Thollem’s Accepted Levels Of Strangeness: Collaborations with Andy Kaufman

Thollem McDonas

Pianist/vocalist/composer/improviser, recipient of the 2006 National Endowment of the Arts Meet The Composer grant, was born Feb. 23, 1967 in the San Francisco Bay Area of Irish and Cherokee descent. He is presently living in Prague. He began his musical training as a young child rigorously studying the keyboard repertoire of European composers from the renaissance to the 20th century. After graduating with degrees in both piano performance and composition he chose to become homeless for several years, opting to wander and live out of a backpack, rather than pursue a career as a concert pianist with a suit and tie. It is because of these dichotomies and rich, wildly disparate experiences that his music is so dynamic and appeals to such a wide variety of audiences.
His travels as a performer have covered much of the North American continent and Europe. He has performed extensively as a soloist as well with groups. He is a founding member of several innovative ensembles, and is responsible, in full or in part, for many albums of original music, with Edgetone Records and Pax Recordings as well as some self released.
Thollem has performed in theaters, art galleries, universities, elementary schools, concert halls, jazz clubs, rock clubs, festivals, warehouses, house concerts, streets, forests, the Shoshone Desert at the Nevada nuclear test site, on television, radio, in circuses, and riots. He has performed piano concertos with symphonies, played in many free improv groups, West African drumming troupes, and Javanese gamelan ensembles, all the while working as an accompanist and a composer for opera and modern dance.
Currently Thollem primarily plays his own comprovisations which he calls post-classical circus punk world jazz free music, for people and everyone else. His music whispers/screams, "there are as many worlds in a life as there are lives in the world".

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"Accepted Levels Of Strangeness" Thollem, the ever-eclectic pianist/composer/singer-songwriter, has decided to finally re-imagine the songs he created during his collaborations with Andy Kaufman, post-mortem. Here’s how Thollem tells it: “On Feb. 23rd, 2002, Andy Kaufman visited me in a dream which was the start of a series of collaborations together. These post-mortem meetings resulted in a collection of songs that was eventually released on Personal Archives in 2016 titled 'Always Put On Your Sincere Face'. In these dreams, we worked together just as I do with people who are presently living. We were like old friends from the start. Each morning I'd work the songs out to develop sketches and record them the best I could with the equipment I had at the time. Andy asked me to wait awhile before I disclosed our collaboration or share the recordings with anyone and that I would know when the time was right. For a variety of reasons I feel like the time is now.”

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