Jon Bernson

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Jon Bernson is an American singer, songwriter and recordist from San Francisco, California.[1]

For eight years, Bernson led the indie-folk band Ray's Vast Basement and developed a multimedia approach that is frequently referred to as 'musical fiction'.[2] Current projects include Exray's, Window Twins and THEMAYS.

Ray's Vast Basement[edit]

Early Ray's Vast Basement performances began in 1999 as a one-man show[3] that incorporated music, sound design, video, storytelling, dance and tableau vivant.[4] Subsequent shows added a full band that toured the United States numerous times in support of two cassette releases and three full-length CD's.[5] Ray's Vast Basement shared the stage with many of today's leading indie folk figures, including Jolie Holland, Horsefeathers, The Mountain Goats and Thao with the Get Down Stay Down. The band contributed to a variety of compilations, most notably the Verse Press audio book Isn't It Romantic which featured Richard Buckner, Jeff Tweedy, Jason Molina and David Berman. In addition to these recording efforts, Bernson also penned a short book that details a fictional mythology behind his creations.[6]

Exray's[edit]

Without explanation, Bernson abandoned the name Ray's Vast Basement in 2008 and adopted the Exray's moniker in collaboration with Michael Falsetto-Mapp.[7] Exray's debut performance at SXSW was followed by a national tour and numerous unofficial live recordings. Exray's first studio recording, Ammunition Teeth, was released via cassette on October 12, 2010.[8] The band's first LP, Exray's, was released in February, 2011.[9] It features contributions by Nate Query from The Decemberists, Warren Huegel from Citay, Tim Cohen from The Fresh & Onlys and Black Fiction, Dominic Cramp from Evangelista and Jason Kick from Maus Haus.[10]

Exray's first official song "Everything Goes"[11] appeared on Secret Seven's compilation album In a Cloud: New Sounds from San Francisco, which also includes songs by Thee Oh Sees, Kelley Stoltz, The Fresh & Onlys, Tim Cohen, Sonny and the Sunsets, The Sandwitches, Grass Widow and others.[12]

Soundtracks[edit]

Since 2001 Bernson has written numerous soundtracks for theater and film. His most well known score is a cycle of songs written and performed for a staged version of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men in 2005.[2] Two years later this music was released as a critically acclaimed album called Starvation Under Orange Trees.[13] The Exray's song "Hesitation" was used in the soundtrack for David Fincher's major motion picture The Social Network, about the controversial founding of Facebook.[14][15] Vera Freitag's 2005 film In a Steel Box also features a full soundtrack of Bernson's original music.[16]

Window Twins[edit]

Window Twins is a collaborative group with Tim Cohen that led to an LP called I'm This Tall City in 2008.[17][18] Window Twins began as a duo, but now includes Kevin E. Taylor, a multi-instrumentalist and prolific visual artist. The collaboration between Bernson and Cohen has taken other forms over a five year period. Bernson was a member of Cohen's Black Fiction[19] and Cohen has contributed to Ray's Vast Basement recordings since 2006.

Urban Music Program[edit]

In 1997 Bernson started the "Urban Music Program",[20] an audio creation club for youth. Part of the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center in San Francisco, UMP has generated hundreds of original pieces music which have been released as a series of twenty CDR's known as Beacon Beats.[21] Bernson's work in the UMP has also led to a series of experimental drone records under the THEMAYS moniker. KNOWFI (the debut release) was put out by Gigante Sound in 2009.[22] The club's dedication to DJ'ing was featured in Doug Pray's Scratch, an award-winning movie about the history of turntablism.[23]

1924 Franklin is a Car[edit]

Since 2004 Bernson has shared a small recording studio with songwriter Michael Zapruder called "1924 Franklin is a Car". This space has been the main location for many of Bernson's recording projects and the site of many impromptu sessions with Zapruder. Other recording credits include work with Scott Pinkmountain, Black Fiction, The Lovely Public, Gene V. Baker, Anamude, P.A.F. and Raised By Spacemen.

Howells Transmitter[edit]

Bernson is a founding member of the Howells Transmitter arts collaborative and record label.[24] Other principal members include Jennifer Welch and Colin Held. Howells Transmitter is home to a stylistically diverse group of artists: Charles Atlas, The Fresh & Onlys, Exray's, Michael Zapruder's Rain of Frogs, Black Fiction, Scott Pinkmountain, Window Twins, Ray's Vast Basement, Modular Set and contributors to the Wiretap Music Compilation.[25] Howells Transmitter has produced numerous plays and poetry readings, in addition to its musical endeavors.

Discography[edit]

With Ray's Vast Basement
Year Title Notes
1998 Ray's Vast Basement
  • Cassette
1999 Songs from Drakesville
  • Cassette
2000 On the Banks of the Time
  • CD
  • Re-released with new cover in 2004
2004 By a River Burning Blue
  • CD
2005 Of Mice and Men
  • EP
2007 Starvation under Orange Trees
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • CD
With Window Twins
Year Title Notes
2009 I'm This Tall City
  • Label: Broken Twilight & Howells Transmitter
  • LP
2012 Wish
  • Label: Crash Symbols / Volar Records
  • Cassette / LP
With THEMAYS
Year Title Notes
2009 KNOWFI
  • Label: Gigante Sound
  • CD
2010 KNOWEYE
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • CD / DVD
2011 THEWORKS
  • Label: Self-Released
  • CD
With Exray's
Year Title Notes
2010 Ammunition Teeth
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • EP, cassette & digital download
2011 Exray's
  • Released: January 25, 2011
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • LP
2012 Trust a Robot
  • Released: June 26, 2012
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • Cassette / LP
Ancient Thing
  • Released: June 26, 2012
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • Single
Soundtracks
Year Title Notes
2004 Art of Etiolation
  • Writer: Mia Paschal
  • Film
2005 In a Steel Box
  • Writer: Vera Freitag
  • Documentary
2010 The Social Network
  • Feature film, includes the Exray's song "Hesitation"
Compilations
Year Title Notes
2003 Surprise Partie Optimiste
  • Label: Vivonzeureux
  • LP
2004 City Sessions, Volume 1
  • CD
2005 Isn't it Romantic
  • Label: Verse Press
  • CD / Book
2009 Wiretap Music Presents: Covers
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • CD
2010 In a Cloud: New Sounds from San Francisco
  • Label: Secret Seven
  • LP
2011 City Limits Presents: San Francisco
  • Label: City Limits Records
  • LP
Sound design & coordination
Year Title Notes
1998 The Lucky Spot
  • Actors Theater
1999 Spoon River Anthology
  • Shelton Theater
2001 Snake in Fride
  • Actors Theater
2002 The Open Couple
  • Expression Theater
Chemistry of Change
  • Writer: Marlane Meyer
  • Actors Theater
2005 A View from the Bridge
  • Actors Theater
Of Mice and Men
  • Actors Theater
2006 The Night of the Iguana
  • Actors Theater
2008 Buried Child
  • Actors Theater
2009 The Grapes of Wrath
  • Writer: John Steinbeck
  • Actors Theater
2012 Waiting for Godot
  • Tides Theatre
5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche
  • Writer: Evan Linder and Andrew Hobgood
  • Tides Theatre
Production and recording
Year Title Notes
2005 Beached on the Half Landing
  • Artist: Modular Set
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • CD
2006 "Peg & Awl"
  • Artist: Anamude
  • Label: Hinah Records
  • Single
New Ways of Letting Go
  • Artist: Michael Zapruder
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • CD
Fingerprints, Medicine
  • Artist: P.A.F.
  • Label: New World of Sound
  • CD
Happy Holidays
  • Artist: Black Fiction
  • EP
Burning Tape at the Mystery Dinner
  • Artist: The Lovely Public
  • Label: Wall of Noise
  • CD
2008 The Full Sun
  • Artist: Scott Pinkmountain
  • Label: Howells Transmitter
  • CD
2012 Situation
  • Artist: Future Twin
  • Label: Future Twin Inc.
  • Cassette
Resist
  • Artist: Future Twin
  • Label: Future Twin Inc.
  • CD / Single

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Episode 75: Ray’s Vast Basement". The Bay Bridged. July 31, 2007. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Derk Richardson (January 10, 2008). "Ray's Vast Basement: Bernson turns Steinbeck score into album". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  3. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Ray's Vast Basement biography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ Dean Preston (April 7, 2004). "Don't Miss This: Ray's Vast Basement, April 15". BeyondChron: San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily News. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Ray's Vast Basement discography". AllMusic. Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  6. ^ Sara Marcus (November 2000). "Ray's Vast Basement". Philadelphia Citypaper. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Exray's official website". Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Exray's artist page". Howells Transmitter. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Exray's discography on iTunes Store". Retrieved March 20, 2012. 
  10. ^ Ben Van Houten (June 9, 2008). "Wednesday, 5/28 at Annie’s: Petracovich, Ray’s Vast Basement, The Physics of Meaning". The Bay Bridged. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Exray's "Everything Goes" – Listening & stats". Last.fm. February 11, 2009. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Various Artists- In A Cloud: New Sounds From San Francisco CD & LP (SEC-7-005)". Secret Seven Records, SF. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  13. ^ David (July 3, 2007). "Note Books - Jon Bernson (Ray's Vast Basement)". Largehearted Boy. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  14. ^ "The Social Network soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  15. ^ Larry Fitzmaurice (October 5, 2010). "Exray's: "Hesitation"". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  16. ^ "In a Steel Box". IMDb. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  17. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Window Twins - I'm This Tall City review". AllMusic. Retrieved April 26, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Window Twins - I'm This Tall City review". Broken Twilight. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  19. ^ Hix, Lisa (August 24, 2006). "Black Fiction: The bassist may be a metalhead, but the band's music is folk pop infused with hip-hop beats, beatboxing and funk samples". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Urban Music Program official website". Retrieved April 29, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Urban Music Program". Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  22. ^ "THEMAYS - KNOWFI". Gigante Sound (GIGA019 2010). Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  23. ^ Scratch (2001) at the Internet Movie Database
  24. ^ "Howells Transmitter official website". Retrieved May 1, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Wiretap Music Compilation". Howells Transmitter (HT009/2009). Retrieved May 1, 2012. 

External links[edit]