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Borbetomagus - The Most Famous Unknown Band From New York

Updated on February 13, 2012


Borbetomagus formed in 1979 when saxophone players Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich joined with electric guitarist Donald Miller. Bass guitarist Adam Nodelman was briefly a member, and they have occasionally collaborated with others.

Their aggressive music has been described as "a huge, overpowering, take-no-prisoners mass of sound." [1] One extended technique they use is called "bells together" where Sauter and Dietrich place the bells (openings) of their saxophones against one other while playing.

While the core trio listed above has been responsible for most of Borbetomagus's music, they have collaborated with Swiss circuit bending duo Voice Crack, Dutch cellist Tristan Honsinger, German double-bassist Peter Kowald, and others. In 2006, they recorded a collaborative album with Hijokaidan live at the Festival de Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Canada, and in 2007 their long out-of-print cassette Live In Allentown was released on CD with nearly twice as much material as the original. Sauter and Dietrich have also recorded a duo CD, and a collaborative CD with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore.

Personal Experiences

It was around 1980 when I found an address in a jazz magazine, the address of Borbetomagus. I had never heard about this band before, but I wrote them a letter and asked them to send me some of their recordings. Some weeks later I got their first two LPs. I had a lot of experiences with free jazz and noise music before, but listening to these recordings was a totally new experience. And it was the beginning of a long friendship.

In 1984 Borbetomagus performed at the Leipzig Jazz Days festival in East Germany, our first personal meeting. No question, it was a great, an unbelievable concert, not only for me and the rest of the audience, but also for the musicians themselves. It was their first concert for an audience of 600 people.

Our next meetings took place in 1993. Early that year I made my first trip to New York, and for one week I lived in Jim's house near NYC. No Borbetomagus concert, but we had a lot of fun together. But later that year I had the possibility to attend two other Borbetomagus concerts, at a festival in France, and again in Leipzig where I had organized a concert for them.

In 1994 we met again, this time at the Victoriaville festival in Canada. Borbetomagus performed together with the Swiss band Voice Crack. I was impressed by the ability of these two groups to combine their sound adventures, and it was a very special concert for me: I celebrated that day my 40th birthday.

In 1998 we met the last time so far, at the Alternativa Festival in the Czech capital Prague. I arrived a little bit tired after two days at another interesting festival in Budapest and a long train journey to Prague, so Borbetomagus was the right thing to wake me up. What a wake-up call! No doubt, it was the greatest concert I ever attended, the greatest concert among thousands I attended in my life!

Unfortunately we had no personal contact since that time, but I am almost sure that we will meet again one day.


Sauter, Dietrich, Miller, Doherty ◄ (2 versions) Agaric Records 1980 Sauter, Dietrich, Miller, Doherty (LP) Agaric Records 1980 Sauter, Dietrich, Miller, Doherty (CD) Agaric Records 1995 Trip To Jonestown / Concordat 8 (7", Ltd) Janis Editions 1981 Work On What Has Been Spoiled (LP) Agaric Records 1981 Sauter, Dietrich, Miller (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Agaric Records 1982 Sauter, Dietrich, Miller (LP, Album, Ltd) Agaric Records 1982 Sauter, Dietrich, Miller (CD, Album, RE) Agaric Records 1990 Barbed Wire Maggots ◄ (2 versions) Agaric Records 1983 Barbed Wire Maggots (LP) Agaric Records 1983 Barbed Wire Maggots (CD) Agaric Records 2005 Industrial Strength (LP) Leo Records 1983 Live At In-Roads (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Aeon ... 1983 Live At In-Roads (Cass, Album) Aeon 1983 Live At In-Roads (CD, RE) P.S.F. Records 1993 Borbeto Jam (LP) Cadence Jazz Records 1985 Zurich (2xLP) Agaric Records 1985 New York Performances (LP) Agaric Records 1986 Fish That Sparkling Bubble ◄ (2 versions) Agaric Records ... 1988 Fish That Sparkling Bubble (LP) Agaric Records, Uhlang Produktion 1988 Fish That Sparkling Bubble (CD) Agaric Records 1998 Seven Reasons for Tears (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Purge/Sound League ... 1989 Seven Reasons for Tears (LP) Purge/Sound League 1989 Seven Reasons For Tears (CD, Album, RE) Agaric Records 1993 Snuff Jazz (LP) Agaric Records 1990 The Original Chirping Chicken (7") Butt Rag Records 1990 Asbestos Shake (CD, Album) Agaric Records, Uhlang Produktion, V-Records 1991 Buncha Hair That Long (CD) Agaric Records 1992 Coelacanth ◄ (2 versions) Agaric Records 1992 Coelacanth (10", Pic, Ltd) Agaric Records 1992 Coelacanth (10", RE) Agaric Records Coelacanth (7") Butt Rag Records 1993 L'Atlas Des Galaxies Etranges (LP) Non Mi Place Records 1993 Concerto For Cracked Everyday Electronics And Chamber Orchestra (CD) Agaric Records, Uhlang Produktion, V-Records 1997 Live In Tokyo (CD, Album) Alchemy Records (2) 1997 Songs Our Mother Taught Us (CD, Album) Agaric Records 2003 Both Noises End Burning (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Les Disques Victo ... 2007 Both Noises End Burning (CD, Album) Les Disques Victo 2007 Both Noises End Burning (CD) Alchemy Records (2) 2008 Live In Allentown (CD, Album, RE) Agaric Records 2007 Experience The Magic (CD, Album) Agaric Records Appears On:12/October/1989 (Cass, Mixed, C60) Psychic Rally 1989 Songs From A Sewer Of Dreams ◄ (2 versions) Vinyl-on-demand 2007 Songs From A Sewer Of Dreams (4xLP + Box, Ltd) Vinyl-on-demand 2007 Songs From A Sewer Of Dreams (4xLP + 7" + Box, Ltd) Vinyl-on-demand 2007 Tracks Appear On:40 Days / 40 Nights (LP, Pic) Selection Stratosphere Music 1983 New Federalism (Cass, C90) Live At Berger Communi... Aeon 1984 Swallowing Scrap Metal (Cass) Rockland County Health... Gut Level Music 1984 God Bless America ◄ (3 versions) At The Kitchen RRRecords ... 1985 God Bless America (3xLP + Box, Ltd) At The Kitchen RRRecords 1985 God Bless America (Deluxe Edition) (3xLP + Box, Ltd) At The Kitchen RRRecords 1985 God Bless America (2xCass) At The Kitchen RRRecords, Statutory Tape Desperately Seeking Suicide (LP, Comp, Ltd) Chatanooga Priapismus Records 1987 Mighty Risen Plea (2xLP) Untitled Sacred Frame 1990 New York Eye And Ear Control ◄ (2 versions) Honeymoon Matador 1990 New York Eye And Ear Control (CD) Honeymoon Matador 1990 New York Eye And Ear Control (LP) Honeymoon Matador 1990 State Of The Union (CD) Westworld Arrest Records 1992 World Record (CD) Robo Fox Alchemy Records (2) 1992 RRR-100 (Comp) ◄ (2 versions) Untitled RRRecords 1993 RRR-100 (7", Comp) Untitled RRRecords 1993 RRR 100 (7", Yel) Untitled RRRecords 1993 America The Beautiful (2xCD) Fur Mutti RRRecords 1994 Second Sixty Second Compilation (7", Comp) Denver 6. 11. 95 Coat-Tail Records 1996 State Of The Union (2xCD, Comp) Westworld Atavistic 1996 No Music Festival - NO99 (5xCD, Ltd, Box) Raging Battle Excites ... Entartete Kunst Records 1999 Apollo And Marsyas: Het Apollohuis 1980-1997 An Anthology Of New Music Concepts (2xCD) Untitled Het Apollohuis / Apollo Records 2002 Minesweeper Suite (CD) Untitled From "L'Atlas... Tigerbeat6 2002 Fun From None: Live From The No Fun Fest 2004 & 2005 (2xDVD) Untitled Load Records 2006


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    • Admiral_Joraxx profile image

      Admiral_Joraxx 5 years ago from Philippines

      Yeah I recognize this band in one of my searches in google. They play great music, so their name is actually Borbetomagus. Thanks for sharing nexttojupiter. 1 vote up and interesting!

    • Londonlady profile image

      Laura Writes 5 years ago

      I love the sound of the saxophone! Great hub, voted up

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

      I haven't heard of Borbetomagus. Thanks for the introduction to this band.

    • giselenmendez profile image

      giselenmendez 6 years ago from Berlin, Germany

      Thank you for this Hub. I didn't know about the existence of this band even though I love trios and noise music! I will look into it and listen to their records :)

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Interesting - great Hub.

    • profile image

      jim sauter 7 years ago

      I look forward to meeting again. Perhaps in France, Switzerland and or Germany. We will be performing in Europe December 2009. Details will be released.