A filmmaker, folk musician, poet, and playwright whose artwork touched on many aspects of the American postwar experience, Fred Engelberg (1929–2012) was a counterculture figure who contributed to diverse art, film, and music communities in New York and Los Angeles during the 1960s and 1970s. After releasing two Beat-inspired folk albums and relocating to LA in the early 1960s, Engelberg screened his short experimental films at the famous ‘Round Midnight Film Series, cavorted with Ferus Gallery artists, and regularly performed with Topanga Canyon folk singers at the legendary Unicorn Coffeehouse on Sunset Boulevard. In addition to collaborating with filmmakers and cultural figures Les Blank, Simon Wiesenthal, and Shel Silverstein (among many others), Engelberg worked closely with Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, and Stephen Blauner, whose BBS production company (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show) ushered in a new era of independent cinema in the early 1970s. Tasked with directing BBS's documentary film division, Engelberg helped produce the Academy Award-winning film Hearts and Minds (1974) and completed, but never released, two feature-length films of his own.
During this period Engelberg's experimental documentary films depicted the crisis in Vietnam, as well as domestic issues, including the civil rights movement, race riots, and protests led by university students and the Black Panthers, and explored fringe societal elements including American G.I.s seeking sanctuary in California's convents, the Hell’s Angels and the Ku Klux Klan. An artist whose principled aesthetic vision revealed the unrest—and poetics—of a nation in a period of dramatic transition, Engelberg and his diverse projects have remained until recently hidden from view, in part a consequence of his decision to relocate to the quiet of the southern California desert in the mid 1970s. Upon his death in 2012, Engelberg’s partner of over thirty years sought to place his life’s work with an institution that would assume the task of preserving and restoring his legacy.
The Trimbin Band
The Trimbin Band—Nick Hallett, Mikael Jorgensen, James Merle Thomas, and William Tyler—works with the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts to review, select, and score excerpts from Engelberg’s motion picture and audio archives, now known as the Fred Engelberg Collection. Drawing from the artist's footage and his extensive personal reserves of found and stock film, the Trimbin Band composes and performs live musical accompaniment to Engelberg’s works, which have gone unseen for nearly forty years. Intended as part of a broader digital humanities project dedicated to the research and restoration of Engelberg’s materials, the Trimbin Band will premiere their project this March in New York as part of the 2016 Kaufman Music Center's Ecstatic Music Festival, and at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA.
Additional performances are being scheduled for 2016.
For tickets for New York and North Adams concerts, booking inquiries, or other information, please use the buttons below.
Thursday, March 17, 7:30 PM
Merkin Concert Hall, Kaufman Music Center
129 W. 67th St., New York, NY
Saturday, March 19, 8 PM
The Hunter Center at Mass MoCA
1040 MASS MoCA WAY | North Adams, MA
About the Trimbin Band:
Nick Hallett is a New York-based composer, vocalist, and cultural producer, working between the worlds of music, art, and performance. His work has been presented in recent years by the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Kitchen, The Public Theater/Joe’s Pub, and ISSUE Project Room, among others. He is currently collaborating with choreographer Bill T. Jones, as composer of the the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s latest dance-theater work, Analogy: A Trilogy. Hallett’s first opera, co-authored with artist Shana Moulton, Whispering Pines 10, was awarded a Creative Capital development grant, premiered at The Kitchen in April 2010 and has since been staged at numerous museums and cultural institutions worldwide. Since 2007, Hallett has served as Music Director of the Joshua Light Show, and as co-director of the celebrated Darmstadt series, which stages dynamic interpretations of repertoire from the experimental music canon. As a vocalist, Hallett has sung in operas by Anthony Braxton, John King, and Susie Ibarra, among others.
Mikael Jorgensen has been playing keyboards for Wilco since 2002 and has performed on their Grammy Award winning “A Ghost Is Born” (Nonesuch Records, 2004) and each recording since. Jorgensen has released several records under different identities such as Pronto’s “All Is Golden” (Contraphonic, 2009) and “Mikael Jorgensen & Greg O’Keeffe” (Butterscotch Records, 2013) and a re-issue called “The Cheetah” (Butterscotch Records 2014). In 2015, Jorgensen collaborated and performed with musician Roberto Lange (Helado Negro), to present Island Universe Story at Mass MoCA and The Ordway Center as part of the critically acclaimed Liquid Music series. As a recording engineer at John McEntire’s SOMA Electronic Music Studios in Chicago from 1999–2004, Jorgensen worked to produce albums by a diverse cast of recording artists, including Stereolab, Jim O’Rourke, Rob Mazurek, and Califone among many others. Along with James Merle Thomas, he records and performs as a member of Quindar, a research and music performance project based on NASA’s film and audio archives.
James Merle Thomas is a curator and historian of modern and contemporary art, and is currently a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the Humanities at the University of Southern California, where he teaches in the Department of Art History. His current book project considers the functional design aesthetic of the American aerospace industry during the height of the Apollo era as related to the abstract painting and sculpture, experimental architecture, and radical graphic design of the 1960s. Thomas has previously held fellowships at the National Air and Space Museum and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and served as Assistant Curator of the Second Biennial of Contemporary Art of Seville (2005) and the Seventh Gwangju Biennale (2008), among others. His 2015 exhibition, “Loose in Some Real Tropics” was produced at Stanford University in conjunction with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Since 2002 Thomas has also performed and released recordings as a multi-instrumentalist under his own name and with collaborators on the record labels Apparent Extent, Morr Music, and Karaoke Kalk. Since 2013, he has collaborated with Mikael Jorgensen, recording and performing regularly as one half of Quindar.
William Tyler is a Nashville-based guitarist and composer. After spending a decade recording and touring with Lambchop and Silver Jews, Tyler began to develop his own version of instrumental guitar music, a signature fingerpicking style blended with experimentation with found audio, electronic effects, and washes of ambient noise. 2010’s Behold the Spirit (Tompkins Square), Tyler’s first album under his own name, was celebrated by Pitchfork as “the most vital, energized album by an American solo guitarist in a decade or more” and established him as a critical favorite, the picker who “connects the dots between Sandy Bull, Richard Thompson, Bruce Langhorne, and Reggie Young.” His 2013 full-length album, Impossible Truth, was released on Merge Records to widespread critical acclaim. In 2014, Tyler collaborated with filmmaker Steve Milligan and theater director Akiva Fox as part of Duke University’s Performance Series to produce Corduroy Roads, a music and film project illustrated by photographs of the Civil War taken by George Barnard and Alexander Gardner.
Archival photos © The Estate of Fred Engelberg.
Courtesy the Fred Engelberg Collection.
Produced in collaboration with Dino Everett, Director of the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive at the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
Trimbin Band photo: Elizabeth Weinberg