Nick Brooke

Border Towns

Innova 826


1. Silver City      4:05:48

2. ambient          0:27:60

3. Jackman          5:00:11

4. ambient          0:33:45

5. Tombstone    5:29:10

6. ambient          0:28:05

7. Ocean Grove   6:28:46

8. Del Rio           3:50:47

9. Heart Butte     4:59:05

10. Ponemah        3:03:74

11. Chokoloskee    4:41:62

12. Columbus       5:27:40

13. Grand Isle      3:51:46

14. Jacumba        2:52:60


For the live performance of Border Towns, seven vocalists trained themselves to meld their

voices with a sampled collage of sound effects, songs, and musical ephemera, blurring the

line between recording and live performance. The samples virtually choreographed every

movement, which works in lockstep with the music. Border Towns was a series of 11 tableaux,

with a gestural vocabulary drawing on its own surreal Americana.


Original Program Notes:


“Americana” is a musical catchall: it can mean country, blues, gospel, Western film music,

broadly defined roots music, really, anything within these borders.  The term often marks

the endpoint of a trip all gone to look for America, made by de Toqueville, Guthrie, or Lomax,

trying to pin down musical identity, somewhere.


Border Towns began as an encyclopedic mash-up of musical Americana. I was intrigued by

those people who were chosen, willingly or not, to map America: Copland, Dylan, Robeson,

Springsteen, Montana, Anderson, Foster, yet whose song meanings had been bent to new ends

in the popular ear. I started with the question “what is listened to here?” In every town, that

question gets answered differently, depending on whether you are scanning the airwaves, at a

school, or visiting a historical society. More often than not, what’s offered up as local are

representations: Gene Autry is sold in one town; mariachi, now silent in some ways, becomes

a borderlands icon.


Musical locality could have vanished long before the internet or MP3 in the age of the border

blaster; those 100+kW transmitters, placed just over the border in Mexico, that were designed

to be heard as far as Minnesota and New York. They beamed country and R & B in the 50s and

60s, songs sometimes rarely heard on U.S. airwaves. Some singers such as Patsy Montana had

a second career, just over the border, on these X-stations.


Border Towns began with a collection of musical samples and physical gestures, collected on

visits to 11 towns at the literal fringes of the U.S. Interviews, radio station monitoring,

historical society visits, sound walks, and statistical research all contributed to this

collection. I’m not interested in portraying any border towns, but instead in creating an

alternate musical universe that reinvents Americana, and that questions how we hear and see

location in music. Turning documentarians such as Lomax on their heads, I’ve gone out,

collected recordings that were presented to me as “local”, and reassembled them into

traditions of my own making.   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                --NICK BROOKE



Border Towns was presented as a full production on

September 10-18, 2010 at HERE Arts Center in New York.



Laura Bohn, Michael Chinworth, Chris Giarmo, Laryssa Husiak,

Kamala Sankaram, Laura Stinger, Dax Valdes


Recording Credits:

Mixing: Nick Brooke

Remixing: Jeff Cook at Second Story Sound

Mastering:  Oscar Zambrano/Zampol Productions


Original production credits:

Co-director: Jenny Rohn

Set Design: Sue Rees

Lighting Design: Michael Giannitti

Costume Design: Simone Duff

Sound Design: Jeremy Wilson

Music Director: Mary Montgomery Koppel

Stage Manager: Enrico D. Wey


Many shout-outs to those show contributed to this recording and the show:

Jenny Rohn, Scott Lehrer, Kristin Marting and Kim Whitener and the

HARP program, Anna Bean, Madeline Best, Mike Rugnetta, Andrew Lazarow,

Allie Polubiec, Maria del Fabbio, and Dan Goode, Anne Snitow,

Mark and Kristine Day Pottinger.

Also Philip Blackburn at innova Recordings for his help.

A full list of donors and grants is available at


innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn: director, design; Chris Campbell: operations manager;

Steve McPherson: publicist.