Well, not exactly…. There were a few back in the day. But this is really the first in a new series of shows I'll be doing to support the new album PLAY HUMAN which is coming out this Summer. I'll be playing both here in the states and in europe. So be on the lookout for me! I may be invading your town and your zip code any day now. Join the newsletter to stay prepared….
Hello Lovely Peoples,
Ok, lemme catch my breath…..
I was on the radio this Saturday night being interviewed, chilling with some great friends, and giving all a sneak peak of my new album, PLAY HUMAN.
I was the first ever guest on Natchie Night Fly Radio (Look at this gorgeous page) a brand new show on Bboxradio. Natchie is hosted by the divine singer-songwriter and artist Nadia Ackerman and her beau, visionary synth lord Harvey Jones.
As you know from previous communiqués, I am getting ready to release PLAY HUMAN this Summer, so this radio show came at the perfect time to get the party started.
Tune in and enjoy the fun, above. Looking forward to meeting you in Radioland, where it all began.
Thanks and Hugs to you,
noun boon·dog·gle \ˈbün-ˌdä-gəl, -ˌdȯ-
1) an expensive and wasteful project usually paid for with public money
2) a piece for solo piano by Noah Hoffeld
Hey Guys! Here's a piece I wrote for solo piano, brought to life here by the miraculous David Shenton. I think its good snowy day music. Mixed and mastered by the great producer Jacob Lawson. Thanks for listening and stay cozy
A small miracle has occurred! This post of mine got over 100 shares in one week, from folks I didn't know, just responding to how they felt about my song and video, 'One Family.' I am deeply humbled by this expression of love and support from listeners. And the count continues to grow. much love. we are truly 'one family.'
Happy Black History Month, Friends!
I created this song this weekend in honor of our beloved Dr. King. And there’s a video made from archival footage to go along with it.
Its been a tough year for civil rights but I believe a good one as well. All the tragedy has gone to open our eyes to the state of affairs and the need for enormous change. And in seeing that need, the change has already begun.
Abuses of power and failures of the judicial system are really extensions of our own deepest beliefs, in my mind. unfortunately none of us is free of prejudice and fear. Lets use this opportunity to search for love deep within us, knowing in the words of Dr King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech that,
“One day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
Being at the Chamber Music America conference last weekend got me thinking about what a gift it is to play a musical instrument, or for that matter to play anything that occupies more than two dimensions.
In the winter months I find myself spending more and more time alone and in my cave. And spending less time wandering the streets or lying about in east river park getting sunburnt. I'm busy working at home, composing and recording, connecting with peeps, and of course, finding ways to waste time.
It all amounts to a lot of time staring at screens. I work at home mostly but will go to a cafe when I've had enough of being that squeaky little creature, in my living room without the company of another for far too long. My companion's out at her job, sticking people with needles- which make them feel better from living the same mad lifestyle as I do.
This is when having something real to do in the 3 dimensional world is a great gift. For some it may be cooking or crochet, for others playing NY co-ed soccer. For some, making paintings drawings and sculptures is their lot; and lucky they are.
Me, I've been blessed with a creation of pine and spruce, with strings and a bow of horse hair. Making time everyday, or almost everyday, to practice the cello gives me respite from the world of screens and pixels, from bleeps and blogs. Playing the cello is a natural remedy for all of the disconnect that arises from being just a mind and a mouse, everything in between severed and deleted, as if I'd pressed command X on my own torso.
The vibrations of the cello sink deeply into my body and penetrate to my deepest being, allowing me to then sink deeply into my self, my whole self this time. They carry me past the gulf of mind and form, like the boatman on the Styx, and transport me to a level of connection that is otherwise inexperienced in my day to day. And like stephen hawking said of the joy of discovery, "I won't compare it to sex..... but it lasts longer."
Playing the cello gives me a time to reconnect my body mind and soul, and to revel in that connection. Put aside the deep frustration that is also sometimes a part of trying to perfect ones art, and those moments of glory make the whole thing worthwhile. And all of this before even sharing it with any listener or audience.
And this experience of connection is available to anyone. Listening to live music is one way to step out of the computer bubble or go beyond the abilities of your hi-fi. You can take up weaving. Or, no matter how long you've lived, you can start to play an instrument. It's never too late.
How do you find connection, bridge the gap between body and mind, and reverse the effects of computer head? I'd love to know any and all experiences or thoughts.
If you liked this, please share with a friend or ten!
As i'm praying for the victims of the Charlie attacks, I'm also taking time to pray for the attackers. Although I'm horrified by their actions, in this strange world of quarks, there really is no us, no them. Every time I feel righteous indignation (often), I'm sure I experience the vibration of what they felt seeing the cartoons. And that energy in me is part and parcel of that energy in them, just one body over to the left or to the right. If we really want to see an end to our global epidemic of violence, we can look to heal our own rage anger indignation, anything and everything that keeps us separate from one another, and from love.
It's been a great month for playing on film scores here in NYC. I'm still always surprised at the amount of great film that's being produced here in the city. Somehow the little boy in me still thinks it's all out there in Hollywood. Anyhow, I had the great honor of playing solos and ensemble cello on 'A Walk in the Woods' starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson and 'The Experimenter' starring Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Rider. Also, a documentary- 'How to Dance in Ohio.' 'Walk' was scored by Nathan Larson (The Skeleton Twins) and also features my buddy Maxim Moston on violin. 'Experimenter' and 'Dance' were scored by Bryan Senti, a wonderful young composer. All three films are headed to Sundance this year. 'Walk' was filmed in a tiny studio here in Williamsburg and 'Experimenter' at the venerable Avatar Studios in Hells Kitchen. Hey NY!
So stoked that The Skeleton Twins has received an extended theatrical release here in the States and is now opening in theaters globally as well. And recently Bill Hader was nominated for Best Actor Gotham Award for his performance. I played cello solos on the beautiful soundtrack by Nathan Larson. Its especially exciting because I love both of these actors and I think the film carries a very important message. See it!
Congratulations to my student Ari Goldman on the publication of his new book The Late Starters Orchestra by Algonquin Press. The book includes anecdotes about my teaching and involvement in his life as a cellist. I also served as technical consultant for all things cello during the writing of the memoir. In LSO, the author discovers a group of supportive and funny adult beginners meeting in New York (and worldwide) to rehearse and perform orchestral music. Publisher's Weekly has called it one of the best ten music books of its season. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested in taking up an instrument as an adult or as a gift to anyone you know who loves music and a good tale. Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
Ari is a contributor to the New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications, is professor of journalism at Columbia and the author of several bestsellers including The Search for God at Harvard.
Now that the high holidays and their incessant cello-ing are over and I'm just about done with my obsessive revisions of my new rock album, I’ll have some time to reflect over events of the recent and not so recent past. Today I'm thinking about a run we did at The Village Vanguard this summer, with Fabian Almazan's 'Rhizome' octet.
Walking thru little italy and chinatown on an immaculate fall day, I'm here just for the release. It's natural to reminisce on a day like this and, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna wax nostalgic for a while. As a kid, I used to jump the R train from borough hall to canal street and ride my skateboard through these streets, picking up cheap dope clothes at canal jean and having lunch with my brother at house of vegetarian on mott. I had my aiwa in my pocket, Sandinista! on auto reverse.
Walking around here now makes me think of all the places that have come and gone and of how I've changed in the mix. Looking at myself in a skype window this morning, sending a video message to a bud, I angle my head to mask the most egregious lines.
Like my mug, nyc undergoes a constant change. Some things remain...House of Veg is still there and is still a favorite mtg spot for my bro and me. Canal Jean's been replaced by H+M. As I walk down the craggy and untameable streets, I can't help notice the new timbre and energy of the city. It's a big fashion nowdays for NYers to bemoan this change, to rank on taylor swifts ‘welcome to ny,’ to get on the hate loop, almost the way tourists get on the Grey Line. I paid my fare and enjoyed the ride but I'm craning my neck to get a better view now lest I go crazy cursing out the new inhabitants, buildings, boutiques, and banks and shrivel up into a special kind of Scrooge wheeled in just in time for lovely ny xmas. I can still feel the radical realness of New Yorkers and I'm focussing on that today. And I'm not just talking about how the stereotype speaks his mind, I refer to the unflinching ability we have to not cover up who we are. No pleasantries or airs. We are who we are even when we're silent. So F... you.
A place that typifies this authenticity is The Village Vanguard. Playing there is like entering a holy temple or shrine. You must wash first. Say your prayers. Mentally prepare to meet your maker. Entering the Vanguard is like entering the wormhole in time bandits. A portal I mean. I'm transported to those sweet high school nights I spent watching Diz and Boo here and at Sweet Basil. It manages to preserve the energy of my NYC childhood too, and is one of the few places I feel that. Moreover, the personal vibes and sound vibrations of the past masters are all preserved there, like an Essex street pickle bobbing in brine.
Sitting on stage with the band during sound check the afternoon of our first show, I’m enthralled and shaken by these ghosts. Miles, Monk and Mingus all swerve and spin about my head. I look over my shoulder at a life-sized bust of Coltrane and he and I begin a dialogue. Like a Dickens spectre, he's not overly encouraging. I've got to watch my step, pay attention to my playing and above all be real. No shiny bullshit. I get it John. Thank you. I'll do my best. And please put in a good word for me with the JazzGod. I feel stupid talking about it almost like it's wrong. Sacrosanct this feeling at the Vanguard. Am I breaking an oath? Perhaps.
But the feeling abides. Even now in early November I'm haunted by the resonance of sitting on that stage. The photo sits on my desk daily reminding me of the glory of playing to a small room of devoted supplicants of art. they dint come for glitz- they entered a dark and dank basement and spent the evening emitting their b.o. and loving human warmth at me. I felt it.
And Rhizome is one of my favorite groups to be with, favorite peeps who are also gorgeous musicians. Incredible compositions by Fabian there. We played at the Kennedy Center in the spring for the Blue Note Records 75th Anniversary. And I must say that although I quaked and trembled in anticipation, the effect of being there couldn't compare to being inside my dear Vanguard. The stony carpeted halls maybe reminded me too much of my first home, Lincoln Center, where I spent my college days at the worship of other masters-Bach Beethoven and Brahms- yet never feeling their actual spirits were allowed in the building. Maybe they forgot their i.d.
There are a few spots like the Vanguard still knockin about the city and maybe if you and I continue to focus on them we can kindle a fire akin to the days when as kids we held the magnifying lens over paper in the backyard and let the sun burn it's bright way into our brain cells, memorizing the moment our spirits were called to bend the knee at the altar of art and of music and of love. I plan to.
This week I had the privilege to play some great music. Playing is always a gift, but I say privilege here because this type of performance wasn't always permitted, and its timing coincided with a historic milestone.
Wednesday was the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp. Basya Schechter and band played John Zorn's downtown venue, The Stone. Basya's 'Songs of Wonder' is a powerful setting of the poetry of prophet Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who was also a freedom fighter with MLK. The poetry too, is a celebration of freedom: in this case his own youthful exploration of life outside the Hasidic community.
It's funny for me, because I really don't play too much Jewish music these days. Since my efforts with Sacred Time, I've been laying low as a Jew and working hard on my rock songs. So I felt there was something special about this confluence of events, something of particular import for me.
It turns out the timing was everything.
For most of my life I've avoided the Holocaust. Never wanted to study it, read about it, talk about it. I'm a sensitive dude; paying attention to something that dark had consequences for me. Meanwhile, my relationship to Judaism suffered from it. 'Why can't we just live in the present?', I'd mentally plead while listening to another sermon, shunning services and holidays except when hired to play. And the Holocaust as a returning topic of discussion kept me from getting close to some family, some of whom are now sadly beyond reach.
But this week was an opportunity for me. Instead of looking back at the horrors of 70 years ago, I could reflect on the fact that it's over. I meditated on the courage of the troops who brought the war to an end. Who liberated the camps. Without their tremendous sacrifice, there probably wouldn't be much of a Jewish people, let alone a thriving downtown Jewish music scene :)
'When I get to NYC lets go somewhere openly Jewish'. These were the words of an Arab-American friend a week after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket. He wanted us to celebrate freedom of expression and freedom of religion; to celebrate the ability of Jews to be Jews. I was deeply grateful.
It's been a terrifying time to be Jewish, as anti Semitism is spiking all over Europe. In Sweden, the relatively peaceful place I once lived, hate of the Jewish community I came to know is on the rise. Thousands of French Jews are leaving for Israel, the number growing exponentially each year. All of the facts and figures scare me.
They scare me so much that I was afraid to write this piece. Afraid to take a public stance as a Jew. Afraid to tweet and FB about my Jewish performances. Afraid to share the locations of our shows. As our band enters a temple compound in Florida for another performance, a thickly armored and heavily armed guard greets us and questions us. It's necessary but It ain't fun.
But despite the fear, my buddy had unearthed an imperative: Now is the time to celebrate jewish expression, to shout our beauty from the rooftops. Never has it been more important to share our sublime vision with the World and for the World to do the same. When oppression dawns, resistance is imperative. As the world proclaims 'Je suis Charlie', I agree and I add:
'Je suis un Yid' 'I am a Jew'
please join the call.
Tuesday evening was magical. Standing at the counter of Oasis Falafel awaiting my dinner ($3), I was filled with excitement. Not only because I’d have the best $3 falafel in Williamsburg, but because i was going to hear the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall ($175. Thanks mom-in-law!).
It was a big night. always a big night when one of the world’s great orchestras plays Carnegie, but this night was extra special. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Even the name makes you tremble in your pants. I’d never heard it live, thru all my life of playing and attending concerts.
As I waited at Oasis, something uncanny happened, a meeting at the well which got me thinking I should keep my eyes open. I’m the kind to see winks from the Universe and whenever these things take place, life-changing shit is about to occur.
A bedraggled, unshaven, short young guy, black guitar case on back, thick black eyeglass frames, black knit hat and oversize black overcoat entered the restaurant, approaching the counter to order. I looked him over, noticed a book peeking from his coat pocket as if intentionally to grab me- Beethoven: Master Composer. I was a little taken aback, but being a student of these winks, I held my ground. I asked the kid about the book.
“Not bad,” he said, “but can’t say I’m really crazy about the author. Got a pipe up his ass.”
“That’s too bad,” I said.
“But I Heard 132 last week and it really blew me away,” referring to Beethoven’s string quartet, the ‘Holy Thanksgiving,’ which Ludwig wrote after an illness he thought’d kill him. With a deep circle under each eye, the guy looked like he could relate.
“Awesome! Who with?”
“Mmm, some Dutch group. It was at the Lincoln Center. Really cool.”
It’s encounters like this that make living in Williamsburg a godsend. Nowhere else on the planet do you have such a convergence of hipsters and high culture, and this nonchalant curiosity about the highest creative acts. It’s the speed of the link on the L-train: in under 30 mins from a hotbed of edgy pop to a bastion of polished classics. Transforming the pop culture, carrying transcendence from the symphony to the 3 minute song, thru a tube under the river. Not that we’re the first to make the connection.
A Clockwork Orange’s ‘bit of the old Ludwig van’ forever welded an antisocial punk, drunk on drugged milk and the Ninth, to the collective consciousness, underscoring Beethoven’s pure rebellion. When I got to Carnegie and heard the show, I was reminded of Burgess’ acuity. There’s nothing as riotous as the Ninth.
In its time there had never been a chorus on stage in a symphony and the composer shocked his audience from the get-go. But the music itself is the greatest mindfuck. The first movement begins with a shimmering of strings atop a sustained bed of horns. And, as the first violins plant their jerky motivic germ into the third bar, the listener’s sense of time is thrown. The ensuing shifts of the motive in time rebel even more fiercely against a fixed pulse. Chaos.
As if we’ve been introduced to the world before form, a world before the separation of light and dark. As if Beethoven in his continued nose thumbing at real life authority and the stricture of musical canon cried, “to hell with all this form crap! Let’s give you all a taste of the formless and see how you dig it.”
I cant think of a precedent in music when formlessness had won out so fully over form, except when some cavemen were blowing flutes around a fire. In Beethoven’s time and for a century to follow, audience and critical reception of the piece was violently negative.
It doesn’t get any easier to follow as the Ninth goes along. In the third movement Adagio-Andante, I noticed my mind straying farther and farther away from Carnegie Hall. Was it the abstraction of the music, the energies diverted from listening toward digestion of falafel, or was it really that my recent attention to crafting a punchy 3 minute song had soured my attention for the unabridged and symphonic, as all warn our fast-food culture does? Maybe all of the above.
In any case, all distraction ended with the first notes of the final movement. How can you hear the forte exclamations of the cellos and basses (low string power!) and not climb to the edge of your seat? The energy becoming so electric and, yes as modern listeners we know that the baritone is about to sing his emphatic call to joy and the other soloists and choir will concur with the Ode and the whole damn thing with orchestra will turn into a bacchanalian celebration of life in sound. I couldn’t believe the insanity of the smile plastered to my face. I was shocked.
In the last bars of music I could actually hear Ludwig himself climbing out from the sound and joyously shouting his affirmation of humanity, life and art. His deafness, decrepitude, his social debasement, none could diminish his unbridled lust for life. Maybe he was urging me to persist in my own intrepid line of expression and to speak, as the Vienna Phil’s manifesto proclaims, from ‘one heart to another.‘ But as the triumph came towards its close, there was no denying the presence of a beating heart within the sound. As the orchestra blasted through the final measures, the musicians dissolved into thin air and a short, bedraggled man was left on stage shouting directly to me. ‘Speak your peace! Live!’ echoed through the hall. The kid at oasis had opened my ears.
Who else could hear I do not know.