Steven Berson

Cellist Steven Berson, began his love of all things audio at an early age.  Raised in the suburbs of Maryland by musical parents (his father is an accomplished pianist favoring Chopin Nocturnes, his mother was a vocalist and member of the Annapolis Chorale), he started his musical education with piano lessons at the age of 7, and at age 10 began playing alto saxophone in his school’s ensembles.   At age 15 he took up the electric bass guitar, studying the instrument with  Richard Shaw and Ro Harrison, and started performing with a number of rock bands.

Multi-instrumentalist Steven Berson (photography by Jade Ng – 2013)

In 1985 he decided to seriously pursue his musical passions and enrolled in Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music, where he studied both performance and composition.  Outside of the school he studied West African derived percussion and rhythm with master drummer Nurudafina Pili Abena, and performed regularly in Boston clubs with his own group, The Bohemian Angels.

Steve did not pick up the cello until 1988, when he illicitly borrowed one from the school by posing as a Music Education major and claiming to need it for a nonexistent cello lab (for those people with a highly developed sense of morality – don’t worry! – the cello was returned).   Primarily self-taught on the cello, he has always pursued using the instrument for non-traditional genres.

As a bassist & cellist he has performed extensively in Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Richmond, Boston and New York, including performances with Charm City Klezmer, 3 Pigs Café, False Face Society, The Bohemian Angels, Jo Connor, The Michael Raitzyk Jazz Orchestra, W.O.D./Estrojet, McCaul Valliant, The Delicate Prey, Scat-o-mat,  SAW, Sansaclue, Spindle, Earthwurm, Sarah Greenwood, and This Ambitious Orchestra.  In 1996 he toured the US as bassist for Knitting Factory recording artists Suck Pretty.

From 1990 to 1996 a central focus for Steve was Acoustitronics, a solo project where he used a digital echo system to layer and loop bass guitar, cello, bouzouki, djimbe, bamboo flutes, voice and percussion, creating edgy ambient textures and surreal songs.  With Acoustitronics he performed on the East Coast extensively, including supporting Mission of Burma founder Roger Miller on a 1995  tour.   Acoustitronics has also done numerous live soundtracks for Baltimore’s Black Cherry Puppet Theatre, and has collaborated with interactive video animator Marcos Ferrer, and choreographers Marsha Tallerico and Tony Agostinelli.

To date Steve has released two solo recordings (now out of print) on Primalyrical Myuzik, a tantric stab (1993) & Map to Sorrow Feast (1995).  Steve has also appeared on CD’s & vinyl records released by FOT, Waferface, Metamusic, Retallack Records,  Simple Machines, RiskyDisk Records, Lustreking Productions and Cuneiform Records.

A former Europadisk mastering engineer, Steven Berson owns & runs Total Sonic Mastering.

In 2006 and 2007 he toured the West Coast and Europe performing on electric cello for vocalist, songwriter, violinist, and keyboardist, Rebecca Moore in her band, Prevention of Blindness. More recently Steve has collaborated with poet/producer Messiah’el Bey as Warlock Asylum.  Together they released in 2009 “Kiss of the Immortal”, and There in America in 2014 album.

His work as an audio engineer, primarily in the realm of mastering, has appeared on numerous releases, including CD’s and vinyl records for Foo Fighters, Martha Wash, Om, Yellow #5, Henry Threadgill, Erin McKewon, AV8 Records, X-mix and Eon Music; and on Erik Friedlander’s score for the PBS series “The Kingdom of David.”  Steve has composed and  performed the soundtrack for two short films written and directed by Michelle Cutler, “Funeral” and “Woosh.”   He currently works out of his own audio mastering studio, Total Sonic Media.

Steve’s main instrument is a post-War German cello by Framus, and he is greatly pleased with its restoration, done by Robert Young of Viseltear & Young Violins. In December 2001 Steve commissioned a 5-string acoustic/electric contra-cello, which he has dubbed “The Green Funk Machine.”   A collaboration between three instrument makers, this instrument allows Steve to reach as low as the F on an upright bass, and to amplify the cello’s sound while retaining a rich natural tone. Richard Barbera from Barbera Transducers created the hybrid bridge/piezo pickup, Nicholas Tipney from Vector Instruments created the tailpiece and neck (using Gotoh bass tuners instead of traditional pegs), and Robert Young & Sebastian Maria from Viseltear & Young Violins assembled the instrument using the body of a Wilhelm Eberle cello, and provided it with its unique green finish.