Album release gig visit from Ben Osborn

British poet, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Osborn returns to the Dartmouth Inn, Totnes on May 4th to present his latest album “Letters from the Border”.

Ben is signed up to NonoStar records and created the album with German experimental violinist Alex Stolze at the remote Nonostar Studio on the German-Polish border in the summer of 2018. It includes the acclaimed singles Fast Awake (November 2018) and A Bridge of Starlings (February 2019).

photo: Anne Sorbara / Lumessence

The haunting music crosses the borders of classical, pop and folk with an exploration of Bens’ intimate voicings using glitchy electronica, guitar, piano, violins and found sounds including the ambience surrounding the studio. Ben explains, “I was reading a book about Jewish mythology that said that the voices of sparrows were thought to contain souls, so I made the connection with all the birds around the studio, whose voices made it onto many of the tracks”.

A mystical subtext is present from the opening instrumental Chedvah, named after an obscure Hebrew word for joy. For Ben, it represents “the joy of connecting to something bigger than yourself. The piece follows a numerical sequence based on the Hebrew letters of the word, taught to me as a breathing meditation by the artist Daniel Laufer. These are the first letters from the border.”

But the studio’s wild borderland setting was also a reminder of the dangerous reality of the border for those who have to cross it. The opening lines of the album’s title track – “When the fire swept over this continent / a host of sparrows rose from the broken things” – evoke a strange and broken world, at once the stories of Ben’s Eastern- European Jewish ancestry and the struggles faced by migrants and refugees today. “My ancestors came from Europe to the US before WWII,” Ben explains. “My great- grandfather was sending letters back to his family in Europe, but he didn’t know that they had already been killed. So he never received a reply to those letters.”

The album explores Ben’s connection with his own family and examines the universal experiences of grief and bereavement from a deeply personal perspective.

Ben’s soundtracks and sound designs have won the Cameron Mackintosh Award, the Methuen Drama Emerging Artists Award, the Peter Brooke Empty Space Award and a Manchester Theatre Award. He is a co-founder of and teacher at the Berlin Open Music Lab, a free school for refugee musicians.

Listen to music from Ben Osborn on Spotify now (we will update this article with a link to the new album after March 22nd)


Ben plays The Dartmouth Inn on 4th May with support from The Diamond Family Archive


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