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Jesse Olsen Bay

Sebastopol, CA   

Jesse Olsen Bay is a composer and performer who lives just north of the San Francisco Bay. At home in a wide variety of musical forms and styles, he creates aural landscapes and narratives that explore the depths and extremities of the human experience. Ranging from art-songs and folk ballads to instrumental music for dance and film, from soundscape collage to experimental performance art, his music is always rooted in a search for meaning, truth, human connection and honest communication.

Jesse grew up in a musical family of leftist activists in Berkeley, California, before going on to study at Bennington College with the iconic percussionist/healer Milford Graves. He also immersed himself in the cutting edge dance program there, studying with dancer and improvisor Susan Sgorbati. Since then, his work has earned him awards and support from the American Composers Forum, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, Meet the Composer/New Music USA, Ucross Foundation, Zellerbach Foundation, California Arts Council, Paul Dresher Ensemble.

Jesse is a prolific collaborator with dancers and choreographers, for which he has been nominated for two Isadora Duncan Awards. Notable collaborations have included Project Bandaloop’s Harboring (2013), Amy Seiwart’s Imagery’s In The Time (2011), Joe Goode Performance Group’s The Rambler (2010), Sean Dorsey’s The Secret History of Love (2009), and Scott Wells & Dancers’ The How Not to See Dances (2006). He has also scored several short and feature-length films.

Jesse performs as half of the eclectic singer-songwriter duo Ramon & Jessica, mainstays of the San Francisco music scene, and in Open Graves, an experimental electro-acoustic improvisation project with Seattle-based musician Paul Kikuchi. Recordings of Jesse’s music are available on Porto Franco Records, Prefecture Records, and Deconstruct My House.

When he’s not making music, he can be found hanging out with his 4 year old son Yarrow and his partner Frieda, on their land in Sebastopol, CA.

Makings by Jesse Olsen Bay

Makings is a song cycle and body of work based around unpublished writings by my grandmother, acclaimed author/activist Tillie Olsen. Ten years in creation, a recording of this music has just been released.

The songs in Makings were composed using what Tillie called her “Blueys” — blue and white sheets of typewriter paper on which she wrote notes, ideas, bits of prose and poetry. They were her journals, but also more than that: a writer practicing her craft, putting words and ideas into form.

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“Head over Heart” excerpt from In the Time

Excerpt from In the Time
Commission for Imagery Dance Company, San Francisco
performed by Jesse Olsen Bay and Dina Maccabee

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