Not Jewish Enough?

Listen to the English version of this WDR feature & Prix Europa Broadcasting Festival Nomination

When trumpet player and composer Paul Brody moved from San Francisco to Berlin in the early 90’s, he soon began to deny being Jewish. That wasn’t due to any shame about his heritage or fears of anti-Semitism, but rather because German journalists were more interested in his family’s history as refugees from the Nazis than in his musical ideas. A few years after his arrival, though, Paul found a middle ground that allowed him to both embrace his heritage and be the musician he knew himself to be: a synthesis of klezmer and jazz.

Forming his klezmer-jazz group, Sadawi, forced Paul to engage in a more intimate dialogue with his family history, taking him out of his comfort zone. And performing directly in the shadow of the Holocaust helped the band achieve some success as German philosemitism and the enthusiasm of Berlin audiences for cultures other than their own. 

This first-person radio feature, originally produced in German for Germany’s WDR radio network, explores Paul’s journey to Berlin and his reckoning with his heritage. Along the way, Paul discovers the commonalities between klezmer and the blues while delving deeper into his family’s history. He visits synagogues across Berlin, takes Hebrew lessons with a local Rabbi, and travels to Vienna where he tells his story to children at the school his mother attended before she was put on a Kindertransport. Paul learns to communicate, through music, the Jewish tradition of asking questions while embracing his family heritage and discovering new meaning in the tones that come out of the bell of his trumpet.

INTERVIEWEES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
Wolf Kompmann: journalist
Maria Brody: Paul’s mother
Christopher Blenkinsop
Rabbi Ulrike: Offenberg
Peter Wortsman: Author
Christian Dawid: clarinetist
Sanne Möricke: accordionist
All the contemporary jewish music composed by Paul Brody and played by Sadawi. (Paul Brody: trumpet, Christian Dawid: clarinet, Christian Koegel: guitar, Michael Griener: drums, Jelena Kuljić: singer.

This cinematic demo will be posted for only a short time!

Music selections from unreleased full length cinema film. (Cuts to show music composition only, not content) General info hidden for now. For private use only. (Premier estimated: 2023)

Humboldt Forum Berlin Museum Documentary (2023) (Cuts to show music only) Directed by Charlotte Jansen

Sound Art Experiment composing with random noises. 2022)

Bauhaus Art Film commissioned for the Weimar Bauhaus Festival 2019 Project leader, Yasmina Budenz

Ambient music example, part of Humboldt Forum Museum project (Opening 2023)

Opera film selections from Êtes-vous amoureux ? Directed by Kevin Barz (Premier 2020)Demokratische

Sinfonie shows real time orchestral composition with language. Directed by Kevin Barz

Orchestration by Paul Brody

Barenboim Foundation Boulez Saal

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)

PART I

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. 

PART II

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

…….

VIDEOS 

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.

Opéra national de Lorraine, John Zorn album productions, Iris Berben, Clueso, David Marton, Kevin Barz

Film composition commissoins

New York-Berlin film production based on the life of Rose Auslaender. (2023) Composing for and performing with Münchner Kammerspiele actress, Jelena Kuljić. Film music and a live performance as part of the film. Director, Hans Melzer.

Night to be gone (2022) Chicago film maker, Loren David Marsh premiers his new  full length film soon! Electro-acoustic film scoring inspired by film noire aesthetics. (Finished!)

Fear oid Music, Trust in Twelve (2022) Award winning artist, Hajnal Nemeth music-video installation

Richtungsweisend (2018) Bauhaus educational project art concept film acoustic-electric composition

The Afterlives of Gold film installation (2017) Rosalind Morris film. Award winning anthropologist shows her research in an artistic form. 

Opéra national de Lorraine -Paul Brody sampler video

 Oldenburgisches Staatstheater trailer

Two huge commissions back to back!

Opéra national de Lorraine: film & operatic soundwalk!

Like most operas, Les Voix de Nancy, is about out love. But rather than the usual tragic fate of grand figures, this opera stages the love stories of Nancy’s inhabitants who told their story of passion, joy, and sorry during the summer of 2019 and winter of 2020. From octogenarians dancing at the La Pépinièrepark to hipsters on a tinder date in the old town, the stories become the libretto of the opera. Composer, Paul Brody, known for creating art from spoken word and everyday sounds, alsofinds the melodies for the opera in the voices of the people interviewed. Les Voix de Nancyuses both the stories and the melodies of people living in the city. The love stories will unfold both on stage and though-out the opera house: foyers, hallways, even the stair wells. The audience takes on its own roll as voyeur, glimpsing the secret passions and dramas of their neighbors. Les Voix de Nancy is an opera by and for the people of Nancy. (Premier March 6, 20201)

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Arte TV Documentary about the making of the opera:

https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/102897-000-A/etes-vous-amoureux-un-opera-glane-dans-la-rue/

 

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Humboldt Forum Exhibit: Familienfläche Tausend Welten

These are mini examples from the work in progress. Opening in December! More explanation will be written soon!

Hello in My Languages is based on a recording with a nine year old girl who knew how to say hello in so many languages she lost track of where some of the languages were from! Almost the entire accompaniment of her voice, including the triplet arpeggios is made from her voice alone. I used her speaking voice as an ‘instrument.’ Some archive sounds were used as variation.
Blue, Green, Yellow is from children drawing at the Gemeinschaftsunterkunft. Each child describes their favorite color and what they associated with that color. Using only sounds recorded at the workshop, I tried to create musical atmospheres that sounded like the colors blue, green, and yellow. The voices of the children are embedded in the composition.
Three Colors through Morphing Berlin Phonogram-Archive Sound Files is a purposely dense sound art composition to illustrate a bit of sound morphing Handwerk. It’s to give you, the listener, an idea of what kinds of complex sound structures one can create with the archive material. The possibilities are limitless! If this were to be for an exhibit, I would make the sounds lighter at the beginning and build up the density over a lot more time than 3 minutes! The sounds are from Java street music, Uzbek fiddle tunes, instrumental music from Cameroon and Malawi, and static from the wax cylinders!
The Sound of Drawing is based on recording the sound of one child drawing with colored pencils. I recorded one child in a quiet room. Then I put my recorder in the middle of the table where lots of children were drawing and talking about their pictures. I cut out relevant words and phrases like, That’s scribbling, Pass the gold pencil, I drew a heart, and placed them in the ambient music. I am interested in extending this experiment by combining the sound of drawing with the sound of drumming. From my experience, drawing and drumming are probably the two artistic things children relate to most!
Rhythm, Rhythm, Rhythm is made from three examples of drumming. The first is an exercise at the Gemeinschaftsunterkunft where children explored the musical quality of their speaking voice. This very raw opening shows the kids punctuating the rhythm of their speech patterns by speaking and drumming. The second part is a young girl showing me how she drums and claps her hands in a very special way, and the third section is all the found percussion objects played and sampled. The ambient sounds are again derived from morphing various recordings from the Berlin Phonogram-Archive Sound Files.

Opéra national de Lorraine

Êtes-vous amoureux ? Demo trailer.

Opera based on interviews and voice-melody.

Interview about the process of composing for Êtes-vous amoureux?

Narziss & Echo / David Marton – Road Opera

Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne composition commission collaboration with pianist, Michael Wilhelmi and live electronics artist, Daniel Dorsch. The premier was at the Vienna Theater Festival (Wiener Festwochen 2019). Performances were in France, Austria, and Berlin: Radial System. Photographer: Valentine Solé

Canadian Language Museum Yiddish Curses and Blessings

The Music of Yiddish Blessings and Curses installation was a collaboration with the Ashkenaz Festival 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

Romeo and Juliet

Orchestral-electo compositions based on archive recordings of shakespearian actors. This theater production is in German but the melodic material of the musical accompaniment is based on recordings of British actors found in archive recordings. The production was for the Akzent Festival in Duisburg, Germany. Director, Kevin Barz. More info on youtube.