Theo Bleckmann

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Theo Bleckmann
Theo bleckmann E5111371.jpg
Theo Bleckmann
Background information
Birth nameTheodor Raoul Bleckmann
Born (1966-05-28) May 28, 1966 (age 53)
Dortmund, West Germany
Years active1989–present
LabelsWinter & Winter
Associated actsRefuge Trio, Meredith Monk, John Hollenbeck

Theo Bleckmann (born Theodor Raoul Bleckmann; 28 May 1966 in Dortmund, West Germany) is a vocalist and composer.


Bleckmann was born in Dortumund, Germany. He planned to be an ice skater before becoming a vocalist. In 1989 he moved to New York City and recorded his first two albums, Theo & Kirk (1992) and Looking Glass River (1995) with Kirk Nurock. His mentor was Sheila Jordan, and he appeared on her album Jazz Child (1999).[1]

With guitarist Ben Monder he recorded his first solo album, Origami (2001), an album of impressionistic vocalese and lyrics sung in German and French.[2]

He collaborated with pianist Fumio Yasuda on the albums Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne (2006), Berlin – Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile (2007), and Schumann's Favored Bar Songs (2009). The last album received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album.[1]

He was given the ECHO Jazz award for I Dwell in Possibility (Winter & Winter, 2010).[1] The album was inspired by the Arte Povera, the Italian art movement in the 1960s that created installations with the simplest materials. In making the album Beckman used music boxes, megaphones, autoharp, glasses, water, shruti, and toys.

Bleckmann's second collaboration with Yusada was an extension of his love for music from his native Germany, concerning the themes of love, war, and peace. The repertoire consisted of works by composers Hanns Eisler, Kurt Weill, Kristian Schultze with Bertolt Brecht providing much of the texts.[3]

In 2010 he recorded an album as the group Moss with vocalists Peter Eldridge, Lauren Kinhan, Kate McGarry, and Luciana Souza.[1]

With the jazz rock group Kneebody he recorded an album of unorthodox arrangements of compositions by Charles Ives. Four years later he recorded an album songs written by pop singer Kate Bush[1] with drummer John Hollenbeck, bassist Skuli Sverrisson, keyboardist Henry Hey, and Caleb Burhans on viola and guitar.

He has worked with Laurie Anderson, Anthony Braxton, Steve Coleman, Dave Douglas, Philip Glass, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Zorn, and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. He was a guest vocalist with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Estonian Radio Choir, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and Mark Morris Dance. For fifteen years he was a member of an ensemble led by Meredith Monk.

Performance pieces[edit]


Bleckmann's multidisciplinary works include a commission by the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris to compose and create a music performance piece out of Kenneth Goldsmith's text Fidget, which Bleckmann scored for voice, piano, percussion, bass, video and three sewing machines. In real time, four seamstresses sewed a paper suit out of the hundreds of sheets of paper that were Bleckmann's libretto.


In collaboration with performance artist Lynn Book, he created Mercuria (produced by the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago), incorporating visual and vocal elements of dream and subconsciousness into an evening-length performance piece.

The True Last Words of Dutch Schultz[edit]

Playing the gangster Dutch Schultz, Bleckmann co-created The True Last Words of Dutch Schultz a new music opera in collaboration with director Valeria Vasilevski and composer Eric Salzman.

Film, television, and theater[edit]

As a sound improviser, he has performed, created and developed movie, television, and theater scores, among them an alleged space Alien language for Men in Black by Steven Spielberg, Star Trek: Envoy (Meredith Monk) and Kundun (Philip Glass)

Bleckmann sang in John Moran's Book of the Dead at The Public Theater in New York, performed a lead in Bang on a Can's Obie Award-winning opera Carbon Copy Building, and frequently appears as a soloist with The Bang on a Can All-Stars.

In collaboration with director Laurie McCants and set designer Elaine F. Williams, he wrote the music and performed The Alexandria Carry On, which has been traveling the US and was performed at the actual library in Alexandria, Egypt.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Grammy Award nomination, Best Classical Crossover Album, 2010
  • ECHO Jazz Award, Best Singer of the Year, 2010
  • Bessie Award, Presser Award for Outstanding Talent
  • ASCAP/Gershwin Award for "Chorale No. 1 for Eight Voices"


As leader[edit]

  • Theo & Kirk (Traumton, 1992)
  • Looking Glass River (Traumton, 1995)
  • No Boat (Songlines Recordings, 1997)
  • Static Still (GPE, 2000)
  • Origami (Songlines, 2001)
  • Anteroom (Traumton, 2005)
  • Scandinavian Yuletide Voices (CD Baby, 2005)
  • Las Vegas Rhapsody – The Night They Invented Champagne (Winter & Winter, 2006)
  • At Night (Songlines, 2007)
  • Berlin: Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile (Winter & Winter, 2008)
  • David Lang: Pierced (Naxos, 2008)
  • Twelve Songs by Charles Ives (Winter & Winter, 2009)
  • Music for Words, Perhaps (Innova, 2010)
  • Schumann's Favored Bar Songs (Winter & Winter, 2010)
  • I Dwell in Possibility (Winter & Winter, 2010)
  • What Is the Beautiful? (Cuneiform, 2011)
  • Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush (Winter & Winter, 2011)
  • Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Winter & Winter, 2012)
  • Mother Goose's Melodies (Winter & Winter, 2013)
  • Love Song (Winter & Winter, 2015)
  • Elegy (ECM, 2017)[4]

As sideman[edit]

With John Hollenbeck

  • 2001 No Images
  • 2002 Quartet Lucy
  • 2005 A Blessing
  • 2005 Joys & Desires
  • 2009 Eternal Interlude
  • 2011 What Is the Beautiful?, Claudia Quintet/Matt Mitchell
  • 2013 Songs I Like a Lot
  • 2015 Songs We Like a Lot

With Guy Klucevsek

  • 2007 Song of Remembrance
  • 2012 The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour

With Kate McGarry

  • 2007 The Target
  • 2014 Genevieve & Fredinand

With Ben Monder

  • 2000 Excavation (Arabesque)
  • 2005 Oceana
  • 2013 Hydra

With Meredith Monk

With others

Selected compositions[edit]

  • 1997 "Men in Black" alien language for soundtrack
  • 2001 "DNA" for voice, piano, guitar, vibraphone, bass guitar, and percussion
  • 2001 "None of the Above" for voice, piano and vibraphone
  • 2003–04 "The Alexandria Carry On" songs and music for voice, flute, percussion, and shruti box (lyrics by Laurie McCants adapted from Ancient Greek and Egyptian sources)
  • 2004 "Lament for a Jungle" for voices and paper
  • 2004–05 "A Small House Can Carry as Much Happiness as a Large One" for voices and kalimba
  • 2004–05 "Anteroom" for sixteen voices
  • 2006 "Orchard" (poem by Rumi) for five voices and guitar
  • 2007 "Happiness" for voice, piano, and drums
  • 2007 "I Build My Time" (poem by Kurt Schwitters) for voice, piano, and string quartet
  • 2007 "Longing" for four voices, cello, percussion and Fender Rhodes
  • 2007 "Schmidt Lied" (poem by Kurt Schwitters) for voice, piano, and string quartet
  • 2007 "To What Shall I Compare This Life" (lyrics Priest Monsei) for voice, piano, and percussion
  • 2008 "Elegy" for two voices and loops
  • 2008 "Take My Life" for voice, piano, Glockenspiel, and drums
  • 2009 "Duet for One" for solo voice
  • 2009 "I Am Not Enough" for voice and toy microphone
  • 2009 "I Dwell in Possibility" (poem by Emily Dickinson) for voice and chimes
  • 2009 "Roundabout (4 J.A.C.K.)" for string quartet (commissioned by Ensemble Noamnesia)


  1. ^ a b c d e Jurek, Thom. "Theo Bleckmann". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  2. ^ Astarita, Glenn. "Origami – Theo Bleckmann". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  3. ^ "Composer Theo Bleckmann Dwells In Possibility". National Public Radio. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Theo Bleckmann | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Theo Bleckmann | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 July 2017.

External links[edit]