Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute


Bowie AFP COVER option 2 EDIT

(cover art by Sarah Beetson)





This whole project was financed by almost 7,000 supporters at patreon. More on that below…but THANK YOU to ALL the PATRONS. Your money made this happen. 

listen/purchase on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, TIDAL, Google Play, and Amazon!

We found out he’d died – by text from Neil’s daughter – at 3 a.m. in Santa Fe.  We were visiting family, to introduce them to the newborn lying in bed beside us. A tiny fleshy reminder that Bowie, like our other friends, mentors  and heroes who’ve been consumed by cancer in the past few months, was just…passing through. The baby is Ash. Dust to dust. Funk to Funky.

I was talking on the phone to Jherek the next day talking about our arrangement for “machete”, the song we’d just tracked in LA.

Bowie meant so much to both of us, growing up. and i knew that if we didn’t do this NOW, we’d say it was a good idea and then find a million reasons not to get around to it.

We gave ourselves a deadline of two weeks. We made it.

Jherek put the petal to the metal, arranged a song a day, recorded his A-list string quartet in L.A. in 3.5 hours, then I spent two straight days in the studio doing vocals.

It was the longest time yet i’d been away from the baby.

My mom took care of him one day, a babysitter the next, and Neil took the night shifts.

I’m back at work. It feels right.


photo taken by jono manson

We invited UK indie guitarist/vocalist Anna Calvi to play and sing on “Blackstar”….



photo by Nick Pomeroy from Anna’s official instagram feed.

here’s Anna in the studio…


….and we invited our friend John Cameron Mitchell (of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame) to sing on “Heroes” and “Helden” (yes…the german version)


(Walter Mcbride / Getty Images)

….and, finally, Neil did the countdown for “Space Oddity”.

Do you really need a picture of Neil?

Oh ok.

Here he is doing his Adam Driver impression.

here’s neil preparing for his countdown…


Then…we emailed a ton of artist friends and they all contributed Bowie-and-song inspired artwork.

It felt like a truly fitting family tribute.

Jherek slaved on the mixes and I listened to them on the go…in the car, on headphones while breastfeeding, in the bathrooms of people’s houses.

here’s Jherek recording the strings in LA – this is “space oddity”…note the TIME magazine with Bowie on the cover. :*)

and here is the quartet recording heroes:

here i am in the studio with my engineer Jono Manson….

We’re really, really, really proud of what we made, even though we cranked it out in a short time.

Music is the binding agent of our mundane lives. It cements the moments in which we wash the dishes, type the resumes, go to the funerals, have the babies. The stronger the agent, the tougher the memory, and Bowie was NASA-grade epoxy to a sprawling span of freaked-out kids over three generations. He bonded us to our weird selves. We can be us. He said. Just for one day.

It didn’t hit me until a week later, in the studio, why this was such a fitting project. We were immersing ourselves in Bowieland, living in the songs, super-glueing up some fresh wounds. Not just “knowing” the songs, but feeling the physical chords under our sad fingers, excavating the deeper architecture of the songwriting (especially with a tune as bizarre as “Blackstar” (which we realized was constructed like a sonic Russian nesting doll).

Bowie worked on music up to the end to give us a parting gift. So this is how we, as musicians, mourn: keeping Bowie constantly in our ears and brains.

The man, the artist, exits. But the music, the glue; it stays. It never stops binding us together.

Goodbye, Starman.

We love you.

and now, a word about the patreon, which made this all possible….


This whole project was financed by the supporters at

the patrons covered the artists, babysitting, studio costs, strings, the web team, all the guest appearances….you name it.

We would not have been able to work this fast and put this project out without this funding.

All the $3+ patrons will get the tracks emailed to them.

Since it costs me/us about $.54 ($.09 per song x 6 songs) in licensing fees to the bowie estate every time you stream for free, please consider donating that $1 on bandcamp. Any leftover money from the $1 will go to the cancer research wing of Tufts Medical Center ( in memory of David Bowie. listen on bandcamp: 





Amanda Palmer – Vocals

Jherek Bischoff – Double Bass/Arrangements/Conducting

Serena McKinney​ – Violin​ 1

Alyssa Park​ – Violin 2

Ben Ullery​ – Viola

Jacob Braun – Cello

Anna Calvi – Vocals/Guitar (Blackstar)

Jono Manson – Amanda’s Engineer (The Kitchen Sink)

Alex Thomas – Anna Calvi’s Engineer (Bruce Grove Studio)

Chris Fogel – Jherek/Strings Engineer (Hyperion Sound / ELBO Studios)

Bryan Carrigan – Jherek/Strings Asst. Engineer (Hyperion Sound / ELBO Studios)

John Cameron Mitchell – Vocals (Heroes and Helden)


Jherek recorded the strings in LA at Hyperion Sound / ELBO studios engineered by Chris Fogel (engineer) and Bryan Carrigan (Asst. engineer).

Anna Calvi (guest vocal and guitar on Blackstar) recorded in London at Bruce Grove Studios engineered by Alex Thomas.

I recorded vocals in Santa Fe, NM, at The Kitchen Sink, engineered by Jono Manson. Jono added the acoustic guitar on “Space Oddity”.

John Cameron Mitchell sang his back-ups in his apartment in New York into his iPhone.

Jherek mixed and mastered the entire record at home in LA.


The artwork was created by artists from three continents.

We’ll be posting their stories over the next few days for the patrons, then depositing them here.


Cassandra Long (United States) – Blackstar

from Cassandra:


I have known that David Bowie could die
since 2013.

I was working the box office of a sold
out David Bowie dance party.

I thought, “People love David Bowie.”
After every shift at the box I get a shift drink and if i get off early enough I get to enjoy the party.
As I stood at the bar and watched the glitter covered crowd wiggle around I noticed there were so many different ages and none of them overpowered the other. It was a beautiful mix of 18-40 year olds dancing together.

They weren’t just dancing, they were singing too.
A multi generational crowd all knew the same lyrics and they were all dancing together.
I thought, “People love David Bowie like a god.”
Everyone’s mouths opening and shutting and shouting all in unison got to me and I started to cry.
There might have also been glitter in my eye.
Then it occurred to me that David Bowie was not a god.
David Bowie could die.
He will die.
When I was up at three in the morning three years later I found out he did die.
The first thing I thought of was all those people dancing and singing that night and their faces when they would find out and how we need to have another dance party.
I now work at an elementary school. That Monday after his death I finished reading a book to the kindergartners about a naked mole rat and I asked if there were any questions.
One kid had his hand raised,
“What happens when you die?”
“Oh…why are you asking?”
“David Bowie died.”
I guess the span of generations that David Bowie has affected is much larger than the 18-40 year olds at the club.
“Yes. Well, I don’t know what happens when we die.”
Then I asked the class,
“Does anyone know any David Bowie songs?”
Many hands shot up.
“Casey, is ‘Rudolph the red nosed reindeer’ a David Bowie song?”
Another kid was waving their hand back and forth,
“Is ‘Fireworks’ a David Bowie song?”
Come on, maybe the span is smaller than I thought.
Then I called on another kindergartner with their hand raised straight and high,
“This is ground Control to major tom…” and continued singing and singing
and I knew we would have plenty more dance parties.


About Cassandra Long:
Cassandra Long is an unidentified artist based out of Boston. You will never see her wearing a name tag or her driver’s license. Although many people have tried to point her out in a crowd by the time they get their hand up and their finger out she has ducked down on the floor. lol. I went to school and learned how to paint

and I do that sometimes still as well as make cartoons and write about stuff

that happens to me on my way to work. I live in Boston at the Cloud Club and I

am in a band called the Over Easies. I met Amanda Palmer when I was 18 with

ovarian cancer and we became friends and I love her a lot.


Cassandra Long is a visual artist,

writer, teacher, box office employee, band mate and roommate based out of Boston.

(note from amanda: you can follow casey’s highly amusing tumblr here: http://cassandramarielong.tumblr…, though she isn’t using it very much, and i keep trying to get her to start a patreon for her weird writing and painting and art projects.)



David Mack (United States) – Ashes to Ashes
from david:
Ashes to Ashes
I woke up in the middle of the night and saw the text that Bowie had died.
There was a kaliedascope of images, sounds, voices, musics icons, of him going through my mind.
I realized that I wasn’t going to sleep.
I knew I would have to get up and make a painting of Bowie to help process this.
I got right up… somewhere between sleep and wake… and started making Bowie paintings.
I’ve always connected to Bowie’s music and continual evolution in his art and expression.
It connects from the heart and the mind.  There is a layered texture of the visual and the audio… something that you immediately zero in on… but something else that keeps making you think about what is below the surface.
Its immediately striking… but it also makes you ask questions. Makes you think about it.
Makes you try to wrap your head around something.
It forces you out of your comfort zone, and makes you widen your mind with the effort.
The entire continum of his works have a rythm. 
As an artist, as a writer, as a performor, I felt like Bowie was organically cycling through his wheel of life of incarnations… each era, each project a birth, a life, an era, and then a reincarnation to the next.  To be able to do this over and over is pure joy for an artist.
Each foray then because part of the continuum of the whole… something to be built on top of, or contrasted, or a nod to an earlier work or version of self referenced from an newer one, but now in a different context.
While I paint the piece, the line “The stars look very different today” sings inside me.
Bowie understood metaphor.  He understood re-contextualizing. 
Bowie was able to write metaphorically… but then he was able to BE the metaphor.
And just when you thought you understood the metaphor… he was fine with turning himself into the next metaphor.
Bowie became his own kind of literary device.
He became his own art instrument.
He embodied his own theater.
He kept an open mind to all the things that caught his eye… and then you let them into his laboratory, his playground, his work, and he recontextualized them… through his own lens.  
And offered you a view.
When I think of the title “Ashes to Ashes”…
 I think of the Phoenix.
Rising from one metaphor to the next.
A link to my page:
David Mack is the New York Times Best Selling author and artist of the KABUKI Graphic Novels, cover artist for FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk, the writer and artist of Daredevil from Marvel Comics. 
Mack created artwork for the opening titles of the new Jessica Jones Netflix TV series.
For the #1 hit film Captain America The Winter Soldier, Mack created the art & concept for the credit/titles sequence with Sarofsky Desgin.
Mack’s work has garnered nominations for seven Eisner Awards, four International Eagle Awards, and both the Harvey and Kirby Awards in the category of Best New Talent.


Sarah Beetson (United Kingdom) – EP cover (shown above) and Space Oddity
AFP-Jherek_Space Oddity_SarahBeetson
from Sarah:

I was on a rare trawl of Twitter when I saw the news of Bowie’s death. Initially I was convinced it must be a hoax; before long it was trending and seemingly true. My thoughts were that we’d lost one of the finestcreators of culture of our times. His influence traces a path thru my life,from twirling in front of the mirror in an old bridesmaid dress pretending to be my namesake dancing with The Goblin King at age 6, to the college dorms and mass obsession with the Let’s Dance album, to interning at Stella McCartney and her show being soundtracked to Scary Monsters whilst hanging out at amazing LGBT club night Nag Nag Nag, where Bowie was sampled in every electro-saturated set as the naughties Soho answer to the 80s NYC club kids gyrated on the dancefloor in a tangle of spandex neon and ambiguous gender. 
Discovering the John Peel sessions via the Bowie at the Beeb box set became the soundtrack to my blooming illustration career in London,  the Jacques Brel cover Amsterdam has been threatening to inspire a series of art ever since, The Dresden Dolls cover fueled it further). Bowie was the poster boy for revelling in your own

uniqueness, and looking at his incredible costumes and personas through the years gave me the confidence to wear whatever the hell I wanted and was a huge influence on my crazy style. The V&A exhibit in London was worth travelling 24hours from Australia for, and I was moved to tears upon seeing the handwritten lyrics to Rock n Roll Suicide. He has entered my art on numerous occasions, via dreams and babies and sexually suggestive poses. So when Amanda asked if I would create something for a tribute record she was working on, I jumped.

Space Oddity

All my life I have been obsessed with Space – NASA launched the shuttle program 12 days after I was born, and I grew up in an era when teachers were being sent up to conduct lessons in zero gravity. So Space Oddity resonated with me in my teens from the moment I first watched the music video on a 90s Britpop show, sandwiched between Pulp and Blur. Last year, I even went to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where I learned to pilot the space shuttle, commanded mission control, and performed an EVA (extra vehicular activity) in full spacesuit. Last week, Tim Peake became the 1st British astronaut ever to walk in space. I borrowed his suit to portray Bowie. The reactions on social media pointed to our Major Tom headed up to Mars; I even read an article about a NASA conspiracy also involving Lemmy and Scott Weiland – so that’s exactly how I portrayed him, aged 69, in Tim Peake’s spacesuit, headed for Mars on the Russian Soyuz, looking back towards the moon and earth and bidding us farewell.

Cover (Aladdin Sane) 

When Amanda told me she and Jherek planned to create Bowie covers entirely using stringed instruments, the first image that entered my head was the Aladdin Sane cover, with a violin and a cello in place of the lightning bolt. To me it is the iconic Bowie image – one which I would not wish to recreate without re-interpreting it in some way. (As I had done in an earlier piece about war involving a baby sporting the red and blue bolt and illustrated with the lyrics from 5 years). I’d considered changing the colours to actual wood tones – but ultimately  decided on the striking importance of the red and blue. His two-tone eyes are of course the absolutest most perfect detail for an artist to portray.

find more sarah at:


Félix Marqués (Spain) – Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes
AFP-Jherek_Ashes to Ashes_1080p square_FelixMarques
from Felix:

I woke up, saw my friend was still asleep, and quietly browsed my phone. Once I knew, I slowly got up and made myself breakfast, and watched everybody on my Twitter feed, especially the artists, mourn the loss. I didn’t want to tell my friend, but I was so glad that I would be the one to break the news once he woke up.

When I was 15, I took the bus to high school with an mp3 player. Along with the Dresden Dolls songs and movie soundtracks and whatnot, there was the Ziggy Stardust album. I don’t even remember how I got into it, but that music was on loop through nine months of drawing classes.  

 Bowie released 28 studio albums throughout his career. In all the years since high school, I have managed to listen to about twelve of them, and only properly know my way around eight or nine. Like the best music, it refuses to immediately lodge itself in your brain. It just doesn’t fit. It’s oblique, you need to look at it and figure out the angles. It requires your attention, and then it stretches you from the inside, like a growing fetus. You’re never quite the same afterwards.  

 See, Bowie’s entire life was a powerful act of magic: by the time his body left us, his spirit had managed to possess all of us who welcomed it. As long as his work lives, the spell will never be broken, instead only finding more hearts and minds where the Bowie will be housed.  

Since the morning he died, every time I’ve tried to make music or conceive an image, he’s in there somewhere, his hand on my shoulder, whispering in my ear that I can strive for more, that I mustn’t lose sight of ant potential for the interesting, beautiful, extraordinary.

Bowie won’t be releasing anything new anymore. So now we’re all a little more responsible, we all have to try a little bit harder.

I find that exciting.

Twitter:  @FelixMarques


HA-HA (Australia) – Helden (German Version)
from HA-HA:

I chose the ‘Heroes’ track because it has positive lyrics which inspire the listener to ‘be a hero even if its just for one day…’ . I remember watching a live version of Bowie singing Heroes on youtube & Bowie said ‘I dedicated this song to my son & everyone in the crowd who have kids & to parents of the world’ , I thought those were quite moving words. I was on facebook when I started to see comments & images popping up of Bowie thats when I realized he had passed on, over the followings weeks social media was abuzz with tributes to Bowie, a great way for fans to say thanks for decades of great songs, acting , painting etc . In this piece Bowie is the hero of our times…


Bill Sienkiewicz (United States) – Heroes (English Version)
AFP-Jherek_Heroes-English_Bill Sienkiewicz
from Bill:

David Bowie is often called the ultimate chameleon, Rock’s Dada Garbo.

Part theater, part harlequin, part pragmatist, Bowie was great at being Bowie, no matter who or what he was.

His aim, he once said,was to be a prop for his own songs.

And though he admittedly extracted pieces of the world around him, trying them on, to ”create a person”, he was unique, wholly inimitable.

So when he passed away at age 69 from cancer, it felt unreal. Impossible. 

It wasn’t denial of the truth. I know we all have to go sometime. 

It was the realization that this artist who had repeatedly created and recreated himself for decades, impacting myself and millions of others, 

wouldn’t be making any more transformations, except of course to that of another Departed Legend, category of Far Too Soon, subset Goddammit.

His wellspring for innovation and exploration seemed bottomless. He couldn’t be finished, I felt, because he wasn’t  done.   

But here I was at 3 AM, alone in stunned saddened silence, trying to translate the loss I felt into an appropriate tribute, a thank you.
I chose the eyes. The mirrors, windows facing inward. The part of Bowie that remained constant though his every metamorphosis, every incarnation.

It’s a meager ‘thank you’ to David Bowie for his gifts to us of his music, his mind, his life. Meager, but heartfelt.

**Bill Sienkiewicz is an Emmy-nominated, Eisner Award-winning artist/author. A descendant of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz, he is perhaps best known for redefining the visual language and the public’s perception of Comics as an Artform, by his use of innovative multimedia techniques and versatile stylistic approaches. He continues to influence new generations of creators. He is also a NY Times best-selling artist and also produces work in Film,TV, Animation, and Music. He has exhibited worldwide.

thank you to the whole team AFP for making this happen on breakneck schedule: especially eric, superkate, nick, alex, billh and courtney. love.

LASTLY….I’d like to thank this man. I never would have done this project without his late-night, Bowie-greiving texting friendship.

Love you, Brother J.
Jherek Bischoff – photo by Allan Amato