Monday, May 26, 2008


Members of Barbez:

Dan Kaufman (guitar, occasional singing), Pamelia Kurstin (theremin, occasional singing), Peter Hess (clarinets, percussion) Danny Tunick (marimba, vibes), Andrew Jones (bass), John Bollinger (drums). The following are members of our extended family: Gustavo Costa (drums) Dan Coates (bass, electronics), Peter Lettre (bass, guitar), Sarah Bernstein (violin), Catherine McCrae (violin), Julia Kent (cello), Shahzad Ismaily (drums), Fiona Templeton (voice)

Biography from the official Barbez website:

Barbez takes shape in a sunstruck phantasm; Kurt Weill swims the length of a still pond, underwater The Residents are refurbishing their home, Erik Satie descends from above to lie in the grass and sip seltzer. Shapes emerge from flowering trees and a Dionysian wedding dance ensues. Provoked by such musics as French musette, Argentine tango, post-war classical and pre-MTV punk, Barbez wrings these disparate worlds to form anew in the band's own soundscape.

The group began in 1997 with members whose backgrounds encompass jazz, classical, and rock. The band is made up of musicians from the following musicians, our own little musical collective: Dan Kaufman (guitar and vocals), Pamelia Kurstin (theremin and vocals), Danny Tunick (marimba, vibes), Dan Coates (bass, electronics), Peter Hess (clarinets), Peter Lettre (bass, guitar), Cecile Genevieve Brasil Boehler (soprano sax, vocals), Sarah Bernstein (violin), John Bollinger (drums), Shahzad Ismaily (drums), Catherine McCrae (violin).

Barbez has recorded three albums all of them engineered and mixed by the incomparable Martin Bisi. Frequent collaborations with other musicians, both live and in the studio, have included cellist Julia Kent (Antony and the Johnsons), vocalist Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), drummer Anthony Nozero (Drums and Tuba), and toy instrument ingenue Rebecca Moore. Barbez is currently at work on its fourth album. Barbez also has a long-standing collaboration with downtown theatre pioneer, John Jesurun, appearing frequently in Jesurun’s long-running avant-soap opera, Chang in a Void Moon. For years, Barbez has been a constant, vibrant part of the New York music scene and the group tours frequently across the U.S. and Europe. Over the years the group has been privileged to perform with a wide variety of artists including Cat Power, Sun Ra Arkestra, godspeed you! black emperor, Faun Fables, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, DKT/MC5, Devendra Banhart, the Dresden Dolls, the Lonesome Organist, Shelley Hirsch, Faun Fables, and the Angels of Light.

Barbez @ Vigo [Espazos Sonoros]

2008 Force of Light:

Force of Light is Dan’s homage to Holocaust survivor and poet Paul Celan. The album was released this September on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. It’s made up of eight new pieces, all written by DK and performed by Barbez. Ever since he first read Celan, a decade earlier, Dan had the desire to make a series of songs about Paul Celan. Zorn, it turned out, also a big Celan fan. He immediately agreed to the project.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Paul Celan was born in 1920 into a Jewish family in Czernowitz, an ethnically diverse city near the border of Romania and Ukraine. In the summer of 1942, the Nazis and their Romanian allies initiated a roundup of the Jews of Czernowitz, and Celan’s parents were deported to a concentration camp in Ukraine. His father died there of typhus, and, shortly afterward, his mother was shot by a guard. Though he escaped the roundup in which his parents were captured, Celan was sent to a forced-labor camp in southern Romania, and he spent nearly two years in a series of labor camps across the country.

Over about a year and a half, the album was recorded and mixed with our dear friend and long-time recording genius, Martin Bisi. Force of Light features Pam on theremin, Peter Hess on clarinets, DK on guitars (electric, nylon, and lap steel), Danny on vibes and marimba, Dan Coates and Peter Lettre trading off on bass, and John Bollinger on drums. Joining the core group were some very special guests: Fiona Templeton reads Celan’s words; Catherine McRae and Sarah Bernstein contribute on violin; and Barbez friend and collaborator from the past, Julia Kent, plays the cello.

“A poem, as a manifestation of language and thus essentially dialogue, can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the not always greatly hopeful belief that somewhere and sometime it could wash up on land,” Paul Celan told a German audience in 1958.

These are some songs that washed up on land.

Aspen Tree

Aspen Tree, your leaves glance white into the dark.
My mother's hair was never white.

Dandelion, so green is the Ukraine.
My yellow-haired mother did not come home.

Rain cloud, above the well do you hover?
My quiet mother weeps for everyone.

Round star, you wind the golden loop.
My mother's heart was ripped by lead.

Oaken door, who lifted you off your
hinges? My gentle mother cannot return.

Paul Celan (translated by Michael Hamburger)

Listen to more songs from Barbez here and here

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