Friday, February 2, 2007
Physics professor finds the rhythm
|Alberto Rojo (right) plays with Grammy Winner Mercedes Sosa. Photo courtesy of Albertorojo.com |
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
As a researcher, Associate Professor of Physics Alberto Rojo is comfortable working in quantum mechanical properties of matter, but he’s equally comfortable on the stage. Rojo is a well-known guitarist and singer in his native country of Argentina. His work with a local Argentinean artist even earned a Grammy Award.
Born in Tucumán, Argentina, Rojo started playing the piano at six and the guitar as a teenager. Rojo studied at the Conservatorio Provincial de Música in Tucumán and received a scholarship to study guitar at the Camping Musical Bariloche. While classical music was his forte, Rojo played in a band that performed Medieval and Renaissance music while he was in school.
While studying for his Ph.D. in physics, Rojo divided his time between science and music. He moved to the United States in 1990 to work as a researcher and professor. During that time he wrote music that he kept to himself.
“I kept composing and writing songs but I didn’t show them until 10 years ago,” Rojo said.
At that time he began taking private composition lessons from Pamela Decker at the University of Michigan who pushed Rojo to take his music to the next step.
Rojo showed his music to guitarists in Argentina. One recorded two of his songs. The producer invited Rojo to play at a festival in Argentina and that led to Rojo’s first album “De Visita,” which was released in 1999 by Epsa Music. In addition, two of his pieces were included in performer Victor Villadangos’ CD “Classics of the XXI Century.”
The album producer encouraged Rojo to try singing to his music. Rojo began taking singing lessons and recorded a second album, “Para mi sombra,” on which he sang. The album was well received and was chosen as one of the best five folkloric albums of 2003 by “Rolling Stone” magazine of Argentina. One of the songs from the album was featured on “A Rough Guide to Music from Argentina,” released by World Music Network.
Grammy winner Mercedes Sosa invited Rojo to participate in her concert at Massey Hall in Toronto and later at the Teatro el Círculo in Rosario, Argentina. In 2005, she invited Rojo to perform with her on her album “Corazón Libre,” an album that received a Latin Grammy Award a few weeks ago.
Rojo again performed with Sosa at an outdoor concert in Tucumán, a show that attracted a crowd of 15,000 and was broadcast on national TV. Last November, Rojo and Sosa performed together again at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, one of the most prestigious opera venues in Latin America. Rojo performed a piece that he orchestrated for the occasion in collaboration with Terry Herald, sound and technology coordinator in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance.
Rojo has performed in the United States and Europe, but he mostly performs in Argentina, touring through the cities of Ushuaia, Río Grande, Trelew, Bariloche, Neuquén. The concerts were preceded by lectures delivered by Rojo on everyday physics and the connection between Jorge Luis Borges’ literature and quantum mechanics.
“I divide my time between my research in physics and my music,” Rojo said. “They are two passions in my life that go hand in hand.”
Currently, Rojo is serving as the Jack Williamson Endowed Chair in the Science and Humanities at Eastern New Mexico University while he is working on research and writing for two books he plans to have published. While in New Mexico, Rojo will perform in the area and do more writing and composing.
In the future, Rojo plans to continue writing and performing. He would like to write a guitar concerto in the future.