Personal History

I live in Prague, Czech Republic, whence I washed ashore as a pirate-practitioner, a miscegenator of numerous musical styles. The paths that brought me here are many, so too are the things that I do. I teach, perform and record; I collaborate with artists of many disciplines, including my partner, dancer Rena Milgrom. While living here I have recorded and released three solo cds, and recently had my music used in the documentary City of Gold (premiered at Sundance Film Festival), and live-scored Dziga Vertov's silent film, Man With a Movie Camera at Space NoD.

I perform and tour with the ensembles FysioArt, and have been doing some work with the Balkan band BraAgas. I've worked in musical settings as diverse as the European Overtone Choir, P.I.O., Slet BubinikuVladimir Vaclavek, Philokallia EnsembleFeng-yun Song, and Boro Balkan Band. I play solo concerts, create live and recorded music for dance and theatre productions, and participate in numerous projects. I am often to be found tinkering in my laboratory, constructing an audio track, carving or building some sort of special instrument, or helping students hone and develop their rhythmic skills. 

Over time I have developed a very personal style and full sound based on a relatively small kit consisting of one or more hand drums and a battery of small percussion instruments that I play with the feet. This was not always the case. Once a purist for learning musical forms that weren't native to my demographic, I näively assumed that the Laws of Music were fixed and unchanging. Having little idea of the extent to which my own musical voice would mutate, I had yet to discover that one could even have a musical voice.

 I had the good fortune to move to New York from Minnesota with the punk-funk band The Wallets in 1980. I quickly became immersed in the ‘Downtown’ scene, playing at The Mudd Club, Danceteria, CBGB's, The Kitchen, P.S.122, and countless other venues, encountering musicians and artists from an incredible array of disciplines and visions. I co-founded the alternative bands Saqqara Dogs and Annabouboula, and created numerous dance scores for choreographers Bebe Miller and Ellen Fisher. I mixed it up with composers Carter Burwell, Robert Een, and Meredith Monk, and did session work for Patti Smith, Suzanne Vega, Yoko Ono, Sussan Deyhim among many others. I performed in groups as diverse as The Paul Winter Consort, The Harmonic Choir, Blue Man GroupAnna Domino, Paradox Trio, and even had a period of backing visiting Persian Pop Stars(!). 

Exposure to such a mix of peer pressure, gracious support, and a general openness to experimentation and possibility suited my energy and apparent lack of ambition perfectly. I came somewhat serendipitously into an apprenticeship with master instrument builder Ben Hume: my understanding of sound as well as my approach to music-making were greatly affected. My present sound relies heavily on instruments that I have adapted from traditional designs to my own peculiar tastes. The process is fluid and ongoing, tweaking occurs regularly. (See gallery).

I grew up at a time when pop music was bursting at its seams: the airwaves were full of The Beatles, James Brown, and The Beach Boys; on the turntable were records by John Coltrane, Olatunji, The Velvet Underground, Sun RaCaptain Beefheart, and tons of Ethnographic Archival Material that would one day be called World Music.

Coming from a family of Visual Art Geeks, I had very much wanted to make music, so I experimented with many different instruments, eventually finding an affinity with hand drums. By the time I graduated high school I was gigging in funk bands, African dance troupes and all manner of jazz/rock hybrids. Things were happening fast and I needed to dig a deeper foundation for myself- being an enthusiastic dilettante was not going to cut it. I studied Afro-Cuban (Conga) and North Indian (Tabla) drumming formally, while teaching myself to play the Goblet Drums of various Middle Eastern traditions (Dumbek). I spent months in Brasil soaking up the music of Capoeira, Batucada and Forró. Other places I've traveled to for musical research include Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, India, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey and Romania. I take teaching from native musicians whenever and wherever possible.

I came to Czech Republic for the first time after September 11, 2001, seeking quiet and a different way to feel myself a citizen of the world. I liked it, eventually relocating to Prague in 2007. This was all before I had any clue as to how pervasive the genre known as Czech Country was. You can't have everything, but who in their right mind would even want  to?