NEW MUSIC - Johnny Breitwieser
Back in 2014, I composed music for a play, Johnny Breitwieser, written by Austrian playwright Thomas Arzt, produced by Schauspielhaus Wien.
I never anticipated releasing this music until I started my Patreon last year. I chose six songs that I felt fit together nicely and gave a good overview of the music from the play, and through the support of my patrons, recorded these songs for an EP.
Here are some words about the play and music from the playwright himself, Thomas Arzt:
Johann Breitwieser was born in 1891 and said to be the Robin Hood of Vienna. He was hunted by the police, investigated by reporters, dreaded by the rich and adored by the poor. He broke out from prison, flew from the army during World War I, ducked out in the suburbs, broke into banks, gave money and bread to those who needed it and finally captured half a million from the National Weapon Factory. Then he bought a family house in the countryside, where he lived under a false name together with his love Anne, his little brother Carl and his friends Luise and Wenzl like a Bourgeois. But police officer Schoedl and his dog Ferro sniffed him out. Johnny was shot in spring of 1919 on the run at 5 in the afternoon. At his funeral in Vienna thousands of people followed the coffin to his final resting place.
I didn't know anything about Johnny, until a young man sold me a street magazine with a short column about this infamous burglar of Vienna. So I found my Outlaw Hero and wrote a play about his life and his legend. And Jherek composed these ingenious bittersweet and unresting music for it. Finally we came up with a murder ballad full of violence, love, melancholy and an impulsive zest for life.
I got to spend some time in Vienna working on this music. The rich history of music and culture of the city, along with working on a "murder ballad" really influenced this music and helped me produce music like I've never written before.
This is a collaboration with my dear friend and incredible performer Meow Meow. She brought these songs to life with her phenomenal singing and hypnotizing performance. I can't imagine anyone else doing these songs more justice. Here are some words from Meow Meow:
Since meeting through our beautiful Amanda Palmer, we’ve worked on song cycles for falling down theatres, and requiems in graveyards all over the world together. I loved working on these “Johnny” songs with Jherek - with their roots in German murder ballads, proletariat rants, Mozart, the wild Weimar period, courtly aristocratic trills, sprechchors, kabarett diseuses, order and anarchy. Jherek conjures his own unique creations that tell a million stories and are thrilling to render. Frailty, desperation, passion, rage, manipulation and tenderness, the group and the individual battling within and without each other…he lets the voice be heightened and unbridled…theatrical and real…again why I love him.
I should add, from Brecht’s "Surabaya Johnny" to "Stage Door Johnny"…the “Johnny” in German popular song is so full of resonance…and to me too....it was so easy to find a way in….and have those Johnnies swirling around us in the studio!
If you're not familiar with Meow Meow's work, CHECK HER OUT NOW! She will have an audience bursting at the seams with laughter one minute, and in silent transfixion the next. Goosebump city!
For this recording, I had the pleasure of working with some of my dearest musician friends, the uber-talented Paris Hurley on violin, Marta Sofia Honer on viola and Aniela Marie Perry on cello. I also was able to invite my brother Korum Bischoff to contribute to these songs on drums.
Meow Meow - Vocals
Paris Hurley - Violin
Marta Sofia Honer - Viola
Aniela Marie Perry - Cello
Korum Bischoff - Drums and Percussion
Words by Thomas Arzt (Rowohlt Verlag)
Music by Jherek Bischoff
Recorded, Produced, Engineered, Mixed and Mastered by Jherek Bischoff
Percussion Recorded by James Newman at Rabbit Hole Studios
Artwork by Mayumi Heider
Special thanks to Jürgen Ahlmer, Karl Bischoff and Leslie Phinney, Nathalie Boisard-Beudin, Isabel Vogt, Lisa Forrette, Mark Alan Mendes, Ryn Miake-Lye, Virginia Willcox, Crystal Wilson and W Andrew York.
Johnny Breitwieser will be playing at Stadttheater Giessen this fall in Germany, with a premiere on September 1st, so if you happen to live in or around the area, you should check it out: https://www.stadttheater-giessen.de/spielzeit/stueckansicht/johnny-breitwieser-de-1.html