April 29, 2019
Letters from the Border by Ben Osborn
Asylum artist, Ben Osborn, talks about the inspiration behind his latest album, “Letters from the Border”, which debuted on April 19. We are so proud to have supported this project in its beginning stages through our Small Grants Program.
I am very happy, if a little nervous, to tell you that my debut album "Letters from the Border" is now out. This is a project that was supported by the Asylum grant in its early stages, and later received support from Germany's Initiative Musik. But the money was not the only way Asylum supported this project. Without Asylum, it's unlikely this would exist.
The first track of this record is called "Chedvah". I started writing it during Asylum’s Berlin Retreat for Jewish Artists in 2017, following a session run by artist Daniel Laufer in which he taught a breathing meditation that follows a numerical sequence based on this word. The same sequence formed the basis for the piece. It's important that this is the first thing people hear on the album - I'm never completely comfortable with words like "spiritual", but the combination of spirituality and history is really central to this work.
Daniel invited me to play as part of the Rosh Chodesh service at Rykkestrasse Synagogue, which is where I met Alex Stolze - a violinist, electronic producer, composer and songwriter. Alex later invited me to join him on tour, and then to release a record on his label Nonostar. We worked together in his studio on the German-Polish border, where I wrote most of the pieces and songs and poems that would become the album.
Being on the border, there was plenty of time to think about the history of migration and flight that runs through my Jewish heritage; to compare it to the experiences, too, of my friends in Berlin (where I run music workshops for refugees and migrants). Following this path of history and spirituality, I used books on Jewish myth as well as the lamenting poetry of the psalms for inspiration and textual material.
So, the connections I made through Asylum helped this to exist; the ideas I encountered on the retreat helped to shape it; the grant helped to fund it. I am very happy, if a little nervous, to share it with the Asylum community now.
“Letters from the Border” is now available for stream, download or purchase on vinyl and CD at: