Daniel Barenboim Foundation: Pierre Boulez Saal Sound Installation

Webern from the Inside and Outside

A Sound Installation by Paul Brody

Videos and Explanation:

Video 1: Artist’s Talk at Boulez Saal.

Video 2: Sound installation.

Video 3: Selection of Videos from the 12 tone contributors.

Webern from the Inside and Outside

A Sound Installation by Paul Brody

(English translation of Webern letter fragments below)


Webern From the Inside

Fragments: Eine Andere Art von Liebe

The Webern sound installation grew out of Brody’s term as an Artist in Residence at the University of Virginia, when he coached students on combining audio and written archival material. Brody developed a presentation in which he mixed recorded passages of the letters of Anton Webern with fragments of the composer’s music processed in a sampler.   

To Brody, Webern’s compositions contain a direct emotionality in their brevity and in their use of sound colors and textures as his primary compositional elements. He selected fragments from Webern’s letters that convey the breadth of the composer’s work: an artistic hunger for the depths of sound and a personal yearning for acceptance by those around him. 

Brody recorded the letters and transcribed the speaker’s voice-melody–a method he has developed for using the musicality of a person’s voice as a base for compositions. The tone rows Brody derives with the technique are strongly influenced by the twelve-tone music of Webern and his teacher Schoenberg. 

In this project Brody’s voice-melody composition is a kind of musical sketch–akin to a pencil drawing that can be filled in by musical colors and textures extracted from Webern’s works. While the spoken fragments of the letters create a narrative, the looped and sampled music conveys the essence of the composer’s sonic imagination. 

A special thanks to Dr. Simone Hohmaier from the Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preußischer Kulturbesitz for helping research Webern’s letters.

Musicians: Asher Biemann- voice, Cesar Lerner- accordion, Rachel Susser- flute, Joel Rubin- clarinet, Gabriella Strümpel- cello, Paul Brody- trumpet, trombone, sampler. 


Webern From the Outside

A twelve-tone row travels the world

In the second part of the Webern sound installation, Brody focuses on the concept of borders and space in relation to his music. Webern experienced the radical shift in musical boundaries that marked the first decades of the 20th century and later the shattering of socio-political borders after the two world wars. Webern dedicated the last 20 years of his life to the narrow confines of the twelve-tone row, which Brody explores as a kind of sonic home.

Brody sent Webern’s quintessential twelve-tone row from the Concerto for Nine Instruments, Op. 24 to musicians in places as far-flung as Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Warsaw, and Berlin, where Brody has lived for 25 years. He asked musicians ranging from a Toronto grammar school choir to established soloists such as Elliott Sharp and  Roy Nathanson, to interpret the row. 

The assignment: use any instrument at any tempo, but finish in less than a minute.  The submissions included everything from guitars and cellos to a tractor, a telephone, and a truck horn. While Brody’s initial intention was to play the compositions sequentially, he found that some worked together harmonically and others formed a dialogue by overlapping. 

Sound Installation Artist/Composer: Paul Brody

Brody’s recordings have been produced by John Zorn for Tzadik Records. His sound installations have been featured at the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Opera Department of the Munich Kammerspiele, where he was 2017 Artist in Residence. In 2018 he was a guest artist at the University of Rhode Island and Artist in Residence at the University of Virginia. His documentary radio pieces can be heard on Germany’s WDR. For more of Brody’s work, please visit www.paulbrody.net

Part II  Contributors in order of appearance

Contributors In order of appearance (Many musical contributions. have been combined together)

Concerto for 9 Instruments 12 tone row excerpt (Pierre Boulez Ensemble)

Toronto school choir workshop, Toronto, Canada

Petteri Pitko, harpsichord, Helsinki, Finnland

Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra Mitglieder, Berlin, Germany

Jannis Lilge- Baglamas, eine griechische Oktavbouzuki, Berlin

Hassan Akkouch-voice, Munich

Finnish Baroque Orchestra- Helsinki, Finnland 

Michael Rodach-guitar, Berlin, Germany

The Embassy Singers, Berlin

Signumquartett- Cologne, Germany

Elliott Sharp-guitar, New York, USA

Roy Nathanson-Sax, New York, USA

Pamela Stickney-Theremin, Vienna, Austria

Jan Roder-bass, Berlin

Christian Kögel-guitar, Berlin

Mark Rubin-bass, Mandoline, New Orleans, USA

Melina Moguilevsky- singer, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jan Tengler-bass, Cologne, Germany

Joely & Oliver- Liedermacher, Munich

e la luna ? Italian jazz, Berlin

Maximilian Gallup- electronics, Berlin

Adrian Receanu – caval, fluier, clarinet, Paris, France

Gerald Meier-Trombone, Berlin

Bartosz Mikołaj Nazaruk-drums, Warsaw, Poland

Daniel Dorsch-Ele Meta Phone, Berlin

Aubrey Beal- Sampler, Alabama, USA.

Sebastian Carewe Piano Trio, Berlin

Verena Wehling-viola, Berlin

Milena Kipfmüller & Klaus Janek, voice, electronic, bass, Berlin,

Joel Rubin-clarinet, Virginia, USA

Jay Rizzetto-trumpet, California, USA

Raven Chacon- guitar, Navajo Nation, USA

Vivien Lee-voice, Hong Kong/Berlin

Lukas Ligeti- percussion, Johannesburg, South Africa

Julie Sassoon-piano, Berlin

Elsa Kopf- singer/songwriter, Paris, France

Mae McKenna, singer, Coatbridge, Scotland

Ilya Shneyveys, synthesiser, Riga, Latvia

Holger Marks (tenor) & Philip Mayers (piano) Berlin



Daniel Dorsch-Ele Meta Phone, Berlin,

Raven Chacon -guitar, Navajo Nation, USA

Hazel Leach’s Composer’s Orchestra Berlin, Germany

Oli Bott-percussion, Berlin, Germany

Brasstastix, trombone choir, Berlin

Vivien Lee-voice, Hong Kong/Berlin

Ilya Shneyveys, synthesiser, Riga, Latvia

Milena Kipfmüller & Klaus Janek, voice, electronic, bass, Berlin, GermanyRoman Josef Britschgi-bass, art, Wilen im Kanton Obwalden,Switzerland

Jan Roder-bass, Berlin

Pamela Stickney-Theremin, Vienna, Austria

Elsa Kopf- singer/songwriter, Paris, France

Michael Rodach-guitar, Berlin, Germany

Christian Kögel-guitar, Berlin

e la luna ? Italian jazz, Berlin 

Webern’s Letter Fragments Translated into English

-Of course I always think of Mahler. One can learn a lot from him. I’d like to be able to concentrate on my own things. I do not want to live a biography – but think of Beethoven. And then another 1000 reasons come to mind.  I can’t name all of them (health, my daily routine, family).  But I’m often confused – to influenced by ambition… ambition!  I have to let go of this earthly pursuit.

-It was wonderful in Berlin. I don’t now if I wrote to you about it. The performance beautiful! And the piece, the sound, the composition, the darkness, it was glorious!

-It’s terrible that I can never talk to Schoenberg. Those were the best hours. When I went for a walk with him. Especially this time of year, in September.

-I can’t find anything that’s bright, nothing that comforts me. And that makes me feel fruitless. It makes me sick. And that’s why I have to give up the theater. It’s a mystery to me how Mahler could stand it. Maybe because he started at a young age.

-Are you getting together with Kokoschka? You should meet. I think such a friendship is wonderful. It would be great if all the people who are doing things in this city could get together. Schoenberg, Klimt, Altenberg, Loos, Kraus, us, Kokoschka and many others. I mean, we are nothing. But we still belong to it.

-Schoenberg once said to me that there is a completely different kind of love than this literary orientated passion. There’s a calm …mostly tender… loving relationship. This is how I felt it …  and never the other way.  d.h. felt it differently … with sadness… One can’t say how Berg felt it.  But it’s with Mahler as well. Just think of the tenderness in his music: “in the darkness of her hot gaze the recollection of her heart resonates mournfully. It is for the sake of dying, for dying.

Ensemble Work

Ensembles as leader, composer, soloist:

Paul Brody’s Sadawi (Tzadik and Enja Records since 2007) (Six albums!)

Bern, Brody & Rodach (2013-2015) (www.bernbrodyrodach.com)

Detonation Orchestra featuring David Moss (2005-2011)

Tango Toy (1997-2004)

Paul Brody Octet (1987-2001)

Brody has been part of the following ensembles or performed with:


The Berkeley Promenade Orchestra (Director: Kent Nagano)

San Francisco Repertory Ballet

Arnold Dreyblatt Orchestra of Excited Strings & Winds

Ari Benjamin Meyers Redux Orchestra Versus Einsturzende Neubauten

Constanza Macras’s Dorky-Park

Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra

She She Pop

Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird

Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto with Cate Blanchett

The Stone Sessions with John Zorn and Steven Bernstein

Alan Bern’s Semer Orchestra and The Other Europeans

17 Hippies

Meret Becker Tiny Teeth

Cora Frost

Die Geschwister Pfister



Shirley Bassey

The New York Harlem Theater Ensemble

The Klezmer Conservatory Band




Paul Brody’s Sadawi Documentary film excerpts. (Solo)



Piranha Records Promotional Video: Semer Ensemble

Documentary Film trailer about Other Europeans Ensemble
Semer Ensemble on tour in Canada review: 

Deutschland Radio/Prix Europa

Talking Melody-Singing Story

 An Operatic Sound Installation by Paul Brody

The installation has been selected as a radio art feature for DEUTSCHLAND RADIO and for the PRIX EUROPA – The European Broadcasting Festival – Europe’s largest annual tri-medial festival.


Talking Melody-Singing Story was originally created as a sound installation for Brody’s 2016 Artist in Residence project for the Munich Kammerspiele Opera Department summer festival.

The piece is based on the two main components of opera: aria and recitative. Part one, Talking-Melody, features singers recalling the moment they fist discovered that their voices were special. The voice melodies of the singers are used as a compositional base to bring out the melodic quality of them speaking.

In other words, stories they tell about melody are transformed into an aria-like composition. The interviews include vocal stars such as Anna Prohaska, Laurent Naouri and Lorin Sklamberg.  A mini opera house was built to contain the installation.

The second part, Singing-Story, contains recordings of people in three different cities describing what they associate with opera. The interviews are from the street around the Munich Kammerspiele, people in rural Alabama, and an Italian woman living in Berlin. Those talking about opera are given a recitative style accompaniment, the story telling part of opera. This mini documentary about opera is both an exploration into operatic form, and into the story telling voice itself.

The background of this sound installation adopted for radio is from Brody’s work

dedicated to inspiring his listeners to hear the narrative-musical quality of spoken language. He has produced installations exploring story telling and voice-melody and identity for the Jewish Museum Berlin, Transmedialle Festival NK Art Space,  Maxim Gorki Theater, and the Prinz-Georg Room for Art.

Süddeutsche Zeitung Kritik:

“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.

Critique translation:

South German Newspaper

Talking Melody – Singing Story.”  The almost 20 minute listening-film by the American musician, Paul Brody, tears off the often perfect veneer of the operatic art form. The singers chat in intimately about singing, prisoners in Alabama and Germans passing by on the street tell about what they associate with opera… Brody’s sound installation wonderfully captures moments of intimacy: opera singers tell about their earliest memories of experiencing their voices —most of them break out into a children’s song — not because they’re asked to, but naturally, to give a musical example to their anecdotes.





Production originally for the Kammerpiele Munich Opera Department Summer Festival 2016 Artist in Residence project. Edited for Deutschlandradio 2017 Composition: Paul Brody except for the ‘Italian woman’s story’ at the end uses a section of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi Special thanks to the singers and David Marton: Kevin Conners- Bavarian State Opera Jelena Kuljic -Munich Kammerspiele Opera Department Laurent Naouri -Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, The Metropolitan Opera Anna Prohaska -Salzburger Festspiele, Royal Opera, London Lorin Sklamberg -Klezmatics Musicians: David Moss and Paul Brody Intro voice and trumpet Verena Vehrling -viola Mark Kovnatsky -violin Jan Tilman Shade -cello Jan Roder -bass Paul Brody-trumpet, piano, trombone Gerald Meyers -trombone Rachel Susser -flute Christian -Dawid-clarinet Christian Koegel-guitar Michael Rodach -guitar Valentine Butt -accordion Elena Graupe -drums Clara Hinterberger -Announcer Production: Cupcake Studio Berlin Mix: Jens Troendle Studio Berlin

Grundgesetzland: WDR

Was bedeutet es den Deutschen, in einem Land mit Grundgesetz zu leben? Bekommt das Wort “Würde” eine andere Bedeutung, je nachdem in welcher Kultur man aufgewachsen ist? Der amerikanische Komponist Paul Brody befragt
Menschen, die in Deutschland zu Hause sind, nach ihrer Sicht auf die ersten fünf Artikel des Grundgesetzes. -Von

WDR 3 Hörspiel:
Autor, Regie, Komposition: Paul Brody
Redaktion Leslie Rosin;
Produktion WDR 2017
Stimmen von: Hassan Akkouch Norbert Bolz Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff Elena Graupe Christian Gedschold Ljiljana Vulin-Hinrichs Lore Maria Peschel-Gutzeit Mini Kapur Vivien Lee David Marton Carmen Sitter Teilnehmer des Salons der Sprache Ewa Struszczinska-Wille Jelena Kuljic Hüseyin Yoldaş Ulrike Offenberg, Tarik Ercan, Dagmar Wegener Frauen vom Nachbarschaftsheim Kinder von Keistpark und Passanten Musiker: Ulli Bartel-Geige Paul Brody- Trompete, Klavier, Posaune Jan Tilman Schade- Cello Uli Kempendorff- Klarinette Jan Roder-Bass Rachel Susse- Floete Production,
recording, editing: Paul Brody Additional editing, mixing: Max Knoth Music mix: Jens Troendl
Salon der Sprache Aufnahme: Sebastian Meissner

Premiers/ Openings/ Performances

Artist in Residence, Museums Quartier Vienna:

5 Mini Operas in Ordinary Language is a public space 8 speaker sound installation for the Q21 space at the Museums Quartier. The immersive sound installation is based on the premise that the natural speaking voice contains as much melodic quality as an opera aria. Unhook syntaxes, free the voice of being the servant of words!!




The following schedule includes dates from 2019-2021:  

  • Museums Quartier Vienna-Artist in Residence (Sound Installation)
  • The Institute of Cultural Inquiry, Berlin, Germany (Sound Installation)
  • WDR Feature, Jazzy Diaspora, (Writer, Composer)
  • Schauspiel Leipzig, Germany (Composer)
  • Volksbühne Berlin, Germany (Composer, performer)
  • Akzente Theater Festival, Duisburg, Germany (Composition)
  • Canadian Language Museum, Toronto, Canada (Sound Installation opening)
  • Bauhaus Museum Weimar, Germany (Sound Installation for Bauhaus Year)
  • Vidy Contemporary Arts Theater, Lausanne, Switzerland  (Composition & Performer)
  • Vienna Theater Festival, “Wiener Festwochen”, Austria  (Composition & Performer)
  • Opéra National de Lorraine à Nancy, France (Opera Commission)
  • Komische Oper Berlin, Germany (Performer)
  • Jewish Museum Frankfurt, Germany (Permanent Sound Installation)
  • Yiddish Summer Weimar, (Performer)
  • Tour dates mostly in Europe

Schauspiel Leipzig Jan. 18th. Brennende Erde (Burning Earth: a documentary Theater piece about strip coal mining around Leipzig)


Opéra National de Lorraine à Nancy Opera – composition & conception

  • Opera commission. Premier 2021

Schauspiel Leipzig  (Composer)

  • Brennende Erde (Burning Earth) is documentary theater based on field recordings and research about strip mining around the Leipzig area. The composition incorporates the sounds of machines, tractors, crows protesting, as well as traditional composition. Directores: Regine Dure and Hans Werner Kreuzinger. Premier Jan. 17th

The Institute of Cultural Inquiry-sound installation

  • The Gamblers –The Zama Zama Miners of Southern Africa; video from Rosalind C. Morris; 2019 January 7th

Akzente Theater Festival-composition 

  • Romeo and Juliet composition (based on voice-melodies from archive material of past performances)
  • March 16, 21, April 21, May 15, 16July 12, 13

Canadian Language Museum-sound installation

  • The Music of Yiddish Blessings and Curses. Opening April 4th at 7 pm and running a month

Bauhaus Museum Weimar -sound installation 

  • : Pointing the Way: The film music and sound design for stop time art film project with young people isbased on Bauhaus pedagogy. Opening April 6ths and running throughout 2019

Echo & Narcissus -composition and performer

(Dates are still being planned) 

  • Vidy  Contemporary Arts Theater, Lausanne, Switzerland: Echo & Narcissus  (Group creating.  Director: David Marton)
  • Premiers in Vienna ; 2019 June 13, 14,15 then tours until 2021. 
  • Lausanne, Switzerland; Vidy  2019 Theater: June 11-21
  • France;  Théâtre de la cité Toulouse  2019 October 1, 2
  • France; Nouveau Theatre de Montreuil:2019  December 14,15,16
  • France;  Theater Velizy  2019 Dec. 20
  • France; Strasbourg,  Le Maillon Contemporary Arts Theater; 2020 Jan 29,20,31
  • Germany, Berlin Radialsystem; 2020 February 1-9
  • France; Théâtre de Caen 2020 April 8,9
  • France; Scène nationale de Besançon; 2020 May 26,27
  • France, Théâtre de Lorient ; 2020 April 28.29
  • France, Scène Nationale de Bayonne 2020May 26, 27

Semer Ensemble concerts -trumpet

  • Komische Oper Berlin; 2019 September 15th. Finland, Helsinki Jewish Culture Festival Nov. 11th. (In planning)

Eva Mattes and Petra Jahn concert-trumpeter

  • Germany, Berliner Dom;  2020 May 8th (In planning)

Museums Quartier Vienna and Canadian Language Museum

Museums Quartier Vienna- Artist in Residence 

5 Mini Operas in Ordinary Language An immersive sound installation for the Q21 space.

Canadian Language Museum 

The Music of Yiddish Blessings and Curses 

Part 1

Brody’s introductory talk at the Canadian Language Museum:

Part 2: Blessings and Curses Voice-Melody Improvisations

The Music of Yiddish Blessings and Curses is a sound installation commissioned by the Canadian Language Museum in Toronto. Paul Brody interviewed Yiddish speakers throughout the city to explore their favourite curses and blessings, as well as the stories and memories behind them. 

Brody was expecting that the blessings and curses would reveal a treasure of Yiddish culture — the food, the suffering, the humour and irony — but what he also found was an underlying Yiddish vocal pattern to narrating hope and community. He discovered that as the Yiddish speakers, young and old, invoked the traditional Yiddish sayings, the emotionality in their voices revealed the musicality of ‘speaking Yiddish.’ Brody recalls:

I became fascinated by how my interviewee’s voice-melody often shifted from conversational to a melodic, almost singing voice, through the uttering of a blessing or a curse.

Brody uses these voice-melodies as a compositional basis for the project, blending documentary and artistic interpretations. In a broader sense, the sound installation explores the dialectic of traditional and spontaneity, formulaic and the fluctuating, sacred and secular. 

Yiddish blessings and curses reveal a musical language that is uniquely Yiddish. During her interview, Miriam Borden explains, The words might not be in Yiddish, but the way of talking is Yiddish.

Drawing on his work with both contemporary Jewish music and radio documentaries, Brody creates a five-part suite for his sound installation: 1. Talking Yiddish 2. Bagel Hell 3. Curse Composition  4  Feeling Family 5  Belly Blessing

The final Toronto exhibition will add two more dimensions. Brody is asking musicians around the world to respond to his recordings of Yiddish blessings and curses with their own short musical improvisations based on the the voice-melodies of Yiddish blessings and curses. Visual contributions will come from Miriam Borden, a doctoral student at the  Centre of Jewish Studies

at the University of Toronto. Portraits of the people who were interviewed for the project and key phrases will be displayed graphically. 

Musicians on Part I Berlin-Vienna-Toronto klezmer scene: Alan Bern-accordion, Christian Dawid-clarinet, Daniel Weltlinger-violin, Peck-Kubaczek, Cynthia-cello, Benjy Fox-Rosen-bass & voice,  Paul Brody-trumpet, trombone, Lorie Wolf-drums

Musicians on Part II who interpret the voice-voice-melodies

Dan Blacksberg -trombone, Daniel Kahn -voice, Joshua Horowitz -accordion, Brian Katz -guitar, Marilyn Lerner -piano, Frank London -trumpet, Sasha Lurje -voice, Benjy Fox Rosen -bass/voice

Cookie -Segelstein-violin, Eric Stein -Mandolin, Lorie Wolf -drums

Two generations of Toronto Yiddish speakers interviewed: Michael Wex, Shirley Kumove, Jack Newman, Helen Smolkin , Belva Spiel, Jordon Chad, Sarah Katz, Miriam Borden

The sound installation and portraits of those interviewed .

A nice big crowed at the opening ceremony for the sound installation.

Listen to a lively interview and Canada Classic Radio:



Bauhaus Museum Weimar (100 years Bauhaus-Opening April 6th)

Kids did stop time films according to Bauhaus art concepts. Paul Brody composed music for Viola d’amore, Trumpet, Piano, and collected Sounds.

Munich Kammerspiele Saal 600 (Based on archive material from the Nurnberg Trial) -composition


Bauhaus Museum-Bauhaus Festival -Sound Installation Film

  • Children create short stop time films based on bauhaus concepts. Brody composed the music. Please have a look and listen!


Canadian Language Museum in Toronto – Sound Installation opening April 4th, 2019 in conjunction with the Ashkenaz Foundation and the : Yiddish Spring : The Music of Yiddish Blessing & Curses


Akzente Theater Festival, Duisburg- composition based on archive recordings of past performances of Romeo & Juliet. Premier March 16th 2019


University of Virginia Guest Composer/Artist

Example of a lecture at the University of Virginia



Canadian Language Museum in conjunction with the University of Toronto:  Paul Brody will have a documentary sound installation that explores how Yiddish embodies a part of secular Jewish culture. The music-based sound installation will include both those who have grown up speaking Yiddish and those who have adopted Yiddish a means of embodying their Jewish identity. More later.

University of Rhode Island 

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Daniel Barenboim Foundation: Pierre Boulez Saal 2018 Sound Installation Commission

Daniel Barenboim Foundation: Pierre Boulez Saal

Webern from the Inside and Outside- Composition/sound installation


More info in English and German: https://boulezsaal.de/webern-installation-paul-brody

Additional composition and performance event in 2018 – 2020

Munich Kammerspiele remake of Bellini’s opera, La Sonnambula directed by David Marton. (Composer and performer)

The Munich Kammerspiele premier of On the Road directed by David Marton began the 2017 fall theater season.

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Growing Hope: Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project

Growing Hope is an extension of another WDR (West German Radio) documentary, Most Wanted Poets. While visiting prison classes with Kyes Stevens, the head of the education program, I was moved by many of the talks with both students and teachers, and found them to be a valuable resource for those interested in learning about how education and art are key to human survival, to humanness itself.

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Art Accompanying Noise: Maxim Gorki Theater

Art Accompanying Noise (2016) is a pivotal work because it explored the sounds around each artist working while he or she talks about creative process. The sounds of work reflect the materials used, and tell their own narrative.

The artist discussing their work and the results of the work are secondary to the noises, which are used as the basis for musical composition. The byproduct of the noise becomes the subject of focus while the finished objects of art are secondary.










Voices of Help Exhibit: Youth Museum Berlin


Voices of Help (2016-2917) is a three room documentary sound installation in the Jugend Museum Berlin. The piece explores concepts of help through interviews with community and social workers around a post socialist-communist area of Berlin. (Rote Insel.) The recording of each voice received and instrument that brought out the personal qualities of the interviewees. The first room was dedicated to hearing the stories about how helpers began. The second room explored the tools of professional social workers through collected narratives, the third room was dedicated to 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 curiosity for the neighbourhood where Brody lives, the knowledge that help is not as prominent American culture, and by the fact that people help Brody’s mother when she was put on the children’s transport as a thirteen year old girl escaping from Nazi Vienna.

Photo Documentary of Voices of Help by Dirk Hasskarl-Please Click on title or picture.

voices of help

5 Voice Melody-Portraits: Jewish Museum Berlin


Jewish Museum Berlin Catalogue Text in English:

5 EASY PIECES (Surround sound installation)

I admit, as a musician I have a bias towards sound. But when I think about Jewish culture, it seems to me that music and storytelling long played a critical role in transporting Jewish traditions. For one thing, visual culture encounters an ambivalence in Jewish teachings. Perhaps more telling, though, is the fact that Jews could squeeze their stories and voices into the most over-stuffed suitcase or bundle. And sling a violin or trumpet across a shoulder. After a concert at the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus, I noticed a saying painted on the wall: Trees have roots, Jews have feet.

Dani Levi  (A film maker from a Swiss village settles in Berlin.)

Ann and Helmut (A French woman and a German man fall in in love in China then settle in Berlin. 


While the Jewish Museum Berlin has typically showcased objects, the exhibit on the music of Radical Jewish Culture explored how to use aural, not visual media to delve into Jewish identity. Well before Five Easy Pieces, I’d conducted interviews during my first European tour, when I used cassette tapes to record why other US musicians had crossed the Atlantic. On recent travels I’ve conversed with children all over the world for radio shows about music and young people. For this installation, however, Iwanted to take the five oral histories as inspiration for musical compositions.

In Five Easy Pieces, I started with one-minute stories from five people living in Germany. I included myself. The time limit forced the speakers to recount only a few moments from the sweep of their lives as they considered how they saw themselves in Germany. We had all established “homes” in Germany, yet each voice refracted traces of different places visited or inhabited, age and gender, even the echo of a grandparent’s endearment or scolding. To me, the music of speaking, its staccato stutters and chaotic chortles, was as vibrant as the information conveyed.

Katharina Oguntoye (Afro-German identity and the name.)

I use music to throw images intothe world, but it feels awkward to tell people what makes my work meaningful. Certainly my music is filtered through ideas or values I hold close; in our human response to life, I believe that we are intuitive – stronger emotionally than rationally. The spontaneous voice, even a spoken fragment, reveals to me the depths of an individual, a real-time sound history framed in feelings, whether acknowledged or suppressed. The stories we tell about ourselves are accompanied by the melody of who we are.

Mini Kapur (Traditional Indian textiles and materials and German design.)


After I listened to the stories, I transcribed the melody of each voice note for note, and assigned an instrument to compliment its timbre. In Five Easy Pieces, the instrument first plays in unison with the voice, then moves on – like someone leaving home. The voice is stripped of its words, but the story remains in the essence of the sound.

Creating a piece of music through storytelling was a precious experiment. Now often relegated to a children’s activity, storytelling had been a vibrant part of Jewish culture up until the near destruction of European Jewry. In the postwar years, things like watching television displaced active storytelling – we’ve lost the storyteller reinventing the story for the moment and audience. I wanted to celebrate the music of the voice, to interweave the stories into collective musical portraits of experience and feeling.

For the Heimatkunde exhibition, the music of the voice belies the usual visual cues of identity. Assumptions about belonging and exclusion are often based on physical appearance, especially in this part of the world. In this piece, I wanted to probe our usual patterns of decision-making. After listening to Katharina, for example, her voice a mixture of Zwickau and Berlin, we discover that as an instrument she is bass clarinet. As we move through Five Easy Pieces, we see that Katharina is African-German.

When I walk into a Berlin cafe, I can pass as German. Once I order my coffee, I may need to explain that I grew up outside of San Francisco, studied in Boston, never learned proper German. Back in California, my family teases me about the odd inflections warping my English. Sometimes I forget a word. Our “homeland” we carry in our voices.

Paul Brody (Yikes!  heritage of a European Jew.)




The David Marton group is a collective of musicians and actors who explore the intersection of music and theater. Currently the group has two productions at the Munich Kammerspiele,

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