Phill Niblock

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Phill Niblock. Photo: Leon Chew. [1]

Phill Niblock (2 October 1933, Anderson, Indiana, USA – 8 January 2024, New York City, New York, USA) was an artist whose work spanned minimalist and experimental music, film and photography. From 1985, he served as director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation for avant-garde music based in New York with a branch in Ghent, and curator of the foundation’s record label XI. Known for his thick, loud drones of music, Niblock’s signature sound is filled with microtones of instrumental timbres that generate many other tones in the performance space. In 2013, his diverse artistic career was the subject of a retrospective realised in partnership between Circuit (Contemporary Art Centre Lausanne) and Musée de l’Elysée. The following year Niblock was honoured with the prestigious Foundation for Contemporary Arts John Cage Award. (Source)

Phill Niblock gained a degree in Economics before turning to photography and film in 1960. He shot portraits of many leading personalities in New York's jazz and avant-garde art circles in the early 1960s, ranging from Duke Ellington and Sun Ra to John Cage and Yoko Ono. Inspired by Morton Feldman's pieces containing extremely drawn-out notes, as well as by other music, he began to make music himself, and became part of the scene around the Sonic Arts Union (Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, and others). From the early 1970s, he ran the non-commercial Experimental Intermedia organisation, which still arranges concerts in his Centre Street loft in New York City. (Source)

Phill Niblock was a composer, filmmaker, videographer, and director of Experimental Intermedia, a foundation for avant-garde music based in New York and Ghent, Belgium. Niblock's musical compositions feature microtones of instrumental timbres, which generate other tones within the performance space. He presented these compositions alongside abstract films and videos.

From the mid-1960s, Niblock's music and intermedia performances were presented at venues across the world, including The Museum of Modern Art, Roulette, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, The Kitchen, the Festival d'Automne à Paris, the Pompidou Center in Paris, Eyebeam, Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Institute of Contemporary Art London, Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard, and the World Music Institute at Merkin Concert Hall in New York. He collaborated with a number of artists including Susan Stenger, Robert Poss, Jim O'Rourke, Ulrich Krieger, Seth Josel, Petr Kotik, and Tom Buckner. Niblock's music is available on the XI, Moikai, Mode and Touch labels.

Niblock received grants from Massachussetts Council on the Arts, Phaedrus Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Creative Artists Public Service Program, Meet the Composer, and the Research Foundation of the City University of New York. He was a 1978 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. Niblock received a Grants to Artists award in 1994. He received FCA's biennial John Cage Award, a $50,000 lifetime achievement award, in 2014.

Niblock was an artist and member of Experimental Intermedia from 1968 and its Director from 1985. He was the producer of over 1,000 music and intermedia presentations at Experimental Intermedia from 1973. He also served as the curator of Experimental Intermedia's XI Records label and co-founded its branch in Ghent, Belgium, EI v.z.w. Gent. He received his B.A. from Indiana University and was a Professor of Film, Video, and Photography at the College of Staten Island from 1971-1998. (2013, upd.)

See also