Thursday, October 2, 2008

Artists: Phill Niblock




An homage to Mr. Niblock, on the occasion of his 75th birthday.
Waiting for the new album "Touch Strings" (announced by Touch for the next year), here is a biography, a discography (to be completed soon) and other references.
Moreover, an interesting interview can be read on FO(A)RM magazine.
The issue no. 4 also contains a CD by Phill ("Ghosts And Others") and can be bought here.

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Phill Niblock is a New York-based minimalist composer and multi-media musician and director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation born in the flames of 1968's barricade-hopping.
He has been a maverick presence on the fringes of the avant garde ever since. In the history books Niblock is the forgotten Minimalist.
That's as maybe: no one ever said the history books were infallible anyway.

His influence has had more impact on younger composers such as Susan Stenger, Lois V Vierk, David First, and Glenn Branca.
He's even worked with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo on "Guitar two, for four" which is actually for five guitarists.
This is Minimalism in the classic sense of the word, if that makes sense. Niblock constructs big 24-track digitally-processed monolithic microtonal drones.
The result is sound without melody or rhythm. Movement is slow, geologically slow. Changes are almost imperceptible, and his music has a tendency of creeping up on you. The vocal pieces are like some of Ligeti's choral works, but a little more phased. And this isn't choral work. "A Y U (as yet untitled)" is sampled from just one voice, the baritone Thomas Buckner.
The results are pitch shifted and processed intense drones, one live and one studio edited. Unlike Ligeti, this isn't just for voice or hurdy gurdy.
Like Stockhausen's electronic pieces, Musique Concrete, or even Fripp and Eno's No Pussyfooting, the role of the producer/composer in "Hurdy Hurry" and "A Y U" is just as important as the role of the performer.
He says: "What I am doing with my music is to produce something without rhythm or melody, by using many microtones that cause movements very, very slowly."
The stills in the booklet are from slides taken in China, while Niblock was making films which are painstaking studies of manual labour, giving a poetic dignity to sheer gruelling slog of fishermen at work, rice-planters, log-splitters, water-hole dredgers and other back-breaking toilers.
Since 1968 Phill has also put on over 1000 concerts in his loft space, including Ryoji Ikeda, Zbigniew Karkowski, Jim O'Rourke.
(Phillniblock.com)

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Biography:

Date Of Birth: October 2, 1933, Anderson, Indiana, US

Phill Niblock is a composer, filmmaker, videographer, and director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation for avant-garde music based in New York with a parallel branch in Ghent, Belgium.

After an early period studying economics (BA, Indiana University, 1956) Niblock came to New York in 1958. Initially he worked as a photographer and filmmaker. Much of this activity centered around photographing and filming jazz musicians; his film The Magic Sun, an abstract, avant-garde film featuring the music of Sun Ra and members of the Sun Ra Arkestra, is available on DVD from Atavistic Records. Thereafter he made a number of films in a series titled The Movement of People Working. Filmed in primarily rural environments in many countries (China, Brazil, Portugal, Lesotho, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, the Arctic, Mexico, Hungary, the Adirondacks, Peru), the films look at everyday work, frequently agrarian or marine labor. These films are remarkable for their realistic quality and absence of artifice, their use of long takes in high resolution and their supposedly artless juxtaposition of compelling images in vivid colors. These scenes of the movement of human manual labor are treated abstractly without explicit anthropological or sociological meaning. As in the music, a surface slowness is countered by an active, varied texture of rhythm and form of body motion within the frame; this is what Niblock himself considers the ultimate subject matter of his films.

Niblock's first musical compositions date from 1968. Unusually, even among the avant-garde composers of his generation, he has no formal musical training. He cites the musical activities of New York in the 1960s as a stimulus (and occasional memorable performances, such as the premiere of Morton Feldman's Durations pieces). All his compositions are worked out intuitively rather than systematically. His early works were all done with tape, overdubbing unprocessed recordings of precisely tuned long tones played on traditional instruments in four, eight, or sixteen tracks. Since the late 1990s his music has been created with computer technology, notably with Pro Tools on a Macintosh computer. His later works are correspondingly more dense in texture, sometimes involving as many as forty tracks.

Niblock's music is an exploration of sound textures created by multiple tones in very dense, often atonal tunings (generally microtonal in conception) performed in long durations. The layering of long tones only very slightly distinct in pitch creates a multitude of beats and generates complex overtone patterns and other fascinating psychoacoustic effects. The combination of apparently static surface textures and extremely active harmonic movement generates a highly original music that, while having things in common with early drone-based Minimalism, is utterly distinct in sound and technique. Niblock's work continues to influence a generation of musicians, especially younger players from a variety of musical genres.

Niblock's compositional process often begins with recordings of single tones played by a specific musician. Such collaborations have been crucial to his composing life, and the range of musicians with whom he has worked include David Gibson, in the cello works of the 1970s); Petr Kotik, Susan Stenger, and Eberhard Blum, on Four Full Flutes; Rafael Toral, David First, Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore, Susan Stenger, and Robert Poss on Guitar Too, for Four (G2,44+1x2); Ulrich Krieger, Carol Robinson, Kaspar T. Toeplitz, and Reinhold Friedl, on Touch Food; and many others. Since 2003, Niblock has frequently toured and collaborated with electro-acoustic improviser Thomas Ankersmit. In the past decade he has produced several works for orchestra: Disseminate, Three Orchids (for three orchestras), Tow for Tom (for two orchestras), and 4 Chorch +1, the latter a commission for the Ostrava Music Days 2007 for chorus and orchestra with solo baritone (Thomas Buckner). The premieres of all these works have been conducted by Petr Kotik.

In performance, live musicians may play, wandering through the audience changing the sound texture through reinforcement of or interference with the existing tunings. Simultaneously, Niblock generally accompanies performances by presenting his films and videos (often those from the Movement of People Working series, or computer-driven, black-and-white abstract images floating through time). These performances fall into two types: (1) an installation of several hours' duration, with the music pieces played consecutively, with a long loop of several hours of work before repetition, and with multiple images that are shown simultaneously; or (2) a performance, with several simultaneous works of music and film, usually lasting between one and three hours. In these performances Niblock generally projects three (or more) film images simultaneously, on large screens three to four meters wide. The films are 16mm and color. The music is produced from stereo or quad tapes, with four or more speakers in the corners of the space. His more recent video pieces are played individually or with several simultaneously, using large video monitors.

Since 1985, Niblock has been the director of the Experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York where he has been an artist-member since 1968. He is the producer of music and Intermedia presentations at EI since 1973 (about 1,000 performances) and the curator of EI's XI Records label. In 1993, he opened a house with window gallery at Sassekaai 45 in Ghent, Belgium and, in 1997, the coordinating committee—Phill Niblock, Maria Blondeel, Zjuul Devens, Lieve D'hondt, and Ludo Engels—founded a Belgian organization, the Experimental Intermedia v.z.w. Ghent. He taught at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, from 1971-98.

Phill Niblock's music is available on the XI, Moikai, Mode Records, and Touch labels. A double-DVD of films and music, lasting nearly four hours, is available on the Extreme label.
(wikipedia)

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Discography:

Nothin To Look At Just A Record
















Label: India Navigation
Cat. #: IN 3026
Format: LP
Release date: 1982

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Niblock For Celli / Celli Plays Niblock
















Label: India Navigation
Cat. #: IN 3026
Format: LP
Release date: 1984

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Four Full Flutes
















Label: Experimental Intermedia
Cat. #: XI 101
Format: CD
Release date: 1990

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Music By Phill Niblock
















Label: Experimental Intermedia
Cat. #: XI 111
Format: CD
Release date: 1993

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A Young Person's Guide To Phill Niblock
















Label: Blast First
Cat. #: BFFP 102 CD
Format: 2xCD
Release date: 1995

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Ghosts And Others
















Label: Sedimental
Cat. #: SED CD 029
Format: CD
Release date: 1999

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Touch Works, For Hurdy Gurdy And Voice
















Label: Touch
Cat. #: TO:49
Format: CD
Release date: 2000

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G2,44+/x2
















Label: Moikai
Cat. #: M12
Format: CD
Release date: 2002

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YPGPN
















Label: XI Records
Cat. #: XI 121
Format: 2xCD
Release date: 2002
Notes: Reissue of "A Young Person's Guide To Phill Niblock"

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The Movement Of People Working
















Label: Extreme
Cat. #: XDVD-001
Format: DVD
Release date: 2003

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Touch Food
















Label: Touch
Cat. #: TO:59
Format: 2xCD
Release date: 2003

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Disseminate
















Label: Mode
Cat. #: mode 131
Format: CD
Release date: 2004

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Touch Three
















Label: Touch
Cat. #: TO:69
Format: 3xCD
Release date: 2006

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Touch Strings
















Label: Touch
Cat. #: TO:79
Format: 2xCD
Release date: 10/2009

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Touch Five

















Label: Touch
Cat. #: TO:91
Format: 2xCD
Release date: 09/2013

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Films and Videos:

China And Sunsets
















Label: videoOO
Cat. #: VOO2
Format: VHS, NTSC
Release date: 1995

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Six Films (1966-1969)
















Label: Die Schachtel
Cat. #: DSV1
Format: DVD, NTSC/PAL
Release date: 10/2009

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Brazil 84

















Label: Mode Records
Cat. #: mode 273
Format: DVD
Release date: 10/2014

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Remixes:
  • Oren Ambarchi - Suspension (2002, Staubgold, staubgold 27) track: Amber Mix (Phill Niblock Remix)
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Appears on:
  • Rhys Chatham - An Angel Moves Too Fast To See (Selected Works 1971-1989) (2002, Table Of The Elements, La 57)
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Tracks appear on:
  • VV.AA. - Just Another Asshole (1981, Just Another Asshole, #5) track: Index Circa Seventy
  • VV.AA. - Growthrings (1993, Hermit Foundation, AV 0018-2 311) track: Untitled (w/ James Fulkerson)
  • VV.AA. - 3 Fingers And A Fumb (1994, Blast First, BFFP 107 CD) track: D & D
  • VV.AA. - Just Another Asshole (1995, Atavistic, ALP39CD) track: Index Circa Seventy
  • Ulrich Krieger - Walls Of Sound (1997, OODiscs, OO32) track: Didjeridoos And Dont's
  • VV.AA. - LMJ CD Series Volume 9: Power And Responibility - Converted To Streaming Between Machines (2000, Leonardo Music Journal/Electronic Music Foundation, ISAST 9/EMF CD 021) track: Ghosts And Others
  • VV.AA. - Ringtones (2001, Touch, Tone 14) track: Tones For Guy (w/ Guy de Bièvre)
  • VV.AA. - State Of The Union 2.001 (2001, Electronic Music Foundation, EMF CD 028) track: Aomori Water
  • VV.AA. - Sounds For Collector Scum (2002, Sounds For Collector Scum, 018) track: Dyrdh
  • VV.AA. - Erratum #4 / Sound Review / Art + Noise + Poetry (2004, Erratum, EM004) track: Untitled (Friedl Erratum Mix)
  • VV.AA. - From The Kitchen Archives - New Music New York 1979 (2004, Orange Mountain Music, OMM-0015) track: Four Arthurs Superimposed With Two Octaves & A Fifth
  • VV.AA. - City Sonics 2005 (2005, Naïve, NS 91526) track: Five More String Quartets (Edit)
  • VV.AA. - Yokomono 02: 55 Lock Grooves (2005, Staalplaat, STLP 14269) track: Untitled
  • VV.AA. - Framework250 (2010, --, --) track: Bells And Timps
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Links:Phill Niblock
Experimental Intermedia
Interview by Bob Gilmore@Paris Transatlantic Magazine

2 comments:

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Best wishes!

Totentanz Total said...

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