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date: 17 September 2019

Niblock, Philllocked

  • John Rockwell
  •  and Gregory Sandow


(b Anderson, IN, Oct 2, 1933). American composer and multimedia artist. He graduated from Indiana University in 1956 with a degree in economics. After taking up photography, he moved to New York. He joined the Experimental Intermedia Foundation in 1968 (director from 1985) and was appointed to teach film, video and photography at the College of Staten Island, CUNY in 1971. An important early musical influence was Morton Feldman, but the seed of his musical invention was most firmly planted in the mid-1960s when he rode a motorcycle up a hill behind a large truck and was mesmerized by ‘the strong physical presence of the beats resulting from the two engines running at slightly different frequencies’. That experience inspired him to compose music in which loud sustained tones blend and collide, creating almost physically tangible sound. During the 1970s and 80s he constructed pieces by recording instrumentalists playing pitches chosen for their potential to create beats and difference tones, editing and looping these recordings so the sounds had no apparent start or finish, and layering the edited versions over each other. In live performances of his works, musicians move slowly through the concert space, playing sustained tones that interact with recordings. In ...

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