Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Bleckmann, Theo

Bleckmann, Theo, voice, composition; b. Dortmund, West Germany, 1966. His adoptive parents (birthparents are unknown) are father, Theodor Bleckmann (1924-1991), and mother, Mathilde Bleckmann, (maid. name: Thiel) (b. 1926). His adopted brother is Thomas Bleckmann  (b. 1963). He grew up being a soloist, boy soprano in children choirs (first recording at age 11) and continued his musical education with guitar and piano lessons.  At the age of 21 Bleckmann became the first singer in Germany's "BuJazzO", a Jazz Big Band made of young, promising talents selected and led by arranger Peter Herbolzheimer. 

Bleckmann moved to New York in 1989 after meeting Sheila Jordan in 1988 at a Jazz workshop in Graz, Austria.  He received scholarships to study at Berklee College of Music the Manhattan School of Music and City College, but stayed in New York City to continue his studies with Jordan and voice and composition at Manhattan School of Music and CCNY (BFA).  His first performances of note in the US were with composer/pianist Kirk Nurock.  Their collaboration continues to this day.  He also joined Mark Dresser's quintet Force Green (w/Dave Douglas) in 1993.

Today, Bleckmann performs in jazz, contemporary music and performance art and has been named a "local cult favorite" by the New Yorker. He has toured\collaborated\performed\recorded world wide with such artists as Laurie Anderson, Anthony Braxton, Mark Dresser, Dave Douglas, Philip Glass, John Hollenbeck, Anthony Jackson, Sheila Jordan, Meredith Monk, Ikue Mori, Ben Monder, Elliot Sharp and the Bang On A Can Allstars and was a guest vocalist wit the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Estonian Radio Choir, Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Mark Morris Dance Group. Mark Dresser, John Hollenbeck, Phil Kline, Ben Monder, Meredith Monk, Kirk Nurock, Bob Ostertag, Randall Wong, David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe have composed pieces especially for and with him.

Beckman'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 premiered in June 1998.  From 19995-1998, Theo Bleckmann and performance artist Lynn Book developed and performed Mercuria. This interdisciplinary, continuous performance project was produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and inaugurated their new theater space in 1997.  Mercuria was also performed in New York at HERE in a three week run having invited sound artist Jens Brand into the process. Playing the gangster Dutch Schultz, Bleckmann toured Holland in "The True Last Words of Dutch Schultz," a new music theater piece created for him in collaboration with director Valeria Vasilevski and composer Eric Salzman. 

As a sound improviser, he has performed, created and developed movie, television and theater scores, among them space Alien language for "Men in Black" by Steven Spielberg, "Star Trek: Envoy" (composed by Meredith Monk), "Kundun" (by Philip Glass) and several radio plays and theater scores in which he created soundscapes and atmospherical vocal sounds. Theo Bleckmann was a soloist in John Moran's "Book of the Dead" at the public Theater in NY, performed a lead in Band on a Can's Obie Award-winning opera "Carbon Copy Building," and appeared as a soloist with the Bang on a Can Allstars.

Bleckmann has a long-standing track record of working closely with composer and performance artist Meredith Monk and her Vocal Ensemble since 1994 in numerous of her theater and concert works among them "Facing North" in duo with Monk, "The Politics of Quiet" (Bessie Award), "Magic Frequencies" and her most recent "mercy" in collaboration with installation artist Ann Hamilton. Bleckmann represented Monk in the first ever UNESCO concert in Beijing, China. Monk is currently working on her first commission for large orchestra featuring herself and Bleckmann, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Beckman's work has been recognized with several awards including a Presser Award for Outstanding Talent and the ASCAP/Gershwin Award for his composition "Chorale #1 for Eight Voices"as well as grants from the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art, New York Foundation for the Arts, Meet The Composer and the Council on Humanities, PA. His latest projects include his solo voice performance that premiered at the POL festival in Frankfurt and an evening of German songs by composers ranging as far as Eisler, Weill, Ives, Strauss and Kraftwerk that was performed at Neue Galerie to sold out houses repeatedly.  Bleckmann is currently developing a solo music theater performance in collaboration with librettist and director Laurie McCants about the lost library of ancient Alexandria and is recording his fist solo voice record for Traumton Recordings.

Theo Bleckmann- Kirk Nurock Duo: Theo & Kirk (1993), Looking-Glass River (1996); Janis Brenner and Theo Bleckmann: Mars Cantata (1997); Theo Bleckmannn and Ben Monder: No Boat (1997); origami (2001); Theo Bleckmann and John Hollenbeck: static still (2000), title TBA (unreleased, 2003)

As sideperson:
Peter Herbolzheimer: BuJazzO Nr. 1"(1984); Judy Niemack: Straight Up (1994); Zsa Zsa Buschkow: Welt steht still (1994); Mark Dresser's Force Green: Force Green (1995); Peter Herbert: noch unverletzt aber auch schon vom atem bedroht (1996); Elliot Sharp: State of the Union Vol. 2 (1996); Jerome Kitzke: The Charactar of American Sunlight (1997); the alt.coffee tapes (1997); Star Trek: Envoy (1997); Ikue Mori: 100 aspects of the moon (1998); Sheila Jordan: Jazz Child (1998); Jennifer Kimball: Veering From The Wave (1999); John Hollenbeck: no images (2001), Quartet Lucy (2001); Meredith Monk: mercy (2002)

Boze Hadeleigh: SINGING OUT, page 262; Barricade Books, NY
Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay: A BOOK OF THE BOOK:  Some Works & Projections about the
Book & Writing, edited by .  Granary Books, New York City, 2000.  "When a Book is Not a Book" by Thomas A. Vogler; page 450.
OUT THERE, 2001, VOL 8, page 128  Japan; interview and portrait

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