American oboist Brandon Labadie was raised in and around Lincoln, NE, where he learned to shoot and drive before the age of 10. When asked to choose an instrument in elementary school, he tried the trumpet, horn, and oboe, and could already “make a sound” with the oboe on his first try.

In 2007, Brandon attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he studied oboe with Peter Cooper. During his time there, he completed independent studies in Baroque performance practice and electronic music composition. In 2011, he was accepted into the Historical Performance Master’s program at The Juilliard School. Prior to beginning his second degree, he moved into woodwind-maker Joel Robinson’s living room, and walked with him every day to the Lower East Side, where they built his oboe together over one month.

After Juilliard, Brandon moved to Portland, OR, and has been fortunate enough to lead an interesting musical life. As a soloist, he has toured the South Island of New Zealand, playing Bach’s Oboe D’Amore Concerto (2019), led an ensemble in the revival of Colonial American Music on tour in Japan (2017), and performed alongside Elizabeth Blumenstock in Bach’s Oboe and Violin Concerto (2016). He also performs with notable West Coast groups, like Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Oregon Bach Festival, and American Bach Soloists in San Francisco.

As a composer, Brandon seeks to expand the musical language of the oboe through accessible, other-worldly music. Grounded in principles passed on by his teacher Mari Kimura, he believes that the laptop is an extension of the performer, and that new music still requires unflappable technical ability to execute. His scores have been projected onto the ceiling of the Portland Art Museum, heard at Juilliard and New York University, and have been premiered at the Center for New Music in San Francisco. His current project uses the performer’s heartbeat as a rhythmic element, and will premiere in 2020.


Lotos Eaters (2019)

…The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came…Branches they bore of that enchanted stem, Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave To each, but whoso did receive of them, And taste, to him the gushing of the wave Far far away did seem to mourn and rave On alien shores; and if his fellow spake, His voice was thin, as voices from the grave; And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake, And music in his ears his beating heart did make…

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The concept of this piece came out of an exercise in simplicity; create a “musical backdrop” to Tennyson’s Lotos Eaters, using simple motifs to anchor the listener throughout. In the beginning, I seek to establish the uneasy comfort of the island of the Lotos Eaters through a two-note repeating phrase, punctuated by drops and slides throughout the oboe’s range. “And music in his ears his beating heart did make…” thump, thump follows the opening theme – ascending and distorted, the Lotos Eaters now more sinister as their drug takes hold. “And all at once they sang, ‘Our island home Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.'” A beatiful melody arises out of the depths, and the birds and insects of the island join in until this all fades away. The listener is reminded of a time before arriving on the island, remembering their friends and family far away. However, the Lotos Eaters have taken root in the mind and “Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar; O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.”

Still Untitled (2018)

First performed at The Center for New Music in San Francisco, Still Untitled explores the laptop as an extension of the oboe; chords, delays, and pitch shifting are added to the musical language of the instrument. The piece is not only a result of my experimentation in programming, but also influenced by music heard during my years in Colorado. Debussy’s La Mer, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Bill Douglas’ Sonata for Oboe and Piano inspired many of the melodic lines in the piece. Around 1’30 into the piece, I give the performer the opportunity to improvise with the interactive electronics, creating an ever-chaotic atmosphere until returning to a sparse ‘trio’ beginning on a high F natural. These melodies, like in the opening, become distorted until they create a low drone, which carries the performer to the end.

Les Folies D’Électronique (2013)

Composed during the Future Music Lab Fellowship Program at the Atlantic Music Festival in Waterville, Maine in 2013 for Jae-Won Bang (baroque violin) and myself (baroque oboe). The creative process of taking a very well-known Baroque idiom and transforming it into a modern piece, while still holding true to the instruments, composers, and history behind the dance form, forced me to do a lot of research and explore various compositional techniques. Limited by my hardware—two microphones and one laptop—and by the two-week time-frame, I set out to compose 20 variations that used a distinct palette of electronics. In my experience, attempting to force too many electronic sounds or effects into a composition causes a lack of development and results in a smattering of disjointed, poorly implemented electronic sounds. That said, the computer was an equal contributor to my composition, Les Folies D’Électroniques. I used it to enhance harmonic texture, develop thematic material, and expand the audience’s preconceived notion of the sound space.

Read my article on Electronic Music for Baroque Instruments in Early Music America Magazine


Fade for Oboe and Tape by Charles Peck

Nyx for solo oboe by Adam Scott Neal

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: Le Sommeil d’Ulisse – Overture and Sommeil Excerpt feat. Sachi Yamaguchi 

Pierre Danican Philidor: VI Suitte de Trios, Op. 1 – Gigue feat. Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo (violin)

Thomas Bacon: Anniversary Ode of 1751 – Largo and Tempo Di Gavotta feat. Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo (violin)