Joel Davel has toured and recorded with a variety of groups featuring original music and premiers by some of today's leading composers. Davel is best known as a core member of the Paul Dresher Ensemble's Electro-Acoustic Band for 17 years. The ensemble has collaborated directly with composers such as Roger Reynolds, Martin Bresnick, Alvin Curran, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Ingram Marshall, Terry Riley, Fred Frith, Sebastian Currier and Steven Mackey, as well as many young contemporary composers.

Outside the ensemble, the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded composer-performer Dresher led to a very complementary duo. The Dresher/Davel Invented Instrument Duo often performs musical material inspired by pieces they performed as a duo in live accompaniment of dance companies which include the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Nancy Karp + Dancers, ODC/SF, and the Allyson Green Dance Company. The Duo has performed in numerous venues, most notably Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Davel and Dresher also team up with violinist Karen Bentley and pianist Lisa Moore to form the Dresher Double Duo, a quartet that toured concerts and residencies throughout Australia in May 2013.

Davel's career includes stylistically diverse performance and 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, and guitarist David Tanenbaum. Davel is currently making recordings with Guillermo Galindo, bringing to life the sculptural instruments created in collaboration with Richard Misrach, to be exhibited and performed in 2016.

Joel Davel's early collaborations in the 1980's with Milwaukee’s Cream City Semi-Circus put him squarely on stage. Davel has been exploring the theatrical potential of percussion and non-traditional instruments and been awarded roles as a actor-percussionist ever since. In collaboration with tenor John Duykers, Davel premiered Max Duyker’s two-character opera, Apricots of Andujar. Davel was 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

Throughout his career Davel pursued unique opportunities for expression, seeking out electronic resources and finding synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla at work on unique controllers. This led to 20 years of technical work as well as performance with Don Buchla. With Davel's intimate knowledge of electronic music instruments as a builder, he has mined their potential with composition and improvisation.

He has made frequent appearances as a solo electronic percussionist at the San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, as well as 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.”

In the role of composer-performer, Davel has written and performed solo and duo accompaniment for dance company dNaga's productions Reveal, Shaking and Shocking, Freedom House, and Lovely Gibberish. His solo accompaniment of choreographer Allyson Green at Symphony Space 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

In 2008 Davel created, a venture dedicated to continued building and support for the Buchla 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.

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Joel regulary performs on electronic percussion with the Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Band. His first appearances with the ensemble were in showings of the Rinde Eckert/Steven Mackey collaboration, Ravenshead, and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company's "Fault" in 1994. He has since played many new commisions with the concert Electro-Acoustic Band and worked closely with Paul on many satisfying projects in duos and for dance companies. Some of this work can be heard on his latest 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 includes a 2007 production of Henze's 'El Cimarron'.)

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 also performed on marimba with Kaila Flexer's band ThirdEar/Next Village, from 1992-2000. Kaila drew inspiration for her writing from Klezmer music as well as other Eastern European stlyes. 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. For information on how to get the recordings visit Compass Records. 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.


As a soloist, Joel has made frequent appearances at events at the San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation. Joel performed primarily on Lightning for many of the opening events.

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. included a solo conductor section composed by Joel that featured Lightning in mirrored accompaniment with a dancer.

Joel's work with Asian American Dance Performances and danceNaganuma includes mostly work with choreographer and dancer Claudine Nagamuna. He composed the music for the solo work "Fences," which Claudine has performed 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!

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 in High School at Pius XI 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 1993-present
Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments

He is proud to have grown up in the diverse Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he worked to fund his own high school and college education. He managed time for study between everything from paid-per-piece work with KOSS Stereophone stickers, stapling together packages of Big Daddy Roth iron-ons, and 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.