

U-Lab White Sessions: Tali Rubinstein

This Israeli musician uses an unusual instrument to create raw, emotional compositions.
7 Mar 2017 – 02:26 PM EST
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"Not everything is beautiful," says musician Tali Rubinstein. "We all have demons we need to deal with. For some reason, whenever I write music, something dark comes out." As a recorder player, composer and singer, Tali defies the expectations of the wind instrument most people know from school and uses it as a vehicle to express an array of emotions in varied musical styles such as jazz, classical and Israeli music.

Many children's first introduction to music in school is through the recorder (usually a plastic version) instrument that produces sweet melodies. Then, children are taught to pick up other instruments like the flute, guitar or piano. Tali, who learned to play the recorder at age 6, was encouraged by her teachers and parents to pursue a formal education of the wooden instrument, which is primarily found in Baroque and early classical music repertoire. After studying at prestigious musical institutions in Israel, Tali moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music, and now lives and works in New York City. She's kept exploring the possibilities of the recorder and taking it to new places.

Even though she's one of the few recorder players who dabble in modern musical styles such as jazz and even hip hop fusion, Tali doesn't see herself as an ambassador for the recorder. "I'm happy to share my enthusiasm for the instrument with more people and to reveal its beauty, but more importantly for me it's the music", she says. "It's a means to express and to create."

"At some point I had the option to be 'the jazz recorder player' and I've come to realize that I don't want that title or that role," says Tali. "I keep running away from titles, and being an ambassador is also a title."

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Music Tutorial: this is the recorder

For U-LAB's White Sessions, Tali performed original compositions that feature the recorder and her singing in Hebrew and English with the accompaniment of piano and drums. After all her formal training and having played classical and jazz music for so long, Tali finds herself going back to her Israeli music roots and writing in her native language. "Most of the people who listen to my music don't understand Hebrew," says Tali. "I could just sing I'm going to the supermarket to buy milk and I sing it in a way that is convincing. But I can't. Even if you don't get the exact picture of the lyrics, you get a full picture of the feelings behind it." And watching and listening to the songs 'If I Could' and 'Adama', you clearly get a sense of the complicated and nuanced emotions of her compositions that evoke pain, vulnerability and transcendence.

As Tali works on her first solo album, produced by Javier Limón whom she met at Berklee, she's found that staying true to her roots is what inspires her the most to soar to new heights. "Recently, I've tried to compose and play in different ways and styles. I play Charlie Parker for fun but then when I go to my room it always goes back to the core, [israeli music]", says Tali. Through her work with Limón, whose influences come from flamenco, Tali has found a musical connection that pushes her to new limits. "In flamenco there's something that is yearning to be as authentic as possible, it doesn't matter if it's not pleasant or easy to deal with. It's straight to the heart," she says. "I relate to that a lot."

'If I Could' (White Sessions)

"Some of the music I write comes from a place that is easier to avoid in every day life. It's suppressed but it's definitely a part of me," says Tali, "In music you create a sphere that is disconnected from everything. you don't need to be in a low place to do it, to create something meaningful."

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Tali Rubinstein: 'If I Could' (White Sessions)

'Adama' (White Sessions)

"Adama is the ground [in Hebrew]. It's an analogy for mother nature. I'm not personally religious but it's the place we come from and where we'll end up eventually, and it's hard to be at peace with life," says Tali. "I'm yearning for the ground to console me and help me be in peace with that; not be afraid of what's going to happen."

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Tali Rubinstein: 'Adama' (White Sessions)

Next week, we'll be presenting Majik Moon La Goon as part of U-LAB's White Sessions.