Guy Barash: Killdeer

, composer


Composer/performer Guy Barash teams up with poet Nick Flynn for this affecting work featuring spoken word and structured improvisation with collaborators Kathleen Supové, Frank London, Eyal Maoz, Barash, and Flynn in his own voice. Killdeer has a Vonnegut-esque quality to its clear eyed stance on the world, bolstered by the broad range of expression Barash elicits from the ensemble.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 39:09
01The Space Between Silence and Enough
The Space Between Silence and Enough
04Jesus Knew
Jesus Knew
05Saint Augustine
Saint Augustine
06The King of Fire
The King of Fire
07Parrot / Killdeer / Poem to Be Whispered by the Bedside of a Sleeping Child
Parrot / Killdeer / Poem to Be Whispered by the Bedside of a Sleeping Child
08I Will Destroy You
I Will Destroy You
09Pied Piper
Pied Piper

Guy Barash and Nick Flynn’s collaborative release Killdeer carves out a unique space in music for spoken word and ensemble. Using the poetry as a score around which to word paint and create evocative soundscapes, Barash deftly manages the ensemble’s contribution, preserving a taut overall structural approach where moments of increased freedom occur in instrumental alone sections, and Flynn’s text is allowed to frame the tone of the album. The poetry is unflinching in its courageous approach to pain and modern world weariness, with Flynn’s specific narratives acting as stand ins for trauma in general, capturing the exhaustion of navigating an often unforgiving world.

An instrumental prelude, “The Space Between Silence and Enough,” opens the album, setting the stage with the kind of controlled frenzy one associates with urban living just before being pushed over the edge. Barash’s glitchy electronics propel the rhythm forward, as Frank London’s trumpet spews burbling gestures, evocative of the vaguely unintelligible yet wisdom filled ramblings one might hear from a lost soul wandering the streets. Guitarist Eyal Maoz splashes the texture with glassy, effected guitar chords, as pianist Kathleen Supové punctuates with vertical sonorities that echo through the glass and steel canyons. Killdeer’s world is unsettled, restless, and seething.

When Nick Flynn enters in “Confessional” with the offhand phrase, “I admit, you haven’t heard from me in a while. In me, there’s a little liar, and a little thief, and a little whore,” we hear the searing honesty of a voice on the edge. The instrumentalists play inside, behind, and around Flynn’s words throughout the album, expressing the restrained cauldron of emotion that lies beneath his often eerie, deadpan delivery. Supové unleashes this latent energy in the first of several instrumental outbursts in the opening of “Tattoo,” rumbling piano figures that diffuse before Flynn returns.

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London’s clarion trumpet wails take the lead in “Jesus Knew,” with Maoz shadowing his lines with faraway echoes, distorted as if through a pane of impenetrable glass. Flynn’s ruminations on Jesus’ death are accompanied by a doomed pulsation in Barash’s electronics and hints of the glitchy accents from the opening track. In “Saint Augustine,” we hear the musical texture take a strong turn toward hopeful diatonicism, with the piano outlining tonal progressions, veering in and out of functionality and retrogression, reinforcing the otherworldly dream context of Flynn’s texts.

“The King of Fire” crackles with heat, a slow burn of glacially ascending lines in trumpet and electric guitar tremolos and flourishes in the piano over a relentless throbbing in the electronics. The longest track on the album combines three poems: “Parrot / Killdeer / Poem to Be Whispered by the Bedside of a Sleeping Child.” At the opening, Maoz’ processed electric guitar spars with dancing figures on Supové’s keyboard, two creatures engaging in playful mischief. London’s trumpet leads the dialogue with Flynn’s texts for the duration of the movement, before disembodied electric fragments close the track.

“I Will Destroy You” pairs London’s trumpet, struggling to express itself through self-imposed shackles, with bell-like inside-the-piano sonorities from Supové. A haunting figure emerges from Barash’s electronics and brings Flynn back in for a harrowing recollection of a childhood house fire, colored by heavily effected electric guitar. In the final track, “Pied Piper,” piano and electric guitar create a maelstrom of activity over which London’s muted trumpet utters cries of futility. Once again, Barash’s persistent electronics usher Flynn back to the foreground. The mechanistic groove provides momentum towards the final phrases of Flynn’s poetry, recited over the dystopian sonic remains of the album’s last breaths.

– Dan Lippel

Recorded on May 10, 2022 by Nico Pagni at Dubway Studios, New York City
Produced by Guy Barash
Mixed by Marc Urselli at EastSide Sound Mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisk
Cover Art, Untitled, Ink on Paper, by Amnon Yuhas
Design: Marc Wolf,
Music published by Barash Music (ASCAP)
Poetry published by Graywolf Press

Guy Barash

“A risk-taker, willing to pull ideas from all disciplines as he jumps into the unknown” (, Guy Barash commonly applies electronic processing to acoustic instruments and employs microtonality to create psychologically disorienting atmospheres. His series of compositions for solo instruments and real-time digital signal processing, “Talkback,” was hailed as being “at once divine, serene and haunting” (The Queens Chronicle). Developing innovative, multidisciplinary projects, Barash collaborates with an array of poets, video-artists, musicians and choreographers. His collaboration with Nick Flynn has produced a number of provocative works, Proteus, Blind Huber, and Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins. Barash’s music has been heard in Belgium, London, Japan, and Israel, as well as at New York’s The Stone, La MaMa Theatre, and National Sawdust.

Nick Flynn

Nick Flynn has published twelve books, most recently This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire (W. W. Norton & Co., 2020), a hybrid memoir; and Stay: threads, collaborations, and conversations (ZE Books, 2020), which documents twenty-five years of his collaborations with artists, filmmakers, and composers. He is also the author of five collections of poetry, including I Will Destroy You (Graywolf Press, 2019). He has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress, and is on the creative writing faculty at the University of Houston. His acclaimed memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (W. W. Norton & Co., 2004), was made into a film starring Robert De Niro, and has been translated into fifteen languages.

Frank London

Grammy-award winning trumpeter Frank London is “the mystical high priest of New Wave Avant-Klez jazz.” (All About Jazz) London’s projects include the folk-opera A Night in the Old Marketplace, Davenen for Pilobolus and the Klezmatics, Great Small Works' The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, and Min Tanaka's Romance. He composed music for John Sayles' The Brother from Another Planet and Men with Guns, Yvonne Rainer's Murder and Murder, the Czech-American Marionette Theater’s Golem and Tamar Rogoff's Ivye Project. He has worked with John Zorn, Karen O, Itzhak Perlman, Pink Floyd, LL Cool J, Mel Tormé, Lester Bowie, LaMonte Young, They Might Be Giants, David Byrne, Jane Siberry, and Ben Folds 5; is on over 500 CDs; and was featured on Sex and The City.

Eyal Maoz

Eyal Maoz is a composer, guitarist, and bandleader. He leads a number of original music ensembles including Edom (Middle-Eastern meets pop and Downtown music) Wild Type (Slavic music meets jazz and experimental) and Dimyon (acoustic modern Jewish). Maoz’s music oscillates between extremely delicate and highly volatile. His work evokes the extravaganza of cutting edge experimentalism and chamber music grace, integrating rock, jazz and avant-garde, tinged with electronic and radical Jewish-Middle- Eastern sound. Maoz is described by John Zorn, the influential modern composer and MacArthur genius award recipient, as “a vital member of the New York downtown scene.” “Maoz redefines what ethnocentric world fusion can be from a mean-streets New York City perspective.” (All Music Guide)

Kathleen Supové

Kathleen Supové is one of America’s most acclaimed and versatile contemporary music pianists, constantly redefining what a pianist/keyboardist/performance artist is in today’s world. Ms. Supové annually presents a series of solo concerts entitled The Exploding Piano. Through her numerous and varied commissioning projects, including The Debussy Effect, she has been a vital force in creating stunning, important works for the late 20th and early 21st century piano repertory. The Exploding Piano also uses electronics, theatrical elements, vocal rants, performance art, staging, and interdisciplinary collaboration. In 2012, Supové received the John Cage Award from the ASCAP Foundation for “the artistry and passion with which she performs, commissions, records, and champions the music of our time.”



The WholeNote

The marriage of text and music, like other pairings, can be problematic. This is especially true in the spoken word subgenre, as is featured on Killdeer. The poetry of Nick Flynn haunts its way through “structured improvisation” conceived by Guy Barash, with Kathleen Supové on piano, Frank London on a very threadbare trumpet and Eyal Maoz filling in on guitar. Barash handles the electronic manipulations, and the product winds its way into ever darker places. Flynn, let it be known, has seen the darkness stare back at him, and his text invites you to look into the same mirror. Clearly recited, prosaic, brooding, even angry, the text does not appear in the booklet aside from two brief excerpts. When you hear the thoughts uttered in track seven, Poem to be Whispered by the Bedside of a Sleeping Child, maybe you’ll be glad. I was.

This makes one grateful for the music. London’s insinuating whispers and cries match the mood, a pale shadow of the shadowy poetry, while Supové’s powerful sparks draw our ears away from the poet’s voice towards some kind of brightness.

Still, this is essentially a textual work, fascinating and disturbing. I will listen again, because I know there’s redemption of a kind proffered by Flynn. The text takes most of my attention, and second listening might change that or might not. The text is why I hesitate, and yet recognize: these are powerful poems. Killdeer meditates on death, and on the demons that would have us wish it on someone else. The matter is dark, the music affecting.

— Max Christie, 4.03.2023


Foxy Digitalis

There’s a revelatory catharsis running through “Jesus Knew” like a vein of gold hidden under a mountain of rubble. Guy Barash is joined by an incredible cast of artists for Killdeer: pianist Kathleen Supové, guitarist Eyal Maoz, trumpeter Frank London, and author Nick Flynn. Sonic atmospheres simmering with tense electronics and angular guitar explorations lay the bedrock for Flynn’s spoken word inquisitions.

Themes of parenthood and generational trauma are stitched through Killdeer, in Flynn’s words obviously, but within the searching, heated aural entanglements too. Barash and Maoz dance in meticulous, mournful shadows cast by London’s trumpet before Supové interjects with pointillist echoes. This music is grounded, almost subterranean, but Flynn tiptoes above the roiling timbres and stoic cadence to deliver memorable line after memorable line, reflecting on the way trauma begets trauma beyond any and all intentions. “Jesus knew he’d die; he just didn’t know how. And that bothered him sometimes,” he provokes, continuing, “Then he’d do one of his little tricks … but the tricks stopped working. He forgot why he did them and what for … He confused a story about a guy named Jesus with a story about a father he never knew.”

— Brad Rose, 1.25.2023


Downtown Music Gallery

In 2014, I reviewed a disc by Downtown composer Guy Barash which was released on the Innova label. If you read my review, you can see how impressed I was by this disc. Mr. Barash is back with a new disc called ‘Killdeer’ and again he is utilizing the poetry/spoken words of Nick Flynn. Here is using the talents of three other Downtown players: Frank London (from the Klezmatics), Eyal Maoz (from Abraxas, Edom & 9Volt) and Kathleen Supove (Dr. Nerve & modern classical pianist par excellence). Mr. Barash has been collaborating with all of these musicians in different settings: the EFG Trio (w/ London & Maoz) and the Guy and Doll Duo (with Ms. Supove). Mr. Barash has also been working with poet/wordsmith Nick Flynn for nearly a decade.

Things begin with “The Space Between Silence and Enough”, an electronic ticking sound is first which is soon followed by circular trumpet lines, eerie piano and subtle electric guitar soon joining in. As the piece evolves, Mr. Barash manipulates the ticking by expanding its sound, the trumpet modestly soloing on top. Nick Flynn’s spoken words are at the center of “Confessional”, while the rest of the quartet weaves selective sounds around his calm voice with those persistent observations. Mr. Flynn often blurs the lines between what we observe and what we think we hear or remember, not unlike our own consciousness. Mr. Barash’s electronics are often subtle yet they often set the mood for what is going on around the words or other instruments. Mr. Flynn discusses Jesus Christ and the way he often acted like a common man, not asking anyone to follow him or wait for his return. The music here often has a solemn vibe with minimal spoken words worthy of consideration. “The King of Fire” has a quietly disorienting feeling, haunting sound effects, lower-case-like trumpet burbling, tinkling piano and somewhat harrowing words. There are no actual solos going here, perhaps just the words are the most consistent sound throughout. The words for the title piece are about a killdeer, a bird or perhaps a metaphorical bird which reminds us that we are more than just thoughts, we don’t just live on air or words but something more substantial. It takes time to grasp what is going on here, we have to settle in while the mood casts its spell and the words make us consider what life is, what we are really made of.

— Bruce Lee Gallanter, 2.02.2023


Take Effect Reviews

The composer and performer Guy Barash brings along Nick Flynn and his poetry for this contemporary chamber listen that welcomes Frank London, Eyal Maoz and Kathleen Supové to the inimitable affair.

“The Space Between Silence And Enough” opens the listen with Barash’s glitchy delivery alongside London’s well timed trumpet and Maoz’s bouts of colorful guitar that helps texture the lead off with a playful charm, and “Confessional” follows with Flynn’s vivid storytelling amid much atmosphere and bits of rumbling piano from Supové.

“Jesus Knew” lands in the middle, where London’s bright trumpet suits the echoes and distorted climate, while “Saint Augustine” has the piano’s distinct tone complementing the dream context of Flynn’s texts.

Approaching the end, “I Will Destroy You” meshes the trumpet and piano in a haunting fashion that uses electronics strategically, and “Pied Piper” exits the listen and showcases firm keys, wild electric guitar and howling brass for an atypical groove glazed over Flynn’s poetry.

Barash’s electronic prowess is quite fascinating here, and the players on hand all contribute in unconventional ways, where Flynn’s spoken pieces might bring to mind Kurt Vonnegut, and I doubt anyone will have a problem with that.

— Tom Haugen, 7.13.2023


All Music

The mixture of spoken word and music harks back to Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and beyond, into the world of melodrama, but this release by composer and sound artist Guy Barash and poet Nick Flynn, with acoustic trumpet, guitar, and piano, is something new. There is a question as to whether this music might be called jazz, for its basic activity is free improvisation, actually very free inasmuch as the musicians first met only a week before the recording and had little exposure to Flynn's poetry before the performance. However, there is not a level of rhythmic basis that one would normally associate with jazz. The nature of the performance event is unique. Barash, on electronics, structures the tone of each piece, and the results, in the words of the creators, "are spontaneous, individual yet familiar, jagged -- even violent -- yet intimate, improvised yet structured." Flynn's poems are conversational in tone, which works well; the performers listen closely enough to enter into a kind of conversation with the texts. They are also dark, and the overall mood is tense. This release can be recommended to listeners interested in new developments in improvised music.

— James Manheim, 8.02.2023

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