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“Magic was happening as you sat there. Here was a true original.”

— Paul Griffiths, The New York Times

From spectacular boombox symphonies to chamber music and songs, Phil Kline’s work has been hailed for its haunting beauty, political subtext, and wry humor. His music embraces culture both high and low, and is performed in venues uptown and down—from CBGB’s and the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the Whitney Museum and Lincoln Center.

The song cycle
ZIPPO SONGS—based on poems that American GIs inscribed on their cigarette lighters in Vietnam, plus songs on texts by Donald Rumsfeld—was one of the most-talked-about CDs of 2004 (Cantaloupe). In performance and on disc, ZIPPO SONGS has received rave reviews and coverage by CNN, NPR, The London Guardian, and many others. The CD was named “Best of the Year” by The New York Times, Newsday, Time Out, and Gramophone. The New Yorker called it “one of the most brutally frank song cycles ever penned.” The Philadelphia Inquirer described it as “Some of the most disturbing and compelling songs I’ve heard in ages.”

Kline’s signature boombox piece UNSILENT NIGHT debuted on the sidewalks of Greenwich Village in 1992. A public "parade" of hundreds of boomboxes carried through city streets during the Christmas season, UNSILENT NIGHT builds a peaceful multi-dimensional sound environment out of other-worldly voices and bells. Josef Woodard in The Los Angeles Times described it as "A dreamy fruitcake of parts, tranquil even through its anarchy,” while Jon Pareles in The New York Times said "It immerses a listener in suspended wonderment, as if time itself had paused within a string of jingling sleigh bells." The annual event has grown into a cult holiday tradition, drawing crowds of up to 1,000; it has caught on in cities around the world, such as Atlanta, Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Vancouver, Middlesborough (UK), Berlin, and Sydney, Australia.

Cantaloupe Music, the record label created by the new-music collective Bang on a Can, released a CD of
UNSILENT NIGHT in 2001. Cantaloupe also recorded Kline’s string quartet THE BLUE ROOM AND OTHER STORIES, which was featured on the 2003 CD Ethel. Bang on a Can has been committed to presenting Phil Kline’s music ever since he premiered his breakthrough piece BACHMAN'S WARBLER (for tape loops and 12 harmonicas) at the 1992 Bang on a Can Marathon. Kline wrote his chamber work EXQUISITE CORPSES for the Bang on a Can All-Stars in 1997, a piece featured on their debut CD for Cantaloupe, Renegade Heaven. The All-Stars now tour the world with Kline’s work in their active repertoire.

Recently Kline’s work has expanded on several fronts, including songs and music for theatre and dance. The 2005-2006 season includes the following premieres:
~
EVERYWHERE, a full-length mixed-media dance score for the Wally Cardona company, to be premiered at BAM’s Next Wave Festival.
~
LOCUS SOLUS, a surrealist chamber opera featuring vocalist Theo Bleckmann, violinist Todd Reynolds, and the Talujon Percussion Ensemble, at the Whitney Museum’s Altria space.
~ MASS, an evening-length choral work for the early music vocal group Lionheart, at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden.
~
AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAZE, a 5.01 surround-sound DVD on the Starkland label (the first commercially released DVD commissioned and composed specifically for surround-sound).
~ a new outdoor boombox work for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Also in the works is
FEAR AND LOATHING, a song cycle based on the writings of Hunter S. Thompson.


Phil Kline was born in Pittsburgh, PA and raised in Akron, Ohio. He graduated from Columbia University with a degree in English Literature before embarking upon a career as a composer. A figure in the downtown New York rock scene in the 1980s, he cofounded the art-punk band the Del-Byzanteens with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch and painter James Nares, and toured the world as a veteran of Glenn Branca’s legendary guitar ensemble. Kline also collaborated with photographer Nan Goldin on the soundtrack to her Ballad of Sexual Dependency. This past year Kline was the only classical composer nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize for Artists Achievement In Music, which honors the most creative popular records of the year.

 

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