Jherek Bischoff

I have some exciting news!

May 2, 2013

Ahoy Mateys!

First of all, “Composed” was chosen by Amazon US to be a part of the 100 for $5 program. So! For the next two weeks you can order “Composed” for only 5 one dollar bills! That’s like one double (vegan) mocha frappuccino with extra (vegan) whip cream for 9 songs with an entire orchestra and some of the best singers alive (in my opinion)!
Get it here.

In other news… I am currently writing a piece for Kronos Quartet!!! WHAT?!?! Yup. Lincoln Center commissioned me to write a new piece for Kronos Quartet to be played by them at Lincoln Center as part of their Out of Doors festival. The evening includes new music from Amon Tobin, Dan Deacon, Bryce Dessner and more. To top it all off, IT’S FREE! I am so insanely honored to be composing for Kronos. For a lil fella like myself, it is about as good as it gets. More details here.

For the next two weeks as this Amazon US sale is going, I am going to be posting 4 videos from my show at The Moore Theater on Dec. 1 of last year. So check back often and you can see what shenanigans we got up to.

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Amanda Palmer: The view from here

September 27, 2012

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.

Ahoy!

July 24, 2012

I am writing to announce that I finally have a proper website! I want to thank the fine folks at The Leaf Label for pulling this together! As many of you know, I like to do a lot of different things within music, but building websites has obviously not been one of them! I am incredibly excited to now have this as a hub for everything coming up! There is a lot!


On the site you can of course find my record “Composed” for sale, as well as some of my previous output. You can find some t-shirts that are sold solo or can be bundled with music for a special low price. And, you can find a very long list of tour dates!


In September, I will be embarking on a full US and EU tour with Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra as a member of her band and as an opening act. I am trying something absolutely insane, which is that I am assembling a different string quartet for EVERY show! The quartets will be made up of local musicians from each city! We are just finishing up a 6 city promo tour where we have been testing this out and it has been an absolute blast! It is the first time in a long time that I wake up every show day with extreme excitement to get to play music! Tour is usually a bit of an endurance test for me, but this has been a serious energy booster! I cant wait to meet and play with all of these quartets!  If you or someone you know would like to take part in this, please contact me on the contact page!

On the site you can sign up for my newsletter to keep abreast of all of my news and I have also strangely taken a liking to Twitter, probably because of my proximity to Twitter master Amanda Palmer so you can check in on there too!

Take care beauties!
Jherek

Stop Motion!

May 30, 2011

I just finished a soundtrack for a fantastic short film by the amazing Eva Hall. I was introduced to her and her work through our mutual friend Jason Webley, who thought we would make good collaborators. I had a great time working on this. I used cello and some homemade instruments built by the Degenerate Art Ensemble that are in the Frye Art Museum’s current exhibition, as well as one of Robert Wilson’s ancient pots that I sampled at the Watermill Center. I hope you enjoy!!

Degenerate Art Ensemble pics and closing thoughts

May 30, 2011

Well, The Degenerate Art Ensembles Red Shoes shows have come to a close. It was such an incredible journey from start to finish. I had a chance to write string quartets, brass band music, a totally disgusting mish mash of midi music that we called Midi Madness, subsonic bass frequencies, and choral music for the St. James Chorus! The project took us out to NYC and The Watermill Center (see post below), and was an introduction to working with the INSANELY talented Dohee Lee. The show took place in four locations around the First Hill neighborhood here in Seattle. I took myself to the limit with performing by playing bass, drum, keyboard, sousaphone, amputated leg, and laptop… CRAZY! I want to thank everyone who came out and REALLY thank all of the volunteers and amazing collaborators that were involved in this very ambitious project! Here are some beautiful pictures from Bruce Tom.

Privilege Pt. 3

March 20, 2011

My crazy face is the cover of the newest installment of the 5 part Privilege set by Parenthetical Girls. These will also be hand numbered in my blood. My mom watches too many crime dramas and is afraid that someone will use this blood at a crime scene, while Zac assures me that actually now we can get away with anything, that we can call plausible deniability because now our blood is widely available. Anyways to commit crimes with our blood, or to just listen to some new tunes.. Head on over to www.parentheticalgirls.com

Free Music

March 17, 2011

A cover I just made of an X-Ray Press Song. Featuring Paris Hurley (Violins), Amy Denio (Sax), Myself on everything else.

The Terms (Jherek Bischoff version) by Jherek Bischoff
This is an orchestral version of Konono No. 1′s Kule Kule. Released on a CD named Tradi-Mods Vs. Rockers on Crammed Discs (2011)

The song features-

Jherek Bischoff- Bass, Cello

Paris Hurley- Violins

Brianna Atwell- Violas

Beth Fleenor- Bass Clarinet

Sam Boshnack- Trumpet

Fred Hawkinson- Trombone

Kule Kule (Orchestral Version) by Jherek Bischoff

Organ Recording!

January 9, 2011

On Friday I had the chance to get into St. Marks Cathedral in Seattle and have their organist play a few of my pieces on their huge organ! It was super amazing. To hear that much sound coming from 1 person, activating thousands of pipes… wheeeew! It was a very exciting moment for me. When I was maybe 12 or so, my school took all us kids on a field trip to check out all the major religions and houses of worship. We ended up at St. Marks Cathedral. They took us up to the organ and a man played the organ for us. This was right around the time when I was choosing an instrument to play. He showed us the range of the instrument and when he played those foot pedals and made the gigantic bass notes come out, well I really believe that that was when I decided to play bass. To feel the whole place vibrating and to hear the wind whizzing through the tubes, it really had an impact on me. So to come around probably close to 20 years later(!!!!) and hear my music played on this instrument was a real pleasure. I recorded 3 pieces.

1. A song I wrote for Parenthetical Girls.

2. A song for string quartet that I arranged for the organ.

3. A piece that Mayumi Heider wrote. She wrote this great piece that when I found out I would be getting access to this organ we arranged it specifically for it.

I would like to thank Robb Kunz for recording and Alan DePuy for being kind enough to play our music!

Brain Fried…

December 6, 2010

I just completed a long crazy string quartet this evening.. My brain has totally melted. The composition is for a performance with The Degenerate Art Ensemble for our big Frye Art Museum exhibit/Performance mid next year. Doesn’t look like much but I am pretty excited about it. I haven’t written by hand in a looooong time and man.. my fingers hurt like crazy! I realized I haven’t even picked up a pencil in ages. It felt nice to compose this way again. I wish I could have been away from my computer, but I was composing off of a video of Haruko Nishimura dancing a crazy doll dance. I am going to go try it all out with a real string quartet tomorrow.. Maybe if I am fancy enough I will post some audio from the rehearsal. Okay..blah blah blah.. I am going to go watch bad tv now.

Kultur Shock

December 2, 2010

Next week I will be recording with the band Kultur Shock. I will be in charge of recording vocals, violin and saxophone (I think). I am excited about this because their music is great and much different than anything else I have ever worked on. The drums, bass and guitar were recorded by Jack Endino. I took the opportunity last week to check out his studio and watch how he works as well as hear what Kultur Shock were up to. It’s always fun for me to see how other people work. I tried to get a better picture of Jack, but he was super focused and sat in this position with ears toward the speakers the entire time I was there.