Jherek Bischoff

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Jherek Bischoff
Jherek Bischoff Roxy Theater 18 July 2013.jpg
Bischoff performing with Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra at the Roxy Theater, West Hollywood, California.
Background information
Born (1979-09-11) September 11, 1979 (age 39)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
Genres Alternative, classical music
Occupation(s) Composer, musician, songwriter
Instruments Bass guitar, ukulele, vocals, cello, violin, keyboards, drums, trombone, clarinet, guitar
Years active 2000–present
Labels Brassland (US), The Leaf Label (UK)
Website Official website

Jherek Brandon Bischoff (born September 11, 1979),[1] is an American musician, composer, arranger, producer and songwriter, currently living in Los Angeles.


Bischoff was born in Sacramento, California. When he was a young child his parents decided they wanted to move aboard a sailboat, and eventually sailed up the coast to the Pacific Northwest. Bischoff spent his early years on the boat and when he was 14 years old, the family departed on a two-year sailing trip to Central America, through the Panama Canal and into the Caribbean.[2]

The family eventually returned to their home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where Bischoff learned to play a wide variety of instruments. Bischoff has some fluency on a number of woodwinds (saxophone, clarinet), brass (tuba, trombone, trumpet) and stringed instruments (electric bass, guitar, ukulele, banjo, stand-up bass, cello, violin). As a composer, Bischoff is largely self-taught having attended part-time college classes on the topic and gaining experience by writing arrangements and compositions for fellow artists in the Seattle music scene. Music was also a family tradition. His father, who had studied music at the University of California, Davis with John Cage and Stanley Lunetta, had been in avant garde and experimental bands throughout the 1970s.[2]

Early career[edit]

Bischoff first emerged as a sideman, co-writer, and accompanist in several bands. In the first decade of the 2000s, he was a member and collaborator with Parenthetical Girls, Xiu Xiu, Degenerate Art Ensemble, and The Dead Science. More recently, he was a member of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra and has collaborated with The Wordless Music Orchestra, yMusic and Contemporaneous.

Composed and Scores[edit]

Bischoff gained attention as a solo performer upon the 2012 release of Composed and a related instrumental album Scores: Composed Instrumentals. The album features nine orchestral pieces with a different vocalist on eight of the nine tracks. Many of the vocalists are well known, and included David Byrne, Caetano Veloso, Mirah, Carla Bozulich (Evangelista, Geraldine Fibbers), Craig Wedren (Shudder to Think), Dawn McCarthy (Faun Fables), Zac Pennington (Parenthetical Girls), Soko and more. Guest soloists included Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) and Nels Cline (Wilco).

The album was first composed by Bischoff on a ukulele. He then orchestrated, engineered, and mastered the album, achieving an orchestral sound at a low cost by recording the instrumentalists one at a time using a single microphone and a laptop computer recording set-up.[3] Pitchfork wrote that listening to the album whilst being aware of the process "is like imagining someone filling an Olympic-sized pool with an eye dropper: the mind balks, both at the enormity of the undertaking and at the disposition of the person behind it".[4]

In a 4/5 star review, The Guardian described the album as "a collection of lavishly orchestrated pop songs that throb with expressionistic drama, by turns romantic, playful and faintly sinister" adding, "occasionally, Composed sounds indulgent, when Bischoff succumbs to syrupy, symphonic cliche; even so, its ambition and singularity are intoxicating".[5]


Bischoff began recording the album Cistern in an empty two million gallon underground water tank under Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Washington. The size of the space was a huge factor in the development of the album. In an interview Bischoff described how "the vast emptiness of the cistern generates a reverb decay that lasts 45 seconds. That means, if you snap your fingers, the sound lasts 45 seconds. That amount of reverberation is an absolutely wild environment to try to create music in".[6] This led to "a record intrinsically linked to the space in which it was conceived. A space which forced Bischoff to slow down, to reflect, to draw on his childhood growing up on a sailing boat - an unexpected journey of rediscovery, from the city back to the Pacific Ocean".[7]

On 29 June, The Leaf Label announced Bischoff's first ever UK headline show, to coincide with and celebrate the release of Cistern. The concert was held at the Courtyard Theatre in London on 26 July and featured Bischoff alongside a string quartet and frequent collaborator Amanda Palmer.[8] Three days later the pair performed together at London's Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC's David Bowie Prom, following their Bowie tribute EP Strung Out In Heaven released shortly after his death.[9][10]

Critical reception[edit]

Bischoff has also been called a "pop polymath"[11] (The New York Times), a "Seattle phenom" (The New Yorker), and "the missing link between the sombre undertones of Ennio Morricone and the unpredictability of John Cale"[12] (New Musical Express).

In 2013, Bischoff was interviewed by Terry Gross for her NPR show Fresh Air, where he spoke largely about his unique childhood growing up on a sailboat, and the unconventional process by which he recorded his album Composed.[13]

The title track from Cistern premiered on 3 May 2016 on Stereogum, who described it as "triumphantly building orchestral piece with a truly fascinating backstory" and "an incredibly majestic piece of work".[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Bischoff was a finalist for The Stranger's Music Genius Award in 2013[15] and was named Seattle's Best Collaborator by the Seattle Weekly in 2014.[16]


As Jherek Bischoff[edit]

  • Cistern (2016)
  • Scores: Composed Instrumentals (2012)
  • Composed (2012)
  • Jherek Bischoff vs Konono N°1 - Kule Kule (Orchestral Version) - Song on Compilation Tradi-Mods vs Rockers (2010)
  • Under the Sour Trees - Split with Richard Webb (2009)
  • Jherek Bischoff (2006)

As Ribbons[edit]

  • Royals (2008)

As part of Parenthetical Girls[edit]

  • Privilege (Abridged) (2013)
  • Privilege, Pt. V: Portrait of a Reputation (2012)
  • Privilege, Pt. IV: Sympathy For Spastics (2011)
  • Privilege, Pt. III: Mend & Make Do (2011)
  • Privilege, Pt. II: The Past, Imperfect (2010)
  • Privilege, Pt. I: On Death & Endearments (2010)
  • Morrissey/The Smiths - 7" Split with Xiu Xiu (2009)
  • The Scottish Play (2009)
  • Entanglements (2008)
  • Safe as Houses (2006)
  • (((GRRRLS))) (2004)

As part of Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra[edit]

With Jason Webley[edit]

As part of Led to Sea[edit]

  • Into the Darkening Sky (2010)
  • Led to Sea (2008)

As part of Degenerate Art Ensemble[edit]

  • Sonic Tales (2009)
  • Cuckoo Crow (2006)
  • The Bastress (2005)
  • Look-Away Popeye (2003)

As part of The Dead Science[edit]

  • Villainaire (2008)
  • Crepuscule with The Dead Science EP (2006)
  • Frost Giant (2005)
  • Bird Bones in the Bughouse EP (2004)
  • Submariner (2003)

As part of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone[edit]

As part of Xiu Xiu[edit]

Other Collaborations[edit]


  1. ^ "Jherek Brandon Bischoff was born on September 11, 1979 in Sacramento County, California". California Birth Index. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Composed Pop: Jherek Bischoff Gets By with a Little Help from His Friends". thestranger.com. 2012-11-28.
  3. ^ "The Leaf Label: Jherek Bischoff". Theleaflabel.com. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  4. ^ "Jherek Bischoff - Composed". Pitchfork. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  5. ^ "Jherek Bischoff : Composed - review". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Jherek Bischoff – "Cistern" (Stereogum Premiere)". Stereogum. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  7. ^ "New Jherek Bischoff album Cistern". The Leaf Label. 2016-05-03.
  8. ^ "Jherek Bischoff + Amanda Palmer - The Courtyard Theatre, London". The Leaf Label. 2016-06-29.
  9. ^ "Jherek Bischoff at the BBC Proms". The Leaf Label. 2016-04-14.
  10. ^ "Tribute To the Thin White Duke". Jherek Bishcoff. 2016-02-04.
  11. ^ "Classical Music/Opera Listings". nytimes.com. 2012-02-02.
  12. ^ "NME". nme.com.
  13. ^ "Jherek Bischoff Crafts A Symphonic Sound On 'Composed'". npr.org. 2013-04-09.
  14. ^ "Jherek Bischoff – "Cistern" (Stereogum Premiere)". Stereogum. 3 May 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  15. ^ "2013 Music Genius Award Finalists". thestranger.com. 2013-06-05.
  16. ^ "Best of Seattle: Collaborator". seattleweekly.com. 2014-08-06.

External links[edit]