Paul Brody

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Paul Brody (* 1961 in Seattle ) is an American sound artist, composer, trumpeter and author who lives in Berlin. In the context of the art forms radio art , sound installation , composition and performance, a large part of his works deals with the relationship between word and melody.


Youth and education

Brody is the son of a Ukrainian immigrant; his mother was against the Nazis from Vienna fled.

Brody spent most of his youth in San Leandro , California, where problems with dyslexia led him to seek his medium of expression in music and poetry. He studied composition, poetry and trumpet at San Francisco State University and Boston University and Third Stream Music at the New England Conservatory of Music .

As a writer and performer , Brody has been active in Boston's lively poetry and experimental music scene. At Boston University , he produced a series of interdisciplinary events with actors, dancers, poets, and musicians that he called the Un-recitals . He learned from poets like Denise Levertov , Bill Knot, Derek Walcott, and Charles Simic, and Brody was often invited to read on the Boston poetry scene. Even before he received his bachelor's degree in music performance, he had already won two Ex Libris awards from the literature magazine at Boston University.

After Brody received his Masters in Third Stream Music from the New England Conservatory , he toured with various ensembles. He later moved to Berlin to pursue his career as a composer , performer and sound artist .

Sound art

Inspired by Joseph Beuys , Charles Ives , Samuel Beckett and the Art Ensemble of Chicago , as well as by the Studs Terkel and Alan Lomax traditions of collecting stories and folklore , Brody uses oral history to create word- and sound-oriented narrative structures from documentary material. "A story is a melody and a melody is a story," ( a story is a melody and a melody is a story ) is Brody's interview with the Tagesspiegel . In general, his sound installations examine the relationship between vocal melody, identity and the concept of home . Brody believes that while the words convey meaning, the speech melody can be heard as something that carries its own independent narrative. Voices that speak one language, spoken in the speaking melody of another language, contain infinitely more complex parallel narratives. In addition, the speech melody reveals both impersonal and personal information: origin, family history or travel, but also emotional state and physical condition.

Brody's first large sound installation was shown in the Jewish Museum Berlin in the local history exhibition in 2011 . Five Easy Pieces explores the perception of home by people living in Berlin describing how they see themselves in relation to the city they have adopted. In the installation, the Swiss filmmaker Dani Levy , the Afro-German writer Katharina Oguntoye , the Indian curator Mini Kapur, the teachers Anna and Helmut Franz and Brody themselves have their say. While Berliners describe where they live in Berlin, their speech melodies reveal a lot about their emotional states and their origins. The museum built a room with a multi-channel sound system for this installation .

As part of the transmediale festival for digital art and culture, Brody created the surveillance artwork Five Families Listening: A listening installation (2015) for the art space NK . With the help of secret recordings, the piece explores the acoustic spaces of living rooms in which families talk.

The installation Art Accompanying Noise (2016) for the prinz-georg // raum für Kunst is an important work in which Brody explores the sounds that arise around various working artists while the person talks about his or her own creative process. The sounds of the work reflect the material used and tell their own story. The artists who talk about their work, as well as the resulting work, are secondary to the noises that are used as the basis for the musical composition. The by-product noise is brought into focus, while the finished art objects are secondary. The installation was exhibited in the form of boxes in which the respective composition can be heard from the lid.

Talking Melody-Singing Story (2016) was created as part of Brody's artist residency at the Münchner Kammerspiele . The piece is largely based on the operatic structure of aria and recitative . For Talking Melody, Brody recorded singers who remember the moment when they realized their voice was special. These stories were used to create arias based on the singers' speech melodies. For Singing-Story, Brody recorded people in three different cities who describe what opera means to them. These answers were accompanied by a recitative. The interviews were conducted with star singers such as Anna Prohaska , Laurent Naouri and Lorin Sklamberg. The installation was shown in a specially built miniature opera house.

"Talking Melody - Singing Story". The almost twenty-minute audio film by the American musician Paul Brody tears open the often perfectly staged surface of the opera art form, lets singers chat intimately or questions prisoners in Alabama about their relationship to opera, as well as German passers-by ... Brody's sound installation captures this moment of the Getting intimate wonderfully on: Opera singers who chat about their first conscious experiences with their voice - most of these singers then promptly start singing children's songs - not forced, more as a sonic example for their anecdotes. "

Voices of Help (2016–2017) is a documentary sound installation in three rooms in the youth museum in Berlin. The work explores the concept of helping in the form of interviews with volunteers and social workers from the post-socialist-communist area of ​​the Rote Insel in Berlin. Each voice was given an instrument to highlight the personal qualities of the respondent. The first room is devoted to reports on the personal beginnings of individual helpers. The second room explores the professional tools of social workers with the help of collected interviews , and the third room is dedicated to those who expand the system of helping society as a whole, mainly through voluntary work with refugees, which is often important for the helpers themselves. The exhibition was inspired by various factors: Studs Terkel's curiosity about the same neighborhood Brody lives in, the experience that helping has a less prominent position in American culture and finally through knowledge of the people who helped Brody's mother when she as 13-year-old in a Kindertransport the Nazis in Vienna was able to escape.

Radio art and documentary work

Between 2002 and 2012 Brody produced a number of radio programs for children, about young music-loving people from different countries. In these programs, the young musicians and composers were not only portrayed, but also reflected on their social and cultural life.

In the WDR series 'Musikselbermachen' (2007–2008), Brody also worked with young storytellers who presented the programs. From 2010 to 2012 he continued this project for the SWR series “Klangküche”. The young musicians, who dealt with a wide variety of musical styles, came from Guatemala , Canada , the USA and Eastern and Western Europe .

In 2013 Brody produced the short contribution How I didn't meet Diana Ross for National Public Radio (NPR) as part of the Berlin Stories series .

In 2014 Brody produced an entire program that deals with sound culture in Berlin: The Fringe Sound of Berlin . Here he explored the following questions: How does the city sound? How does the mentality of the city influence the musicians? The program includes interviews with architects such as Barkow Leibinger , Christine Edmaier, authors such as Leslie Dunton-Downer, Robert Beachy, Carol Scherer and musicians such as David Marton, Marie Goyette , David Moss , Daniel Dorsch , Wolfgang Müller and Jochen Arbeit from Einstürzende Neubauten .

In 2014 Brody worked on the development of the WDR radio series Made in America . For this, he wrote and produced the Road Trip telecast Southern Discomfort -A Jew from Oklahoma . It deals with the cultural points of contact between Jewish and southern culture using the example of the life of the legendary bassist and songwriter Mark Rubin.

In 2016, Brody wrote and produced the radio show Most Wanted Poets, Escape from Alabama Prison , for WDR , about the influence of art and poetry on the harsh living conditions of the prison system in Alabama .

In 2017 Brody produced a WDR radio show about the cultural perspectives of the German constitution . He also reworked the Talking Melody-Singing Story project , which arose during his artist residency at the Kammerspiele in Munich , into radio art for Deutschlandradio .

Brody as a trumpeter

Based on the playing traditions of the classical and jazz trumpet , Brody melts language, art and melody into his trumpet solos in his works. His solo trumpet technique is based less on traditional melodic ideas than on movement, the use of space, the creation of sounds and the melodic inspiration of language. The rich experimental theater scene in Berlin made him meet the director David Marton, who is known for his music theater experiments . Brody works as a performing artist in David Marton's ensemble, combining improvisation on the trumpet with acting. The group has developed several works at theaters such as MC93 (House of Culture in Paris), the Schaubühne , the Volksbühne Berlin , the international Chekhov Theater Festival in Moscow and the Burgtheater in Vienna . Brody has performed his works with voice and melody in a wide variety of galleries and museums, such as the Jewish Museum Berlin or the Galerie Häusler Contemporary in Munich . In 2016 Brody held an artist residency in the opera house of the Münchner Kammerspiele , where he took on a singing role for trumpet in the experimental production La Sonnambula.

Compositions and band projects

With the help of a scholarship from the Berlin Senate , Brody founded his ensemble Paul Brody's Sadawi in 2011 . The group toured extensively in the US , Canada and Europe and has produced seven albums for US , German and Polish labels. Originally the ensemble dealt with the points of contact between contemporary jazz and traditional klezmer music. Many of these compositions were inspired by Jewish philosophers such as Martin Buber , Abraham Joshua Heschel and Walter Benjamin . These works can be found on the three albums recorded for the Tzadik label between 2011 and 2013 .

“Paul Brody is a remarkable trumpeter, composer and arranger who lives in Berlin. [...] He brought together some of the best musicians from the USA and Germany and created a new Jewish 'super group'. The music combines exciting arrangements, catchy songs and captivating solos to create a different classic from the new Jewish renaissance. [...] Brody invents a new Jewish jazz for the 21st century. [...] "

In 2014 the ensemble started doing what Brody calls the “indie jazz cinematic sound” and signed a deal with Enja Records. They recorded the album Behind All Words, which is dedicated to the poems of Rose Ausländers . The CD presents advanced compositional techniques with electronics , strings and singers, with guest soloists Meret Becker , Clueso and Jelena Kuljić . The CD was on the list of the best for the German Record Critics' Award in the Grenzgangen category. Sadawi's second album with Enja, Vanishing Night, deals with literature and theater works and is dedicated to Mary Cappello, Czesław Miłosz and David Marton. In addition to Sadawi, Brody has performed as a soloist and in collaboration with artists such as John Zorn , Kent Nagano , Wim Wenders , Blixa Bargeld , Barry White , Ari Benjamin Meyers , David Moss , The Supremes , Tony Buck , Shirley Bassey , Ran Blake , Alan Bern , Frank London , Michael Rodach, Clueso, 17 Hippies , Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird played and recorded.

Radio productions

  • WDR 'Musikselbermachen' (2007-2008)
  • SWR 'Klangküche' (2010–2012)
  • WDR Southern Discomfort - A Jew from Oklahoma (2014)
  • WDR Most Wanted Poets, Escape from Alabama Prison (2016)
  • WDR Basic Law - Cultural Perspectives in the German Basic Law (2017)
  • Deutschlandradio - Radio Art: Talking Melody - Singing Story (2017)


  • WDR 5 Lilipuz, Favorite Songs (WDR, EMI, Virgin Records) (2007)
  • German Record Critics' Prize , best list (2015)
  • Guest artist at the international radio conference in Vienna (2016)
  • International Chekhov Theater Festival Moscow

Discography (selection)


  • Joachim-Ernst Berendt, Günther Huesmann: The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to the 21st Century. Chicago Review Press 2009, ISBN 1-613-7460-40 .
  • Magdalena Waligorska: Klezmer's Afterlife: An Ethnography of the Jewish Music Revival in Poland and Germany. Oxford University Press 2013, ISBN 0-199-9958-0X , p. 169.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. B ooklet the CD Paul Brody's Sadawi: Kabbalah Dream , Cat. # 7163, label Tzadik 2002