Phill Niblock at 80

Phil Niblock

Thursday 28 February 2013


Door Times : 8pm

Tickets : £10 adv / £12 on the door


In 2013 minimalist composer Phill Niblock celebrates his 80th year with a massive retrospective at the Lausanne Contemporary Art Centre and a few select dates across Europe with saxophonist and electronic musician Thomas Ankersmit including this concert at Cafe OTO where the pair will present a selection of new works alongside 'Sweet Potato' for Basset Horn/Bass Clarinet/Eb Clarinet - a piece that was written for American clarinetist and sound artist Carol Robinson in 2001 and featured on the 'Touch Food' set of recordings (Touch). In this evening's concert it will be performed with live contribution from David Ryan on bass clarinet.


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.

Phil Niblock from 25 FPS on Vimeo.


Thomas Ankersmit (1979, Leiden, Netherlands) is a musician and installation artist based in Berlin and Amsterdam. His main instruments are the Serge analogue modular synthesizer, computer and alto saxophone. He frequently works together with New York minimalist Phill Niblock and electroacoustic artists Valerio Tricoli and Kevin Drumm.

"Ankersmit constructs a musical world that feels alive and capable of going anywhere, and yet also manages to give the music a strong sense of structured purpose, a degree of compositional control unusual in this area of live performance. It is the fine balance between the sense of chaos that threatens to pull everything apart and the controlled formation of the music into clearly defined sections of differing intensities that raises the work above that of so many of Ankersmit’s contemporaries." Richard Pinnell, The Wire

"A dynamic performance that comes at the listener from all sides, as unpredictable as it is self-assured … Ankersmit is adept as ever at making transitions and staying one step ahead of himself with a keen ear for evolution and the patience to make it effective. There can be excitement in watching a musician grapple with sounds that threaten to escape his or her control, but precision can be equally arresting, and Ankersmit wrangles his material beautifully from beginning to end with a deft touch and a canny sense of timing." Adam Strohm, Dusted


David Ryan is a visual artist, musician and writer also actively involved in contemporary music. As a performer Ryan has performed for Danish Radio; Huddersfield International Contemporary Music Festival’s portraits of Cornelius Cardew (2001) and Christian Wolff (2002); New Music Marathon, Northwestern University, Chicago; The Barbican Art Centre, London (Cage Uncaged, 2004), Line-Point-Line, Los Angeles (2004), Cut and Splice’s Stockhausen Festival (featured on BBC Radio 3, 2008). He has also collaborated with Italian composer Nicola Sani. Most recently he has staged Phill Niblock’s music and films at the V22 space in London, and has contributed to New Music Mornings at Kettle’s Yard Gallery, Cambridge, including premieres of pieces by Earle Brown and Christophe Guiraud. Ryan has had numerous awards including Arts Council of England, Britten-Pears; Holst and Hinrichsen Foundations; Sonora, Rome, as well as Italian and American Government grants. He is currently a member of the London Improviser’s Orchestra and also working on painting, video and composition, including videos Via di San Teodoro (2010/11) and Tower (2012). His CDs include Cornelius Cardew: Chamber Works 1956-64 (with Apartment House), Earle Brown: Chamber Works (with Dal Niente Projects), both on matchless recordings.