Percussionist Joel Davel enjoys the diversity of his career, employing his classical training toward his love of adventurous new music, jazz, rock, and electronic music. This includes work with Bay Area based groups such as Vân-Ánh Võ's Blood Moon Orchestra, but also recording credits with groups led by electronic diva Amy X Neuburg (2 albums), violinist Kaila Flexer (2 albums), jazz guitarist Jack West (4 albums), percussionist William Winant, composer Guillermo Galindo, and guitarist David Tanenbaum. But Davel is best known for his work with composer-performer, Paul Dresher. Davel is one-half of the Dresher Davel Invented Instrument Duo and a long-time member of Paul Dresher's Electro-Acoustic Band, an ensemble that has collaborated directly with composers such as Terry Riley, Fred Frith, Roger Reynolds, Martin Bresnick, Alvin Curran, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Ingram Marshall, Sebastian Currier, and Steven Mackey, as well as many young contemporary composers. Davel has also appeared with the Berkeley Symphony, East Bay Symphony, West Edge Opera, Opera Parallele, and in numerous other chamber group settings.

The Dresher-Davel Invented Instrument Duo performs original compositions on unique instruments: the Quadrachord and Hurdy Grande, as well as Buchla Lightning and Marimba Lumina. The Duo has performed in Russia and in numerous US venues – most notably Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles – and in collaborations with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Nancy Karp + Dancers, the Allyson Green Dance Company, and Shadowlight. Davel and Dresher also team up with violinist Karen Bentley and pianist Lisa Moore to form the Paul Dresher 'Double Duo', a quartet that presents concerts and residencies throughout the US, and including an Australia tour in May 2013.

Vân-Ánh Võ's Blood Moon Orchestra is a collective of master musicians of diverse, often immigrant backgrounds who bend genres of Vietnamese traditional music, hip-hop/rap, and jazz.

As a composer, Davel has written and performed live for several dNaga's dance productions: Reveal, Shaking and Shocking, Freedom House, Lovely Gibberish, and Circle of Sisterhood. Previous work includes his solo Buchla Lightning accompaniment of choreographer Allyson Green at Symphony Space which elicited: “manipulating two small batons – he looks like a hyperactive magician casting abracadabra spells into the ether – Davel was as much a dancer as Green, moving with a concentrated focus that made him fascinating to watch.” – Newsday

Collaboration with dance and theater is important to Joel. Davel began his career as instrumental music director and actor-percussionist for seven seasons with Milwaukee’s Cream City Semi-Circus. He has been exploring theatrical integration of percussion, electronics, and non-traditional instruments ever since. In more recent collaborations with tenor John Duykers, Davel premiered Max Duyker’s opera, Apricots of Andujar and Both Eyes Open. Davel was also ever-present onstage in his solo accompaniment for The California Shakespeare Theater's All's Well That Ends Well, co-composed with Gina Leishman. Likewise for 2014 and 2015 productions by South Coast Repertory (The Tempest and Peter and the Starcatcher) Davel takes the stage as an actor-percussionist: In The Tempest as an ever present spirit exploring instruments created for the Tom Waits score. “The percussionist is amazing!” – On Stage Los Angeles

He has made frequent appearances as a solo electronic music performer. Presenting venues have included the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, the Other Minds Film Festival, and the ROOM and SIMM series in San Francisco. His musical approach to the medium has drawn accolades. The Wall Street Journal commented on Davel’s appearance at a Lincoln Center event: “percussionist Joel Davel blew everyone away with his virtuosic improvisation on the Marimba Lumina, an electronic invention that emulates and extends the vocabulary of conventional mallet instruments, and the [Buchla] Lightning, played by waving wireless wands in space.”

As an instrument builder, Davel is known as a technician and collaborator of over 20 years with the late electronic musical instrument pioneer, Don Buchla. Buchla was a legendary designer, and Davel's tenure with Buchla coincided with the development of unique music controllers such as Thunder, Lightning, Marimba Lumina, Piano Bar. and the 200e series modules. This also led to performance opportunities with Don Buchla. Davel did all of Don's circuit board layout after 1995 and now keeps up the tradition under a new regime. Davel is still mining the potential of these unique creations.

Since the passing of Don Buchla and the transition of the Buchla company back into US ownership, Davel continues as the lead designer for Buchla USA and is responsible for significant updates resulting in the 208C and 218e-V3, in addition to the AuxCard, iProgramCard and Program Manager. As the PCB designer for all of the 200e series modules, he also remains key to maintaining production and making improvements where possible.

In 2008 Davel created, a venture dedicated to continuing production and support for the Marimba Lumina.

His primary teachers have included Rich Holly, Robert Chappell, Cliff Alexis, Tele Lesbines, and Willie Winant. He holds a Bachelor of Music in percussion from Northern Illinois University and an MFA in electronic music composition from Mills College.

More complete info and links:

For a performance history as well as upcoming shows visit or
For demos visit , for recordings/composition
Follow on twitter @JoelDavel


The Dresher Davel Invented Instrument Duo are on roster for Bernstein Artists as is the Electro-Acoustic Band
Joel first appeared with the the Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Band in 1994. The Electro-Acoustic Band as well as the Duo can be heard on the album, Cage Machine.

Joel appears on two other New Albion recordings with Willie Winant of Lou Harrison's music: Seranado featuring David Tanenbaum and Drums Along the Pacific. Other work with guitarist David Tanenbaum included a 2007 production of Henze's 'El Cimarron' in Tijuana.

Joel's marimba playing is featured on recordings with Jack West and Curvature. Check out the recordings "Big Comet Headed for Earth" , "As We Know It" ,"Big Ideas" and most recently "Around About Now." Jack performs fingerstlye acoustic guitar as the foundation of the group. Performances and recordings have gotten some nice reviews:

. . .They challenge his [Jack West's] collaborators with studious melodic and harmonic complexity, buoyed by an infectious rhythmic verve. Davel, the only holdover from the lineup that recorded Bid Ideas, displayed the greatest ease and had the most fun with the material, spinning out mercurial solos from his seven-foot marimba in sometimes bright, sometimes warm, burnished tones. - Derk Richardson, East Bay Express

"It's fun to hear the two guitarists work with each other [on As We Know It], but the real pleasure is the wonderful marimba work of Joel Davel. He plays such melodic and percussive lines his spot on "Interaction Shift" is quite intense yet, because of the rich texture of his instrument, is also soothing. I like his dancing lines on "Song for Calder", the way they dip, dive, and dart about, with an occasional rumble almost as an aside." -Cadence Magazine

"The interplay [between West and marimbist Joel Davel] is the kind of thing that makes listeners go gaga!" -SF Weekly

Joel played marimba with Kaila Flexer's band ThirdEar/Next Village from 1992-2000. The band had a unique instrumentation and Kaila drew inspiration for her writing from Klezmer and Balkan music. Violin, accordion, bass, marimba, and percussion is the format for the 1999 recording "Next Village." The 1995 recording, "Listen," includes Julian Smedley on 2nd violin (in place of accordion). Both recordings feature production and guest appearances by string wizard, Mike Marshall. There's also a track with Third Ear on the Acoustic Disc 100% Handmade VolumeIII that features a nice bluegrass marimba solo.

Joel has performed both Marimba Lumina and Lightning and recorded two albums with avant-cabaret group, Amy X Neuburg & Men: Utechma and Sports, Chips, Booty.


Joel performed as a solist on Buchla Lightning for many of the San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation's opening events in 1998-1999.

In 2004, Joel collaborated with Gina Lieshman (Kamakaze Ground Crew fame) on a solo percussion score for California Shakespeare Theater's "All's Well that Ends Well." Joel remained visible on-stage (in a one-foot pit) for the entire performance. Joel employed Marimba Lumina (for it's versatility) along with a large percussion setup. It ran for a month outdoors. This was much like Joel's early career with Friend's Mime Theater's "Cream City Semi-Circus."

Joel also performed solo with Nancy Karp + Dancers in the production of "Kristallnacht" at Theater Artaud. The score was Alvin Curran's composition "Crystal Psalms" (now on New Albion records). Joel performed from a part written by Alvin to supplement the recording and the visuals for a live effect. The part includes a few acts of demolition, a few involving glass, as well as accordion and shofar. Click on this link to see review and as described by the German press. Joel also performed on-stage with Paul Dresher in the live accompaniment of Nancy Karp's piece, "Kalasam."

He has also worked with with Paul Dresher as part of the ensemble that accompanied ODC/San Francisco's production of OutaWak. The show included a solo conductor section composed by Joel that featured Lightning in mirrored accompaniment with a dancer.

Joel works closely with choreographer and dancer Claudine Nagamuna. Their first collaboration, "Fences," was performed by Claudine in Hong Kong, Japan, New York, Hawaii, and San Francisco.

Joel's early career included working as a music director and a performer with Milwaukee's Cream City Semi-Circus from 1984-1991. The Cream City Semi-Circus was a show in the same tradition as groups like Make-A-Circus, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Circus Amok, and other circus-theater groups that tackle social issues with a Vaudeville and Comedia d'elle Arte presentation. It was the free-in-the-park summer production of Milwaukee's own Friends Mime Theatre (FMT--now known as Milwaukee Public Theatre). Topics changed year to year, but there was always JUGGLING! Founded by Mike Moynihan and Barbara Leigh, we worked with such artists as Ron Anderson (Springer Theater Academy founder, Columbus, GA) and Jennifer Miller (Circus Amok founder, NYC) pictured below (pictured left to right Ron Anderson, Joel Davel, Paula Sjogerman [masked], __ [below], Debbie Davis, Jennifer Miller.) It was a formative experience.

Joels aesthetic was also developed with his association with the Neoteric Ensemble. Based out of Northern Illinois University, the Neoteric Ensemble was a multi-media ensemble performing new interpretation of old works and site-specific improvisations throughout northern Illinios including Randolph Street Gallery and Lynx Hall, Chicago, 1985-1989. Performances included Relache, The Frogs, Elastic Theatre, Artbus, The Bacchae, Toujour Perdris .



In the electronic realm, Joel is most identified with the Buchla Lightning and Marimba Lumina. Joel has also done a lot of printed circuit layout, alpha-testing, and assembly for Buchla and Associates since 1993 and Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments to help develop the hardware for these instruments. The Marimba Lumina is an RF interface designed to expand mallet performance beyond traditional roles into new electronic realms. Don Buchla has been creating unusual electronic music instruments since the early 1960's.

In the Dresher-Davel Duo, the very large electro-acoustic instruments called the Quadrachord and the Hurdy-Grande are the primary instruments. These were created by Daniel Schmidt and Paul Dresher and we use every musical technique we can think of to play them.

Joel holds in high esteem, the visual and tonal breakthroughs of instrument builder-composers like Harry Partch. The work done with Don Buchla, Daniel Schmidt and Paul Dresher is in this same spirit.



Joel received his Bachelors of Music (BM) in percussion performance from Northern Illinois University in 1989 Cum Laude. He received his Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in electronic music from Mills College in 1993.

Mr Davel graduated near the top of his class at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee.


Crowden School, Berkeley, CA. as a demostrator of classical percussion instruments. Present.
The Allen Temple Baptist Music Program. Private instruction and percussion ensembles in after-school music program to kids in the East Oakland community.

General music teacher to K-8 at St Robert's elementary school from 1990-1991.

Mr. Davel takes private students on a request basis.

Buchla and Associates
Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments
Buchla USA

He is proud to have grown up in the diverse Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where took as many free-time employment opportunities. Time for school came between everything from paid-per-piece work stapling together packages of Big Daddy Roth iron-ons and putting stickers KOSS Stereophone 1/4" plugs, to paper routes, to stuffing envelopes, doing bulk mailings, packing, shrink-wrapping, collating lots of paper at Communications Today Corporation, Marketing Communications International and General Assembly Corp. He was literally "pushing papers" for countless hours. Finally in college he was the accompanist for most of the modern classes for the Dance Dept. and joined the Circus for the summers. Joining the circus was the best thing he ever did. He never looked back.