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Niblock, Phill: Music for Organs (Matiere Memoire)

Two massive drone works for organ and pre-recorded tracks commissioned by Musica Festival Strasbourg for organist Hampus Lindwall, with tapes by Emanuel Schmelzer-Ziringer, each piece titled anagrammatically (ie. Nagro = Organ) and recorded with the composer at the Manufacture d'orgues Thomas and Orgelbau Klais organ in the Collegiale Sainte-Waudru, in Mons, Belgium.

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product information:

Label: Matiere Memoire
Catalog ID: MATME005CD
Squidco Product Code: 28701

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: Belgium
Packaging: Cardstock Sleeve, sealed
Recorded in presence of the composer at the Manufacture d'orgues Thomas and Orgelbau Klais organ in the Collegiale Sainte-Waudru, in Mons, Belgium, on September 23, 2019, by Frederic Alstadt.

Tape material for Nagro was recorded on the Joseph Gatto Organ (1787) in Sankt Kirchberg am Wagram, Austria, on May 1st, 2007, by Emanuel Schmelzer-Ziringer.


Phill Niblock-composer

Hampus Lindwall-organ

Emanuel Schmelzer-Ziringer-sounds

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Artist Biographies:

"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."

-Phill Niblock Website (

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"Hampus Lindwall is a musical artist who is praised as an organ performer of contemporary and 20th century music and as a creative improviser & composer. He was the last disciple of Rolande Falcinelli and is the Titular Organist in Saint-Esprit, Paris, a position made famous by Jeanne Demessieux who occupied it between 1933 and 1962.

Hampus Lindwall gives concerts throughout Europe, in the U.S.A., Canada and China. He is doing numerous collaborations and first performances with composers and artists like Cory Arcangel, Noriko Baba, Raphaël Cendo, John Duncan, Leif Elggren, Mauro Lanza, Jesper Nordin, Studio For Propositional Cinema, Emily Sundblad and others. He has released albums with Ligia Digital, Clean Feed Records, Firework Editions and Matière-Mémoire.

Born (1976) in Stockholm, Hampus Lindwall grew up playing the electric guitar in various rock, metal & jazz bands. He started playing keyboards in his late teens and studied the organ at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Under the influence of Rolande Falcinelli he moved to Paris in 2002 and studied at the Conservatoire de Saint-Maur-des-Fossés and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Lyon. He won the 1st prizes in the International improvisation competitions "Orgel ohne Grenzen, Air Art 2003″ in Saarbrücken, Germany, and the "Prix Boëllmann-Gigout", 2004 in Strasbourg, France."

-Hampus Lindwall Website (

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"Emanuel Schmelzer-Ziringer: Born in 1971, comes from a Styrian family of musicians. Studied organ and conducting at the Graz and Vienna music universities, diplomas with distinction. Postgraduate harpsichord studies at the Bruckner University Linz. Singing lessons with Gerd Fussi in Wiener Neustadt. Teaches harpsichord and vocal ensemble early music at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. As an organist international concert activity as well as recordings of solo CDs. As a harpsichordist as a soloist, as a chamber musician and as a continuist in opera productions, for example at the Graz Opera. Participate in CD productions. As a conductor, he conducts numerous concerts, especially in the field of old and completely new music. CD and radio recordings. Head of the JM Hauer Ensemble. Cooperation with Friedrich Cerha, Klaus Lang, Bernhard Lang, Phill Nilock, Barbara Konrad,

Participate in the Graz Opera, with the Wiener Symphoniker, the RSO Vienna, the Klangforum Wien, the Accademia dell'Arcadia Vienna ... appearances as organist in the St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, in the Vienna Musikverein, in the Helsinki Cathedral, in the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago ... appearances as a harpsichordist in the Graz Opera, in the Wiener Konzerthaus ... appearances as a conductor in the Brucknerhaus, in opera productions by the Teatro Barocco ... as a soloist and musical director appearances at the Styriate, at the Carinthian Summer, at the Festival 4020 ."

-Abteilung fur Alte Musik (Translated by Google) (

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track listing:

1. Unmounted / Muted Noun, 2019 24:07

2. Nagro (aka - Organ), 2007 20:59
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Phill Niblock has a penchant for anagrams, as this record makes clear with the names of its two compositions, "Unmounted / Muted Noun" and "Nagro (aka Organ)". In the same spirit, I note that Music for Organ might be rendered "a coursing form" - an apt description of this music. The sounds flow and accumulate like a steady, impassable river. Since they seem not to be constrained by any traditional formal progression, the structure of these pieces is itself a coursing flux.

Niblock is a stalwart of minimalist composition, active since the 1960s. His trademark approach is to record continuous tones from an instrument, then layer up adjacent microtones to create billowing clouds of sound, which soon turn to raging storms. This used to be achieved on tape, by getting the musician(s) to retune to exact pitches, sometimes specified in hertz. Niblock's compositional task was layering up the tones to reach the final product. In recent years, Niblock makes greater use of digital processing to adjust the pitch of the source material, layer after layer.

The closest Niblock has come to crossover success seems to be Touch Food (2003). This album is a good example of his style. Its ambient droning gradually gains intensity early in each track. Then a plateau emerges in the subtly shifting microtonal surface. It may sound sacrilegious, but it almost doesn't matter what instrument is being played on many of Niblock's compositions. The drawn-out, stratified tones are quite removed from usual instrumental practice. "Nagro (aka Organ)" is an example of this effect; some moments could easily be bagpipes, for example.

"Unmounted / Muted Noun" alters Niblick's usual sound. It is irrefutably a pipe organ composition from the first moment. (Specifically, both tracks feature Hampus Lindwall playing the organ of Collégiale Sainte-Waudru, Mons, Belgium.) The tremulous cadences of church music get stretched into a gorgeous twenty-four minutes. Since the pipe organ has a particular aptitude for emitting and reshaping multiple tones at once, it's not clear where the capacities of the instrument end and Niblock's layering begins. To complicate matters, both tracks on the album feature pre-recorded tape in addition to the live organ. However the variables come together, the result for "Unmounted" is more monolithically and satisfyingly noisy than any other Niblock composition I know of.

The remit of this review is to provide A Closer Listen. However, Niblock's work does not willingly reward such careful attention. This composer's raison d'etre is to explore the visceral impact of sound. He advises that his compositions be played very loud, their vibrations filling the space and affecting the listener physically more than emotionally or intellectually. I'm not entirely convinced by that rhetoric. However, I do know this record packs a powerful droning punch. (Samuel Rogers)-Samuel Rogers,

This album has been reviewed on our magazine:

The Squid
The Squid's Ear!
Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Piano & Keyboards
Electroacoustic Composition
Sound, Noise, &c.
Duo Recordings
New in Experimental & Electronic Music
New in Compositional Music

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