When I got an email from David Harrington of Kronos Quartet, my heart leapt out of my chest. No kidding. I was grabbing a coffee early morning after what at the time was my biggest show and musical achievement … Continue reading
March 13, 2014
March 13, 2014
These photos depict the film shoot for the “Eyes” video, where I eventually got to meet one of the heroes who appeared on the album, David Byrne. The footage was put together with shots of a chamber orchestra from Seattle, you can see the awesome results in the video below.
Here is another tune from my show on December 1, 2012 at The Moore Theater in Seattle. This one features a beautiful tune by Soko. Arrangement by yours truly.
Earlier today NPR’s Fresh Air program broadcast this 30 minute interview with me. Many of you might be discovering my music for the first time. If you like what you hear, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or go ahead and download this free track from my latest album:
2012 was rediculously amazing! I shared the stage with so many of my heroes and friends, traveled the world, met tons of absolutely wonderful folks. It was crazy. Check out my blog post below for a detailed look at everything I got up to in 2012, including videos and pictures!
It feels as though the foundation I have been working so hard to build my whole life is finally done and its time to start building! 2013 will certainly be that. There are tons of things I am so close to announcing, but not able to just yet. BIG STUFF. Still pinching myself kind of stuff. So check back often! One of my new years resolutions is to stay more current with this stuff!
Here are a few announcements!
New videos -
From my live broadcast on KEXP. This is super well documented and with some of the players from my record!
And another nice video from The Ecstatic Music Festival.
I was also just commissioned by The Liasons Project to write an arrangement for solo piano of a Stephen Sondheim tune!
Some Shows -
I am also performing at Adelaide Festival on March 6th. I am performing with an orchestra at this one playing music from Composed with some special guest singers. The show will also have a couple of my favorite bands on the bill, Deerhoof and Buke and Gase. It will be a real great one!
Finally, I just wanted to remind you all about my newest release called “Scores”, available on CD or digitally. It is instrumental versions of the songs from “Composed”. When I was recording “Composed”, I was at a point where all the music was done and no vocals had been added. I almost kept the record instrumental because I loved the space and feeling the music had and was scared to loose this. As soon as I heard the vocalists add their stuff, my concerns went away, but the instrumentals give you a chance to perhaps discover some details overlooked in “Composed”. “Scores” also comes with option of… YOU GUESSED IT! Scores for the entire record! All of the parts for all of the instruments for your own playing pleasure! I am excited about this because usually scores are hard to come by or expensive. These are neither of those things! Enjoy!
Alright! Happy New Year everyone and be sure to check out my ’2012 round up’ blog below.
I wanted to put together a little Year in Pictures and Video timeline of 2012 kind of thing… So here you go!
Feb 4th @ Ecstatic Music Festival NYC
The evening was pure magic. Shared the stage with David Byrne, Carla Bozulich, Craig Wedren, Mirah Zeitlyn, Zac Pennington, Sam Mickens, Charlie Looker, Steven Reker, Jen Goma, Greg Saunier and The Wordless Music Orchestra. Here is a new video of Blossom!
I then joined Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra and we headed of to Melbourne to record Theater is Evil. Here is a tune that I wrote and arranged for the group!
While in Oz we my pals in the GTO and I made some buddies and made this video for Young & Lovely!
We also shot this -
I then flew straight from OZ to New York and had the insane privilege to work with The Degenerate Art Ensemble on a re interpretation of Robert Wilson & Philip Glass’s Einstein On The Beach with Robert Wilson himself directing! The show was really great and was at Baryshnikov Theater.
Went home briefly and then back off to NY for a show in th BAM opera house for the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival curated by the Dessner brothers of The National. I performed with yMusic and Greg Saunier. I had some crazy guests once again, David Byrne, Amanda Palmer, Charlie Looker and Jen Goma.
Then I won an award called the Amy Award from my hometown of Bainbridge Island. Really lovely and honored!
You guessed it.. Back to NY again! This time to celebrate Amanda Palmers Kickstarter! We celebrated pretty hard!
Then we headed off to Berlin, London to play and do press. We shot this video while there -
Straight from there to L.A. and S.F
More shows and press.
Boston & NY. More shows, more press.
We insanely got David Byrne to come hang and sing Burning Down The House with us as his backing band.. To collaborate with him was totally insane, but to play a song that I grew up listening to and hearing being right there next to him as he belted it, was totally overwhelming.
Then we went to Oklahoma City and filmed the Do It With A Rockstar video with Wayne Coyne -
That was fun!
AFP & GTO headed off to BARD College for a residency and rehearsed here…
Then we headed off for the loveliest and hardest and craziest tour I have ever been on! So fun. Such a great crew. I opened all the shows as did my good buds The Simple Pleasure. We had a string quartet in almost every city. Met a billion amazing and talented people. Did the U.S., E.U. and U.K.
The second night of tour was my birthday in NY. Epic.
Special shout out to Jessie England from The Simple Pleasure, who played viola with me every night on tour and really made things easier when things were hard and more fun when things were awesome.
A highlight was playing Time Warp with Richard O’Brien (Creator of Rocky Horror)
After 10 days at home after about 3 months of touring, I started rehearsals for my show at The Moore Theater. Rehearsals were held at Frye Art Museum in Seattle as part of their current exhibition Mw [Moment Magnitude]. I collaborated with Robb Kunz who is a fantastic instillation artist. He used some of my ambient music for a sound sculpture. The Frye then invited me to hold open to the public rehearsals inside the museum. It was great!
Also in preparation for the show, I brought some of my best buds into KEXP for a live broadcast.
My show at The Moore Theater on Dec. 1 was a truly wonderful evening. So many friends and collaborators coming together and kicking serious ass together. It got me all cryin and stuff… Beautiful. I had fantastic guests including Mirah, Nika Danilova (Zola Jesus), Soko, Tomo Nakayama, Zac Pennington and Jason Webley!
There will be some great documentation of this very soon!
10 days later, you guessed it, I was back in NYC. Lincoln Center commissioned me to write new music for a performance at Lincoln Center with yMusic, Greg Saunier and Jen Goma. It was such an honor to get to play with this ensemble again. They are truly astounding musicians and the coolest people on the planet.
Few days break for the holidays, then this happened…
Then this happened……
and then perhaps the most fun thing I did all year was trying to sing my favorite Prince song. I know, I know… I am not prince, but god it felt good. Actually it kind of hurt. But the good kind of hurt.
Happy New Year everyone! I am going to go to sleep now! What a year!
My name is Jherek Bischoff. I am a musician, producer, arranger and composer. I consider the latter title a particular honor because it means I have the privilege of working with wonderful musicians who perform my own musical ideas. I am currently on tour with Amanda Palmer as her bass player, and ad hoc musical director, organizing and rehearsing string quartets in cities where we can find them. Some folks had reached out to me, wondering what my position was on the “volunteer” band-member controversy. I am not a great speaker or writer, which is probably why I am so drawn to music, as it allows me to express myself in a way more suited to me. Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a pretty sensitive guy who would never hurt a fly. The situation has more or less been resolved by now, and in internet terms, is old news – but there were many issues brought up that are important to consider, so I wanted to share my experience anyway.
I want to start this by saying that I am super happy to be in a band that encourages its individual members to speak their minds and remain independent personalities. I have been a musician my whole life. And I have been a *struggling* musician my whole life. Living in my van, living in my friend’s closet, skipping meals, and refusing to work a 9-5 in hopes that I could reach a point in my life that I could make ends meet by doing what I love. This was a choice, and one I will never regret. Maybe for that reason, it warms my heart to see people standing up for musicians’ rights. I can’t recall musicians’ rights ever being such a major point of conversation and it has been extremely thought-provoking to see so many different views being expressed.
Moving along, eight months ago I first met with Amanda Palmer to talk about joining the Grand Theft Orchestra. I ended up doing some string arrangements for her record, and another member of her touring band, Chad Raines, did some horn arrangements. Before we recorded, before her Kickstarter, we had a long conversation about how the tour would work. I was excited to learn that Amanda also wanted to have strings and horns as part of her show. She also invited me to open her shows. Amanda was incredibly kind to invite me, in part because it’s rare to get a chance to open for someone with such an incredible fanbase, in part because my own music is orchestral.
For those who don’t know me or my work (which I imagine is the majority of you!), earlier this year, I released an album called Composed that was made after many years of painstaking work. This whole discussion has been very personal for me, because as a little-known composer, it is virtually impossible to have a traditional orchestral performance of your own music if you don’t have big bucks. As a result, I’ve had to constantly think of unconventional and innovative ways to make things happen. For my own record, I didn’t have the funds to hire an entire orchestra, so I had to improvise. Instead, I rode my bicycle around the Pacific Northwest, laptop in tow, and recorded a smaller number of classically-trained musician friends, layering their parts to literally orchestrate the sound of a large orchestra. Later, I was lucky to have some more well-known guests like David Byrne, Mirah Zeitlyn, Caetano Veloso, SoKo, Nels Cline and Greg Saunier contribute to the album. To this day I am amazed the record even exists!
You might imagine how difficult it would be to tour and bring an orchestral record to life, especially with no budget of my own. Your imagination is correct! However, I thought if I had access to a string quartet, it would at least make it possible for me to present a set of my own music. So Amanda presented the idea of reaching out to her fanbase, something she has done in various ways in the past to great success, in order to source local volunteer players for each night of her tour. We agreed that it would be my responsibility to organize them. I would get to present my music and she would get to use the quartet on a few songs.
This was all *before* the Kickstarter project and *before* making the record.
The volunteer arrangement had me worried from the beginning, because I have always done my absolute best to pay musicians in my own projects. I write grants, I have done a Kickstarter project, I save, and I often play gigs where all of the money goes to the players and I receive nothing. I do this happily, because as a composer, the opportunity to get the chance for my music to be played by awesome people is extremely fortunate! Sometimes I pay players a small amount of money and sometimes a larger amount, but the players know what to expect in advance.
Aside from the volunteer aspect, the logistics of organizing different string quartets for each city was really overwhelming. As someone who was not social media savvy, the whole prospect was completely mind-boggling and foreign to me, but the possibilities were also interesting. As an outsider, learning about Amanda’s history and success with crowdsourcing and her incredible connection with her fans, the volunteer musician scenario made some sense to me. It seemed yet another improvisational way to make performing orchestral music possible.
Boom, her Kickstarter happened, catapulting this whole project into the spotlight.
Part of the Kickstarter project included a promotional tour in which we played two shows in six different cities between June and August. I was happy to learn that there was a budget for string players on these shows. I was able to hire players, and I also did opening sets on all the gigs. It was really great and worked out well.
After the promotional tour ended, I was happy to learn that there would be a small budget available to me to hire some extra players. Uncertain I would be able to organize quartets in every city, I started by approaching musicians in cities in which I already had contacts and friends – namely larger cities which I had played in before, and some of the musicians who had played with us during the promotional tour. A major help to this effort was Classical Revolution, whom I had collaborated with a few times in the past for my own projects. For those of you who don’t know, Classical Revolution is an international organization of classical musicians looking to bring classical music to new audiences and venues (AWESOME! — and more about that at the end of this letter). In July, we worked with CR on the San Francisco stop of Amanda’s promo tour, and at that time the head of their SF chapter expressed interest in being involved during the fall tour that’s happening right now. We fantasized about creating AP/CR merch that could benefit CR and other ways to bring more attention to the organization. Unfortunately time was not on our side, so we couldn’t realize the merch ideas. When it was certain there would not be a budget to hire musicians in all cities during the fall tour, the head of CR SF decided he would no longer be able to help, a decision which I fully respect. However, he did say it would be okay for me to reach out personally to the heads of other CR groups.
Part of the reason there was such confusion surrounding crowdsourcing musicians is because it wasn’t happening in every city. From the beginning, Amanda and I were approaching assembling extra players in different ways. For her, it really *was* all about engaging her fanbase, and her belief that it would be an exciting and unique way to involve her fans, that would add yet another element of intimacy to each show. I, on the other hand, approached it like every other project I have done. Having to organize, rehearse and play with a completely new group every single night was a crazy amount of work and somewhat of a crap-shoot. The easiest way I saw to manage all of that work was to contact the very best players, hope I could lock in one or two ringers each night, and build the ensembles from there. So the first thing I did was reach out to friends, friends of friends, and to the CR network, some of whom were outside the AP fanbase, some of whom had been paid to play during the promo tour, all before the open call was even made. This is how some of the cities ended up having paid players, such as in New York.
When the plan to crowdsource volunteers for the rest of the shows was brought up again, we discussed the things we could offer the volunteers, settling on the now infamous “beer, hi-fives and hugs”, as well as guest list spots, merch and food. During the promo tour, we had also invited the guest musicians to sell their own merch at the shows, and some expressed interest in playing before the show, which was something we were very happy to try and accommodate. Since the string players would be playing for my opening set as well, it was important for me to have some way of making sure the selected players could actually play their instruments, hence the call for samples of their work. Not having any idea what the response would be, it was basically some sort of filter to help me sort through all of the possible submissions.
Finally, the open call was made, via AP’s website and through her twitter.
We were inundated with offers from all types of musicians from many different cities. We found players who are talented and extremely excited to be there to play music with us. (Some of them were even from CR, for instance we had an all-CR band in Washington D.C. Lovely folks!) In some cities we weren’t able to organize players, and that was okay too, for example in Atlanta where instead I opened for Amanda with a solo set.
It wasn’t until the tour actually started, some weeks after the open call was made, that the comments against the call began to mushroom on the internet. When the feedback started rolling in, you can bet everyone involved began reassessing the entire situation. Both Amanda and I definitely have some regrets. For one thing, I’m sorry it wasn’t clear that there was a budget for some cities, and that I had approached players on my own outside of AP’s fanbase before the open call was made. This, in particular, seemed a big contradiction to the original intent of crowdsourcing volunteer players from AP’s fanbase as a unique approach to touring. The whirlwind of activity and attention that surrounds an “overnight sensation” like Amanda’s Kickstarter can really mix up plans and intentions and execution in ways that are hard for the public to discern, especially when so many different people are involved. It certainly wasn’t anyone’s intention to take advantage of or exploit anyone. And for what it’s worth, once the feedback started rolling in at the start of tour, I was glad to forgo profits from the nightly sales of my own merch in order to compensate the volunteers. And of course, Amanda announced later that all of the volunteer musicians would be paid, retroactively as well, which I am very happy about.
Having spent a lot of time now with AP, I am continually inspired by her passion, innovation, and genuine support and love for her fanbase and everyone that works for and with her. She is a pioneer, navigating through an evolving music industry in which paradigms are shifting. There is definitely some trial-and-error along the way, but I absolutely know that her heart is in the right place.
** A quick postscript about bringing composed music and classical instruments to new audiences. I teased this point above — how important it is to reach new audiences — and I think it’s worth stating at length: Most folks in smaller towns (and by that I mean any city under a half million people) lack the chance to hear *any* classical music, much less the new, dynamic composed music happening in major cities like New York, London, and Los Angeles. One of my life goals, therefore, is to bring my own music to cities outside of normal classical music capitals. I’ve spent a long time building relationships with classical musicans/groups everywhere to help make this happen. And it’s always a pleasure to work with groups like Classical Revolution for this reason, as they have groups around the whole world. The Portland chapter just played some of my music a few nights ago at the Time-Based Arts Festival, and they also assembled an amazing chamber orchestra for me a couple years ago for a concert. In return, I am volunteering my services to play a big benefit for them in S.F. later this month. Point being, the world they and I are operating within is not one to which normal pop music economics always apply. It’s not ideal — but it is okay — and, more importantly, it’s a reality we need to deal with to keep this music alive. Maybe it doesn’t compete with EDM in the minds of the traditional music business promoters but, hey, if we keep breathing new life into it, maybe, just maybe, one day it will.
A ton of news! First of all my birthday is coming up! To celebrate an extremely productive and awesome 33rd year of my life I have 3 (!) releases coming out the month of my birthday, September!
First - My labels, The Leaf Label (UK/EU) and Brassland (US) are getting ready to release “Scores” on September 18th. This is an instrumental version of my record Composed in a new digital format. The music will be available to download as instrumental versions and also a new exciting version that will include full notated scores of all of the tunes from Composed! If you play violin or most other orchestral instruments and want something to play along with, you will now be able to! If you are an orchestra, professional or middle school, you could play my music! I would love to post ensembles versions of these tunes up on this site so we can all see the results! FUN!
Second - Parenthetical Girls’ Privilege V is coming out September 11th! This is the last in the 5 EP series. I produced the record (same as the other ones) and wrote 3 of the 5 songs with Mr. Pennington. I am really pleased with this series. I am going to miss the process that Zac and I developed. We really let ourselves go in whatever direction that our creativity took us. We worked extremely spontaneously and it was really really lovely. You can order your copy and stay abreast of all Parenthetical girls news here!
Third - And certainly not least, Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra’s Theater is Evil will be released also on September 11th! We recorded this in Melbourne Australia with John Congleton and the record has been getting a TON of attention! It has been a total blast. We are beginning our year of touring on September 10th. We will be coming to your city and I will be opening the sets so keep checking into my live page! Order the record here! This band is really good. Don’t miss it!
Lastly, I want to mention there are some crazy exciting announcements coming soon. New collaborations, new performances, but I cannot let the tofu out of the bag yet. I can mention a couple fun things coming up though.
TBA Festival in PDX Sept. 12th
Classical Revolution PDX (a chamber ensemble) will be performing a few of my pieces. I selected some beauties that I think will really fit in with the other AMAZING things lined up for the evening. I will not be in attendance because I will be playing in Washington DC that night.. But I am sending the always amazing Joshua Kohl of Degenerate Ensemble in my place. There is no one I trust with my music more.
A Benefit for Classical Revolution in San Francisco Sept. 27th
Classical Revolution S.F. will be performing a set of my music along with some other fantastic acts! Super honored to be a part of this! I will be in town playing at the Fillmore the night before with Amanda Palmer and will be staying an extra day to join CRSF for the evening!
Sometime in the not too distant future a video for Eyes will be coming out. I just finished shooting all of the footage and it is going to be AWESOME! Here are some pics (#1 & 2 taken by Mayumi Heider) from the shoot!
I always forget how busy I have been until I sit down to write one of these updates.. sheeesh! I am sure I am forgetting a ton of stuff, but check in with me on Twitter. I will be on there a bunch this year.