Phill Niblock

(b. 1933)

mode 131



mode 131 Phill NIBLOCK: Disseminate – Disseminate Ostrava (Ensemble OCNM with members of the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra); Kontradictionaries (The Kontra-Trio); Disseminate Q-O2 (Q-O2 Ensemble).

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Disseminate Ostrava (1998)   (22:18)
Ensemble OCNM with members of the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra
Petr Kotik, conductor

Kontradictionaries (1999, rev. 2003)   (22:13)
The Kontra-Trio
Madeleine Bischof, contrabass flute
Thomas K.J. Mejer, contrabass saxophone
Leo Bachmann, contrabass tuba
Written for Kontra-Trio

Disseminate Q-O2 (1998)   (22:09)
the Q-O2 Ensemble, Brussels
Julia Eckhardt, viola; Claire Goldfarb, cello;
Lucio Capece, bass clarinet and soprano sax;
Elke Tierens, flute; Roel Avondts, trombone

Phill Niblock (born in Indiana, 1933) is a seminal figure in “drone” music who crosses the Downtown and Improv scenes. A characteristic of Niblock’s drone style is its subtle, gradual alteration of pitch which leads one to lose a sense of “time” and draws one deeper and deeper into the sound itself. The remarkable thing is that Niblock achieves this effect by almost always using traditional acoustic instruments.

Niblock is an intermedia artist using music, film, photography, video and computers. He initially was trained in the visual arts and worked as a photographer; he takes inspiration from minimal artists, including Rothko, Judd and Andre.

He turns 70 this year and will be honored with many festivals and retrospectives of his music worldwide.

In this orchestra piece, the players read from a conventional score. There is no after-recording manipulation of the material. The recording comes from the Ostrava Days Festival in the Czech Republic, where the 41-piece Ensemble OCNM is supplemented by members of the Janacek Philharmonic.

This work was written for the KONTRA-trio. The trio (formed in 1992) of Bischof, Mejer and Bachmann concentrates on the sound of low wind instruments. The three wind contrabasses are used as sources for acoustic phenomena.
Here, the musicians recorded “samples” of the notes in a recording studio. Niblock then edited the samples, made pitch shifts of them, and combined this material in a multitrack score. There is no manipulation of the sound of the instruments, the combination of the different microtonal pitches and timbres of the instruments modifies the sound. The musicians later added “live” parts to the Niblock multitrack-mixed-to stereo recording.

Written for the Belgian ensemble for contemporary and improvised music, Q-O2. The work creates a haze of slowly shifting, vibrating sounds.

The cover is an original photograph by Phill Niblock.

The booklet includes an essay Robert Ashley and notes by Petr Kotik and the composer.


Phill Niblock
Mode 131 (CD)

Though Phill Niblock’s music could sound like an immobile granite blockto ignorant ears, it’s instead one of the best representations of the incessantnessof vital tides: its sound flowing like blood in veins, its dissonant beatingfrequencies pumping like constant heartbeats bringing ear pressure in somecases; its final result, at least in my own perception system, is that Ibreathe deep and slow, my muscles losing any tension. In an exceptionallyprolific moment of his career, Niblock establishes here a partnership withmusicians approaching materials with passion and competence, seaming togetherdrone upon drone of elongated acoustic – and sampled – textures. “DisseminateOstrava” and “Disseminate Q-O2”, two different versions of the same piece(the first recorded live with Petr Kotik conducting) show how the humanelement can bring out the most hidden sprinkles in the score, resultingin a holomorphic wall of contradicting pitches showing the only way to aninfinite bliss. “Kontradictionaires”, written for contrabass flute, saxand tuba – all three instruments – and masterfully played by the Kontra-Trio,is classical Niblock wrapping the listener in a cocoon of low ranging notesthat, under the guise of menace, create instead the most protective barrieragainst anything not desirable, being them sounds, thoughts or else. It’sgood knowing that this man exists and it’s even better thinking about anartistic vision that at 70-plus years is still inquisitive and purely interestedin basic forms, like if he were a little kid. “Disseminate” is meant tobe played often and it’s as a beautiful release as you can hope for.
— Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, April 2004



Also by Petr Kotik on Mode:
Somei Satoh: From the Depth of Silence: Orchestral Works (mode 135)

Kontra-Trio Profile

Petr Kotik Profile

Phill Niblock Profile

Q-O2 Ensemble Profile