Nathan Bontrager

Cello and viola da gamba

Category: Uncategorized

Hen’s Teeth scratching through Europe, round 2

Hello internet universe, it’s been a while.  You’ve aged well.

I bring you good news, a certain Jane Rothfield will soon be crossing the Atlantic with fiddle in hand and, combined as Hen’s Teeth, we’ll be capering around the UK and Germany, Holland and Belgium.

Here’s a fine poster from True North Promotions who have been working with us to set up t

his tour.


Hen’s Teeth UK tour coming up

Also some shows in Europe after we finish in the UK, see the Calendar for info.






Root & Branch in Barcelona

Communique from the Root & Branch communications center currently based mobile out of Barcelona. We’ve made contact with our local representative and have begun our campaign of sonic assault upon the unsuspecting environs. Banjos and lazily tuned fiddles seem effective in this, at present, mostly non-hostile environment. See below for public engagements and an example, as documented by a random passerby, of a strikingly slow version of Shelvin Rock played at approximately 0300 hours.


Shelvin Rock at the Arc d’Triumph

Head feels like Peanut

“marge, can we keep him?”

is what you will say when you meet chris riggs.  chris is one of the most inventive guitarists i know and his approach to preparations has influenced a lot of my current composing.  we recorded a duo album a few years ago which chris just released on holy cheever church.

check it out by clicking below:


Radio: Not Dead

Broadcloth played on WFMU last week and the audio is up for consumption here:

I thought the performance of my piece, Con Ahinco, got captured in a particularly nice way.  You can jump to it here:

Scrimshaw Download

New Haven was lucky to have the guitarist, cellist, and composer, Benjamin Shirley (not to mention friend), live here for a number of years before he moved to Atlanta.  Last summer, as a farewell gesture of sorts, Ben composed a series of pieces for the Scrimshaw Ensemble (Ben – guitar, Carl Testa – bass, Adam Matlock – accordion, myself – cello) which were performed and recorded along with a series of duos with each ensemble member plus vocalist, Anne Rhodes.

Ben’s compositions, from my perspective, reflect his love of Brazilian music as well as his experience and knowledge of Anthony Braxton’s work, among other factors.  You can stream the release below or download by clicking through to the Bandcamp site.  If you like it, consider throwing a few dollars Ben’s way to support him.  And stay tuned for news of a June Broadcloth + Carl Testa tour which will likely include a reprisal of this material.

Solo set video from Elm Bar

Some new shows added to the calendar (note this Saturday’s Dr. C’s show is moved from Brooklyn to New London, CT…go figure).  Don’t forget the Dr. Caterwaul’s Valentine’s Day Speakeasy show on Feb 14th.  Come out and dance!

The Uncertainty Music Series ( has recently expanded to include twice-monthly shows at Elm Bar in New Haven.  I had the privilege of playing some solo and duo music (with Carl Testa on electronics) on the most recent installment of the series.  Below are two videos from the opening of that set which featured an extended improvisation for solo cello.  Part 1 involves a loose structure I’ve frequently used as a starting point for improvising in a modernist compositional style.  I use the open strings as pitch centers for microtonal clusters, moving from pitch center to pitch center by way of rhythmic and motivic exploration based on the beating patterns created by the microtonal intervals.  Part 2 is a series of variations on a dodecaphonic tone row with contrasting, improvised transitions.  There’s a bunch of bar noise in the background which, frankly, I find a welcome addition to the recording.

Video of another piece, for gamba, cello, and laptop to come soon!

New Dr. C’s video

Why not take a gander at the Dr. Caterwaul’s Facebook page located here:

We had a great time playing with our good friends Wood Spider and Tyler Bussey last night.  You can check out a bunch of videos from the show posted on the FB page including one of me earnestly trying to sing in French.

Audio from the Loft

While in Cologne in November I had the opportunity to play with the KlangDrang Orchester (  This group functions in much the same way as the New Haven Improvisers Collective, the group which, in many respects, got me started on my current path upon arriving in Connecticut.  Peter Wolf, who directs the ensemble, graciously allowed me to join the Orchester for a performance at the Loft of free and conducted improvisation.  You can follow the link below to hear audio from that night.  Peter wanted to give me space as a traveling musician to do some solo playing which can be heard as an introduction to group improvisations on tracks 1 and 8.

Also, please know that you can subscribe to this site for updates and can subscribe to my Facebook page at the bottom of this page.

Berlin duo

Here’s a link to the archived webcast from the final show of my Europe tour in November.  The first part is a solo improvisation then follows a duo with the violinist/vocalist, Simon Jakob Drees.  I was really privileged to get to meet and play with Simon on this trip, I believe you can see/hear in the video that we really connected musically.  Sorry the video is sort of choppy, it’s from an archived webcast.  Many thanks to Quiet Cue for making this recording of the evening.

Duo in Berlin

One of my favorite moments from the European tour was a somewhat random and roundabout connection to a fantastic violinist/vocalist in Berlin, Simon Jakob Drees. Simon and I met through a referral from a German Klezmer bassist I met at a summer backyard jam session in Hamden, CT of all places. Simon and I had a great connection musically and I greatly appreciated his generous and humble spirit. He does very interesting work fusing improvisation and music therapy. You can learn more about him here:

Here’s a shot from a duo performance we did in Berlin at the Quiet Cue series.


Don’t forget, if you’re in CT, Dr. Caterwaul’s has two shows this week.  Wednesday at BAR with the David Wax Museum and Thursday at the Outer Space with Andru Bemis and Elisabeth Pixley-Fink.