Brian Dewan gets 15 minutes in The New Yorker
Jan 21, 2011 11:30 am
Catskill musician/inventor/man-about-town Brian Dewan is half the focus of a Talk of the Town piece by Nick Paumgarten in the January 24 issue of The New Yorker, currently on newstands. The piece is about Brian and cousin Leon Dewan's Dewanatron business making analog synthesizers, and how one, the Swarmatron, seems poised to take off after Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) featured one in his award-winning soundtrack for the film, The Social Network, out this week on DVD. Meaning sales may jump from 9 of the high-priced item, sold at a single music store in Los Angeles (since 2004) to somewhere in two digits.
The Dewans come up with their ideas for instruments together, Paumgarten writes, noting how Brian designs the cabinetry and the controls, while Leon builds the innards—the actual machine.
“My dad started all the trouble,” Leon, who is forty-four, said. His father was a Lebanese immigrant, junior-high-school dropout, and self-taught inventor, who in turn initiated his nephew—Brian’s father, later a physicist in the Air Force, as well as an avant-garde organist—into the tinkerer’s trade. Brian, forty-seven, is a songwriter and visual artist perhaps best known for his deadpan live performances of historical political songs, such as “Jimmy Carter Says Yes,” often on an Autoharp or an electric zither of his own design. Leon is taller and more earnest. Brian, gentle in repose, has additional gears, running from dry all the way to ham—he’s a thinking man’s Jack Black.Brian Dewan, an Oberlin College graduate, has performed at most WGXC benefit events to date, and will be featured alongside other musical instrument creators in an exhibit at the Greene County Council for the Arts later this year. Which, we guess, could make this newsroom and station the King Kong of community media outlets... at least in Talk of the Town talk. For samples of Dewanatron instrument sounds (and music) click here. For the full piece click here.