Frank Pahl






Let's stick to the reverse chronology.

2011 - I taught Sound Design and Scoring at CCS. The scoring class was a first for me, and a blast. By the second week of class I had non-musicians and musicians performing Bernstein’s music to a scene from “The Magnificent Seven” while watching the clip and recording it in our new foley room. Little Bang Theory released their second cd and I also released a cd of prepared piano music. Little Bang Theory performed musical and live foley accompaniment several times for the animated Starevicz film “The Mascot” and Ozu’s “I Was Born But...”

2010 - Another year of teaching at U of M and CCS. I co-curated my first group show, “Animal Farm” (w/Heather Accurso) at Gallery Project. The big news is I received a Kresge Fellowship for my work in Sound Art, which allowed me to breathe slightly easier for a year. I also returned after almost 20 years to the Sound Symposium in St. John's, Newfoundland. While there I had my third solo exhibition, performed with my automatics and wrote my second Harbour Symphony. My second cd with Klimperei, “Musique for Bath,” was released on the French label, Jardin Au Fou.

2009 - Another year of teaching at U of M and CCS. In the summer I performed with my automatic organs and a quartet in Los Angeles at a festival called “Cams, Cranks & Computers. I enjoyed my second solo exhibition of kinetic sound sculptures at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Between Kansas and California I hope I've improved at packaging and sending my small feat.

2008 - The year began with a couple of months helping Trimpin during his residency at U of M School of Art. The year also marked my return to teaching at U of M in Ann Arbor and CCS in Detroit. I had the pleasure of working with Malcolm Tulip again, performing musical accompaniment to his latest theater piece, “The Day Everything Went Wrong.” “buzzards steal your picnic” was shown at Ann Arbor Film Festival and took the Best Michigan Film Award. I also wrote new music for Peter Sparling's documentary for Michigan Television, “Climbing Saint-Victoire.” Little Bang Theory released their first CD “Elementary,” on AcidSoxx.

2007 - I had a breakthrough this year with my kinetic sound installations. My “Wind & Percussion Ensemble #1,” exhibited at Gallery Project, featured two binary counters, one for the air organs and one for the doorbells. Jim Pallas was a tremendous help with the binary counters. I also exhibited my Toru Quartet at PCCA and won a small award. Terri Sarris completed her documentary about yours truly, “buzzards steal your picnic,” and premiered it at Detroit Docs where it took the Best Michigan Film Award.

2006 - I exhibited new work at Gallery Project, A2 Art Center and Bohemian Gallery. In Milwaukee I had the privilege of performing with Milwaukee Dance Theater (and Dan Kahn) the music of Tom Waits for their excellent production of “Woyzeck.” Another highlight was being asked to write new prepared piano music for a documentary on architect Eero Saarinen by Ed Moore. The documentary toured Europe and North America with the Saarinen exhibition.

2005 - In the spring I had my first solo exhibition, “Four Quartets,” at ArtCite in Windsor where my new toyband, Little Bang Theory, premiered Toy Suite #2. In the summer Little Bang Theory performed at Three Drops of Blood festival in San Francisco with a little help from the NEA. I also composed music for, acted in and built a kinetic sound installation for Tate Bunker's award winning film “Space Worship.” Scavenger Quartet released their finest collection to date, “We Who Live On Land.”

2004 - In March I wrote music for "My Master is a Collector," a collaborative multi-media piece by Thylias Moss, with video, direction and performance by Cynthia Pachikara, Marienetta Porter and Terri Sarris, which premiered at Michigan Theater as part of the Ann Arbor film fest. Also at the film fest i premiered the sound installation "Ode to Mesmer" at Work Gallery, later exhibited at Biddle Gallery. April and May were spent at Performance Network in my role as Musical Director for a 6-week run of "Three Penny Opera". In June, the Power Center premiered "Peninsula" by choreographer Peter Sparling for which I wrote the music. In July at the Performance Network I wrote and performed original music for Jeffrey Steiger's "Stand-up: A Show." In September I performed at the Broken Clock festival and provided sound design for Performance Network's "Humble Boy." October will premiere "Fair and Balanced" a political cabaret by Milwaukee Dance, for which I'll write incidental music and perform protest songs. Awards this year include Best Sound Design for "Three Penny," Der Leo's Best Music for a Short Film (Egg), and a Salute to Excellence Award from Downriver Council for the Arts.

2003 - In January at Hastings Street Ballroom, Scavenger Quartet, with automatic accompaniment, performed the music to an original piece of theater I wrote and directed entitled "Leftovers: The Musical" which told in verse the fictionalized life of Edward Lear. Late February and March were spent in Japan touring to support Back of Beyond on the Novel Cell Poem label. In April I joined the Shaking Ray Levis to perform "Mayor of Tennessee River" written and narrated by David Greenberger. I also received a Creative Artist Grant from ArtServe Michigan to build and write new music for Automatic instruments.

2002 - I've been juggling three groups: The Immigrant Suns (a tour in May to support "Supernova"), Xenharmonic Gamelan and Scavenger Quartet. I wrote the music for "Dada Boy Paints on Canvas" by Jeffrey Steiger and Body Talks by Peter Sparling. Two installations were also premiered: "Slumberland" at Detroit Artist Market and "Fall" at Biddle Gallery. Breech and Nelly Bly also released CDs featuring my tinkering.

2001 - Music for Desserts with Klimperei on the in poly sons label and Whistling for Leftovers with Scavenger Quartet on the Snowdonia label are both released and a lovely toypop compilation "Musique du Jouet," on Japan's Novel Cell Poem label also hits the record stores (somewhere). Several theater and dance commissions (performed live): "My Elephant Dream" for Milwaukee Dance in Milwaukee, "Dossin Project" for Peter Sparling and Company at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and for University of Michigan: Brecht's "Good Person of Szechwan" and Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath". Two installations: Double Quartet #1 at Slusser Gallery and "Music for Desserts" at Biddle Gallery. A few lectures, most notably a lecture, demonstration and workshop at Cranbrook Arts Academy and a fine article in The Wire by David Mandl entitled "Scavenging for Automatons."

2000 - In January and February I was Artist in Residence at Zeum in San Francisco where I taught high school students how to build and perform with automatic instruments, culminating in a performance called "The Luggage Project". Several theater commissions kicked me arse in the best possible way. In Miwaukee: "Ten Minutes Till Bedtime. In Detroit": "Inspector General". And for University of Michigan: "Lysistrata" and "The Tempest" (return engagement). The sound installation "Music for a Red Room" was installed at Biddle Gallery and The Immigrant Suns released the "Field Recordings" LP featuring improvisations recorded at my studio.

1999 - Two commissions for University of Michigan (both performed with Scavenger Quartet): "The Tempest" and Peter Sparling's "Delirium Waltz". I also wrote an article for the final issue of Experimental Musical Instruments entitled "Door-to-door Doorbell Salesman Sample Case." A few exhibitions that are hardly worth mentioning and an extremely limited release CD with David Greenberger, "I Still Like Myself."

1998 - Two releases now out of print: Only a Mother's swan song, "Damned Pretty Snout," and a collection of instrumentals to coincide with my MFA show called "Remove the Cork." The MFA show which featured members of The Immigrant Suns (first use of the name "Scavenger Quartet") was the final requirement for an MFA in Art and Design from University of Michigan. Also featured in the MFA show was a performance by The Amazing Tubachairs complete with a video collaboration with Terri Sarris. Other gallery performances included automatic doorbell performances/exhibitions at C-Pop in Detroit, Biddle Gallery in Wyandotte and Performance Network in Ann Arbor. I was also a finalist for the Polk competition in Birmingham and I received a competitive scholarship award in composition from the GameWorks/World Studio Foundation and an Arts Achievement Award from Wayne State University where I received my undergraduate degree in 1981. Curiously, Only a Mother was nominated for best new jazz band by Detroit Music Awards? And in the summer I squeezed in a West Coast tour.

1997 - Several Dance Commissions: Janet Lilly's "Portrait of a Woman in Mythological Disguise" in Milwaukee, two short pieces for "Haiku Project" (released on CD of the same name) in Geneva, Switzerland and Terri Sarris' "Partners" in Ann Arbor (for which I also danced). I also composed music for the documentaries "Ballad of Fire" by James Knight and "The Faces of Tyree Guyton" by Nicole Cattel. Besides performing with Only a Mother at Edgefest in Ann Arbor I also toured Japan solo where I hawked my "In Cahoots" CD which made a few top 10 lists at year's end. Four local exhibitions, two of which yielded cash prizes (Polk Awards and Lansing Art Gallery).

1996 - University of Michigan lured me back to school with a non-traditional fellowship (which means help for the aged). Two exhibitions, one film commission, two dance commissions and two theater commissions that are hardly worth mentioning. My music appeared on three CDs now out of print: "Eyesore: A Tribute to the Residents," "State of the Union," and "Back from Durbecca" by the Immigrant Suns. Of particular interest was an automaton performance at Detroit Institute of Arts and a European tour with Only a Mother followed by performances at Solofest. Solofest featured Fred Frith, Zeena Parkins, Rudiger Carl, Otomo Yoshihide, Peter Kowald and many others. It was in Geneva where I met Pierre Bastien and the automatic music bug may have planted.

1995 - Two Ann Arbor dance commissions: Terri Sarris' "Loose Threads" and People Dancings' "Way Far Out Balls." Three theater commissions: Malcolm Tulip's "Robber's Nightmare," Sue Carman's "Heaven" and Wild Swan's "Winnie the Pooh." "Feral Chickens" released to unsuspecting public.

1994 - Three dance commissions: Janet Lilly's "Black Cat," Terri Sarris' "Chance and Circumstance" and Peter Sparling's "Travelogue." Two theater commissions: Malcolm Tulip's "Asylum Asylum," and Walk & Squawk's "They Do It With Mirrors." Two CDs: "The Romantic Side of Schizophrenia," and "Montenegro," with Immigrant Suns. Last but not least, I penned a chapter in Jon Rose's book, "Violin Music in the Age of Shopping."

1993 - Two theater commissions: Nelson Smith's "Psychological Gravity" and Malcolm Tulip's "Enrique Miasmo." Two dance commissions, Peter Sparling's "Local Color" and from Chattanooga Ann Law's "Walnut Street Bridge Dance" with the Shaking Ray Levis.

1993 also marked the second year of the Earwhacks! Music Festival that I coordinated with the help of Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit. The two festivals took place in five venues and three counties to give musicians ample opportunity to reach different audiences. Featured performers included Eugene Chadbourne, David Greenberger, Shaking Ray Levis, LaDonna Smith, Davey Williams, Roy Brooks, Nobua Kubota, Paul Dutton, Nick Didkovsky, Amy Denio, Tatsu Aoki and many more. A couple of awards from Detroit's Metro Times: Hall of Fame and Best Instrumentalist.

1992 - Only a Mother was busy in 1992 with performances at Sound Symposium at St. John's Newfoundland (the inspiration for Earwhacks!), New Music America, a European tour and a performance at the first Earwhacks! A commission to write music for Walk & Squawk's production of "Song of the Lark," brought me to Telluride, Colorado. Eugene Chadbourne included Only a Mother on his LSDC&W Part 2 CD.

1991 - Only a Mother was chosen by Metro Times as Band Deserving Wider Recognition but more importantly 1991 was the year of the first collaboration with Malcolm Tulip ("Don Don…") and it was also the year of the first CD releases from Wyandotte's Private Studios (Only a Mother's "Naked Songs for Contortionists" and my first solo release "The Cowboy Disciple").




Back from Beyond - solo (Novel Cell Poem - Japan)   This release alternates between friendly toypop and commissions for theater and dance. Misique Du Jouet - Various Artists (Novel Cell Poem - Japan)   Including Frank Pahl, Klimperei, Pascal Camelade, David Fenech, Itoken, Harpy & more. Japanese toypop label Novel Cell Poem releases a bunch of previously unreleased tracks in a beautiful package with informative book insert (if you read Japanese).  Mayor Of The Tennessee River - David Greenberger & Shaking Ray Levis (PelPel Recordings)   David came down to Chattanooga in 2002 and interviewed local senior citizens while I joined up with those inimitable improvisational stalwarts, the Shaking Ray Levis. The results are 17 new standards. How can you pass it up?  Obedience - Larval (Cuniform) Frank Pahl - Assistant


Xenharmonic Gamelan - XHG   XHG is a six-piece band based out of Detroit and led by microtonalist Clem Fortuna.  Many of the instruments are home made. Equally influenced by traditional gamelan music and minimalism, XHG is capable of beautiful music to meditate by.

Supernova - Immigrant Suns (Phonetic Records) Frank Pahl - Harmonium, Euphonium


Scavenger Quartet - Whistling for Leftovers (Snowdonia - Italy)   Scavenger Quartet (Doug Gourlay of Only a Mother, Tim Holmes of Major Dents, and Joel Peterson of Immigrant Suns and XHG) was originally formed to perform original jazz waltzes for the choreography of Peter Sparling. We got along so well we decided to call it a group. Dave Mandl of The Wire wrote "a chamber jazz hybrid that is much more intimate than Only a Mother but with an equally vast palette."  And Ralph Valdez of WDET added "Future-rustic might be an apt description of the Scavenger sound which achieves a fusion that is simultaneously antiquated and avant garde." 

Music for Desserts - Frank Pahl and Klimperei (in poly sons - France)   What can I say? This is my favorite. All tracks began with home made automatic instruments.  Klimperei laid down their sympathetic magic and I mixed. The folks at The Wire liked it and Nate Cavalieri of The Metro Times wrote, "an achievement that depends on beautifully complex minds and beautifully simple machines."  Cover art by yours truly. 


Chadbourne Baptist Church, Vol. II - Eugene Chadbourne  Frank Pahl - Producer, Euphonium

Birthing Chair Blues - Amy Denio  Frank Pahl - Assistant

Field Recordings - Immigrant Suns (Phonetic Records)  Frank Pahl - Engineer, Alto Clarinet


Atomic Milk-Throwers - Various Artists


Damned Pretty Snout - Only A Mother A classic from 1998 brought back to life on Frank's own Back of Beyond CDR release. Guests Eugene Chadbourne and Luc Houtkamp join the usual cast for the fun.

More Than Food - Immigrant Suns (Phonetic Records) Frank Pahl - Farfisa Organ, Siren, Euphonium, Engineer



Boss Withch - Shaking Ray Levis (Shaking Ray Records)  My favorite improvising duo on this here planet, Dennis Palmer and Bob Stagner get together with some of their favorites (JD Parran, Davey Williams, Frank Pahl, Mary Richards & Steve Beresford). 

In Cahoots - (Vaccination Records)  As the title suggests, there are different collaborators on each track and the CD alternates songs with instrumentals. Pitching in are The Immigrant Suns, Eugene Chadbourne, Only a Mother, Shaking Ray Levis, Luc Houtkamp, David Greenberger, Missy Gibson, Brian Poole and more. 

Insect & Western Attractor - Eugene Chadbourne (Leo) Frank Pahl - Engineer


Haikus Urbains - Various Artists



Insect & Western Party - Eugene Chadbourne  Frank Pahl - Engineer

Thunderclap - Live at the Den Haag Korzo Theatre Field Recordings 3 - Luc Houtkamp & Guests  Frank Pahl - Engineer, Banjo


State Of The Union - Various Artists (Atavistic) - Compilation curated by Elliot Sharp


Eyesore: A Stab At The Residents - Various Artists - Tribute to the Residents


A compendium/preview/guide to Eyesore - Various Artists - 7" Single preview of Eyesore includes Frank track.


Feral Chickens - Only A Mother Released four years after Naked Songs for Contortionists, Feral Chickens remains one of Only a Mother's strongest effort.

I Still Feel Like Myself - David Greenberger with special guests (PONK Home Recordings) How's this for a lineup: Only a Mother, Eugene Chadbourne, Davey Williams, Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet (minus Amy), Tatsu Aoki and David and I. All previously unreleased material.

Loose Threads - One of my most successful dance scores to date. Commissioned by Terri Sarris as composer and dancer (that's my dancing behind on the cover) this sewing epic explored the connection between recorded images, history and memory.


Lyrics By Ernest Noyes Brookings II - Various Artists


Unsettled Scores - Various Artists




The Nerve Events - Various Artists w/Dr Nerve




LSD C&W, Pt.2 - Eugene Chadbourne w/Frank Pahl & Only A Mother


Lyrics By Ernest Noyes Brookings - Various Artists


Passed Normal Vol.5 - Various Artists - Frank & Major Dents contribute one track to this ever-eclectic collection series assembled by FOT Records. It started out as a cassette only collection, mutated to vinyl, and now on CD.



Naked Songs For Contortionists - Only A Mother  This early opus by Bobbi Benson, Doug Gourlay, Marko Novachcoff, Frank Pahl, and Mary Richards contains 23 tracks. Half are instrumental, the others support Frank's warped stories.




Studio Animals - Only a Mother  




The Romantic Warped - Only a Mother   The second release by Only a Mother is the folkiest of their five releases however there are plenty of the weird moments that brought us infamy (kind of).


Studio Animals - Various   In the '80s I began releasing cassette-only compilations.  This vinyl release was my foray into the big time.  Contributors include Eugene Chadbourne, Only a Mother, Rascal Reporters, Major Dents and more.



Riding White Alligators - Only a Mother   The first release by Only a Mother.




If you have been here before you know how this works, however, take a look at NEW RELEASES and DISCOUNTS!

Welcome to Frank's Bank, aka my retirement plan/health care package! This is how it
works (in America). When you buy something, the next time my urine glows in the dark I get to see a doctor.

The shop has been on hold for a few years. The numbers in bold above the description refer to the year and the format. If it's a CD-R, rest assured they were made with loving care using Verbatim CD-Rs on a professional Denon deck.
Payment can be made using PayPal and my e-mail address
You can also contact me via e-mail to inquire about releases not listed or ask me about my dusty nuggets. If you're nice I might just burn out of print releases.

For snail mail payments, send check or money order to:
Frank Pahl
1783 Fifth Street
Wyandotte, MI

For international orders, e-mail for price quotes. The prices listed include postage within
the U.S.


NEW!!! 20121CD Hats - Scavenger Quartet "Joy in the house: that’s what happens when a new Scavenger Quartet CD (or any Frank Pahl-related CD) comes in." - Francois Couture."When listening to Scavenger Quartet, the eclectic chamber-pop-rock outfit Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Martin Denny’s exotica come to mind, because of an uncommon, transportive atmosphere that is evoked." - Ernie Paik, Chatanooga Pulse


20111CD Toy Suites and Themes - Little Bang Theory We finally got around to putting our magnum opus on a release. Toy Suite #2 was where it all began. This is music for all ages, especially for the adult who doesn't want to grow up. We've also added more covers from some of our favorite film composers as well as a suite of themes from our accompaniment to the silent film “I Was Born, But ...”
$15 SALE PRICE $10


20112CD Music for Architecture - Frank Pahl This collection features prepared piano on all 17 tracks. Much of the music was written for a film commission, a documentary on Eero Saarinen by Ed Moore. When the commission was finished I couldn't bring myself to remove all the screws and bolts that made my piano moan, so I continued to write
and record, some of which was used for dance, some for film, but mostly music that either amused or disturbed me.
$12 SALE PRICE $10


20101CD Musique for Bath - Frank Pahl & Klimperei- Twenty-one new tracks for your listening and bathing pleasure. This could be considered a follow-up to “Music for Desserts,” with a bit less emphasis on the automatic instruments (instead of every track, they appear on about half the cd). I can't read Dutch but the review I read referenced Penquin Cafe Orchestra and “Another Green World” era Brian Eno. Lovely artwork in a limited edition.


2008CD Elementary - Little Bang Theory Formed in 2006, w/Terri Sarris, Claudette Jocelyn Stern and Doug Shimmin to amuse ourselves with my collection of musical toys, LBT has become a popular live act, occasionally performing accompaniment to silent films. Our first release features music for film and theater and fun. Recommended for all ages.
$11 SALE PRICE $10

20071CD Songs of War and Peace - Solo w/Special Guests Though this is a Bushera protest release, many of the attacks are against corporations and big oil so I like to think it isn't dated. Francois Couture wrote, “It took George Bush to pull Frank Pahl out of his music for dance and theater productions and drag him back to songwriting. So, fans of Only a Mother rejoice, because the man is in fine form, turning in an opus at least as strong as “In Cahoots.” Guests include Eugene Chadbourne, members of Only a Mother, Immigrant Suns and more.


20051CD We Who Live On Land - Scavenger Quartet Automatic instruments on every other track. Doug on drums, Joel on bass and Tim on reeds; together touching on several musical bases but not for long. I recently read a nice review of this release by our multi-talented friend Eugene Chadbourne who said the genre “was downright impossible label.” Hell, I can't and I wrote it!

20041CD-R Dusty Nuggets - Only a Mother Seventeen unreleased OAM tracks
recorded between 1988 and 1998. A fine release for any OAM enthusiast.

20042CD-R Euphoniums - Solo Originals mixed with unlikely covers of Mancini, Neil
Young, Cat Stevens, The Beatles and The Doors. The covers were rescued from the
Cranbrook Art Academy's dumpsters. Bertoia? Saarinen? Eames?
PRICe $11


20021CD-R Xenharmonic Gamelan - XHG XHG was a six-piece home made gamelan band based out of Hamtramck and led by microtonalist Clem Fortuna. Equally influenced by traditional gamelan and minimalism, XHG was capable of beautiful music to meditate by.


19981CD Damned Pretty Snout - Only a Mother Cleaning house recently I came
across about 50 of these gems. This was the final release while we were together and
features some of our best material with great performances by guests Eugene
Chadbourne and Luc Houtkamp. Now if only I could find matching socks.


19971CD-R In Cahoots - Solo w/Special Guests As the title suggests, there are
different collaborators on each track and the cd alternates songs with instrumentals.
Pitching in are Immigrant Suns, Eugene Chadbourne, David Greenberger, Jessica
Lurie, Only a Mother, Shaking Ray Levis, Luc Houtkamp, Missy Gibson, Brian Poole
(Renaldo & the Loaf) and more. These CD-Rs are available in the original packaging by Vaccination Records w/cover art by Dennis Palmer.

19891LP The Romantic Warped - Only a Mother This is the second of five releases
by Only a Mother and features all the original members and original artwork. It has folky elements like “Rubbydubs, Mugwamps and Wobblies,” alongside that avantfolk OAM sound in cuts like “Song for Mud.”



Automatic Instruments





Click HERE for a larger experience with the automatic instruments I have concocted.