Theodor Trampler & Ulrich Balß
Past & Present 1928 – 2018
160 fotos, letters, documents & music -CD
New York, with it’s innumerable facets, it’s mix of peoples and cultures, is like a great, beating heart whose pulse inexorably draws the world to itself. Attracted as well by the possibilities of this city, my grandfather worked in New York in 1928/29, in order to secure a better economic future for his family back in Leipzig. For him, emigration was always an option, though he deferred to his wife on this decision. I first travelled to the Big Apple exactly 60 years later. But it was just a few years ago that the documents of his 15-month stay fell into my hands; letters, hundreds of wonderful black and white photos, and his diary.
I discovered many parallels, and soon decided to document his and my own New York experiences in a photo-book.
As a music producer, I’ve worked with many New York musicians over the last decades and thus it was not a huge jump to include this aspect of culture into the book. What music did my grandfather hear?
There are photos of my grandfather as a two-year-old. When I compare them to photos of me at the same age, the similarity is astounding. In the process of preparing this book, I discovered many further connections between us. I was drawn nearer to him than I ever had been as a child or teenager.
The saga begins in 1928, with my grandfather Theodore Trampler from Leipzig, and ends in 2018, 90 years later, with the assemblage of this book by his grandson Ulrich Balß. It is a book about his search for work, his life in New York, and his impressions of the city in all its various aspects. The times seemed to move ever faster. He witnessed the ongoing explosion of automobiles coursing through the metropolis, experienced the first arrival of a Zeppelin which had crossed the Atlantic, and was there at the tickertape parade for the rst pilot to ever cross the Atlantic from Europe by plane. By contrast, his communications were quite slow; his very regular letters, written in the then-current cursive form known as Sütterlin, were transported by ship over the Atlantic. Novelties were already weeks old, when his wife and two daughters read of them back in Leipzig. He wrote over 100 letters in 15 months, and again as many to his parents and friends, before homesickness and yearning drove him back to his beloved Germany. His writings re ect the impressions of a migrant worker and social democrat, who could not have imagined what awaited him and his homeland in just a few years.
He took most of the pictures while riding around on his bicycle, which he had brought along from Leipzig, in order to be mobile, as well as to see something of both city and countryside. ese two passions, bicycle riding and photography, were inherited by me.
The contemporary pictures from 1928/29 are no typical tourist snapshots. ey speak of the authentic life and work of a German bookbinder, in a strange country and a foreign land, who saved every penny he earned for his family. It was a grat- ifying compensation that he was able to sell some of his photos in America, and later in Germany.
New York for my grandfather was the tumult of everyday life among anonymous people. In his photos they each receive a face and a story. His view of the city was ever-critical, yet full of human respect. Long before I ever became acquainted with his photos, I myself took pictures in New York. Like him, I was also more interested in capturing unusual glimpses behind the glittering facade than in the o -seen clichées. us I have selected both his and my photos with this aesthetic in mind.
There was the occasional opportunity to compare certain motifs with an 80-year interval; my pictures seem more like an extension of my grandfather’s perceptions, emphasizing particular details not evident in the view of a photographer of the early 20th century. A short illustration of the sequence of events shows how the results of my research complete the story. Certain documents came to light only recently, under piles of heirlooms. I discovered his ‘Application for Visa’ only in late 2016.
My relationship with New York is very personal, in that as a music producer, I’ve worked together with many New York artists, some of whom have recorded music expressly for this project. ese are songs my grandfather might have heard during his visit. Perhaps they moved him back then, just as they still move millions today.
The accompanying CD is a tribute to the melting pot which is the City.
I have consciously chosen numbers which originated in the 1920s. Timeless and fascinating in themselves, they have here been newly interpreted.
Together with the texts, photos and documentation, the music rounds out the journey through time. In some of the photos, one can almost smell the life of the city. Then why not include the music to further feed the imagination?
It is a very personal book, for I have engaged in particular aspects of my own family history. But it is also a book for everyman, a document and witness of life in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Bremen, Spring 2018 Ulrich Balß
New York – the Sound of a City
Joseph Daley was born in Harlem, August of 1949 less than two months a er my late wife Wanda. His parents were immigrants from the Island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. They loved America and considered it a great land of opportunity for those that were willing to work hard. His family did work hard and achieved many wonderful outcomes despite the difficult racial climate of the time.
Daley’s is a contemporary music, jazz, and improvisation artist, who studied at the Manhattan School of Music attaining a bachelor’s in performance and a master’s in music education. He has received fellowships in music composition from the National Endow- ment of the Arts, MacDowell Colony, Music Omi, and the Geraldine R Dodge Foundation.
| Avarita Avarice – From the album ‚ The Seven Deadly Sins’ by Joseph Daley Earth Tones Ensemble – JARO 4303-2
Native New Yorker multi-instrumentalist Rachelle Garniez has been described as a ‘diva with a difference’ (Billboard Magazine) and a ‘certified free spirit’ ( The New Yorker). Her performances are authentic, theatrical, spontaneous and fresh; stream-of-consciousness improvisations provide scope for the songs to evolve and develop continually as the spirit moves. She has released five CDs on her own label, Real Cool Records. She is a performing member and co-musical director of the Neo-Cabaret troupe The Citizens Band and plays in the acclaimed Roots-World ensemble Hazmat Modine and the Songbirds Collective. Her songs can be heard on many television programs and have been recorded by singers like Catherine Russell, Karen Elson, and Ingrid Lucia of the Flying Neutrinos, to name just a few. Since 2015 Rachelle works with JARO Medien and released two CDs on the label. Rachelle Garniez plays accordeon, claviola, vocals, piano.
Two songs were exclusivly recorded for the CD of the photobook ‘New York’ by Rachelle Garniez:
Am I Blue? (Harry Akst and Grant Clarke) 1929, and was a great hit that year for Ethel Waters in the movie ‘On with the Show’. It has become a standard. | My Baby Just Cares for Me (Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn) is a jazz standard. Written for the lm version of the musical comedy ‘Whoopee!’ (1930).
A stylized version of the song by Nina Simone, is the most famous version of this song.
Hazmat Modine is a band in perpetual motion. To them, timelessness, innovation and inclusiveness trump the trendy and the ephemeral. The very definition of honest-to-goodness American roots music – but also considerably more global and exotic – Hazmat Modine is visually and aurally captivating, continually exploratory, and thoroughly engaging.
Steady Roll, Bahamut, Broke My Baby’s Heart – From the album ‘Bahamut’ by Hazmat Modine – JARO 4283-2
Walking Stick – From the album ‘Live’ by Hazmat Modine – JARO 4320-2
Saxophonist and composer Steve Elson was born in California, but has spent the last four decades living and working in New York Citys Lower East Side, where his greatgrandparents landed a er emigrating from Eastern Europe. Best known for his over 30 year collaboration with rock icon David Bowie, Elson creates music informed by his rhythm and blues, jazz, klezmer, Latin, and rock influences. As well as performing and recording with hundreds of influential and innovative musicians from around the world, Elson was a co-founder of Slickaphonics (with Ray Anderson), the Borneo Horns and is a featured member of Hazmat Modine. He currently leads the creative ensemble Steve Elsons Lips and Fingers. More information can be found at steveelson.com.
Everything Will be Alright – From the album ‘Steve Elson at Play’ by Steve Elson
The Meta Four feat. Robert Mayes
The Meta Four are four black female singers from the choir of the Universal Life Church in Chicago. The vocal quartet mixes the power that comes from the church with cosmic arrangements, leaving the genre boundary behind, without landing in the musical nowhere. That religious music could be employed for worldly ends is a neat reversal of Martin Luther’s famous remark, “Why should the devil have all the good tunes?” The gospel retort might be that if the world has the best tunes, the church has the best moves, rhythms, and voices. is may be because gospel is, above all, a music of testimony. The archetypal gospel phrase, “How I got over”, depicts the essential situation: the singer has suffered greatly, ‘abused, confused, misused’, mistreated by society (‘doors have been closed in my face’) and by loved ones (‘they smile in your face but cut your throat behind your back’). Yet she made it over, relying pretty much on sheer will-power and a self-confidence so clearly without visible support that it seems downright miraculous.
I Love the Lord – From the album ‘Shout Sister Shout’ by The Meta Four & Robert Mayes – JARO 4144-2