Take Five With Michael Lowenstern

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Meet Michael Lowenstern:

Michael Lowenstern, widely considered one of the finest bass clarinetists in the world, has performed, recorded and toured as a soloist and with ensembles of every variety. Michael has written music for concert, film, dance and various other new media over the span of his 20-year career. Actively involved with technology in sound and music, Michael has been a pioneer in the field of interactive computer music, having created or performed over a hundred works for bass clarinet and electronics. His collaborations have included remixes for the landmark recording In C Remixed (featured on NPR's RadioLab), Michael Gordon's video opera Chaos, and various dance works with David Lang. To date he can be heard on over fifty CDs, including five solo recordings of his own. Random factoid: the solo bass clarinet clip you hear as the theme to NPR's Science Out of the Box segment—that's Michael too.

Michael has served on the faculties of the Juilliard School and New York University, and travels regularly as a guest lecturer at universities around the country. He is currently on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, clarinetist Katherine Cooke, and daughter Ariel.


Bass Clarinet.

Teachers and/or influences? Harry Sparnaay, Charlie Neidich, Richard MacDowell, John Yeh, teachers; Everyone I've ever worked with: influences.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was 10 years old. The bass clarinet chose me that winter and hasn't let go since.

Your sound and approach to music: I'm a marketer by trade (I think all musicians, to a great degree, are in marketing). Part of what I do professionally is to meet people and discover a shared truth. More and more I find that to be an interest in seeing and hearing someone fully enjoying themselves, and sharing that enjoyment (really sharing, not posturing) with the audience. My music is an extension of my interests, which are broad and eclectic, and I find that there's usually something that I can share with just about anyone.

Your teaching approach: Be a great performer as well as a great instrumentalist;

Use improvisation liberally, even in notated music when appropriate;

Find the funk in rhythmic music, it's not a cerebral exercise;

Discover an independent voice as a musician. Don't copy;

When playing with others, there is one central pool of "time" (rhythm), give and take from it, but adhere to it.

Your dream band:

Todd Reynolds, Luke DuBois, John Hollenbeck, Ben Monder, Gregg August, Theo Bleckmann.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Traveling to a show in Tallahassee FL, I shared the pea-shooter plane with the FSU baseball team. They had to remove all my gear from the plan (unbeknownst to me) in order for the FSU Baseball bats to get on. It was a weight issue I think. My gear arrived about 20 minutes before the show, after I had planned an alternate (acoustic) show.

Favorite venue:

Easy, Lincoln Nebraska. Terrific, welcoming host!

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Spin Cycle. It's new, I know, but I love the fact that I can use so many different instruments on the same disc, yet keep the flow consistent. Plus, I love funk & blues, and this is my first album in that idiom

The first Jazz album I bought was: Nefertiti, by Miles Davis.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Bass clarinet independence. Not a second-string instrument to clarinet, sax, etc.

Did you know...

I make my living in advertising? That I love cooking, but am addicted to cook books?

CDs you are listening to now: People Under The Stairs, Carried Away;

Oscar Peterson, Exclusively for My Friends (4-CD box set);

Marc de Clive Lowe, Tide's Arising.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?


What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? New blood along with opening the genre description. (or, continuing to).

What is in the near future? US tour starting this fall: dates are firming up. See my website for the most up-to-date, um, dates.

By Day:

Managing Director of Digital Advertising at R/GA.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: Math teacher.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Michael Lowenstern

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