re: Manhattan project
Now available on all major services!
Hear the First two singles
Denin koch, guitars | Jonathan Bumpus, trombone | seiji yamashita, piano
Robert MacPartland, bass | Stephen Morris, drums | James marshall, viola
The stories behind the songs
i. violent peace
a meditation on the current state of nuclear inactivity, preserved by the violent peace of mutually assured destruction. This movement contains a hymn melody from which every other song on the album is derived.
ii. the Einstein-szilard letter
In 1939, Albert einstein and Leo Szilard wrote a letter to FDR warning him that Atomic power was a rapidly developing field and that Germany, at the time under Nazi control, was developing atomic weaponry. Even though the United States was not yet involved in WWII, the Manhattan Project began shortly thereafter.
iii. j Robert
Dr. Oppenheimer was hired in 1941 to oversee the development and construction of the atomic bomb. He is often referred to as "the father of the bomb." After WWII, he is often cited as regretting his invention and was an advocate for nuclear peace.
iv. b reactor
still standing just outside the composer's hometown, the b reactor produced the plutonium that was eventually used in the trinity test and the Nagasaki bomb. It was the world's first large scale nuclear production reactor and was completed with unbelievable speed.
On July 16, 1945 in New Mexico, the world's first nuclear explosion ushered in the atomic age and permanently changed the world. eyewitness accounts range from the awestruck to the utterly terrified. Only Manhattan Project staff were in attendance - President Truman received only witness accounts.
vi. destroyer of worlds
Oppenheimer on witnessing the trinity test: "A few people laughed. Few people cried. Most were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu Scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all felt that one way or another."
on August 6, 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbetts piloted the Enola Gay into a bombing run over Hiroshima, Japan. "Fat Man" fell for forty-five seconds before detvastating the city. Three days later, another bomb fell on the city of Nagasaki. Japan surrendered several days later.
viii. Flowers for the Shadows
Returning to the present day, this movement is a song of regret and mourning for the innocent civilians who died in the atomic attacks. In parts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, their shadows are permanently burnt into walls and sidewalks.
ix. rest assured
As long as they are allowed to exist, nuclear weapons will always threaten the human race and prevent true peace from being achieved. This movement is a meditation on the fragile concept of mutually assured destruction, which must be only a temporary stop on the path to denuclearization.
x. the fields, the river, the sky
The final song on the album is a love letter to Richland, WA, where the composer grew up. Today, it is a textbook example of "Main Street, USA" despite its strange and unique past. Richland's natural beauty and rugged landscape is scarred by reminders of its past.
Award-winning guitarist Denin Koch is a recognized performer, composer, author and educator whose musical conception synthesizes jazz, classical and rock music traditions into one powerful and unique sound. He has performed with Arturo Sandoval, Pat Metheny, Wycliffe Gordon, Branford Marsalis, Dee Daniels, Ellis Marsalis, Lynn Ligamari and Ryan Keberle and has held memberships in the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, Spokane Jazz Orchestra and the Bob Curnow Big Band. He has won numerous awards for his playing, is a Mel bay Author, has taught at the Eastman School of Music and Eastman Community Music School and holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Whitworth University. To read more about Denin, Click Here.
Trombonist Jonathan Bumpus
Bassist Robert MacPartland
Stories from Richland
Greg Kelly and Virginia Ballard
Hear about life in Richland on the day that the bomb fell on Hiroshima
Hear What it was like to grow up in a town so used to the atomic bomb that it became an afterthought
The former Washington State Poet Laureate reads from "Plume," Reflects on Growing up in Richland and speaks about Being an Artist in times of crisis
One of the Columbia Basin's musical leaders talks about addressing the nuclear legacy of our region through music and the experience of performing inside the b reactor
A fixture in both the musical and political arenas or the Tri-Cities, Justin Raffa speaks to how an artist's response to the unique nature of an area can improve the quality of life for everyone in the region.
The weirdest part about growing up in the town that built the bomb is that you don't think anything of it until you leave and come back again. Even in high school, when I would walk beneath an enormous green 'R' with a mushroom cloud erupting from it every day, the gravity of my hometown's cultural and societal significance never occurred to me.
I remember one night eating dinner with my friends during my freshman year at Whitworth University, about 150 miles from Richland. I was wearing a sweater from my high school with the logo emblazoned boldly across my chest. When I had put it on that morning, I thought of it as a sweater from my high school and nothing more. One of my friends was addressing the group when they abruptly stopped and stared quizzically at my shirt. When they asked what it was, it was as jarring as if everything around me had suddenly changed colors. I instantly became aware that my hometown was not just an apple pie, high school football, church-on-Sunday kind of Small Town, USA like I had always assumed. As I grew older and traveled farther, I continued to wrestle with the social, cultural and historical implications of Richland, and I found little connections to Richland everywhere I went. I eventually realized that nearly every facet of human existence had been impacted by the things that took place just a few miles from where I used to get tucked in every night.
During the summer of 2016, I took a tour of the B Reactor, the world's first large-scale production reactor just a few miles from Richland. It's designated as a National Historic Landmark now, and the tours are completely free. When you step into that reactor for the first time and turn the corner to face the reactor core, it's a little bit like the feeling you get on a roller coaster when it first starts to tip beyond the crest of the first hill, except it doesn't go away for a while. That's about the best way I can describe it - there's no way to describe in words the feeling of standing before a device that, in my mind, has bent time, space and the history of humanity around itself. Immediately after returning home from that tour, I penned "B Reactor," which, three years later, became the core of this project, "re: manhattan project."
As time has passed, the presence of nuclear weapons has risen and fallen from our collective consciousness with the news cycle. Most of the time, we drift through our lives in a sleepy haze, relatively oblivious to the unholy power laying dormant in silos and bunkers across the world. However, we're occasionally shaken rudely awake not from but into the nightmare, jolting from our slumber to news of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the aftermath of 9/11, or the sudden escalation in the American-Iranian conflict of January 2020. The truth is, peace and security can not and will not be achieved so long as nuclear weapons exist in our world. Simply put, regardless of the ethics of what happened in August 1945, the world is less safe and more violent when atomic weaponry is present. The disparity in power between nations that have atomic weaponry and nations that don't is startling, and so long as that dichotomy in influence exists, it is incredibly difficult for any country without to guarantee the security of its own citizens. Furthermore, the spontaneity and volatility of humanity continues to become more obvious by the day. As we learned from the heroic dissent of Vasily Arkhipov during the Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear war is much closer and more possible than most of us acknowledge.
My hope is that those who hear this music will be inspired to consider the implications of anyone having nuclear weapons at any time or anywhere. Peace is not an idyllic state that falls like rain but a conscious choice that every person must make in every second of every day. Nuclear weapons represent the fear of losing power and the need to wield an apocalyptic threat against our fellow men. In the world that we all wish we lived in, we won't be needing them anymore.
Downloadable Press Release
"Koch's playing is full of variety, channeling nimble post-bop slurs in one place, then proving of a pattern and riff-oriented approach in another. The elegantly applied delay... does not take away from his thoroughly organic guitar tone but rather coherently embeds it in the band sound. More experimental guitar sounds transform "IV. B Reactor" or "V. Trinity" into stylish cuts, demonstrating Koch's more diverse array of musical influences, such as Radiohead or Shostakovich"
Guitarist and composer Denin Koch talks with Rachel Bade-McMurphy about his recent CD release re: Manhattan Project. In this interview, they dig into the inspiration of the album and the implications of living in a society where the economy is driven by atomic production.
"On his new album re: Manhattan project, Denin focuses on the facts and history of his hometown, but also acknowledges conflicted feelings about the past, and how it shapes our future. You can hear conflict in the music - a conflict that Denin believes will be unresolved as long as nuclear weapons exist."
Story on Northwest Public Broadcasting (NPR), Courtney Flatt
"75 Years after Bombings, Tri-Cities Musician's Jazz Album Explores
Complicated Hanford History"
"He calls the Manhattan Project 'one of the greatest stories ever told. It’s a tragedy. It’s a drama. It’s got incredible characters, life or death scenarios. Apocalyptic scenarios. It’s still being written today.'”
Article in the Tri-city Herald, Courtney Flatt
"Perfections and Flaws: Musician captures Richland Roots
with new Jazz Album about Hanford"
But it was a trip to the B Reactor at the Hanford Site that made him think. At 19, he stood inside the vast chamber of the historic B Reactor, looking around. The B Reactor is the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, where plutonium for the Fat Man bomb was produced. "When you stand in that building, you’re forced to confront a global history and one of the most important and influential inventions that mankind has created,” Koch said.
Review in Rochester City Newspaper, Ron Netsky
"Eastman Alum Denin Koch Takes On The Atomic Bomb
With Debut Album"
"Stylistically, the album covers a wide swath of musical territory. While tracks like “the einstein-szilard letter” showcase Koch’s straight-ahead jazz chops, “trinity” is firmly in the realm of rock fusion. There is a distinct flamenco vibe to “rest assured,” which Koch describes as a meditation on the concept of mutually assured destruction. The album’s final cut, “the fields, the river, the sky,” with beautiful interplay between Koch’s guitar and Marshall’s viola, is borderline classical."
"As I listen to the final mix of this recording, I am reminded that when art is personal - really personal - it contains a passion and spirit that is difficult to put into words. When it is so personal as this, the passion and energy are palpable. I am also reminded that once in a while, a project and composer come along that completely grab and hold your attention. This recording is certainly one of those... This is an extraordinary first release by someone I am sure you will be hearing a lot more from." - Dave Rivello, Associate professor of Jazz Studies, Eastman School of Music
"... It's so good. It's beautiful and layered and emotional and complex... a wonderful musician playing with other wonderful musicians." - Kathleen Flenniken, 2012 Washington State Poet Laureate
"It is interesting to see how this Richland Bomber percieves the top secret Manhattan Project through many lenses, carefully weaving classical and modern jazz elements with poetry and first hand accounts from scientists and others who were here at the time. In addition to the influences Koch mentions, listeners will note the influence of Pat Metheny in the melancholy opening of the second movement titled 'the einstein-szilard letter.'"