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Phill Niblock – In Memoriam

wed 14 feb 2024
Theme: Crosslinks

On January 8 last, the sad news came in about the passing of filmmaker, multimedia artist and composer Phill Niblock.

Niblock lived to the respectable age of 90. In December 2013, colleague Mark van de Voort dedicated a nice programme about Phill’s work on the occasion of his 80th birthday. But before and since his work would quite rightly be frequently discussed at Concertzender. We conclude this In Memoriam with a list of programmes in which his works can be heard.

The common thread through the life’s work of Phill Niblock (1933-2024) was characterized by the continual stretching of physical tolerance during immensely loud performances and concerts. He believed that you had to ensure that you completely surrendered to the sound experience, both mentally and physically; a fact that required absolute surrender from the listener. Seeking a dialogue with the space in which he played his sounds played a crucial role.

People who ever saw Phill work live will confirm that the experience was of a collective nature. Gradually, as a listener, you noticed the same experience as the people around you. The timelessness of Niblock’s music took on an extra dimension live, because you could completely let go of the feeling of space and time…, losing yourself, as it were. The combination of spatial dialogue and the volume adjusted accordingly also ensured that each performance could be considered unique.

As a filmmaker, his images worked similarly to his approach to sound compositions, with distinctive use of color, time, movement and camera angles. Something that is often reflected in his favorite subject; the working man, whom he captured in detail in a often slow and serene manner. As a photographer, he would capture these characteristics in his early years with images of mainly jazz musicians. An artistic aspect of his life that would only receive recognition many years later.

From 1985 he was also director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation for avant-garde music based in New York. The platform would offer a stage to countless artists. Thanks to Phill’s power to bring people together from different disciplines and backgrounds, this yielded surprising and ground-breaking results. Fortunately, the Experimental Intermedia website states that the activities will continue in the spirit of Phill.

The godfather of the drone is no more. The legacy that Phill Niblock leaves behind is as epic and charged as the sounds he worked with throughout his life as a composer. And those sounds will resonate in our heads long after. Thanks for everything Phil!

Written by programme maker Mike Kramer.
Photo: Jack Vartoogian.

In December 2013, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, Mark van de Voort covered Phill’s work in the program Thema.

The Framework programme recently reflected on the death of Niblock. Can be heard on the Concertzender itself on Monday, January 22nd, 2024 at 6:00 AM.

In Concertzender Live on Monday, July 27th, 2009, live recordings can be heard during November Music in Den Bosch, where Niblock performed together with Thomas Ankersmit.

On Wednesday January 31st, 2024 we broadcast an Electronic Frequencies special with works from the 2003 album Touch Food.

And on Wednesday, February 21st, Mike Kramer himself will compile an Electronic Frequencies special with “A Rooks Pun” from the album ‘Working Touch’, which was only released as a USB stick in 2022. ‘Praised Fan’, also from ‘Working Touch’. And a work from 2006 entitled ‘Sethwork’.

Last month both Resonator and X-Rated also reflected on Niblock’s death.