Some of the earliest works by American composer Phill Niblock, including three never before released pieces: "Index" (1969), "Tenor," and "Boston III" (both from 1972). Until now, it's been impossible to encounter Niblock's compositions from earlier than the 1960s, a reality thankfully rectified by the long overdue publication of this LP on Alga Marghen.
"Tenor" (1972) represents the first evolution of Niblock's musical thought towards the aesthetics of microtones, overtones, and drones which the composer would develop in following decades. The piece was recorded by the photographer Martin Bough on tenor saxophone and gradually dubbed back and forth by the composer in his New York studio. "Boston III" (1972) was recorded at the Intermedia Sound studio in Boston with Rhys Chatham
(flute, voice), Martin Bough (tenor saxophone), and Gregory Reeve (viola, voice); the composer himself also contributed with his voice. The LP also includes "Index" (1969), an improvised sound performance by the composer himself. Guitar (both its body and strings), fingers and fingering fuse in a vehement action around which barely listenable sounds and resonances vibrate. Considering the extended pulsation as an organic blend of impulse, rhythm, drive, strength, vitality and passion, the end of this sole solo in Niblock's complete oeuvre is not defined by the fixed duration of the piece but as the consequence of the tiredness of the performer. The music changes according to the loudness of playback. The interaction of the upper harmonics changes especially, with much richer overtone patterns being produced at louder levels.
One of the most important multimedia artists of his generation, American minimalist
and video artist
Phill Niblock (1933-2024) has produced a multidisciplinary work. His "Intermedia Art" features a combination of minimalist music
, conceptual art
, structural cinema, systematic or even political art, and has actively contributed to transform our perception and experience of time
Admittedly one of the greatest experimental composers
of our time, Phill Niblock initiated his career as a photographer and film director. A jazz passionate, he moved to New York in 1958 where he started photography In the mid-1960s, specializing in portraits of jazz musicians (Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Billy Strayhorn...). In the middle of the 1960s, he made his first films for the dancers and choreographers of the Judson Church Theater. From 1968 on, Phill Niblock focused on music and composed his first pieces, which, according to the artist, should be listened to at loud volume in order to explore their overtones. He pursued his film projects independently with The Movement of People Working
, a series of films lasting over 25 hours, made between 1973 and 1991, in which the repetitive nature of work movements acts as a direct echo to his musical compositions.
Since the mid-1960s, his analogue photographic work has explored New York's architecture and urban planning. The sequencing and layout of his images offer a mapping of the location and object photographed, such as the areas in South Bronx (1979) fallen into disuse or the facades of SoHo Broadway district (1988). Phill Niblock was particularly interested in the screening of moving images—films and slideshows. Produced between 1966 and 1969, Six Films, a series of short films with sound realized with 16mm film, heralds his experimental method through portraits of artists and musicians such as Sun Ra
and Max Neuhaus
In 1968, the artist started experimenting a combination of his visual productions with his musical scores in order to create sound architectural and environmental compositions. Recreated by the artist for the first time since its last presentation in 1972 for the purpose of this exhibition, the Environments series extracts the reality of different surroundings through images, all the while generating a dense and intense temporary environment of projected images, music and movements throughout the museum space.
Phill Niblock was the director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation born in the flames of 1968's barricade-hopping.