|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.|
The Numinosum Blog
I thought given I'm asking some musicians to answer questions about themselves, I should as well. So here we go:
What challenges does Vipassana pose for you?
Well, organizing 25 very busy people for rehearsals and performances, finding space for us to play, and figuring out how to pay for it all is always a challenge, but it always seems to works out. The music can also be very tricky rhythmically. One person might be playing one thing and next to them another might be playing the same thing slightly offset or perhaps even some completely different rhythmic grouping. So it can be very easy for the musicians to get lost and part of my job is to be very focused while conducting to make sure we are all on the same page; to be the lighthouse beacon, so to speak, and to lead the way in the sea of sounds not only rhythmically but also by bringing out the meaning behind the music, to help it connect with the listeners.
What do you like about Vipassana?
I like that people find something special that resonates within them when listening to the music I created and that makes me happy.
What do you find beautiful (or where do you find beauty)?
To me beauty is not just those things that are pretty or sound euphonic, but also things that seem to represent connectivity to truth or wholeness or oneness. I'm not speaking in any way religious, although for some people that's their equivalent. When I think of Carl Sagan's famous saying, "We are all made from starstuff", to me that says everything that is, is connected in some fundamental way. So while the typical things one might find beautific are so, even tragedy and ugliness, has that beautiful notion that still connects us all to each other and the world.
Who are your musician heroes?
Well there is much that is not music that offers me inspiration, but my Mount Rushmore of musical influencers are (in no particular order): Claude Debussy, Gustav Mahler, Steve Reich, Maria Schneider, John Adams. Although people like John Coltrane, Morton Feldman, Prince, Björk, John Williams, and Arvo Pärt hold much appeal not only with their music but also have affected my own musical thinking and philosophy.
If you could be flying over any place in the world, where would it be? Why?
I loved flying over the Alps to Milan, Italy earlier this year. Seeing a whole line of classic white peaked mountains stretching along the horizon was very breathtaking. One thing I want to do someday is take a "Bergsommerferien" (a summer vacation/tour of mountains) to see the mountains and/or fjords of the world that I haven't been to: Iceland, Norway, Finland, the Himalayas, Alaska, Peru and Chile.
What is a book(s) that have inspired you?
There have been many books over the years that have affected me. That Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, to give one example from many, exists in the world makes me joyous and hopeful with my own music, that something of such beauty and excellence can be created.
When was the last time you've had that numinous feeling about something?
This summer in upstate New York, spending a number of nights just looking up at the stars and being. This summer's wondering and contemplating also helped me remember why I want to create music in the first place, a thought which sometimes gets lost with all of the noise of living.
Tell us something fun or interesting about you that most people wouldn't know or suspect?
Well, two things. One in high school, I was in a guitar-synth-electro-rock band where not only did I play saxophone and (bad) electric guitar, I was also the lyrics man (and even sang on a few tunes!). I have tapes somewhere and no you can't listen to them...
Secondly, in general I'm a late bloomer. For example, my growth spurt was in high school and then another one (growing another 4 inches!) in college as well as coming late to a career in music. I was studying biochemistry for my first two years of college (with no music making, except my rock band) before switching to a music major. In truth, I probably should have really been an astronomy major when I started but I was thinking about becoming a genetic engineer, so biochem was the way to go (I still love and read up on many sciences today). However, I wasn't really happy with biochem (my high school senoritis extended into my first semesters of college) and realized I did not want to be in a lab coat the rest of my life so decided to pursue music. I really was raw when I started my music studies but I soaked in EVERYTHING and soon was in the practice room working on my fledgling compositions and I haven't looked back since.
What's next up for you in your own music career?
A commission for a composition from Face the Music, which came about because of world renown pianist Simone Dinnerstein. The piece, which I'll talk about in later posts, will premiere on April 15, 2010 as part of Simone's Neighborhood Concert Series in Brooklyn. There is also my collaboration with dance choreographer Edisa Weeks, To Begin the World Over Again which is an exploration of the words and legacy of Thomas Paine and will also include a symposium with Paine and history scholars on the meaning of democracy in today's America. The premiere is slated for June of 2010 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. With my composer 'federation' Pulse, we have a dance collaboration with the Take Dance Company. My piece will be choreographed by Take himself and is scheduled for June and July 2010. There are a few other things in the works so you'll have to check back for more details.
(photos by Donald Martinez)
Numinous performs Vipassana
Wednesday October 28, 2009 8 PM (one set only)
227 4th Avenue
Take the M, R Train to Union Street
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 7:00 AM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.