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Music-Maker Finds His Groove in Arts and Architecture

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Bob Klotz

It could have been Bob Klotz’s mother taking him to an Alice Cooper concert when he was 13 that inspired him to become a musician, but Klotz’s musical interest took shape even earlier on his grandparents’ front porch.

“I have these distinct memories of my brother playing Hawaiian steel guitar on their porch and me playing rhythm guitar at 7 years old. The Beatles were my main inspiration for wanting to play guitar,” explained Klotz. “I think I had something that was naturally there, but my grandfather encouraged it.”

Bob Klotz, AAIT consultant for the College of Arts and Architecture, spends about twenty hours each week writing and recording music in his home studio and credits working in a creative college with keeping him inspired. Klotz, who has a degree in electrical engineering from Lafayette College and worked as a freelance audio engineer for fifteen years, began writing and recording his own music after graduating college. When he began working at Penn State in 2008, he found more time to work on his own music as well as record and collaborate with individuals within the college.

In December 2013, Klotz released a five-song EP (“Of the Ivy”) with alumna Rachel Dungan (’12 B.A., Music) on vocals. He recently served as the sound engineer for FaceAge, a multi-media installation created from guided cross-generational encounters documented through digital recordings by Andrew Belser, Penn State Laureate, director of the Arts and Design Research Incubator, and theatre professor.

“Being around people being creative fuels me because I feel like I am part of this creative community, even as a staff member. That’s why I want to work in this college rather than another one,” said Klotz.

“Isbe Amare,” Klotz’s current recording project title, consists of single-release tracks on which he plays and records all of the instruments. He also designed the cover art. Dungan, whom Klotz explains “has this ability to capture and deliver the essence of my weird lyrics without thinking they’re weird,” has returned to sing on the first two “Isbe Amare” releases. His “weird” lyrics are about connection or disconnection, metaphors, and contemporary issues, sometimes even translated into other languages. His upcoming single about nuclear war, “Étrangeté et Charme, Deuxième Partie,” is in French and draws upon his interest in Serge Gainsbourg’s music. He also recently released “Your Majesty” and is working on two songs about the lives of tragic film actresses.

“I think film scores are one of my biggest influences, composers like Riz Ortolani and John Barry,” admitted Klotz. “When I was 5, my grandfather gave me a record player and a stack of old 45s. I remember listening to everything from the Hatari! soundtrack to Nat King Cole and the Harmonicats! I realize now that those sounds are still a major influence on what I do.”

Expectedly, Klotz’s songs do not fit within a particular genre. His ability to play multiple instruments can also create challenges when deciding on a sound. He admits that he sometimes works with the instrument within arm’s reach at the moment to find inspiration. Although Klotz’s writing projects are mostly solo, he enjoys sharing his work and bouncing ideas off of friends and Arts and Architecture colleagues.

“My music allows me to have a common way of conversing with people in the college. Whether I’m talking to a sculptor, a painter, an actor, or a dancer, our mental approach to our craft is similar,” noted Klotz. “Our tools and methods of expression are different, but we are all trying to communicate something from within ourselves.”

Listen to Bob Klotz’s first “Isbe Amare release,” “Your Majesty”:

Isbe Amare cover for "Your Majesty"