Tin Hat | Biography
Forging a new acoustic sound that defies categorization while striking universal chords, Tin Hat
makes freewheeling chamber music for the 21st century. Garnering widespread critical acclaim
for its six CDs, the group has also earned high marks for their captivating performances. Tin
Hat's international audiences have grown over the years through its many concert tours in the
United States and Europe. Hailed by the press for "interweaving Old World Europe with post-
modern America, south-of-the-border sensuality with concert-hall propriety, and odd-metered
syncopation with deeply soulful grooves" (The New York Press), the ensemble has created an
original American ethnic music of its own device.
Other reviewers note "the group blends elements of jazz, folk and classical chamber music
to create unique, yet often eerie compositions that seem like the perfect movie score."
(Billboard); "Their haunting and strangely familiar music... is a soundtrack for the kind of puzzling
dream which leaves you sitting awake in the middle of the night..." (The New Yorker); "Forget
the definitions, and simply think of their music as compelling entertainment, rich with whimsy,
imagination and intelligence." (Los Angeles Times); and "They make music that blends
contemporary classical, Eastern European folk, tango, bossa nova and bluegrass, all with a jazz-
improvisation sensibility. What comes out of that mix isn't quite like anything else you've heard -
and better than that, it's fun to listen to." (New York Daily News).
Founded in 1997 in San Francisco, the group formed as a composer’s collective committed to
creating a purely acoustic music that blurred the lines between composition and improvisation.
Original members Carla Kihlstedt (violin), Rob Burger (accordion/piano), and Mark Orton (guitar)
often invited special guests to join them on their recordings, among them such luminaries as Tom
Waits and Willie Nelson, along with luminescent friends like clarinetist Ben Goldberg and harpist
Zeena Parkins. After Rob Burger left the group in late 2004, Goldberg became a permanent
member, along with multi-instrumentalist Ara Anderson, a San Francisco native. These new
musicians fit easily into the Tin Hat mold as evocative performers, adding new colors, strokes,
and textures to the already large canvas that is the ensemble's sound, as evidenced on their last
two recordings, The Sad Machinery of Spring (Hannibal/ Rykodisc), and the live album Foreign
Legion (Bag Production). Most recently Tin Hat has been exploring both new and traditional song-
craft, incorporating Carla’s vocals into the group’s sound; and on the upcoming tours Carla, Ben,
and Mark will be joined by newcomer Rob Reich on accordion and piano.
Tin Hat pursues an active touring schedule in both America and Europe, and continually searches
for ways to integrate their signature sound into expanded instrumentations – past collaborations
include everything from a brass trio to The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. Tin Hat has also
accompanied the silent insect animations of Ladislaw Starewicz with a series of original scores
which are performed live with these groundbreaking films. Made in Russia and Paris in the early
20th century, they feature a number of animated insects, frogs and rats, dressed for roles in
decidedly surreal tellings of Aesop's fables and Grimm's fairy tales.
Further attesting to their cinematic qualities, Tin Hat’s compositions are featured on a number
of film soundtracks, including "The Good Girl," "The Real Dirt on Farmer John," "Sweet
Land,” “Everything is Illuminated,” “La Giusta Distanza,” and Tennessee Williams’ “The Loss of a
Teardrop Diamond.” Prominent dance and theater companies have used their music to enhance
choreography and for dramatic effect, e.g. Pilobolus, Koresh Dance, Donald Byrd & Spectrum
Dance Theater, Lawrence Goldhuber/BigManArts, the Berkeley Repertory Theater, and San
Francisco’s Pickle Family Circus.
[as Tin Hat]
Foreign Legion (2010, BAG Productions)
The Sad Machinery of Spring (2007, Hannibal/Rykodisc)
[as Tin Hat Trio]
Book of Silk (2004, Ropeadope Records)
The Rodeo Eroded (2002, Ropeadope Records)
Helium (2000, EMI-Angel)
Memory Is An Elephant (1999, EMI-Angel)
Clarinetist/Composer Ben Goldberg, whom John Zorn has called “one of the greatest clarinetists I have ever heard,” grew
up in Denver, Colorado, and received degrees from the University of California and Mills College. He studied with the
eminent clarinetist Rosario Mazzeo, as well as with Steve Lacy and Joe Lovano. His New Klezmer Trio "kicked open the
door for radical experiments with Ashkenazi roots music." (San Francisco Chronicle). In addition to the Ben Goldberg
Quintet, he currently performs in several groups: Tin Hat; plays monk (a trio with Scott Amendola and Devin Hoff); Myra
Melford’s Be Bread; Nels Cline’s New Monastery; and Go Home (with Charlie Hunter, Ron Miles, and Scott Amendola.) A
new CD of Ben’s compositions featuring Joshua Redman will be released in 2009. He has performed with, among others,
John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Roswell Rudd, Don Byron, Mark Feldman, Ellery Eskelin, Zeena Parkins, Mark Dresser, Vijay Iyer,
and Jenny Scheinman. More info: http://bengoldberg.net/
Carla Kihlstedt plays the violin, sings and composes in an incredibly wide variety of musical circumstances, from the
rich and subtle Tin Hat to the dramatic and alarming Sleepytime Gorilla Museum to the intimate and disarming 2 Foot
Yard. She has been lucky enough to work with many of her favorite musicians, including Fred Frith, Satoko Fujii, Tom
Waits, and Carla Bozulich. She has written music for choreographers Shinichi Iova Koga, Jo Kreiter, and Joe Goode,
and together with poet Rafael Oses has created a staged song cycle called Necessary Monsters, based loosely on Jorge
Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings. She has also returned to her classical roots through her long-time friendship
with composer Lisa Bielawa whose Double Violin Concerto, premiered in Boston and New York with violinist Colin
Jacobsen (Silk Road Ensemble). She is currently writing a new piece for the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, and a new trio
with Matthias Bossi and Shahzad Ismaily called Causing a Tiger, combining music and field recordings from her travels.More info: http://carlakihlstedt.com/
Rob Reich grew up in Long Island, New York, studying piano from age three. After graduating with a degree in Music
Composition from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. It is here that he discovered
the accordion, now his primary instrument. His musical interests include jazz, ragtime, klezmer, and classical music. Rob
brings a spirit of openness and improvisation to all music he approaches. Current bands include The Nice Guy Trio and
Gaucho. He has also worked as composer/musical director for Circus Bella, Rococo Risque, and the VaVaVoom Room.
Recently he performed original soundtracks to two classic silent film shorts: Buster Keaton’s “The Playhouse” and D.W.
Griffith’s “Corner in Wheat”. More info: http://www.robreich.com/
Founding Tin Hat member Mark Orton is a composer/guitarist based in Portland, Oregon. Having grown up in a musical
family, he is a multi-instrumentalist as well, performing on all manner of keyboards, strings, and percussion. The son of a
conductor, he began his studies in composition while in high school with Daniel Deutsch, going on to study at The Hartt
School of Music and The Peabody Conservatory. He is active as a film composer having written soundtracks for or
contributed music to many features and documentaries including "The Good Girl," "The Real Dirt on Farmer
John," "Everything Is Illuminated," "Sweet Land," "Comrades in Dreams," "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," and “Mine”.
Orton is busy as an arranger as well, working alongside producer Larry Klein arranging strings for Madeleine Peyroux and
Vienna Teng, among others. Outside of Tin Hat, Orton performs with both Imaginary Icebergs and The Steel Trio as well as with the alt-country band The Old Joe Clarks. He continues to compose concert music and writes original scores for
modern dance and theater. Along with writer/ collaborator Rafael Oses, he is a founder of Famous Last Words and Music,
a company dedicated to the production and performance of new radio drama.
More info: http://markortonmusic.com/