Nathan Bontrager

Cello and viola da gamba

Category: Performances

Celebrate Carl

In honor of the upcoming Broadcloth tour with Carl Testa and a duo performance this coming Saturday featuring the man and myself, I’d like to offer you these two videos from Carl’s new solo set.  Come hear us at Bru Cafe in New Haven Saturday evening as the April Uncertainty Series Festival marches on!

First Piece:

Last-minute show and new audio

Due to performer illness I’ll be stepping in with some others to play some improv compositions by Nate Trier tomorrow night at Neverending Books in New Haven:

Also, check out Adam Matlock’s soundcloud page for a few tracks from the recent Dr. Caterwaul’s show at the Outer Space.  It was great to play a bunch of tunes with Andru Bemis and Elisabeth Pixley-Fink, we wish them the best as they continue to ride the roads and rails on their way to Mexico City:

Long overdue update

I’ve finally updated after an excessively long break.  I’m fresh off of a European tour where I had the great pleasure of collaborating with a ton of great musicians.  So many new and exciting voices to interact with and generous hospitality at every turn.  A big thank you to all who helped put together shows, gave me a bed, made me breakfast, and generally made for an experience of a lifetime.  Can’t wait to go back!

Lots of show updates starting with two Dr. Caterwauls performances next week.  Excited to be sharing the bill with great artists:

The David Wax Museum:

Andru Bemis:

Elisabeth Pixley-Fink:

New year, new shows

Performance calendar updated, January is a full month already!  It gets started this Wednesday at Audubon Strings in New Haven when Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps plays with Jakob Battick (Portland, ME) and the Book Slave (CT).  The Book Slave is great live and everything I’ve listened to from Jakob has been fantastic.  Dr. Caterwaul’s, despite its recent inception, is already expanding the genre palette.  Expect to hear everything from Chilean ballads to Thomas Mapfuno-inspired mbira tunes and more geographically similar blues numbers.

Wednesday, January 5th will be the first ever New Haven performance of Portland, ME’s nightfolk eccentrics Jakob Battick & Friends. After having become celebrated experimentalists on the diverse Portland scene the group has begun to make a point of traveling out into New England’s further reaches. Musically, Battick & his cohorts have come a long way through slowcore and shoegaze influences to begin creating their own nightmarish and atmospheric world out of dramatic and layered vocals both whispered and howled, and sharply composed layers of less-is-more instrumentation. On this, the ‘Prayers & Curses tour, the group will be playing brand new compositions scheduled for release on their next full-length, showcasing a newfound grace and maturity alongside their trademark intensity and spaciousness. A free release featuring polished home recordings of these new songs, entitled ‘Prayers & Curses Vol. 1,’ will be made available to all attendees for absoluely free.

Hosting them is Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps, featuring Brian Slattery on banjo and fiddle, Nathan Bontrager on Cello, and Adam Matlock on accordion. Everybody howls about murder or other types of death and occasionally something a bit more twisted. Doc C’s performs intuitive, flowing improvisations on folk music of various sources, getting at the jagged heart of your murder ballads, your sorrow ballads, your uplifting ballads with a sad ending, etc. CT.

The Book Slave is tense surrealist guitar harmonies and desperate screamed vocals. Dan and Joe Katz lock into angular harmonic movements channeling shoegaze, hardcore and post rock while maintaining a singular energy. Tonight they’ll play an acoustic set that shows the strength of their songwriting in a different light

Zombie Popeye’s…

…as CTindie is referring to it, at least.

Really looking forward to the first show by Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps tomorrow night.  Dr. C’s is Brian Slattery (banjo, fiddle, guitar), Adam Matlock (accordion), and myself (cello) playing and singing folkish music from all over with an ear for being true to the tunes and fist (and hammer, perhaps) towards deconstruction and improvisation.  We’re opening for Squinch Owl, a great touring artist:

An Historic will play a few tunes too, maybe someone else?  Popeye’s Garage is at 50 Goffe St.  Bring warmth via blankets and booze and peasant dancing.  Here’s one source for Dr. C’s material; the montage of hamburger/jelly beans/topless women/bananas is a good indicator of what you can expect tomorrow:

NHIC Atlas

Tomorrow night, Saturday November 19, I’ll be playing with an ensemble called Atlas that was formed out of the New Haven Improvisers Collective.  We’ll be playing at 8:30 at Firehouse 12 and immediately following will be another NHIC ensemble, Mayhem Circus Electric.  Atlas is cello, sax (Steve Asetta), clarinet (Adam Matlock), guitar (Bob Gorry), bass (Jaime Lamb), and drums (Steve Zieminski).   The show consists of mostly improvised pieces which have been written by various members of the ensemble.  The uncommon instrumentation has produced some very interesting timbrel outcomes in rehearsal and with each member coming to the world of improvised music from a different starting point there is sure to be great stylistic variety as evidenced by the scope of the compositions.  One ticket gets you into both sets, come support the experimental music scene in New Haven.

Zero Moon

Some new dates added to the Performance calendar including a Broadcloth gig in Silver Spring, MD in April.  We’re hoping to put together a brief tour around this show with stops in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Lancaster, and perhaps others.  The Silver Spring show is put on by DC Sonic Circuits.  You can check them out here:

Sonic Circuits books lots of greats performers in the DC area in addition to curating an annual festival of experimental music.  I’m disappointed that I only learned about this as I was leaving the area for CT but to those near the capitol I highly recommend staying up to date with their calendar.

Jeff, who did the booking for this show, runs (sort of intuiting this info) a web-based label that puts out experimental music called Zero Moon.  The catalog has some great looking recordings many of which can be listened to, at least in part, online.  Check out the record of out-there alpine horn player, Philip Corner, which is currently on the front page.

Entwyned performance

Tomorrow, November 7, I’ll be playing my first concert with Entwyned, a Baroque trio featuring Dr. Dee Hansen on traverso, Eric Hansen on archlute, and myself on bass viol.  Music begins at 3pm at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Milford, CT.  The program features a number of Partitas and Sonatas for the entire trio as well as works drawing from more popular sources (of the time).  I will be playing a few selections from the Manchester Gamba Book, a manuscript “discovered” in the early 1900’s which is notated almost entirely in tablature and features 22 different tunings for the instrument.  In this case I will be playing selections using standard viol tuning.  These works are meant to be played on the lyra viol, still a bass instrument but smaller than a standard bass viol.  I am fortunate and grateful to be playing on a beautiful lyra made by David Rubio and on loan to me from Martha McGuaghey.

More information about the Manchester Gamba Book can be found here:


Lyra viol after Richard Meares


NTWNTF show and new audio

Thanks to those who came out to support Not the Wind Not the Flag and Broadcloth on Wednesday evening at Audubon Strings.  I really enjoyed NTWNTF’s performance, particularly the variety of sounds they were able to produce despite using a sparser instrumentation than normal judging from their myspace tracks:

It seemed to me that of the numerous sonic events happening that evening, two general categories dominated:  microtonal harmonies and consciously unstable rhythm.  Certainly microtonal harmonies were present in our second Broadcloth piece which specifically called for them and, in turn, likely influenced our improvising.  NTWNTF frequently used microtonal relationship as well but with quite different methods; bending drum heads with fingers, further exploiting the “out of tuneness” of the mbira with delay and other digital effects, and various guitar bending techniques.  “Consciously unstable rhythm” is my way of trying to describe the great space between straight-ahead, riff-based jamming and non-rhythmic cacophony where an ensemble can play with a general sense of pulse and, at times, subdivision without ever locking in to the same motive or stressing the same beats.  It is this kind of organic yet bounded playing that makes improvised music, for me, a very rich experience.  Thanks, NTWNTF, for adding to New Haven’s musical culture.

NTWNTF (hirsute version)

I have also added a new recording to the Media page.  This is a performance I did of Luciano Berio’s Sequenza XVI for Cello on a T.E.M.P.O. concert at the University of Maryland a few years ago.  If you look a few posts back I wrote a bit about the piece and the cellist for whom it was written, Rohan de Saram.

Not the Wind Not the Flag and Broacloth

Tomorrow evening, October 20, Broadcloth will be sharing a show with an improvising duo from Toronto, Not the Wind Not the Flag (  Music begins at 8:00 and will be held at Audubon Strings, 63 Audubon St., New Haven.  Bring friends and drinks, there is a $12 suggested donation to help the touring folks continue on their way so give them your support!