Early life and education
Paul Brody was born on June 23d, 1961 in Seattle, Washington. His father was the son of a Ukrainian immigrant and his mother was a Jewish refugee from Nazi-era Vienna.
Brody spent most of his youth in San Leandro, California, where his struggles with dyslexia led him find his voice in music and poetry. He studied composition, poetry, and trumpet at San Francisco State and Boston University and third-stream music at the New England Conservatory of Music.
As a writer and performer, Brody was active in the Boston’s lively poetry and experimental music scene. At Boston University he produced a series of inter-disciplinary events with the actors, dancers, poets and musicians, which he called Un-recitals. He learned from such poets as Denise Levertov, Bill Knot, Derek Walcott and Charles Simic and was often invited to read for literary events. Before receiving a bachelor in music performance he won two prizes from Boston University’s literary magazine, Ex Libris.
After earning a master’s degree in third-stream music from the New England Conservatory of Music, Brody toured with various ensembles before settling in Berlin to pursue a career as a composer, performer, and sound artist.
Sound Installation work
Citing influences from Joseph Beuys, Charles Ives, Samuel Beckett, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, along with the story and folklore collecting traditions of Studs Terkel and Alan Lomax, Brody uses oral history to create word and sound-orientated narratives from documentary material. “A story is a melody and a melody is a story,” Brody explained in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel. His installation work generally examines the relationship between voice-melody and identity and the notion of home. Brody believes that while words carry one meaning, the voice-melody can be heard as carrying its own independent narrative. Voices speaking one language with the melody of another language contain infinitely more complex parallel narratives. In addition, the voice-melody reveals both impersonal and personal information: origin, family history, travels, but also emotional state and physical condition.
Brody’s first major sound installation was featured at the Jewish Museum Berlin’s 2011 Heimatkunde Exhibit. Five Easy Pieces explored the notion of home by asking people who live in Berlin to describe how they view themselves in relation to their adopted city.
The installation includes Swiss filmmaker Dani Levy, Afro-German writer Katharina Oguntoy, Indian curator Mini Kapur, teachers Anna and Helmut Franz, and Brody himself. While the Berliners describe their place in Berlin, their voice-melodies reveal much about where they come from and their emotional state. The museum built a surround sound room to display the exhibit.
Brody created a surveillance art piece, Five Families Listening: An Eavesdropping Installation (2015), for the NK art space in connection with the Transmediale Festival for Art and Digital Culture. The piece explores the acoustic spaces of living rooms through secret recordings of families talking.
Brody’s Art Accompanying Noise (2016) for the Prinz-Georg Art Space is a pivotal work, exploring the narrative quality of sounds that artists make while they work. The materials and tools an artist uses to create a picture or a sculpture all create a soundscape. For example, the sound of glass being chipped and wood being cut. Even the sound of paint smeared on canvas has a particular acoustic quality, revealing the work process, a kind of narrative. These sounds are recorded, along with the artist talking about his or her inspiration for the piece being made.
The recorded sounds and the voice of the artist are used to create a musical sound installation displayed in a container for the artist’s work. The artwork itself is secondary to the sounds used for the installation, therefore the by-product of the noise becomes the subject of focus, while the finished objects of art are secondary.
Talking Melody-Singing Story (2016) was done as Brody’s Artist-in-Residence project for the Muenchner Kammerspiele. The piece is based on an opera’s two main components, the aria and the recitative. For Talking-Melody, Brody recorded singers recalling the moment they discovered that their voices were special. The stories are used to create arias based off the voice-melodies of the singers. For Singing-Story Brody recorded people in three different cities describing what opera is to them. The answers were accompanied by a recitative accompaniment, and the interviews include vocal stars Anna Prohaska, Laurent Naouri and Lorin Sklamberg. A mini opera house was built to contain the installation.
Süddeutsche Zeitung writes, “Talking Melody – Singing Story”. Der knapp zwanzigminütige Hörfilm des amerikanische Musikers Paul Brody reißt die oft so perfekt inszenierte Oberfläche der Kunstform Oper auf, lässt etwa Sänger intim plaudern oder befragt Strafgefangene in Alabama zu ihrem Verhältnis zur Oper, genauso wie deutsche Passanten…Brodys Klanginstallation fängt diesen Moment des Intimwerdens wunderbar auf: Opernsänger, die über ihre ersten bewussten Erfahrungen mit ihrer Stimme plaudern – die meisten dieser Sängern fangen dann prompt an, Kinderlieder zu singen – nicht erzwungen, mehr als klangliches Beispiel für ihre Anekdoten.
Voices of Help (2016-2017) was a three-room documentary sound installation at the Youth Museum Berlin. The piece explored concepts of help through interviews with community and social workers around Berlin’s so-called Rote Insel, or Red Island, an erstwhile socialist stronghold in Schoeneberg. The recording of each voice received an instrument that brought out the personal qualities of the interviewees. The first room was dedicated to hearing the stories of how helpers began; the second explored the tools of professional social workers through collected narratives; the third investigated those expanding the system of help, mostly by volunteering to help refugees in ways meaningful to the helpers themselves.
The exhibit was inspired by a Studs Terkel-like curiosity about the neighborhood–where Brody lives–the knowledge that help is not as prominent in American culture as it is in Germany, and by the people who had helped Brody’s mother decades before when she escaped Nazi Vienna on a Kindertransport (Children’s train) at age 13.
Radio art and documentary work
Between 2007 and 2012 Paul Brody produced a series of children’s radio features about young people in different countries who are involved in music. The series portrayed not only the musical ideas of young performers and composers, but reflected on their social and cultural life as well and its implications for their music.
In the WDR (West German Radio) series ‘Musikselbermachen’ (2007-2008) Brody also worked with young narrators who presented the features. From 2010 to 2012 Brody continued the project for the SWR series ‘Klangküche.’ The young musicians, playing a variety of styles, hailed from Guatemala, Canada, the USA, and Eastern and Western Europe.
In 2013 Brody produced a short piece for the Berlin Stories series of National Public Radio, entitled How I didn’t meet Diana Ross.
In 2014 he produced The Fringe Sound of Berlin, a full-length feature exploring the culture of sound in the capital. How does the city sound? And how does the city’s mentality affect its musicians? The feature includes interviews with architects such as Barkow Leibinger, Christine Edmaier, writers Leslie Dunton-Downer, Robert Beachy, and Carol Scherer; and musicians David Marton, Marie Goyette, David Moss, Daniel Dorsch, Wolfgang Müller, and Jochen Arbeit from the Einstürzende Neubauten.
In 2014 Brody helped develop the three part series ‘Made in America’ for WDR. He wrote and produced the road trip feature Southern Discomfort– A Jew from Oklahoma for the series. It explores the cultural crossroads of Jewish and Southern American culture through the life of legendary bassist and songwriter Mark Rubin.
In 2016 Brody wrote and produced Most Wanted Poets, Escape from Alabama Prison, a WDR radio feature exploring the effect of art on poetry in the harsh environment of the Alabama prison system.
In 2017 Brody produced a WDR feature exploring cultural perspectives of the German constitution and transformed his Kammerspiele Muenchen Artist in Residence project, Talking Melody-Singing Story, into a radio art piece for Deutschlandradio.
Breaking from the performance traditions of classical and jazz trumpet, Brody fuses his work with language, art and melody into his trumpet playing. His solo techniques often involve movement, utilizing the performance space, creating sounds, and drawing melodic inspiration from speech rather then traditional melodic ideas.
The rich experimental theater scene in Berlin led him to the director David Marton, who is well known for his music theater experiments. In the Marton ensemble Brody works as a performance artist, fusing trumpet improvisation with spoken word and acting. The group has enjoyed long stints at theaters such as MC93 House of Culture in Paris, the Schaubuehne and Volksbuehne in Berlin, the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Moscow, and Bergtheater in Vienna. He gave voice-melody performances in various museums and galleries, including the Jewish Museum Berlin and Häusler Contemporary in Munich. In 2016 Brody was Artist in Residence for the Munich Kammerspiele Opera Department, where he played a singing roll on the trumpet for an experimental production of La Sonnambula.
Composition and band projects
In 2002, through a Berlin Council Arts Grant, Brody formed his best known ensemble, Paul Brody’s Sadawi. The group has performed extensively in the United States, Canada, and Europe and has recorded seven albums for American, German, and Polish labels.
Originally the group explored the crossroads of contemporary jazz and traditional klezmer. Jewish philosophers like Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Walter Benjamin also inspired many of the compositions. They can be heard on the three albums recorded from 2002 to 2007 on the Tzadik Label.
The legendary producer and composer John Zorn says, “Paul Brody is a remarkable trumpet player, composer, arranger based in Berlin…he brought together some of the best players from both the U.S. and Germany to create a new Jewish supergroup. The music combines exciting arrangements, catchy tunes, and compelling solos into another classic of the new Jewish Renaissance…Brody is forging a new Jewish jazz for the 21st Century.”
In 2014 the group began exploring what Brody calls an “Indie Jazz cinematic sound” and signed with Enja Records. They recorded the album Behind All Words, dedicated to the poetry of Rose Auslaender. The CD presents extended compositional techniques with electronics, strings and vocals featuring Meret Becker, Clueso, and Jelena Kuljic. The CD won the Preis Der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik Bestenliste in the “Grenzganger Kategory”. (German Recording Prize Best of List 2014)
Sadawi’s second album on Enja, Vanishing Night, is inspired the by literaturary and theater works of Mary Cappello, Czesław Miłosz, and David Marton. Along with Sadawi, Brody has performed and recorded both solo and in collaboration with many artists, including John Zorn, Kent Nagano, Wim Wenders, Blixa Bargeld, Ari Benjamin Meyers, Orb, David Moss, Tony Buck, Shirley Bassey, Ran Blake, Alan Bern, Frank London, and Michael Rodach, Clueso, 17 Hiippies, Semer Ensemble, The Other Europeans, Danial Kahn and The Painted Bird, Barry White and The Gincident.
WDR 5 Lilipuz Lieblingslieder (Favorite Songs) (EMI Virgin Records) (2007)
Preis Der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik Bestenliste (2015)
International Radio Conference in Vienna featured guest (2016)
Radio Productions (selection)
WDR ‘Musikselbermachen’ Young people in music (2007-2008)
SWR ‘klangküche’ Young people in music (2010-2012)
WDR Southern Discomfort -A Jew from Oklahoma (2014)
WDR Most Wanted Poets, Escape from Alabama Prison (2016)
WDR Grundgesetz -Cultural perspectives of German basic law (2017)
Deutschlandradio -Radio Art: Talking Melody-Singing Story (2017)
Paul Brody Octet, Turtle Paridise, 99 Records (1995)
Detonation Orchestra, Animals & Cowboys, NRW Records (2002)
Paul Brody’s Tango Toy, Laika Records, Klezmer Stories (2010)
Paul Brody’s Tango Toy, Laika Records, South Klezmer Suite (2011)
Arnold Dreyblatt And The Orchestra Of Excited Strings – Animal Magnetism, Tzadik Records, (1988)
Paul Brody’s Sadawi, Kabbalah Dream, Tzadik Records (2002)
Paul Brody’s Sadawi, Beyond Babylon, Tzadik Records (2004)
Paul Brody’s Sadawi, For the Moment, Tzadik Records (2007)
Bern, Brody, and Rodach. Triophilia, Jazzwerkstatt (2009)
Paul Brody’s Sadawi, Far From Moldova, Morgenland Label (2010)
Paul Brody’s Sadawi, Behind All Words, Enja Records (2013)
Paul Brody’s Sadawi, Vanishing Night Enja Records (2017)
Paul Brody’s CV
1987 MFA, Third Stream Music, New England Conservatory of Music
1985 BFA in Music Performance, Boston University
1980-1985 Studies in music composition and performance, poetry, and humanities, San Francisco State University, the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, and Boston University
2017 Wroclaw-Berlin 2016 European Neighbours Kulturzug (culture train)
Commissioned by the Stiftung Zukunft Berlin and the the 2016
European Capital of Culture Wroclaw “Listening Differently to People from Elsewhere”
Part 2016-17 “Voices of Help,” commissioned by the Youth Museum Berlin, an exhibition exploring how social workers and volunteers express their engagement in the community and with refugees
2016 Artist in Residence, Munich Kammerspiele Opera Department
“Talking Melody-Singing Story,” a sound installation
2015 Prinz-georg Raum fuer Kunst (room for art) “Art Accompanying Noise,” a sound piece in the joint exhibition with Aage Langhelle, supported by the Norwegian Embassy
2015 Russian Culture Institute-Initiative DD7 performance-art and installation with Daniel Dorsch
2014 Transmediale Festival of Digital Art and Culture with NK Art Space
“Five Families Listening,” an eavesdropping sound installation in the Surveillance Art exhibition
2013 Jewish Museum Berlin
Sound installation commissioned by the Heimatkunde exhibit
“Five Easy Pieces,” an installation exploring the interplay of voice, identity, and belonging in contemporary Germany
Radio Documentary Full Features
2017 Deutschland Rundfunk, “Talking Melody-Singing Story”
2017 WDR (West German Radio), “Cultural Perspectives of the German Constitution”
2016 WDR, “Most Wanted Poets-Escape from the Alabama Prison System”
2015 WDR, “Southern Discomfort-A Jewish Bluegrass Roadtrip”
2014 NPR Berlin, “The Fringe Sound of Berlin”
2012 NPR Berlin Stories, “How I didn’t meet Diana Ross”
Theater and Performance Art (projects by David Marton)
since 2017 Munich Kammerspiele, “On the Road,” composer and performer (production starting in June 2017)
since 2016 Munich Kammerspiele, “La Sonnambula,” composer and performer
Guest performances in Strasbourg and Lisbon.
2013 Volksbuehne Berlin, “The Scottish Piece,” composer and performer
2012-13 Schaubuehne Berlin & MC93 Paris co-production, “The Well Tempered Piano,” composer and performer
1994-2012 Berliner Ensemble, “Biedermann und die Brandstifter,” performer
2009-12 Burgtheater Vienna, “Harmonia Caelestis,” performer
Invited to Moscow Chekov Theater Festival, guest performances in Paris
2005-06 Fairy Queen, guest performances in Cologne, Zurich.
since 1994 worked as a composer, leader or Trumpetist in various theatres including the Friedrichstadtpalast, Theater des Westens, Schaubuehne, Berliner Ensemble, Deutsches Theater, Sophiensäle, Jena Culture Arena, Gripps Theater.
Music History and Performance Projects
since 2014 Semer Ensemble (LDR. Dr. Alan Bern) Sponsored by the Jewish Museum Berlin, Piranha Records The Semer label recorded the rich cosmopolitan music of 1930’s.
The almost forgotten recordings were collected and reconstructed to be performed live once again by the Semer Ensemble.since 2009 The Other Europeans (LDR. Dr. Alan Bern)
Supported by the European Union and Jewish Museum Berlin All star ensemble focusing on the prewar repertoire of the Roma and Jewish Musician in Bessarabia.Performances throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe,including the Womax Festival in Copenhagen, American Folk Festival, Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, Helsinki Jewish Culture Festival
Teaching and Community Projects
2017 “History of Where” project
Funded by the Berlin Arts Council
Local musicians explore and express their neighbourhood histories and styles
2016-17 Youth Museum Berlin
Designed and led “Voices of Help” workshop series for school children
Led workshops in improvisation and brass technique
2015 Robert Blum High School, Berlin
Designed and taught “Treasure in Your Family History” project with local students, most of whom have migration backgrounds
2008-2013 Borderland Foundation, Sejny, Poland
“NY-Sejny Musician’s Raft,” workshops taught with Frank London, Michael Alpert, David Krakauer, and others
2007-2013 Yiddish Summer Weimar, Weimar, Germany
Taught brass technique and the improvisation ensemble
2006-2011 Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, Krakow, Poland
Curated the nightly midnight jam session
2006 Contemporary Art Museum Warsaw (through Borderland Foundation)
“Music of the Place,” workshops with young musicians and rappers
2008 Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, taught klezmer and improvisation
1999-2006 Hanns Eisler Music Conservatory Berlin
Led the improvisation ensemble, instruction in jazz and klezmer
2017 Paul Brody’s Sadawi: Vanishing Night (Enja Records)
2014 Behind All Words, the Rose Ausländer Project (Enja Records)
Named German Recording Prize Best List (Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik Bestenliste)
2009 Bern, Brody, & Rodoch: Triophilia (Jazzwerkstatt)
With Alan Bern and Michael Rodach
Invited to the Berlin Jazz Festival, Sound No Walls Festival, Rudolstadt World Music Festival, and Schloss Ettersburg, Weimar. Jazz Across
2007 For the Moment (Tzadik)
With special guests John Zorn, Frank London, and Michael Alpert
Invited to the Chicago World Music Festival, Klezkalifornia, Oyhoo
Festival of Jewish Heritage in NY, Ashkenaz Festival Toronto, Klezmor
Vienna. Verona & Pisa Italy
2004 Beyond Babylon (Tzadik)
With special guest Alan Bern
2002 Kabbalah Dream (Tzadik)
2002 Animals & Cowboys (NRW Jazz)
1995 Paul Brody Octet: Turtle Paridise (99 Records)
Paul Brody has toured with his groups and as a soloist in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico and Ecuador, and Australia and New Zealand. Highlights include the opening of the Daniel Liebeskind museum extension in Osnabrueck, the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau, the Chicago World Music Festival, Vienna Klezmore Festival, the Warsaw Jazz in the Old Town, Contemporary Jewish Music Festival in New York, Klezcalifornia, Klezmer Shock Festival in Minsk, the Chihuahua World Music Festival, Montreal Yiddish Theater Festival, The Stone, Womade Australia and New Zealand.
Other Awards and Honours
2016 International Radio Conference in Vienna, featured guest
2015 German Recording Prize Best List: Behind All Words
2011 Grips Theater: composed music for play awarded Best Youth Theater of the Year
2007 WDR 5 (Radio) Lilipuz Radio: Favorite Songs Compilation (WDR EMI Virgin Records)
2006 Berlin Arts Council Grant: NY-Berlin project tour grant
2002 Berlin Arts Council Grant: NY-Berlin project
1984-85 Boston University Literary Magazine, Ex Libris 2nd place and 3d place poetry awards.
Since buying a oneway ticket from Boston to Paris in 1992 I’ve also performed or recorded with Ari Benjamin Meyers and the Redux Orchestra, Arnold Dreyblatt’s Orchestra of Excited Strings and Winds, Blixa Bargeld and the Einstürzende Neubauten, Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra, Billy Bang, David Krakauer, Frank London, Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto with Cate Blanchett, Lorin Sklamberg, Shirley Bassey. The Supremes,, Theodore Bikel, 17 Hippies,
Workshops and studied with Bill Knott, Charles Simic, George Starbuck, Mary Campbell. Organised and performed a number of multi-disciplined non-recitals inspired by E.E Cummings, Stockhausen, Becket’s radio plays, John Cage, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.