Arnold Dreyblatt

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  • Berlin, Germany

Artist Biography

Arnold Dreyblatt (b. New York City, 1953) is a composer, performer and visual artist. He studied music with Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, and Alvin Lucier and has been based in Berlin, Germany since 1984. Among the second generation of New York minimal composers, Dreyblatt developed a unique approach to composition and music performance. As he began his music in the late 1970's in New York, he invented a set of new and original instruments, performance techniques, and a system of tuning and has formed and led numerous ensembles under the title "The Orchestra of Excited Strings". In 2007, he was elected to the German Academy of Art (Akademie der Künste, Berlin). He is currently Professor for Media Art at the Muthesius Academy of Art and Design in Kiel.

Dreyblatt has been composing music for his own and other ensembles for almost forty years. Often characterized as the most rock-oriented of American minimalists, Dreyblatt has cultivated a strong underground fan base for his transcendental and ecstatic music with his "Orchestra of Excited Strings". The New York native studied film and video at SUNY with Woody and Steina Vasulka, and earned his masters from the Institute for Media Studies at S.U.N.Y. Buffalo. In the mid-'70s, he studied composition with Pauline Oliveros and LaMonte Young, then with Alvin Lucier while completing his masters in composition, completed in 1982. By that time, Dreyblatt had already been directing his own music ensemble, the Orchestra of Excited Strings.

In 1984, he moved to Europe where, in addition to composing, he began to work in performance and the visual arts. He has received numerous grants, stipends and commissions including the Philip Morris Art Prize, Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art and from the Irish Arts Council. Musicians and Ensembles which have performed his music include the Bang On A Can All-Stars, the Pellegrini Quartet, Jim O'Rourke, Crash Ensemble (Dublin), The Great Learning Orchestra (Stockholm), and the American Indie-band Megafaun. In 1991, he created the contemporary opera Who's Who in Central and East Europe 1933 which toured European theatres until 1997.

Dreyblatt has recorded for such labels as Tzaddik, Hat Hut, Table of the Elements, Cantaloupe, Important, Northern Spy, Choose and Black Truffel. Dreyblatt has taught music workshops resulting in performed compositions with musicians at The Music Gallery, Toronto; MIT Boston, Serralves Foundation, SXSW Festival  Porto, Portugal and many others.  He has performed with and without his ensemble at the Whitney Museum, New York; the Maerz Music Festival, Berlin; the Angelika Festival, Bologna; The Lab in San Francisco, Jazz House, Copenhagen and countless other festivals and concert venues in Europe and in North America.

Selected Press

…and Arnold Dreyblatt’s music is one hell of a giant intersection, there’s no lack of propulsion; left, right, up, down, it’s all there with a seriously overworked traffic controller at it’s center. But above all this hubub, stories above, there is the air that is thrown into currents by all the activity below, becoming visible, crashing into each other and sending new currents on their way. I have often heard "you can’t grab air", but of course you can, it just visits your hand for a moment. But with Arnold Dreyblatt, the air grabs you, and you can stay as long as you like. (and turn it up.....)
Jim O'Rourke
While I really like everything of Arnold's, especially the more "heroic" parts of Nodal Excitations and Propellors in Love, this is the record that really steps out as the first genuinely new sound in maybe 10 years. It's as if the Dirty Dozen Brass band got a hold of some of Arnold's records and decided to give it a go. I cannot overstate how unbelievably brilliant this record is. When played loud, I firmly stand by my declaration that it is one of the 4 or so best records ever made.
Jim O'Rourke
...lightly carnival moments, tweaked ska counter rhythms, percussive foregrounds overlying slide effects backgrounds, barely-contained marching band funk -- all these are part of Dreyblatt's musical world.
The illusion of music moving through three-dimensional space- an effect that great loopers like Plastikman and DJ Shadow create through the clever juxtaposition of static and dynamic musical elements-is not in evidence here. Instead, the delight in Dreyblatt's music comes from the details, the continuously revived freshness in the repeated gestures, and the warm pulse that comes from music actually played by bows, sticks and fingers.
Ben Finane, NY Press
...Rewardingly visceral, a dual exploration of how instruments react to the touch and how musicians mesh with each other ... a stellar ensemble.
New York Times
As is the case with 'Poème électronique,' there is obviously no way for a two-channel system to capture the full spatial impact of Dreyblatt's sound sculpture. What is surprising, though, is just how much of a sense of space and perspective this recording affords. From the distant, pulsed trudge that opens the work, seeming to approach from ahead and to the right, the echoing timbres create an enthralling illusion of three dimensions. Echo is never overbearing, however, and in an astonishing feat of mixing prowess, each sound is layered to allow enough transparency and depth to fill any listening environment.
Marc Medwin, Dusted
Each piece offered a different perspective into sounds journey in and out of what is commonly called music.
Anne Powers, New York Times
A major figure in the minimalist lineage that connects La Monte Young to Sonic Youth.
Ann Powers, New York Times
Dreyblatt may have composed the perfect soundtrack to an urban life.
K. Goldsmith, New York Press
A composer of stature, Dreyblatt has charted his own unique course in modern classical music. Often characterized as the most rock-oriented of American minimalists, his work with the Orchestra of Excited Strings does justice to the moniker....
An expat composer, Dreyblatt has studied and played with Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, and LaMonte Young. His music is precise, gorgeous, and rich, based on the ringing, overlapping tones of droning, "excited" strings and other instruments… Fans of Phill Niblock, Tony Conrad, and the Deep Listening Band will be pleasantly excited by this collection of experiments, live recordings, and unreleased shorter works that include horns, percussion, a variety of prepared string instruments, and hurdy-gurdy put to exquisite, levitating use.
Mike McGonigal, New York Press
The bright, punchy staccato nature of Dreyblatt's compositions allude to some of Michael Nyman's early ensemble works, a character further emphasized by the dynamic constraints of the instrumentation... ...Dreyblatt wants you to listen through the beats in order to connect with the overtone structures and resonant sound features bouncing off the rhythmic surfaces... ...I've certainly grown to love it.
David Illic, The Wire Magazine Soundcheck Winner